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5 simple ways to cut your energy bill this winter

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winter-widerberg-creative-commons.jpgHaving left a rather toasty house this morning, only to find the office freezing - and the thick knitted jumper at home - the electric heater is now on full to warm us up while we type at the speed of lightning to keep our hands warm. But as we all know, electrical heaters is the deep abyss of money wasting gadgets so we've been spending the morning coming up with some simple steps that will help you save money on the electricity bill this winter.

Hippyshopper's top tips on reducing your energy bill

Invest in quality knitwear and layer up

When the breeze offers a fresh Arctic chill and it feels like snow is just around the corner, it can be tempting to turn the heating up on full and forget about the harsh climate outside. But living in a sauna is not good for your skin or your wallet. Instead of wasting your hard earned money on something you cannot see, keep the thermostat on normal level and invest your dosh in quality knitwear and layer up. You'll be surprised how effective an extra layer of clothing can be in keeping you warm.

Draft-proof windows and doors

A lot of heat will escape from your house through cracks around window and door frames - and if you live in an old house then you're in for a treat. Invest in some proper draught-proofing products for the doors and windows, seal your skirting boards with silicone sealant to be on the safe side. It will cost a bit to do this, but you could save up to £90 a year, so in the long-term you'll be winning.

Install a digital thermostat

Heating your home is expensive, especially after the recently announced hike in energy prices, so there is no reason to pay for your heating when you're not at home. Have a digital thermostat from a DIY store and program it to increase the temperature half an hour before you arrive home from work.

It's not all about heating: save money in other parts of your electric bill

Darker days and nights make most up us want turn on more lights when at home. Before you do this, replace each bulb with LED bulbs as this will help you save on your electricity bill. And turn lights off when you leave a room.

Shop around for the best deal

There's no shame in wanting to move on from your current energy provider. Find the best deal for you, and switching either your gas or electricity so that you get both from the same supplier you can get a dual fuel discount. And if you choose to manage your account online and pay by Direct Debit could provide even further discounts.

Image by Widerbergs on a Creative Commons License.

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While we all are aware of ethical products and Fairtrade initiatives, many of us over look green or ethical choices when it comes to our investments. This week marks National Ethical Investment Week and Nick Scarrett, head of investment and pensions at Fair Investment Company, explains why making green and ethical financial choices is just as important as drinking Fairtrade coffee.

He states that "While many of us would go out of our way to avoid unethical products, ethics are often not considered when it comes to finances, but the same principles should apply. If you care where the coffee you drink comes from, then you should care how your money is being invested."

Ethical and green finance products are becoming increasingly popular in the UK, with almost 100 green and ethical funds available to UK investors. The purpose of National Ethical Investment Week is to help raise awareness of the variety of options that are now out there, that will allow investors to make money and make a difference.

To find out more about National Ethical Investment Week check out their website here.

carbon%20cred.jpgCarbon Cred works much like a supermarket loyalty card, but the rewards are much more far-reaching: the points you earn can be used to buy green lifestyle products and services to cut your personal CO2 emissions.

For example, if you were to buy a laptop, you earn 35 carbon credits. Check out the website, and you'll see that with those credits, you'd be able to get a Freeplay LED lantern, Power Chimp mobile phone charger, several energy saving lightbulbs, a Freeloader charger or any other item listed at 35 credits and below. Earn more credits, and the eco-friendly gifts get bigger.

Boots, M&S, Argos, Oddbins, Vodaphone, Tesco, BT, Lastminute.com and British Gas are just a selection of shops and site where you can use Carbon Cred. So why not sign up today and get greener as you shop?

co-op%20bank.jpgIn a highly commendable move aimed at rewarding ethically minded shoppers, the Co-operative Bank has launched a new credit card offering lower interest rates on purchases made from a designated list of ethical companies. As a further incentive for the ethical consumer, half an acre of Brazilian rainforest is automatically purchased and protected in the name of the cardholder when the cardholder buys something on the card for the first time. The card is even made using more environmentally friendly materials - namely PETg plastic, which doesn't use vinyl-chloride (a harmful industrial chemical used in the manufacture of the usual PVC cards).

You can read the Co-operative Bank's comprehensive ethical policy here.

Related: Virgin tries hard with bio card | Green(ish) credit card |

all%20green%20promotions.jpgIf you take your corporate social responsibility seriously, then All Green Promotions is a site you need to visit. From ringbinders and rulers to boomerangs and baseball caps, All Green Promotions provides a whole range of recycled, eco-friendly and fairly traded items upon which you can have your company logo printed. A wide variety of recycled materials is used in the production of their products, including recycled bottles, CD cases and rubber tyres.

I was very pleased to see that a site like this existed - although I have to say I did feel a small smile nudging the corners of my mouth at the idea of a very important CEO accessorising his or her office with old tyres! Joking aside, however, it's good to know that even when high-flying businessmen are out networking on the golf course, this site gives them the option of promoting their organisations with recycled golf tags and pitch mark forks...

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Charity Bank is a new concept in social responsibility. It is the UK’s first not-for-profit bank whose goal is to provide charities with affordable banking, loans and investment. The bank is urging people to invest their money in a personal account or investment as well as donating directly to charities. If you invest some money through Charity Bank, you will receive between 0% and 2% p.a. gross interest. You choose the interest rate you receive, opting for a low rate or even investing your money for free at 0%. By forfeiting the money you would have made on your investment you allow Charity Bank to provide affordable loans to charitable organisations.

