WHEN the heat is on, it's easy to reach for bottled mineral water, but it costs us and the environment more than the stuff from the tap. Bottled water can cost twice as much as petrol, three times as much as milk and 10,000 times as much as tap water. Add to that the 1.5 million tonnes of plastic used annually to make water bottles - which take years to biodegrade. In 1997 the Food and Agricultural Organisation said that bottled water was not any cleaner or more nutritious than ordinary tap water. So, turn the tap on - and always use a glass, not a disposable cup.
2 MAKE MEALS MORE ROMANTIC
TONIGHT, turn off the electric lights and eat by candlelight. It's more romantic and you'll save energy too! Take care in your choice of candles - paraffin candles are made from petroleum residues so do neither your health nor the environment any good. Use natural beeswax or vegetable-based candles that biodegrade and are smoke-free. They last twice as long and burn brighter.
3 STEM THE TIDE OF JUNK MAIL
AROUND one million tonnes of junk mail and magazines get binned every year. To stop the onslaught you can register with the Mail Preference Service. Visit www.mpsonline.org.uk, email [email protected], or call 020 7291 3310. Simply include your details and state that you would like to stop receiving unsolicited direct mail. Think of the trees you will save.
4 TRY MAKING AN ETHICAL WEDDING LIST
THIS is a great opportunity to introduce some of your friends to the benefits of green life. Ask for a wind-up radio or solar-powered garden lights. Check out www.greenfibres.com if you are tying the knot.
5 BOYCOTT THE BIGGER MENUS
THE larger the menu a restaurant has, the more likely it is food will go to waste each day because the restaurant has to have more foodstuffs ready for consumption. So, go for one with a smaller menu.
6 PUMP IT UP AND GIVE TYRES ANOTHER SPIN
FOR every 6psi that a tyre is underinflated, fuel consumption can rise by 1 per cent. So, make sure that they are at the right pressure and buy retreaded tyres. Retreading uses only half the amount of energy needed to replace the whole tyre and doubles the lifespan of car tyres.
7 USE LESS, OR EVEN NO, DETERGENT
PHOSPHATES are used as water softeners, and when they're discharged into the water supply they stimulate excessive algal growth. These "algal blooms" starve water of oxygen, killing plant and fish life, and disrupt the sewage treatment process. For every litre of washing powder you use, 20,000 litres of water are required to treat it until it can re-enter our water system safely. And it's not the detergent that cleans the clothes anyway - it's the water. All detergents do is separate the oxygen molecules to generate a "wetter" water to penetrate the fabric deeper and thus remove most dirt. Alternatives to detergents do exist - Safewash's T-wave laundry discs (www.safewash.com) and Eco-balls (www.ecozone.co.uk) offer clean, inexpensive, chemical-free cleaning.
8 JOIN A GREEN GYM
GREEN GYMS are conservation projects involving regular outdoor work, such as cutting down shrubs, clearing paths and repairing walls and fences. Not only does this work help the local environment, it also helps improve the participants' physical and mental wellbeing. For more information on Green Gyms, and how to join your local gym, go to the British Trusts for Conservation Volunteers' website at www.btcv.org/greengym.
9 TURN YOUR IRON OFF BEFORE THE LAST ITEM
IRONS stay hot after they've been switched off, and so it will still be hot enough to iron the last item very well. Although this might seem a very small thing, it gets us into the habit of making small energy-saving actions that, collectively, can make a much bigger difference.
10 DONATE PAINT LEFTOVERS
DID YOU know that of the 350 million litres of paint sold in the UK each year, 45 million remain unused? The Community Re-Paint scheme, organised by Save Waste and Prosper, runs paint-collection schemes - sorting out paint and redistributing it to community projects, housing associations and schools. Visit www.communityrepaint.org.uk for information, or call 0113 243 8777.
11 NO PLASTIC TOYS
PLASTIC toys, especially PVC toys, can contain phthalates, which have been linked to liver and kidney damage. Some toys made in Asia contain up to 55 per cent phthalates by weight. Some researchers put the risk of liver cancer in plastics workers as high as 200 times greater than average. Don't let your child's toys become someone's killer. Choose wooden toys which are kinder to the environment.
12 BUILD A BATBOX
GET a batbox to encourage bats to roost. Bats are an integral part of the ecosystem and - like many wild creatures - are suffering from the loss of their natural habitat. Of the 16 species left in Britain, six are endangered or rare and six others are vulnerable. Britain's commonest bat, the Pipistrelle, is just 40mm long and weighs about 5g - less than a 2p coin. Despite its size it can eat up to 3,000 insects per night - so it's a real gardener's friend. You can find information on how to make or buy bat boxes at the Bat Conservation Trust www.bats.org.uk, 020 7627 2629.
