10 top actions you can take to save money and help the environment 

Are you curious about living more sustainably but not sure where to start? You’re certainly not alone. In fact, almost two-thirds of the world see climate change as a global emergency according to the largest every opinion poll done on the issue, so you’re in good company.

But what can we do? How can we make a difference? Knowing where to start can be tricky, especially when we’re bombarded with so much complex information. It can sometimes feel like everything has a bad impact. Whilst we can’t solve climate change on our own, together we can make a huge difference. Every action counts, from the food we eat and the way we travel to how we power our homes and the stuff we buy, it all affects the environment and living more sustainably is easier than you think!

Making more sustainable changes can also help us save money and feed into other priorities in your life such as living healthier, happier and developing new skills. We’ve put together some starting points, a list of the top 10 actions you can take which are good for you, your wallet and the environment.

These recommendations are based on an analysis carried out by the Climate Change Committee, a world-leading authority. This is just a guide and making changes can be hard, so start where you’re comfortable and with what you find easiest. Take time to celebrate the changes you make however big or small and remember no one does everything perfectly! Let us know how it goes. 

1) Switch to a green energy supplier or tariff
2) Eat more veg
3) Make your food go further
4) Dial it down
5) Eat local and seasonal
6) Reduce, reuse, recycle
7) Cycle and walk more
8) Why wing it? Take the train instead.
9) Save Water
10) Give it a grow

1) Switch to a green energy supplier or tariff

Did you know the UK broke its renewable energy production records in 2020? It might be time to say hello to solar and welcome wind power in your own home. Switching to a renewable energy tariff could save you money, reduce your carbon impact considerably, and being part of a greater demand for renewables sends the right signals to the energy industry. Changing supplier is simple when you know how, and we’ve got reams of info on renewables and switching here.

2) Eat more veg

With three meals a day (plus snacks in between!) food makes up a key part of our lives and produces a significant slice of our environmental impact as a result. Eating more veg and plant-based foods (like nuts, seeds, grains, pulses, fruit and veg), and reducing our meat and dairy intake can make a huge difference to our environmental footprint. You don’t have to cut things out your diet completely though, reducing your meat portion or aiming for once or twice a week will all add up to make a difference.

If you are going to eat meat, go for the best quality you can afford, such as Organic, as this helps the environment and animal welfare. Keen to try and eat less meat? We’ve got a guide to help you get into the gritty and gristly bits of the topic and plenty of vegetarian recipes to get you inspired.

3) Make your food go further

Did you know the average UK household wastes around £60 worth of food a month? That’s £720 per year! The environmental side of this is that harmful gases such as methane (which is 25 times more damaging for the atmosphere than CO2) are released when food waste breaks down in landfill. Growing and transporting food also requires a huge amount of energy and resource which is then wasted if food gets thrown away. If food waste were a country, it would be the third-largest emitter of climate changing greenhouse gases after China and the US.2 That’s a bronze medal nobody wants!

So, what can we do to avoid this food waste mountain growing even bigger? We’ve got loads of easy tips and inspiration on how to make more of the food we have and avoid food waste. Check out our tips on how to store food correctly and make ingredients last longer, recipes for using up leftovers, tips on what you can and can’t freeze, our zero-waste kitchen guide, tips on handy kitchen gadgets and a list of ingredient bits you might not know you could eat. There will of course be scraps that you can’t avoid like peels, seeds and rinds. Try composting what can’t be eaten, instead of throwing it out with your general waste, so it can decompose naturally instead of ending up in landfill. There are so many ways to compost at home and save your scraps from the general waste! There might still be times you have leftovers or ingredients you know you’re not going to need: this is where the Community Fridge Network comes in handy! Community fridges are fridges in local communities where you can share food you don’t need or take food you might need – reducing waste and increasing community connection. Win-win! Don’t have a Community Fridge nearby? OLIO is an app that connects you with people in your local area to share extra food, or grab a few extra ingredients for free. Gander app also helps you save money by connecting you to delicious, reduced food nearby.

