New Home Is My New Big Environmental Sin

Moving into a flat/house alone is an exciting prospect. Closing that door for the world for the first time was a great feeling; my own little kingdom is finally here. A kingdom ruled by my own rules, where my own imagination of time sets the pace, but also a very big environmental footprint is created.  The growth in living alone is having a detrimental effect on the environment and I feel quite guilty, but my own insanity was at stake.  That is not true, but living alone does have major advantages, but being green is not one of them.

People living alone consume more and the “problem” is growing at an alarming rate.  Previously people living alone were mainly old thrifty widows.  Now however they are 25+ rich professionals with large amounts of disposable income. They consume more partly due to their wealth, but also due to the fact that they do not share.  They do not share electricity, warmth, or consumable goods.  This means that “They consume 38 per cent more products, 42 per cent more packaging, 55 per cent more electricity and 61 per cent more gas per capita than four-person households.” According to a study from University College London.

The growth in One-person households is especially strong in the UK.  In 1971 they made up 18% of households, this had risen to 30% in 2001 and is predicted to make up over a third of households by 2026 (38%).  This needs to be combated either by making the new living choice more eco-friendly or reducing the incentive of one-person households.  The latter is quite simple: you just need to create an occupancy tax that means that it becomes more expensive to live alone.  A better alternative though is to reduce one-person households’ environmental impact.

1)      Reduce your consumption of goods.  This can be done through encouraging singles to place their disposable income elsewhere.  My disposable income is pretty meagre and I personally do not feel I need to fill my new found freedom with lots of goods.  Sharing between neighbours is also a good idea.  My flat does not have its own washing machine, but rather there is one in the basement for the whole house (10 flats).

2)      My rules mean less energy use.  The hall light is tuned off, the fridge may well even be turned off during the winter months and a cool box placed on the balcony and I flush my toilet once a day (of course I do not leave anything lying), but through a bit of green thinking, you can turn that dirty backward kingdom into a gleaming green powered palace.

3)      Go to friends for dinner, have friends over to watch a DVD, or have a loved one stay the night.  That way you are turning your one-household into a two or more person household for a few hours.  Having a friend over for dinner also may mean that the TV or computer stay out as you gossip under the stars on the terrace.

4)      Use your disposable income for good:  change the electricity supplier, get a grey water collector of change to an ethical bank or invest your money into a green home with built in sustainability.

You will still consume more electricity and heat, but individualistic society is the way the modern world is drifting.  Society needs to work towards greening this new living form as people will continue to choose to live alone and through reaching out to them and saying “fine that you live alone, but maybe you should reconsider that massive widescreen TV and rather think how can I make my chosen lifestyle green?  Got any further ideas?

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