13 DUST YOUR FRIDGE
WHEN dust gathers on the condenser coils at the back of your fridge, energy consumption can increase by 30 per cent. So, get out that duster.
14 A BELL FOR TIDDLES
DOMESTIC cats can plague local wildlife, killing birds, frogs, mice and voles - and litter lawns. A 1997 survey estimated that the UK's 7.5 million pet cats could be killing at least 300 million animals and birds every year. A trial conducted by the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds found that a bell on a cat's collar reduced predation by 35 per cent, a sonic collar by 44 per cent. Try keeping cats inside during the birds' breeding season too.
15 CONDENSING BOILERS
REMEMBER cold weather? Condensing boilers are the most efficient type of boiler, converting 88 per cent of fuel into heat compared to only 72 per cent for standard boilers. They also save an extra 12 per cent on heating costs. When your current central heating system breaks down, replace it with a condensing boiler. They contain an extra heat exchanger, so when the boiler works at peak efficiency the water vapour produced in the combustion process condenses back into liquid, releasing extra heat. Find out more from www.nef.org.uk or call 01908 665555.
16 SHAVE ELECTRIC
OUR obsession with smooth skin is having a devastating effect on the environment. Every day, millions of disposable razors are sold, which end up in landfill. Once there, many don't biodegrade, and can even release toxic chemicals into the ground. Buy an electric or a traditional razor instead.
17 RECYCLE USED MOTOR OIL
EVERY year, 13,000 tonnes of car oil are improperly discarded, contaminating the country's rivers, lakes and streams, and threatening aquatic life. The toxic metals contained in oil such as lead, nickel and cadmium can poison the soil and lead to infertility and poor crop yields. Used oil, which has been properly handled, can be easily re-refined into lubricants, processed into fuel oils and used as raw materials for the refining and petrochemical industries. Many petrol stations will recover your oil for you. For details on schemes near you, contact the Oil Bank, www.oilbankline.org.uk.
18 GREEN TEA
WHEN you make a cuppa, boil only the amount of water you need. Sounds minimal, but experts estimate that, if everybody did this for just one day, we could save enough energy to light every street lamp in the UK the following night!
19 RECYCLE THAT WINE BOTTLE
RECYCLING just one glass bottle saves enough energy to power a TV set for an hour and a half. In every tonne of glass recycled, 135 litres of oil and 1.2 tonnes of ash, sand and limestone are saved.
20 THINK BEFORE YOU FLUSH
EVERY time you flush the toilet, you use between 15 and 20 litres of water. So, next time you're about to flush, stop and think whether it's really necessary. You can help reduce your water consumption by placing a brick or "hippo" water saver in your toilet cistern. In just one year, you could save over 3,000 litres of water. Visit www.hippo-the-watersaver.co.uk or call 01989 766667 to order your hippo.
21 CHOOSE THE RIGHT BATTERIES
MOST batteries contain toxic metals such as cadmium, mercury and nickel that leak when they are thrown away. Choose alkaline manganese batteries, which are free from toxic heavy metals. No battery is biodegradeable, but rechargeable batteries can be used up to 1,000 times, and some rechargeable batteries are recyclable.
22 HANDY PLANTS
INDOOR plants are a natural air conditioner and can remove up to 87 per cent of indoor pollution each day.
23 LOG OFF
EMPLOYEES who didn't turn off their computers when they went home at night, cost their companies 90m in 2002.
Worse, throughout the night, those computers made a power station pump a staggering 2.8 million tonnes of into the environment. Always turn off your computer when you go home, and, if you work at home, turn it off when you're not working.
24 DON'T LEAVE UGLY BUTTS
A CIGARETTE butt takes between one and 12 years to break down. So, don't drop them. If you must smoke outdoors, dispose of them properly, or carry a 35mm film canister to store discarded filters until you can do so.
25 FOXY FAVOUR
URBAN foxes aren't pests. The Wildlife Trust believes they have become an important part of city ecology and should be tolerated rather than persecuted. If you leave tin cans outdoors for collection, be sure to take the lids right off - don't leave them bent and partially open for foraging foxes to cut their noses on.
• Adapted from Go Make a Difference, published by Think Books, 7.99.