In this, the fourth instalment of Earth Saver, Clare and her Mum form a plan to eco-transform the house.
I am so happy! It’s half past nine at night and instead of finishing my hated maths homework, I’m sat with Mum at the kitchen table with a pile of books on eco-living. Mum has her laptop on and I have the old eco list I started writing, which we’re going to adapt into a step-by-step plan to turn the house one hundred percent carbon neutral – or thereabouts. In short, we’re going eco-friendly!
We’ve already agreed that we should concentrate on one thing at a time, since becoming carbon neutral covers everything from clothes, to insulation, to holidays. So I suggest that we start by reducing the amount of energy we use. First step, and what I wanted at the start, is to turn off lights we’re not using and replace the normal bulbs with low energy ones.
“Doesn’t switching lights on and off all the time waste electricity?” Mum asks.
“Nope”, I reply, “It shortens the bulb’s life a bit, but it only uses the same amount of energy as if you’d left it for one or two minutes, so it saves more than leaving it running.”
“Okay”, Mum says, “We can pop into town tomorrow and buy some new bulbs.”
“Which type?” I ask. Mum looks faintly puzzled.
“Is there more than one kind?”
“There’s CFLs or LEDs”, I explain, “LEDs are more expensive but they’re more efficient and last longer.”
“I see”, Mum nods, and starts searching on the internet for energy efficient lights.
“And we have to replace some of the lampshades too”, I add, pointing at my list.
“What?” Mum says, “Why? They’re not exactly eating electricity.”
“But dark lampshades absorb light”, I point out, “So what we really need are more transparent lampshades.”
I can see Mum wincing slightly. I thought this may be a problem. Mum loves interior design. She can literally not walk past Laura Ashley without going in and drooling over wallpaper.
“I don’t know if we need to do that”, Mum says suddenly. “As long as the lamp is giving off light, it’s fine.”
“But if all your lampshades are dark”, I complain, “Then you’re losing up to more than half the light, which means it isn’t efficient! And ours are black!”
“They are not black, Clare, they’re mulberry coloured”, Mum retorts. “And I am not changing them again.”
I know she will, so I shut up, and drop it.
“Can I borrow the laptop for a second. I want to look something up”, I say, leaning over to the laptop. “I want to see if we can recycle our old light bulbs.”
“Oh, now that’s an idea. I hadn’t even thought of that”, Mum says approvingly.
“Reuse, Reduce, Recycle”, I tell her.
I quickly find a link to light bulbs on a ‘Can you Recycle it’ list on the Recycle Now website, but I am disappointed to find out that old light bulbs can’t be recycled, only energy efficient ones can. Mum starts scrolling down the list, obviously a tad surprised at what you can recycle. Fridges, old VHS tapes (though there is a charge) and mattresses – which makes her starting tutting about fly-tippers. Browsing the recycling website reminds me of something.
“Mum, you know all kitchen things we don’t use, like the toastie machine and the muffin maker?”
“Yes”, She says, in a weary ‘how can I forget’ kind of voice, “I don’t know why we bought half of those gadgets.”
“We should recycle them”, I suggest, “Then we’d have a cupboard to put all the cleaning stuff in, and the cupboard under the sink would be empty and we could put a set of recycling bins in there!”
Mum does her raised eyebrows. She obviously hadn’t realise the extent to which I’ve thought this through. I did show her my eco-friendly list – but perhaps the glittery ink distracted her from the actual content.
Mum is looking a little uncertain.
“It’s a nice idea Clare”, She says, “But those gadgets cost quite a lot when they were new. Let me try and sell them online first. Is that okay?”
“It’s still recycling”, I say.
“Good. So let’s”, Mum says turning back to the computer. “Is that everything covered on the lighting front then? What about solar? Can you get solar lights for indoors? Are they hard to find?”
“Well it depends”, I reply. “Most solar lights I’ve seen are for outdoors, I haven’t seen many indoor ones. I found a solar light you can stick to windows that you can use indoors, which lasts about eight hours. Then there’s this really cool solar lamp from Ikea with a little solar panel in you can pop out and put on your window sill.”
“Is it really bright enough?” Mum says, “Because there hasn’t been much sun about.”
“That’s the good thing – it charges even on low light levels, though it takes time. As for finding them, everywhere does solar now in some form. Even John Lewis.”
Mum’s eyes light up.
“Though”, I continue breathlessly, “if we’re really serious about going eco and we really want to save money, then we should go for solar PV!”
“What?” Mum asks.
“You mean, as in big, proper ones? On the roof?”
Mum frowns, and chews her lip in thought.
“I suppose, if we’re going to take this seriously, we should look at solar panels.” She grimaces though, “But they’re going to be so expensive, and they look awful on roofs, and this house is an old Georgian one. We may not even be allowed.”
I’m obviously looking disappointed, because Mum looks at me and immediately smiles.
“But I guess we can look into it. Just not tonight. It’s late. You’d better head for bed.”
“All right”, I shrug, remembering I still have homework. “But don’t forget, we’re buying the light bulbs tomorrow.”
Clare and her Mum introduce new rules to use the washing machine, and start to think about dumping the dryer.