Consuming Issues: Go green if you want to spend less this year

Britons are among the worst polluters in the world. The UK was the eighth-largest emitter of carbon dioxide in 2007, pumping out 564 million tonnes, 9.3 tonnes per person. Meanwhile, 2011 promises to be a tough year financially, with rises in fuel duty, VAT, energy bills and probably interest rates. Not everyone will find these tips for going green and saving money practical, but you may be able to do one or two of them.

1. Insulate your home

If you have a house which has not been insulated in the past 15 years, it's probably leaking energy and, therefore, money. Loft insulation should be 27 centimetres thick, or almost one foot. Packs bought from DIY stores can be rolled out between your rafters for between £50 and £350, saving up to 730kg of carbon a year and paying back within three years. If you're on benefits or over 70 years old, suppliers such as British Gas or ScottishPower will do the work for free; you don't have to be a customer. Some councils do it free too. For details call the Energy Saving Trust on 0800 512 012 or visit its website energysavingtrust.org.uk.

2. Change energy supplier

If you pay your energy bill quarterly upon receipt, rather than by monthly direct debit, you could probably switch to a green tariff and save cash. The "big six" suppliers – British Gas, EDF, Eon, npower, Scottish & Southern and ScottishPower – have a poor record on the environment, generating just 5.9 per cent of their power from renewable sources.

A new supplier, Ovo, sources a minimum of 15 per cent of its energy from renewables and is cheaper than many standard tariffs. An average dual-fuel British Gas customer in London could save £215 by moving to Ovo Energy's normal tariff, 15 per cent of which comes from low-carbon sources – and £144 by moving to its green tariff, which is 100 per cent low carbon.

Some 41 per cent of Ecotricity's new energy tariff comes from its own windmills, with "brown" or dirty electricity comprising the rest. Ecotricity promises to match standard tariffs, so it you won't save money but will cut your climate change emissions.

3. Cycle to work

Train companies raised average fare prices by 6.2 per cent this month, adding hundreds of pounds to the cost of an annual season ticket. London Underground fares rose by 6.8 per cent, with the cost of a Zone 1 to 5 travelcard going up to £1,880. Train and Tube fares are set to continue to rise above inflation for years.

Faced with these spiralling costs, increasing numbers of commuters are taking to two wheels. As well as providing exercise (the benefits of which outweigh the risk of getting knocked off, according to doctors), cycling is cheaper and greener than fossil fuel-based transport. A bike rusting in your garage may require only a quick service to make it roadworthy. Cheap cycles can often be found at local tips: ask the totters, who may expect £10 in return. Alternatively, the Government's cycle-to-work scheme cuts the cost of new bikes by up to 50 per cent. Visit cyclescheme.co.uk for details.

4. Ditch the car

Although the relative cost of motoring has fallen over the past 20 years, it is creeping back up as a result of sharp rises in petrol and insurance. The average annual cost of running a new car jumped by 6.3 per cent to £5,869 in the year to November, working out at £489 a month, 48p a mile. The RAC's calculation includes car finance, depreciation, breakdown cover, fuel, maintenance and insurance, which leapt from £409 to £483. So, the question is: do you actually need a car? Many rural dwellers do, but many urbanites with good public transport say their lives are simpler and cheaper without one. Pretty much everything can be delivered by websites. Train journeys are expensive, but can be made cheaper by booking in advance. A colleague may be able to drop you into work, and cars can always be hired. It's not for everyone, but it's a thought.

5. Take in a lodger

Under a Government scheme, homeowners and tenants can receive rent of up to £4,250 a year tax-free by letting a furnished room. You must live in the property; which must be your main home. You may be able to find a weekday-only lodger on the mondaytofriday.com website. Renting a room reduces demand for new homes and eliminates pollution from commuting.

m.hickman@independent.co.uk

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