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Gadgets threaten green targets
Britons’ love of electrical appliances and gadgets could see the UK miss its carbon emission reduction targets for domestic appliance electricity use by as much as seven million tonnes.

That is the finding of a new report by the Energy Saving Trust, the independent body set up to help householders reduce their energy bills and combat climate change. It reveals that the UK will miss its 2020 target of a 34% reduction in domestic appliance electricity carbon emissions from 1990 levels by up to seven million tonnes unless we ramp up our efforts now.

The Energy Saving Trust runs an Energy Saving Recommended scheme, a UK-wide labelling programme which tests appliances on strict criteria and rewards the most energy-efficient models.The report reveals that if every household in the UK replaced just their old fridge-freezer, washing machine and dishwasher with the most efficient Energy Saving Trust Recommended models, they could collectively save £585m on their fuel bills, and prevent two million tonnes of CO2 from entering the atmosphere.

The report – ‘The Elephant in the Living Room: how our appliances and gadgets are trampling the green dream’ – shows that in 2009 the average British household contained a staggering three-and-a-half times as many gadgets and appliances as it did in 1990. Three of the worst offenders, the so-called Elephants in the Living Room, are: large plasma TV sets; large fridge-freezers with an ice-maker; and tumble-dryers. The report also finds that despite householders’ best efforts to switch to energy-efficient products, we are actually consuming more energy than five years ago.

Report author Dr Paula Owen said: “Although the findings of our study do make for stark reading, our message is that our domestic choices and behaviour in our homes can make a bigger impact than people think. Our love affair with domestic gadgets and gizmos has to change, just because you have bought an efficient appliance, doesn’t mean you can use it carelessly and never switch it off.

“We need to ask ourselves is that ice-maker in the fridge a necessity? Do I need to leave those chargers on the whole time? Do I need a 50+ inch TV screen? There’s more to this issue than using energy-efficient light bulbs. Not only can people cut their carbon footprint, but they can also bring down their electricity bills considerably.”

British designer Wayne Hemingway MBE, who has worked on award-winning eco-friendly housing projects, has backed the Energy Saving Trust’s findings and insists it is not too late to act. “The Government must continue to apply pressure on manufacturers to make their products more efficient through regulation and legislation,” he said. “More must also be done to provide consumers with information on which products use the least electricity, and the benefits of using those products responsibly.”

Download the report here