Sustainable practices

We've all got to take action if we want to keep a semblance of the environment we have—here's what I'm doing to help tackle the growing climate emergency that we face.

Sustainability matters a lot to me. It’s something I’ve cared about for years, to the point of founding a group that promoted the issue through a website and magazine at university back in the mid 2000’s. Despite this, over the years I’ve burned more than my share of fossil fuels, mostly through flying and driving.

Now we’re facing a climate emergency the issue has become even more acute. I also have a child and I’d quite like to leave him a future with the same possibilities I had, so it’s time to do as much as I can to improve things.

I’m just a one-man band operation who does most of his work online but you can be assured that any time you work with me I’ll be considering the environment. Whilst my operation was always fairly low impact, I’ve recently taken steps to reduce that impact even further, which I outline below and will keep updated.

I primarily work from home so I have a lot of control over exactly how much and what type of energy I use. In addition I’ll always be voting with purchases from companies that do the right thing. It pretty quickly saves money too, and staying on top of costs is never a bad thing.

Renewable energy & hosting

For my energy supplier I use OVO on their fully renewable electricity plan with their green gas upgrade, which means all the energy is carbon offset. I’ve been with them for years and a nice bonus is that they’re a company local to me, headquartered in Bristol and before that in the village of Kemble.

It’s great that in the UK there are loads of great smaller energy companies supplying renewable electricity to choose from including Octopus, Good Energy, Bulb, Ecotricity, and more.

Energy used by web infrastructure can be overlooked but the company I use to host this website (and a few other sites) have servers powered by 100% renewable energy—they're called Ecohosting and you should consider using them.

LED lighting

I should have done this earlier as this has had a very visible impact on reducing my electricity bill. I assumed LED bulbs were much more expensive than traditional halogen ones but I found a pack of three for £5.99, bought several and replaced all the lightbulbs in the house. When comparing year-on-year usage it’s reduced electricity consumption by 25%.

Solar charging

I haven’t had the spare cash to invest in solar panels to go on the roof and depressingly the incentives to do so have gradually been cut in the UK. However I have purchased a small DIY solar solution to help with some of my electricity needs.

By investing in a fold-out solar panel and a rechargeable power bank (total cost of £100) on sunny days I can capture all that bonus free energy and store it to later charge my phone and tablet, which are things that always need plugging in. The power bank stores loads and is handy for travel too.

Rechargeable batteries

On the recharging front I also recently converted all the batteries in the house to rechargeable ones, as it seemed wasteful to keep buying new packs of batteries (partly driven by my son’s toys...). The Energizer batteries I’ve opted for are partly made from recycled batteries themselves, which is a nice bonus and the charger is super fast.

No commuting

I work from home so to get to work involves no transport. I do live rurally so a car is needed to get about, even if just to get to the train station but it’s not used everyday and I walk locally whenever possible. None of this has prevented me from successfully working with clients from around the world without ever meeting face to face.

I’ve no great interest in going to or speaking at conferences so I find it easy to resist the need to fly for work. Whilst I’ve taken a couple of flights in 2019, I didn’t fly at all in 2017 or 2018 by exploring some of the great places in the UK and nearby Europe for holidays. I see excessive air travel as the main thing that many otherwise eco-aware people aren’t prepared to admit to and change.

Slow upgrade cycle

Obviously another way to reduce your impact on the environment is not to buy many new things, with all the materials their creation requires. I’m still a big fan of my 2014 MacBook Pro and I’m trying to keep that running as long as possible. One thing that might be helping is a switch to dark mode for as many apps as possible, which has mean lower battery usage (according to Google can be as much as 63%).

To do

Next on my list: