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So, here's a breakdown of the question.

Situation: In the next month or two I will be moving house to a new-build detached house in the UK, which is on an estate of around 100 similar such properties.

Problem: I know I don't have to lecture this forum, but for the sake of making the question as clear-cut as possible; The construction of large housing estates on green-belt land has profound effects on your local and regional environment.

  • Decreased drainage (of precipitation), due to an increase of impermeable surfaces (roads, roofs, pathways, etc)
  • Change in land usage and soil composition and structure (unsettled soil, imported turf)
  • Increased atmospheric pollutant from resident's vehicles, boilers, etc.

Mission: To reduce, offset, or eliminate the impacts of new-build housing on the local environment in the most cost-effective and conventional ways possible.

Consider:

  • Answers should involve ways in which ordinary people can get involved in living a more sustainable lifestyle.
  • This particular set of properties are already rather energy efficient. Supplied appliances are rated A, insulation is well-packed, and heat-loss values are low.
  • To simply say "don't live in new-builds on greenbelt", while it is certainly a way to live more sustainably, doesn't help people who are in this situation.
  • Most new-build homes in the UK are all-electric (with the exception of gas boilers).

My Suggestions:

  • Provide a large area of permeable, well-maintained, and high-nutrient value soil. That is to say, less paving, more turf and bare earth, in the garden areas. Try to keep the soil in good-health by providing it with decaying leaves, and our own supply of compost.
  • The usage of a Smart Electricity Meter can be useful (where your provider supplies them). You can measure your current energy usage and its cost. This would allow you to formulate the peak/trough of energy usage, and if your lowest-level can be reduced any further (devices on standby, unnecessary powered electronics overnight, etc)
  • Ensure that when the central heating is on, that all windows and doors are secured, in order to get the greatest heat gain from the slightest fuel burn.
  • Consider using renewable (full or part) energy suppliers. Suppliers vary from region to region. For anyone living in the UK, OVO Energy is a good bet. Although you'll find its more expensive for larger households.

closed as too broad by Jan Doggen, LShaver, THelper Jul 12 at 8:00

Please edit the question to limit it to a specific problem with enough detail to identify an adequate answer. Avoid asking multiple distinct questions at once. See the How to Ask page for help clarifying this question. If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

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    Sorry, this is way too broad for the site. It's almost like asking for a complete project plan. – Jan Doggen Jul 5 at 7:10
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    Welcome to Sustainable Living! I agree with Jan Doggen; you ask a very broad question. If you focus on one specific problem per question you will get much more useful answers. – THelper Jul 5 at 7:44
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    So what's the specific question that you are trying to answer? What's the specific problem that you are trying to solve? By the way, who's the builder? Not all new build is the same ... – EnergyNumbers Jul 5 at 13:20
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If one's desire is to "To reduce, offset, or eliminate the impacts of new-build housing on the local environment in the most cost-effective and conventional ways possible" then this should be done in the planning/design/construction phases of a new development/build. Once the development/build is complete, it is too late — far too late — to do anything that will have a meaningful impact. The environmental damage/debt is too large.

Given that "In the next month or two I will be moving house to a new-build" it sounds like all the decisions have already been made, and all the environmental damage has either been caused or locked-in. There is no way to rectify design failures in a "cost-effective" manner at this point. It would seem that you are attempting to close the gate after the horse has bolted.

You are, essentially, now in a position where you are moving into a development that probably paid no attention to environmental cost whatsoever (precious few of them do), and are becoming the owner/occupier of a new building with minimal environmental credentials (well insulated, a-rated appliances). Because you can't go back in time and redesign the development, or redesign the house, the only way to try and 'make up' for the damage that has already been caused/locked-in is to look forward.

In other words, the fact that it's a greenfield development is irrelevant. You can't undo or change that. You are 'just' an aware individual who now recognises that their existence on this planet, and the choices that they have made have, do, and will continue to cause damage that impacts on other forms of life. Your value system drives you to minimise this damage.

Your question, therefore, probably can be simplified to this:

"My (all-electric) house is well-insulated, and all my appliances are A-rated for energy efficiency. What can I do to live a more sustainable life?"

