So begins my year of living greenly. My mission to make our house more sustainable starts with thinking about making it warmer; this week, Ive been mostly thinking about thermostats.
Given my day job is technology editor here at The Independent, its the technological solutions that seem most immediate. And starting with the thermostat seems an obvious one, given how much money and emissions are wasted on central heating.
We recently got a smart thermostat, after struggling with a decidedly un-smart timer on our boiler. There was of course nothing green about that, given that it spent much of the time coming on when we werent even in. And there was plenty that wasnt comfortable about it, either, since it would often be on when the house was too hot, or not in as we shivered in the cold. (In the end we gave up and mostly turned it off and on manually.)
Download the new Independent Premium app
Sharing the full story, not just the headlines
Download now
We have the Nest Thermostat E. (Nest, which is now owned by Google, are probably the most famous of the smart home companies, and the thermostat is probably their most famous product; the E supposedly stands for a variety of things including easy and energy-saving, but basically means that its the cheaper version.) It works by getting your location and learning how you tend to like your heating, setting up a smart schedule and turning the heating off when youre not there.
So since the beginning of the year Ive been thinking about how best we can optimise the amount of energy that thermostat uses. Though it is smart, it still works on what you tell it; as such, you can change what sort of temperature you want it to be. 
left
Created with Sketch.
right
Created with Sketch.
1/20 Athens, Greece
In this decade, humans have become ever more aware of climate change. Calls for leaders to act echo around the globe as the signs of a changing climate become ever more difficult to ignore
2/20 California
Fierce wildfires have flared up in numerous countries. The damage being caused is unprecedented: 103 people were killed in wildfires last year in California, one of the places best prepared, best equipped to fight such blazes in the world
3/20 Redding, California
Entire towns have been razed. The towns of Redding and Paradise in California were all but eliminated in the 2018 season
4/20 Athens, Greece
While wildfires in Greece (pictured), Australia, Indonesia and many other countries have wrought chaos to infrastructure, economies and cost lives
5/20 Carlisle, England
In Britain, flooding has become commonplace. Extreme downpours in Carlisle in the winter of 2015 saw the previous record flood level being eclipsed by two feet
6/20 Hebden Bridge, England
Hebden Bridge in West Yorkshire has flooded repeatedly in the past decade, with the worst coming on Christmas Day 2015. Toby Smith of Climate Visuals, an organisation focused on improving how climate change is depicted in the media, says: “Extreme weather and flooding, has and will become more frequent due to climate change. An increase in the severity and distribution of press images, reports and media coverage across the nation has localised the issue. It has raised our emotions, perception and personalised the effects and hazards of climate change.”
7/20 Somerset, England
Out west in Somerset, floods in 2013 led to entire villages being cut off and isolated for weeks
8/20 Dumfries, Scotland
“In summer 2012, intense rain flooded over 8000 properties. In 2013, storms and coastal surges combined catastrophically with elevated sea levels whilst December 2015, was the wettest month ever recorded. Major flooding events continued through the decade with the UK government declaring flooding as one of the nation’s major threats in 2017,” says Mr Smith of Climate Visuals
9/20 London, England
Weather has been more extreme in Britain in recent years. The ‘Beast from the East’ which arrived in February 2018 brought extraordinarily cold temperatures and high snowfall. Central London (pictured), where the city bustle tends to mean that snow doesn’t even settle, was covered in inches of snow for day
10/20 London, England
Months after the cold snap, a heatwave struck Britain, rendering the normally plush green of England’s parks in Summer a parched brown for weeks
11/20 New South Wales, Australia
Worsening droughts in many countries have been disastrous for crop yields and have threatened livestock. In Australia, where a brutal drought persisted for months last year, farmers have suffered from mental health problems because of the threat to their livelihood
12/20 Tonle Sap, Cambodia
Even dedicated climate skeptic Jeremy Clarkson has come to recognise the threat of climate change after visiting the Tonle Sap lake system in Cambodia. Over a million people rely on the water of Tonle Sap for work and sustinence but, as Mr Clarkson witnessed, a drought has severley depleted the water level
13/20 Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
In reaction to these harbingers of climate obliteration, some humans have taken measures to counter the impending disaster. Ethiopia recently planted a reported 350 million trees in a single day
14/20 Morocco
Morocco has undertaken the most ambitious solar power scheme in the world, recently completing a solar plant the size of San Francisco
15/20 London, England
Electric cars are taking off as a viable alternative to fossil fuel burning vehicles and major cities across the world are adding charging points to accomodate
16/20 Purmerend, The Netherlands
Cities around the world are embracing cycling too, as a clean (and healthy) mode of transport. The Netherlands continues to lead the way with bikes far outnumbering people
17/20 Xiamen, China
Cycling infrastructure is taking over cities the world over, in the hope of reducing society’s dependency on polluting vehicles
18/20 Chennai, India
Despite positive steps being taken, humans continue to have a wildly adverse effect on the climate. There have been numerous major oil spills this decade, the most notable being the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010
19/20 Amazon rainforest, Brazil
More recently, large swathes of the Amazon rainforest were set alight by people to clear land for agriculture
20/20 California
This decade may have seen horrors but it has led to an understanding that the next decade must see change if human life is to continue
1/20 Athens, Greece
In this decade, humans have become ever more aware of climate change. Calls for leaders to act echo around the globe as the signs of a changing climate become ever more difficult to ignore
2/20 California
Fierce wildfires have flared up in numerous countries. The damage being caused is unprecedented: 103 people were killed in wildfires last year in California, one of the places best prepared, best equipped to fight such blazes in the world
3/20 Redding, California
Entire towns have been razed. The towns of Redding and Paradise in California were all but eliminated in the 2018 season
4/20 Athens, Greece
While wildfires in Greece (pictured), Australia, Indonesia and many other countries have wrought chaos to infrastructure, economies and cost lives
5/20 Carlisle, England
In Britain, flooding has become commonplace. Extreme downpours in Carlisle in the winter of 2015 saw the previous record flood level being eclipsed by two feet
6/20 Hebden Bridge, England
Hebden Bridge in West Yorkshire has flooded repeatedly in the past decade, with the worst coming on Christmas Day 2015. Toby Smith of Climate Visuals, an organisation focused on improving how climate change is depicted in the media, says: “Extreme weather and flooding, has and will become more frequent due to climate change. An increase in the severity and distribution of press images, reports and media coverage across the nation has localised the issue. It has raised our emotions, perception and personalised the effects and hazards of climate change.”
