The Diocesan Environmental Group has published “Small Things”, a helpful online guide of things we can do to save energy and money, whilst reducing the impact on Our Common Home. Please see the guide below.

Small Things: A helpful online guide of things we can do to save energy and money, whilst reducing the impact on Our Common Home

We are living in a time of crises – climate crisis, cost of living crisis and energy crisis among others.  The consequences of these crises are truly terrifying for many people, some of whom may wonder how they will cope.  In Laudato Si’ Pope Francis calls on us to reduce our consumption and to live simpler lives.

To help with this, Diocesan Environmental Lead and Chartered Building Surveyor, Minnie Fraser, has put together some small ways in which we can save energy, save money and reduce our environmental impact.


We are probably all aware that insulating our homes is a good idea – but as it is not generally a small thing, we won’t dwell on it here. If you can afford it, then look at the advice from the Energy Saving Trust –

If your loft has been insulated for some time, then go and check that there are no gaps – insulation can be moved aside for maintenance of electrical and plumbing systems and workpeople do not always put it back neatly. Rearranging your insulation could be a quick win but do make sure you wear gloves as some insulation can be irritating.

Check to see if your hot water pipes are insulated; insulating them can save energy and water and shouldn’t cost too much.

Many people will not be aware that up to half of heat loss from older houses happens as a result of air leakage – heat escaping through gaps. Before we start sealing up the gaps, there are a couple of important things to note:

A healthy home has to have some natural ventilation and without it you might get a stuffy home with condensation problems and black mould growing in colder spots.

If you have a solid fuel burner or gas heater, some ventilation is necessary for safety and efficiency. Ensure you have a working carbon monoxide alarm in the same room.

  • There can be all sorts of little gaps and holes in the external envelope of our homes that allow our expensively heated air to escape and be lost.
      • Draught stripping around window and door frames can considerably cut heat loss. This can be a DIY job, but you need to take care to ensure a good fit – the best type are the rubber gaskets that doors and windows close against to form a seal. Too tight and the door/window will be difficult to close properly; too loose and it won’t work.
      • Gaps are common at junctions between materials and the junctions between the frames and the walls around window and door openings is often poorly sealed. Again, this can be a DIY job if you can reach it safely – pull out any perished sealant and reseal with exterior grade sealant outside and interior grade inside ensuring it is well bonded to both materials.
      • Do you have a letter box through your door? If so, consider blocking it up and getting an external letter box that can be fixed to a wall, fence, gate or post.  You just have to remember to check it for post!
      • Disused chimneys and flues allow a lot of heat to escape unnoticed as they may not cause an obvious cold draught. Again, care must be taken if you decide to block them up as disused chimneys must be ventilated top and bottom to prevent condensation and dampness.


We use energy in so many of our daily activities, from the moment we get up in the morning to going to bed at night.  To be really effective at reducing our energy consumption, we need to develop a constant mindfulness of what we are using.  Installation of a smart meter with a display that shows real-time usage can be very helpful in this and energy companies should be providing them for free to their customers.

If you have a traditional central heating system then think carefully about your heating – how warm it needs to be and how it is controlled.

If you have a programmer, then programme the heating to be on only when needed – this might require programming different days of the week individually according to when the home is usually occupied. If you have done a good job with your draught stripping, you might find that you can turn the heating off an hour earlier without getting too cold.

Consider getting a smart thermostat so that you can control your heating remotely using an app on your smartphone.

A quick win is to turn the temperature down on your thermostat and get used to wearing warmer clothing in the house.

If you have thermostatic radiator valves, then turn them down or off in rooms that are not in use. If you don’t have thermostatic radiator valves, consider getting them.

Radiator-250558 1280
Image by ri from Pixabay, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons

To maximise the efficiency of radiators, try and keep them free from obstructions – do not let curtains hang over them and move furniture away so that the air can circulate.

Turn down the flow temperature on your boiler – this is the temperature that the water gets to for heating and domestic hot water. The recommended settings vary according to the type of boiler and system you have, so find out the detail you need on the Heating Hub website here.

*Not a small thing: If your boiler is old and inefficient, the standard advice is to replace it with a newer and more efficient model. While this will reduce gas consumption and may be the best answer for many people in the short term, we would encourage you to investigate low carbon alternatives such as heat pumps.  The typical service life of a gas boiler is 15 years, so by installing a new one, you are effectively locking yourself into those carbon emissions for years to come. Again, this is a large investment and requires thought and you should take advice from an expert before making a decision.  In most cases a heat pump will not simply replace a boiler, other alterations to the heating system may be necessary.

More information can be found here and here.

Apart from the boiler adjustments described above, the major way to reduce energy usage for hot water is to use less of it.

Showers use considerably less hot water than baths, so choose a shower where you have the option.

Spend less time in the shower – you could use a timer as a prompt. Another method of using less in the shower is to get wet and then turn the water off while using the soap, shampoo etc. and then turn on again to rinse.

Put the plug into the basin or sink rather than washing things or shaving under running water that is going straight down the drain. Make the best use possible of the water before releasing it.

If you have any dripping taps, then get them repaired.

Use water saving shower heads and attachments to taps.

If you have a power shower, then turn the power down or even off – a power shower can use more than a bath.

We all need lighting in our homes, but there are still things we can do to reduce our usage.

Install low energy bulbs. LED lights are very energy efficient using about half the amount of electricity used by the fluorescent “low energy” bulbs and do not require time to warm up.  Old fashioned incandescent or halogen bulbs are a lot less efficient and should be replaced wherever possible.

