Ease up on the heating and air conditioning

We know that cars and aeroplanes burn fossil fuels and emit greenhouse gasses. So does generating electricity.

Undoubtedly the best thing individuals can do to limit the negative polluting effects of electricity generation is to reduce usage. That will probably have the bonus of saving you some cash, as well as protecting our planet.

When your light bulbs need replacing, use low energy bulbs, but be wary of throwing out perfectly functioning bulbs. Remember needlessly consuming new stuff has an environmental cost in their manufacture, often using scarce natural resources. If you can, leave until the natural end of their life.

Of course, you should continue doing the usual things, like switching off lights in rooms that are not being used. And if you use a kettle, only boil the amount of water you need for a drink.

If it is within your control, keep your air conditioning and heating system well maintained and as clean as possible for efficiency. Clean the air filters on your air conditioning to save the system extra hard work and seal draughts around windows and doors to save your precious hot (or cooled) air escaping.

Be conscious of how you use your air-con and heating. We have to create a comfortable environment for our staff and students in the summer and the winter, but it may be worth monitoring if there is any wastage. If your rooms are heated and get stuffy, then somebody opens a window – that is just pumping energy out into the environment. Or like throwing cash down the drain. If you are in control of your heating, or can speak to the person who is, you can do something to address this and it will be worthwhile.

To go that extra step, you could look at the whole school and work out which parts cause the greatest greenhouse emissions. Your energy supplier may help with this and may provide a diagnostic service. They may even suggest novel solutions like installing your own solar panels and using ground source heating – initiatives like this attract government subsidies in some countries.

If you are in a position to choose your energy supplier, when the contract comes up for renewal, you could choose a provider that commits to a larger percentage of its supply from renewable sources. Use of renewable energy sources in growing throughout Europe, although these are not totally carbon neutral. Manufacture and maintenance of the equipment, for example solar power arrays and wind turbines, has a cost. However, they are better than energy generated from traditional fossil fuels such as coal, oil and gas.

Although many of the worst polluting electricity generators using coal in Europe are being phased out, these are still used widely around the world. And even if you feel that your supply is more and more from sustainable sources like solar power, cutting back is still a good idea. Needless waste is waste wherever it is – and we can all cut back on that.

Read more about the IH Environmental Sustainability Scheme >>