That is a very broad question, and one that you should narrow down to make it easier to answer. Instead of one broad question, perhaps it would be better to ask multiple, more specific questions?

  • Is it worth getting a "Smart Meter" for an all-electric house? Given that they were invented to allow utilities to charge customers more money in conjunction with Time-Of-Use plans, is it actually in my best interest to install one? Can I monitor my consumption in some other way?
  • I have [this type of] central heating. How can I modify my behaviour to make most efficient use of the heat it provides?
  • I'm considering OVO Energy to supply my electricity here in [region]. Their [plan name] with [plan features] seems like it would let me get a decent fraction of the energy I need from renewable sources without breaking the bank. Anyone found a cheaper source of green electrons for an all-electric house?
  • I recognise that lawns are basically a desolate wasteland when it comes to biodiversity. What can I do with my [X]m² back yard that will support local ecosystems? My climate is [climateType].

Many such/similar questions have already been asked in this forum. Skimming question titles or using the search might reveal them. If not, create a new question. Narrow-focus questions with meaningful keywords in the title make life easier for everyone.

Finally, I will offer at least one suggestion: You haven't fully described what sort of features make your house "energy efficient", so you may already have chosen your windows. If not, may I strongly suggest thermally-broken double-glazing with a low-e coat on the third surface and an argon-filled cavity? They are absolutely wonderful and will help plug the otherwise massive thermal holes that exist in the walls of your home. The real-world thermal performance of a building is only as good as the weakest point in the thermal envelope.

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The impact of constructing your home is past. What you should consider is the future impact of your consumption to the environment.

I'd suggest the following:

  • Calculate how much electricity you need for heating, cooling and appliances
  • Purchase stocks of companies producing the electricity you need in a clean manner (hydropower, wind power, solar power, nuclear power -- yes, nuclear is CO2-free)
  • Invest in young forest; the growth of your forest will absorb CO2 from the atmosphere during its lifetime. The cycle of forest in the nothern areas where I live exceeds 100 years. So, if you purchase a newly planted forest, it will be 100 years until it is useful for harvesting, and during those 100 years every year it absorbs CO2 from the atmosphere. During those 100 years, I assume the CO2 crisis has been solved.

My approach for investing in clean electricity companies is to calculate how much energy I need directly and indirectly, now and in the future (for example, the shopping mall where I visit also uses some electricity). Then I multiply the figure by 2, and calculate how many stocks are needed to produce this amount of electricity.

I use 4000 kWh / a directly. I also am planning to purchase an electric car that would consume 5000 kWh / a. So, according to my general rule, I would need to own twice of 9000 kWh / a or 18000 kWh / a of clean electricity production capacity. That's approximately how much capacity I own. (I also have significant investments in wind turbine manufacturers, solar cell / panel manufacturers, solar inverter manufacturers, etc).

My house is heated by district heating that produces CO2. It requires 10 000 kWh / a to heat, which produces 3220 kg of CO2 because where I live district heating uses coal mainly. My car emits around 3500 kg of CO2 per annum (directly from its tailpipe, and indirectly during oil refining). I have used a calculator which estimates that the indirect emissions of me (those not related to electricity use, heating, or my car) are 8500 kg of CO2 per year based on my consumption level. So, I produce around 15 000 kg of CO2 per year which I need to offset.

Fortunately, the forest I happen to own absorbs 40 000 kg of CO2 per year during its growth, more than twice of 15 000 kg. So, I could even afford to increase my consumption level. My forest is relatively young, so the stock of absorbed CO2 will increase over time, and those areas that are harvested, will be used to create sustainable bio-based materials, renewable forest energy, wood-based building materials, etc, that directly offset fossil fuel and concrete use.

If you can't afford to purchase enough forest and clean electricity capacity to offset your consumption, then your consumption level is too high for the environment! Your only option is to either accept the fact that you are over-consuming our non-renewable resources, or alternatively reduce your consumption level, or alternatively find ways to improve your income that would allow you to purchase more forest and clean electricity.

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