Get into the habit of turning off lights as you leave a room as it is so easy to be distracted and walk away leaving lights on in empty rooms.

Task lighting can be more efficient than general lighting if you are working in a specific area.

Modern life seems to be so full of appliances and gadgets! In order to do our bit for protecting our common home, we should all be thinking carefully about the necessity of all our appliances and minimising usage.  Again, this requires getting into the right mindset.

Some appliances use a great deal more electricity than others – anything with a heating element for example kettle, hair dryer, iron, tumble dryer or heater will be power hungry.

Before choosing to buy an appliance, ask yourself the following questions:

  1. Do I really need this?
  2. How efficient is it? Look for an energy efficiency rating label.
  3. How often would I use it, and could it be shared with someone else to lessen the total impact?
  4. What is the impact – not an easy question to answer and might need some research, but consider who made it and what were their working conditions; were scarce resources used to make it?
  5. How long will it last?
  6. Can it be mended if it breaks down?
  7. What happens at the end of its useful life – can any part of it be reused, recycled etc. or will the whole thing end up in landfill?


The kettle: An easy win with the kettle is to measure the amount of water you are going to use into it and only boil what you need. This is easier with kettles that have a flat plate at the bottom rather than an exposed element.  Many people habitually boil two or three times the amount of water they need which uses two or three times the power.  Thinking about the above questions, do you really need an electric kettle? If you have an efficient induction hob, a flat-bottomed hob-top kettle might last longer, be easier to recycle and be just as efficient.

The washing machine: Firstly, many people wash clothes out of habit or a misguided idea that once you have worn them a couple of times, they need to be washed. Washing clothes uses water and energy and causes wear and tear on the garments.  Sometimes, hanging and airing clothes is all that’s needed.  So, get into the mindset of checking whether it really needs to be done before doing it.  Once you have established that it needs to be done, then consider the following:

  1. Wash cool or cold (reduce the use of that heating element!)
  2. Aim to have a full load for maximum efficiency, although don’t overfill the machine or you might end up having to put things through again, which would defeat the object.
  3. Go for the shortest cycle that will do the job.
  4. If you have challenging dirt or stains, then pre-treat or soak before washing to ensure the job gets done.


Tumble dryer: Drying clothes sustainably can be a bit of a challenge, particularly if the weather is awful and you have done a good job with your draught stripping! The ideal method for drying clothes is outside on the line, but clearly that doesn’t always work in our part of the world!  Drying clothes on radiators or electric airers can massively increase the humidity and cause condensation to form on colder surfaces.  In some situations, the use of a tumble dryer cannot be avoided.  So if you have to use a tumble dryer:

  1. Choose one with the best energy rating you can find.
  2. If it has an “Eco” setting, then use it.
  3. Shake clothes out before loading them into the dryer.
  4. Don’t use a timed setting if it has an automatic sensor to sense when the clothes are dry.
  5. Unload it and fold the clothes as soon as it finishes, if possible, to reduce the desire (not need!) for ironing.
  6. If you have a lot of washing, aim for a single laundry day so that the dryer doesn’t cool down between loads.
  7. Keep the machine well maintained and clear fluff from vents regularly.


Over the past few decades, we have developed a huge cultural problem with over-consumption. The smartphones in our pockets give us access to the online marketplace where we can buy virtually anything 24/7. We think nothing of buying cheap products that give some passing gratification and then go straight into landfill. In Laudato Si’ (209) Pope Francis observes that young people are making admirable efforts to protect the environment, but have grown up surrounded by extreme consumerism which makes it difficult to develop more sustainable habits. He concludes that “we are faced with an educational challenge.

So, we need to change our own mindset and also teach our children to do the same.  As with the appliances in the previous section, we need to stop and reflect before choosing to buy a product and ask ourselves:

  • Do I really need this? How could I manage if I didn’t buy it?
  • Do I already have something that would do?
  • How much use will I get from it?
  • What is the environmental impact of this product?
  • What is the social impact of this product? (Who made it? Who will have to deal with it when I have finished with it?)
  • If it breaks, can it be mended? Can I get spare parts?
  • What happens when I don’t need it anymore? Could someone else use it?
  • What happens when it no longer has a use, can it be recycled?

Some examples to get you thinking:

The dishwashing brush:

  • How many dishwashing brushes do you buy in a year? The dishwashing brushes commonly sold in supermarkets are very poor quality and may get thrown away after a few uses. If you buy a “professional” dishwashing brush from a kitchen retailer, it may cost four times as much, but last ten times as long as the supermarket version.
  • When do you decide that the dishwashing brush has reached the end of its useful life? When the bristles are a bit bent? If so, ask yourself, will it still work as a dishwashing brush with bent bristles? Where will it go when you throw it away?
  • Is there a better alternative?

The celebration party:

  • Is it possible to decorate the party room beautifully without throwing the decorations away when the party’s over?
  • Are there alternatives to helium balloons (helium is a limited natural resource) with disposable plastic ribbons and weights?
  • What will food and drink be served in/on? How can the environmental impact be reduced?
  • What would we use as party favours or party bags for children – are they really necessary and if we do want to do them, then what do we choose that will be fun but will also be kept or passed on rather than being thrown away.

Over-consumption is probably the biggest challenge, because of our entrenched social norms.  How can we get from a world where the coolest kid at school is the one who has the newest mobile phone and designer shoes, to a world where the coolest kid has the most ingenious way of making do and mending for the sake of our Common Home?

One-fifth of the world's carbon emissions come from the manufacturing and production sectors which consume 54% of the world’s energy sources.

World Economic Forum

Kanapou Pollution
NOAA’s National Ocean Service, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons