Eco Tips are a series of short articles published monthly. Each explains an environmental issue and provides advice on what we can do to reduce our impact on creation.  Each Eco Tip includes links to relevant information or suggestions for local service providers or suppliers.



Water, Water Everywhere please. I’M WRITING this with a swollen Thames and Loddon, flooded fields, and a garden that’s squelching underfoot. But this won’t stop us facing hosepipe bans if we have a dry, hot summer.
Installing more water butts on every downpipe from the house, garage and sheds gives a lot of water storage for the garden. Chucking the veg washing or washing up water out of the kitchen door may also be useful (put a large funnel into a watering can for more delicate usage)…read full article

Waste Food. IT’S TIME FOR the New Year’s resolutions: please put reducing food waste at the top of your list.

Nine and a half million tonnes of food is discarded in the UK each year, with 6.5 million tonnes of this suitable for consumption, according to Waste and Resources Action Programme…read full article

Spare a thought for the birds… CAVERSHAM IS blessed with large public open spaces for dogs to race around. Within the town there are the floodplain meadows along the Thames, and a trio of grassland, woodland and scrub areas…read full article

The three Ps. THAMES WATER has been running some amusing TV adverts with a serious message in recent months. Every day they deal with around 200 sewer blockages, many of them the consequence of people using their toilets and sinks for waste disposal. The biggest offenders are wipes, condoms, sanitary products, cotton wool, and dental floss…read full article

Save energy and money with the weekly wash. THIS ECOTIP is based on a January 2022 report by Which? It can be read without being a Which? Member…read full article

Standby to switch off. HEATING BILLS are falling for the summer months, but your house still consumes more energy than it needs to if everything stays on standby. It may only be a few pence a day, but it mounts up for umpteen electrical items each year…read full article

Reduce boiler temperature to save energy. LOADS OF organisations tell you to turn the room thermostat down to save energy and money, but we hope we won’t need to use the central heating for the next few months! There are other savings to be made right now in hot water systems…read full article

Saving Energy in the Kitchen. THE MYTHICAL ‘average’ family is supposed to use 25% of their energy in the kitchen. There are savings to be made through changing habits. The big ones are teaching all the members of the household not to fill the kettle just to make one mug of tea, and planning to fill the oven when using it. At the same time…read full article

Low Energy Lighting. COMPACT fluorescent light bulbs (CFL) used at least 60% less energy than old-fashioned incandescent light bulbs and lasted 10,000 hours. The newer Light Emitting Diode lights (LED) use up to 90% less energy than CFLs and are expected to last up to 25,000 hrs. Should you make the change?…read full article

Take action on draughts EVEN IF YOU have a modern house with double glazing and cavity wall insulation, you may be losing expensive heat due to draughts. The older the house, the more likely it is there will be draughts…read full article

Autumn preparations for gardeners. THIS YEAR nearly half of Europe has suffered drought conditions, and this kind of drizzle-free summer is predicted to be the new normal. We can expect new reservoirs and desalination plants to be built and a programme of pipe replacement to reduce leakage, all of which will increase the price of water. This puts new water butts at the top of the Christmas present list…read full article

Are your radiators working as well as they should? IF YOU HAVE fairly modern radiators, made up of two heated panels with a set of fins between them, they act a bit like a convector heater, heating the air moving up through the fins. Dust, pet hairs etc are drawn up as well and can coat the insides of the panels, reducing the efficiency of heat transfer. Knock along the base of the radiator and see what falls out, peer down through the fins to check there is nothing large stuck in one of them…read full article

Put Up and Clean Up…BIRD BOXES harbour fleas and other parasites from year to year. So if you haven’t already had a look in your boxes and done the annual clean, now is the time to check the weather forecast and find a few dry days to do it.

Empty out any nesting material, unhatched eggs, or strange creatures sticking the lid down with webbing, and scald the inside of the box with boiling water. Leave the lid off (or wedge it open) for a few days to dry…read full article

In the bag….A regular reader contacted the Council when she found she was running low on the green, biodegradable bags supplied for use with food waste caddies. The following is their reply, which is likely to be useful for many of full article

Recycling plastic films. A new scheme aims to recycle most of the plastic bags, film, and pouches that are NOT accepted by the door-to-door recycling system, and to process these materials for reuse within the UK. This includes the bags for bread, vegetables, frozen food or dry goods, crinkly foil/plastic bags for crisps and coffee; pet food and baby food pouches, plastic magazine covers and a whole load more.…read full article

How green is your front garden? Research by the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) reported in March 20211 shows front garden greenery has grown by an area 70 times the size of Hyde Park since 2015. This increase in plant cover is expected to bring far-ranging benefits for health and wellbeing, the environment and wildlife. It will also improve air quality, help conserve water from rainfall and keep our streets cooler in hot summer months.

More than one million more UK front gardens contain nothing but greenery….read full article

Going peat-free in the garden. In 2011, our government said it would phase out the sale of peat-based composts to the public by 2020 and for commercial use by 2030. 2020 has passed, and a new announcement gives 2024 as the first target.

You don’t need to wait until then. If you tried it before and thought ‘this is terrible stuff’, then try again, because the manufacturers have been working hard to make really good formulations for potting compost and pretty good stuff for seed compost as well.….read full article

Stitching up the planet. Many of us are creative and enjoy making items for ourselves and others. I have been asking myself recently if I can do this in ways which help protect our planet. Here are a few ideas I have found.
Look for fabrics, threads and yarns produced without large amounts of water and toxins. Organic cotton is grown without using chemicals or pesticides. Hemp is made from plant fibres. Bamboo is naturally anti-bacterial, hypoallergenic and is also biodegradable…read full article

Eat Ethical Easter Eggs. Each year, we eat over 8 kilogrammes of chocolate per head in the UK(1). We eat more than almost anywhere else on Earth and much of it at Easter. Around 80 million Easter Eggs are sold each year in the UK. Most are packaged in cardboard or plastic, generating around 3,000 tonnes of packaging waste. Cardboard packaging is readily recycled, but much of the plastic is likely to be thrown away….read full article

Recycling cosmetics packaging – A beautiful return. According to a Zero Waste Week¹ report in 2018, the global cosmetics industry produces over 120 billion units of packaging each year. Many beauty products are packaged in materials that can’t be put into our recycling bins. This means much of it ends up being incinerated or sent to landfill.
Recycling beauty packaging can be complicated, although Reading Borough Council do accept clean and empty shampoo bottles and soap dispenser bottles which show a recycling symbol, as well as cardboard packaging. But they do not take the caps or trigger spray pumps, flexible plastic tubes, plastic pots or their lids, flexible plastic wipes packaging and a multitude of other, hard to recycle, materials …read full article

Can you replace plastic in your garden? Plastic is really useful in the garden, but it comes at a cost to the environment and wildlife. Luckily, there are alternatives and sometimes they are better for your plants too. Plastic pots, trays and root trainers are lightweight and cheap. They may not rot, but they do degrade and become fragile with exposure to sunlight.

Changing the way we garden to avoid using plastic, by turning to biodegradable materials like wood, paper and coir, full article

Act to cut medicine waste: Wasted or unused medicine is a serious and growing problem for both the NHS and the environment. And it is something you can help tackle.

It is estimated that as much as £300 million is wasted every year in the UK on unused or partially used medication which cannot be recycled or re-used….read full article

Greening your Home this Autumn: With 40% of UK carbon dioxide emissions coming from household energy use, our homes have an important part to play in meeting our 2030 emissions reduction targets. As we move into winter and temperatures drop, you can help to tackle climate change and reduce your heating bill by testing how draughty or leaky your home is. Find the gaps…read full article

Fit more active travel into your day: As the lockdown eases and we move back to travelling regularly for work or leisure purposes, it is worth considering what journeys can be made by walking or cycling. So called ‘Active Travel’ – the new phrase for walking and cycling – fulfils the twin objectives of improving health and well-being, while also reducing emissions which harm people’s health…read full article

Choose song-bird safe olive oil: Do you use olive oil for cooking and in salad dressings? If so, you may be shocked to know modern harvesting practices are killing migratory birds. Portugal’s Institute for Nature Conservation and Forests has found millions of birds are killed each olive harvesting season in the Mediterranean full article

Facemasks – a hidden problem: From 15 June 2020 it is mandatory to wear facial masks or coverings when using public transport in England. Many people are already using them in shops, or even when out walking or driving. It is inevitable we will see a massive increase in the use of PPE, or personal protective equipment.
According to an analysis by scientists at University College London, if every person in the UK used one single-use mask each day for a year, an extra 66,000 tonnes of contaminated plastic waste would be created and have ten times more climate change impact than using reusable masks …read full article

Keep topped up and cut plastic bottle use: Many of us like to make sure we have plenty to drink when we are out and about. Picking up a bottle of mineral water from a shop along the way has become a routine for lots of us. The problem is, in the UK we use 35 million plastic bottles every day, most of which are immediately discarded.

But it doesn’t need to be like this. …read full article

Knit one, purl one and save the planet: If you like to knit or crochet, you probably have a selection of yarns made from a variety of fibres. It is worth pausing before purchasing yarn for that next project to consider its impact on our environment…read full article

Gardeners – time to go peat free: As spring approaches, gardeners think about planting seeds and preparing their gardens. A supply of compost is essential, so we head to the garden centre. Although peat free compost is available, most of what is available contains peat. After more than twenty years of campaigning by environmental groups and gardeners like Monty Don, we still use huge amounts of peat in our gardens… read full article

Let the train take the strain – cut your carbon footprint: At this time of the year, many of us are considering summer holidays. Cheap flights have transformed travel. Short breaks in Europe or holidays in the sun are increasingly popular and affordable. But the carbon dioxide emitted from flying can be a large part of an individual’s carbon footprint. So is there any alternative? …read full article

Fighting fatbergs: The word “fatberg” was coined after the discovery of a 130 tonne blockage in the sewers of Whitechapel in 2017. They are caused by a build-up of wipes, fats, oils and grease in the sewers. Fatbergs have increased in frequency recently, causing around 300,000 sewer blockages each year, at a cost of around £100 million. In addition, they cause sewer flooding in thousands of homes and businesses…read full article

Plastic milk bottles: Are you thinking about ways to reduce your use of plastic containers in response to David Attenborough’s 2018 Blue Planet programmes? One product which generates vast numbers of single use plastic bottles is milk. But there is a simple option to help reduce use…read full article

Lighting: There has been a revolution in lighting in recent years. The familiar orange Sodium street lights have gone, replaced by smaller, more efficient Light Emitting Diodes (LEDs). We are increasingly using these in our homes and anywhere we need light. But they cost more than traditional bulbs, so should we use them?… read full article

Shopping for presents? At this time of the year, many of us are looking for that special gift for friends and family. The obvious option is to visit local shops, town centre malls or increasingly to look on-line.

But there is an alternative which will save you money and may provide a unique gift… read full article

Reducing your carbon footprint – food: There is plenty of advice on reducing home energy use (and the resulting bills). One less obvious way of reducing our carbon footprint is to look carefully at the food we eat. Meat and dairy products use a lot of land and energy in their production….read full article

Me and my carbon footprint: You may have heard of the term “carbon footprint” in discussions about climate change and the environment. But what does it mean for us?

We all have a “carbon footprint”, an estimate of the carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere as a result of our lifestyle choices. Carbon dioxide is a so called “greenhouse gas”, because it traps energy in the atmosphere, increasing temperatures.Everything we do in some way produces carbon dioxide…read full article