Related stories: Ethical child trust find from Family Investments | Cooperative Banking: Good with money

wragby.jpgBritannia Building Society are supporting the Woodland Trust's Trees For All campaign, which aims to allow every child in the UK to plant a tree. They hope to plant 12 million trees over the next five years, making it the largest children's tree planting project ever. Britannia Building Society have pledged to donate £5 to the Tree For All fund every time a children's account is opened in one of their branches, which will help the Woodland Trust reach their target and also raise awareness of the need to protect and create new landscapes in Britain. As part of this coalition 10,000 additional trees will be planted in 'Britannia Grove' at Wragby Wood, an existing Woodland Trust woodland in Lincolnshire.

Related: Playhouse Disney and the Woodland Trust team up | Dorothy Perkins teams up with the Woodland Trust

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SS2BM (Summer Solstice to Blue Moon) is a campaign to lure buyers away from Ebay with special offers running between 21st-30th June. Many sellers are offering a 10% discount on items in an attempt to stem the perceived near monopoly of Ebay and Paypal over other online trading platforms. Alternative auction sites such as Tazbar.com and QXL.co.uk http://www.qxl.co.uk/ have joined up to the event and have provided special incentives for buyers and sellers alike. Tazbar have waived selling fees for the duration of the event and buyers will automatically be entered into a prize draw for a 19" LCD TV.

Related stories: Ebay fairtrade hub | Marzipan fairtrade through Ebay

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Virgin Money is trying to cobble together some eco-cred with the promise of a biodegradable credit card. Virgin says it is working with eco-designer Robert Holdway of Giraffe Innovation on a card made from biodegradable materials. No launch date has been given and many see this as a feeble marketing ploy after Barclaycard recently revealed its green credit card named Breathe.

[via MarketingWeek]

Related stories: Branson’s green planes | Barclays’ green(ish) card

credicard4.jpgWe all know how un-ethical many banks tend to be, but now due to public awareness and therefore financial incentives, some banks are starting to offer more ethical products. One such product is the new green credit card from Barclaycard called Barclaycard Breathe.

The new card launches in the summer and will be different to existing Barclaycard products in a number of ways.
Statements will only be issued on-line and all advertising will be on-line only. Obviously this is better for Barclaycard too as it is much more cost-effective.
The Breathe cards will be made of more environmentally friendly materials.
Cardholders will get discounts and lower interest rates on energy saving products.
Even better though is the promise by Barclaycard to donate 50% of after-tax profits from Breathe to carbon emission reduction projects around the world.

It’s a good idea and no doubt will get many people applying for a Breathe card. It’s a simple step to take and will help the environment. People still need to shop ethically though, buying unnecessary products only uses energy and resources needlessly.

At least now we can spend money with a slightly easier conscience.

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So boring are savings and investments that the Government has to pay us to think about them. But it’s not bad getting £250 free when you open a trust fund for your child. Here’s a great option that is also an investment into the world’s future. Family Investments is the only company which offers an ethically managed Child Trust Fund and they promise never to invest your money in companies that test cosmetics on animals, in alcohol or tobacco firms or those using intensive farming methods.

If this isn’t enough to titillate your trust fund taste buds here are some staggering facts we can be proud of. According to the Ethical Investment Association the UK accounts for almost three-quarters of Europe’s market in ethical investment. This compliments a YouGov survey which revealed that 64% of British parents would choose an ethical CTF over a standard one. So if you’re not with it in ethical investments get with Family Investments who have been offering ethical products for about 10 years and are currently the leading child trust fund provider. The company holds £1.6 billion of for over 800 000 people in the UK.

Related Stories: Make money, save world | Ethical families fork out £700 more per year on baby, finds survey

train.jpgYesterday I found out how to escape Britain by train more cheaply - today I've discovered some ways to take advantage of the byzantine rail fare structure when staying inside the country, courtesy of some tips from the BBC.

Most of my friends think I'm mad for choosing to use the British train system to get around when I can drive, but green concerns aside I still have an idealised view of the way trains should run.

Telecommuter

The concept of Coworking is to hook up lonely telecommuters so that they can share office space, tables in cafes, work tips, long walks on the beach, litter boxes, etc. To get involved, you can join the Google Coworking group or check for Coworking chapters in your city. It's set up as a wiki, so you can easily start your own. [GT]

Coworking

More Money & Finance

Juliet_davenport_with_weba_award There is a call for entries for the Women in Ethical Business Awards.

Run by Tridios Bank and Eve magazine, the contest is looking to reward businesses that are founded on ethical principles, and that benefit people or the environment.

Last year's winner (pictured), Juliet Davenport, was the founder and director of Good Energy, a green energy company.

[Via ecostreet]

Related: Magic Monkee promotes ethical businesses | Saving Green by Going Green | Loreal takeover The Body Shop

Blue_lightbulb

Saving Green by Going Green is a six month intensive program to turn your business in a greener direction. The idea is to introduce businesses to each other in a context where they can find green services that already exist, so they can support each other and make the world a better place in the process. Done in San Francisco to good results, Saving Green by Going Green is branching out into other communities in 2007. [GT]

Saving Green by Going Green

Related stories: Money makes you sharp and selfish, says study | Aviva insurance goes carbon-neutral | Top concern for ethical investors is workers' rights

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