4) Dial it down

Heating your home isn’t just a big chunk of your bills, it makes up a big chunk of the UK’s climate impact too - a quarter of the UK’s carbon emissions come from heating, lighting and running the places we live and work.3 We've put together some easy ways to help keep your home cosy whilst saving money and energy. Did you know that turning your thermostat down by just 1 degree can save you up to £60 a year?* In fact, the greenhouse emissions from heating our homes is equivalent to the number of cards on the road in the UK, so drive down your footprint by turning the dial on your thermostat! Another easy win is switching to LED lightbulbs which use a whopping 85% less energy than old fashioned ones and can save you £7 per bulb if switching from an incandescent one – so everything adds up! If you want to get even savvier, get a smart meter. These little devices help you understand where you use most energy in and around the home, making it easier to spot drafts, leaks and sockets that are draining energy whilst on standby. Smart meters have been shown to help reduce your bills (£250 per household over 20 years) and cut environmental impact as a result.

5) Eat local and seasonal

Mangoes in January? Sure! Strawberries in February? Why not! Avocado all year round? Always. We are used to buying foods whenever we want. Yet when it comes to the environmental impact of a meal, there is more to it than ‘meats’ the eye. As well as eating a more veg based diet, you can reduce your carbon footprint by eating more locally and seasonally produced food. This is because growing food out of season often requires energy-guzzling heated greenhouses to keep the conditions right. And food such as bananas that can’t be grown in the UK will often have travelled from the other side of the world, which needs plenty of fuel and packaging to ship and store safely - all of which increase the impact of your grub. Check out Hubbub’s guide to eating seasonally to find out what British ingredients are in season when and for some delicious recipe inspiration too. Want to find the most local food possible? Try growing some of your own veg; salad and herbs are a great place to start as they can be grown indoors all year round and make a lovely addition to windowsills!

6) Reduce, Reuse, Recycle

The phrase ‘reduce, reuse, recycle’ is almost a holy mantra for living more sustainably, but what does it really mean? Let’s break it down.

Reducing stuff is the first and best thing we can do. All the ‘stuff’ in the world has a carbon footprint for it to be produced, so the less new stuff we buy, the smaller our impact. Asking yourself the simple questions ‘do I really need this? Is there a better, other way to get it? Could I rent it instead?’ before buying anything can make a huge difference. There are some brilliant ideas such as Library of Things or Streetbank which allow you to share things with your neighbours instead of buying. The fashion industry alone produces 10% of global carbon emissions - more than all international flights and maritime shipping combined - and it is the second largest polluter in the world just after the oil industry. Did you know it takes on average a whopping 9,000 litres of water to make one pair of jeans? So reducing the amount of clothes you buy is a great place to start. Instead of buying new, why not try swapping with a friend or attending (or hosting) a clothes swap?

‘Reuse’ is making the most of what you have, whether that’s using a bag for life, a reusable cup instead of single use or re-wearing (and repairing) your clothes. Buying second hand, rather than buying new, is a great way of reusing what already exists and encouraging a more ‘circular’ economy in the process. There are some brilliant sites such as Ebay, Facebook Market Place, NextDoor, Depop for buying second-hand clothing and other items.

‘Recycle’ sounds easy, but as most recycling rules differ from council to council, recycling can be more difficult than you think! Recycle Now is an excellent website telling you what services are available and where. We’ve got some guides for recycling everyday items at home, on the go, as well as trickier items like old clothes, coffee cups, old tech and bathroom products. Check out Community Calling, Hubbub's smartphone recycle scheme in partnership with 02, which allows you to gift your old smartphone to someone in need. 

All the R’s can be made easier with the right apps, websites and knowing where to look. We’ve got an ultimate guide on how to swap, share and get stuff more sustainably.

