Reducing energy challenge: our pick of articles, blogs, recipes and tips

May 1, 2014 by  
Filed under Solar Energy Tips

We devoted the month of April to the issue of reducing energy at home. We looked at a great project in Liverpool restoring derelict buildings to their former glories, we pondered the possibilities of off-grid living, and we curated a list of the the top 10 eco homes in the UK and asked you to vote for your favourite. Here’s what you may have missed.

Tim Dowling’s Challenge

We started the month by challenging Tim Dowling to reduce his domestic energy use by a whopping 50% in a week. He fitted LED lightbulbs, cordoned off the oven, the dryer and the iron, and went around his house switching everything off standby. With the clocks going forward and an unseasonably warm week, Tim just about managed to cut his energy use by half, all while learning that in long run, small
adjustments – like rationing appliance use – lead to savings over many years.

The Reader’s Challenge

Then it was over to you. For the Readers’ Challenge, we asked you to reduce your energy use by 10 per cent over a week. You told us how you were getting on and we shared plenty of tips and tricks from reader’s and organisations alike.

The UK’s top 10 eco homes

Pavilion House
You voted The Pavilion in Blackheath, London as your favourite of our top 10 eco homes. Photograph: E2 Architecture

With the help of a panel of experts, we profiled ten eco homes from around the UK. We looked through the keyhole of Marsh House in Nottingham, 100 Princedale Road in London. Underhill House in Gloucestershire, Hemp Cottage in County Down, The Pavilion in London, Plummerswood on the Scottish Border, Lammas in North Pembrokeshire, Zero Carbon House in Birmingham, Lilac in Leeds, and Slip House in London. You voted in your thousands with very even spread for the 10 homes. The Pavilion came up top and Lammas and Lilac were joint runners-up.

Off-grid living

With bankers saying that off-grid living is now so viable that it threatens the whole utilities model, Nick Rosen argued that we can’t take back power from the “big six” energy companies soon enough.

Kate Humble

Kate Humble
Kate Humble with a fellow farm worker. Photograph: Stephen Shepherd

We sent Lucy Siegle to Wales to chat with Springwatch presenter Kate Humble. She talked to us about rearing sheep, shared her views on having children, and told us about her latest venture into aquaponics.

Energy-saving tips

With the help of Top10 Energy, we ran a series of articles giving you energy-saving tips for the most common home appliances. Read more on how to be greener with your televisions, lightbulbs, washing machines, dishwashers and fridges.

The Dinner Doctor’s recipe ideas

Leftover roast beef and blue cheese sandwich
Leftover roast beef and blue cheese sandwich. Photograph: Rachel Kelly

After recovering from Save a Banana Day at the end of our food waste challenge, our Dinner Doctor was back in the kitchen rustling up recipe ideas for all your leftovers. This month, she gave us 20 recipe ideas each for breadcrumbs, roast meat, and sausages, 15 ideas for pasta, and (as a little bonus) 12 ideas for leftover Easter chocolate. There’s really no excuse not to eat your leftovers.

Eco buildings in Hamburg

From bubbling algae walls to rotating solar panels, Hamburg’s international building exhibition experiments with all kinds of eco architecture. Ollie Wainwright met some of its key representatives and examined a variety of eco buildings and features.

Green apps and gadgets

Every week, Erica Buist has once again tested a different app or gadget
that claims to make living sustainably just that bit easier. This month she was charmed by the Vektra Vacuum Electric Kettle, found a welcome midway point between air and tumble drying with EcoEggs, and decided she rather not live without E-cloths.

Growing Spaces

Mark Ridsdill Smith runner beans
Mark uses the side of his garage to grow runner beans Photograph: Mark Ridsdill Smith

We’ve had some great gardening pieces this month. Mark Ridsdill Smith – aka the Vertical Veg man – let us in on the secret of compost and gave us some great ideas for climbers you can grow in one pot, and the wonderful Carl Legge gave us some brilliant beginner’s tips for foraging in the spring.

Edible Bus Stop Landor Road
The Edible Bus Stop in Landor Road. Photograph: /Edible Bus Stop

We also spoke to the founders behind Kirkstall Community Garden and the Edible Bus Stop to find out what inspired them to create growing spaces for their community.


Throughout the Live Better Challenge, we are profiling some of our
favourite green bloggers from around the world. In April, we heard from Garden in a City, Simply Being Mum, Eco-Gites of Lenault and Carl Legge to gain their insights about what encourages them to live sustainably, and write about it.

Hidden Liverpool

We looked at Hidden Liverpool, a great project that aims to reinvigorate derelict and empty buildings in the city and restore them to their former glory.

And that’s everything for the reducing energy challenge. For May, our topic is Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. You can read more about the next challenge
and pledge to cut you household waste here.

The Live Better
Challenge is funded by Unilever; its focus is sustainable living. All
content is editorially independent except for pieces labelled
advertisement feature. Find out more here.

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