7/20 Somerset, England
Out west in Somerset, floods in 2013 led to entire villages being cut off and isolated for weeks
8/20 Dumfries, Scotland
“In summer 2012, intense rain flooded over 8000 properties. In 2013, storms and coastal surges combined catastrophically with elevated sea levels whilst December 2015, was the wettest month ever recorded. Major flooding events continued through the decade with the UK government declaring flooding as one of the nation’s major threats in 2017,” says Mr Smith of Climate Visuals
9/20 London, England
Weather has been more extreme in Britain in recent years. The ‘Beast from the East’ which arrived in February 2018 brought extraordinarily cold temperatures and high snowfall. Central London (pictured), where the city bustle tends to mean that snow doesn’t even settle, was covered in inches of snow for day
10/20 London, England
Months after the cold snap, a heatwave struck Britain, rendering the normally plush green of England’s parks in Summer a parched brown for weeks
11/20 New South Wales, Australia
Worsening droughts in many countries have been disastrous for crop yields and have threatened livestock. In Australia, where a brutal drought persisted for months last year, farmers have suffered from mental health problems because of the threat to their livelihood
12/20 Tonle Sap, Cambodia
Even dedicated climate skeptic Jeremy Clarkson has come to recognise the threat of climate change after visiting the Tonle Sap lake system in Cambodia. Over a million people rely on the water of Tonle Sap for work and sustinence but, as Mr Clarkson witnessed, a drought has severley depleted the water level
13/20 Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
In reaction to these harbingers of climate obliteration, some humans have taken measures to counter the impending disaster. Ethiopia recently planted a reported 350 million trees in a single day
14/20 Morocco
Morocco has undertaken the most ambitious solar power scheme in the world, recently completing a solar plant the size of San Francisco
15/20 London, England
Electric cars are taking off as a viable alternative to fossil fuel burning vehicles and major cities across the world are adding charging points to accomodate
16/20 Purmerend, The Netherlands
Cities around the world are embracing cycling too, as a clean (and healthy) mode of transport. The Netherlands continues to lead the way with bikes far outnumbering people
17/20 Xiamen, China
Cycling infrastructure is taking over cities the world over, in the hope of reducing society’s dependency on polluting vehicles
18/20 Chennai, India
Despite positive steps being taken, humans continue to have a wildly adverse effect on the climate. There have been numerous major oil spills this decade, the most notable being the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010
19/20 Amazon rainforest, Brazil
More recently, large swathes of the Amazon rainforest were set alight by people to clear land for agriculture
20/20 California
This decade may have seen horrors but it has led to an understanding that the next decade must see change if human life is to continue
We already do this fairly frugally, but Ive been focused on making sure were not warmer than we need to be. So the main thing Ive done is turn the heating down before we get into bed, ensuring that we arent wasting heat that will only be around once weve gone to bed. (Another of my personal pledges for 2020 is to ensure that I pay full attention to my sleep, after reading Matthew Walkers luminous book on the subject, and this helps with that too.)
Read more
The Nest gives you a leaf when youre being energy- and eco-conscious by having the temperature lower than it might expect. And I feel generally rewarded, too: while theres no real way to know the impact this is having on our own gas usage, it feels like we almost certainly are saving energy.
Smart thermostats or, if you are like me and didnt have a non-smart one before, any kind of thermostat feel like a wonderful symbol of how easy it can be to be more efficient. As it turns out, we arent much colder; our house is still heated when we need it. Its just that it wont be heated when were not there, or when were already warm enough. Saving money and emissions on heating has actually made life easier.
Getting one is expensive, of course: the Nest Thermostat E is £199, and youll have to pay for installation if you live in a confusing, complicated house like ours. But most people probably wont need to, and there are plenty of deals and discount schemes from energy companies that should make it a little more easy to swallow.
I suspect, as we head through the year of making our house more sustainable, that not all the changes we make will be quite so seamless, comfortable or sacrifice free. But I certainly hope so, because this feels like the kind of change that is incredibly nice to make, not only helping save the world in the tiniest way, but also saving money, and saving us from being cold.