7) Cycle and walk more

Saying ‘adieu’ to your auto can make a huge and awe-inspiring difference (going car-free for a whole year can take off around 15% from an average Brit’s total annual carbon footprint!). Replacing car travel means taking advantage of active alternatives like walking, cycling, or scooting, as well as using public transport (when it’s safe to do so) and if it’s available for you. As well as the environmental benefits, cycling and walking for as little as 10 minutes a day has been shown to have many physical and mental health benefits too.

For many parts of the UK, active travel and public transport aren’t the most convenient options, but councils are putting in new and improved cycling infrastructure in all the time and you can still make a difference by reducing and switching up the car journeys you do take. For example: sharing lifts and car-pooling with friends, colleagues or neighbours and driving in a more fuel-efficient way (such as maintaining a steady speed, not accelerating too quickly, avoiding carrying any extra weight and using air conditioning sparingly) are all simple ways to be environmentally and economically savvy.

If driving is still the transport mode of choice, switching to an electric car (EV) does reduce your impact as EV’s emit less greenhouse gasses and air pollutants than diesel and petrol cars, although be sure to check that your energy supplier is providing you with energy from renewable sources. Electric cars can be expensive so a hybrid vehicle, which is powered by both a petrol or diesel engine and an electric motor, is another good alternative.

8) Why wing it? Take the train instead.

Foreign travel might not be on your mind right now, but if flying is - #WhyWingIt? While half of people in the UK don't fly, for those that do, it'll be one of their biggest contributions to climate change. It’s good to think about alternatives instead of flying being the default.

Dreaming of being away on an island? The UK is an island! We might not always be the sunniest but there are tonnes of beautiful coastlines, mountains and cities across the UK, so exploring staycations could make for a cheap and equally stunning holiday. Get that uplifting holiday feeling without taking off: try swap domestic flights for trains, you might find that it takes a similar amount of time to a flight (when you add in the time spent waiting at the airport) and might even save you money too (if bought in advance and you have a railcard) – not to mention no liquid limits (win!). We’ve got loads of sustainable holiday tips, trip ideas for hens and stags, and UK cycling holidays or camping trips

9) Save Water

Did you know the average person in the UK uses an eyewatering 141 litres per day of water? Water is a crucial part of our daily lives and is needed for everything from doing the laundry, and brushing our teeth, to watering plants, washing dishes, and flushing the loo – so cutting down may feel like a real drain. However, there are some easy steps everyone can take to help save water, such as shorter showers, making sure dishwashers and washing machines are full and on an eco-setting, turning off the tap whilst brushing your teeth and many more. Check out these 10 easy ways you can save water at home for all the tips and tricks. Thirsty for more? You can reduce your impact at home even more by reducing the amount of hot water you use. This is because it takes a lot of energy to warm our water so cutting down can reduce your energy bill and carbon footprint!

10) Give it a grow and boost biodiversity in your neighbourhood

Live in an urban or suburban area? Plants are the natural solution to pollution, and you don’t need a garden to give it a grow – here are some tips for creating a greener, wilder home and getting started with growing whatever space you have (no previous skills needed!). If you do have space outside, try these environmentally-friendly gardening tips to save water, boost biodiversity and encourage wildlife like bees, birds and butterflies. If you have the space and time, why not try to start a larger urban greening project like #LoveWhereYouLive and let your green fingers give nature a helping hand! Want to dig deeper? Supporting conservation projects such as tree-planting and peat restoration help remove gases like carbon dioxide from the air. And if you’re giving it a grow, look for peat-free compost so that mighty carbon-absorbing peat is kept firmly in the ground and supporting habitats.

By making these small changes and choices, we can take action every day in our homes, every time we eat, use power and travel. Which of these swaps would make the biggest difference for you? Let us know how you get on and share pics with us at @hellohubbub or @HubbubUK.

Hardcore, want more?

There are many tools such as this which allow you to calculate what your personal carbon footprint is and help you identify other actions you could make in your everyday life to live a greener lifestyle.

*Ivanova D. et al 2020 Quantifying the potential for climate change mitigation of consumption options, Environmental Research Letters 15 093001