19 February 2015
by Adrienne

7 Steps to an Environmentally Friendly Home

There are many reasons why people are starting to live more sustainable, environmentally friendly lives.

We’ve never been more educated about the consequences of our actions, from individuals making lifestyle changes, to governments and industries changing their business models with environmental impact at the forefront of their strategic decisions. Global warming, carbon emissions, pollution, climate change, and industrial/household waste are just a few of the major environmental issues facing us today.

With greater understanding of our impact on the environment comes an increased responsibility to do what we can to protect it. At the individual level, the best place to start is in the home with simple, cost-effective strategies that are able to be implemented quickly and easily. People often come to the conclusion that one person can’t make a difference. However, with many people now creating eco-friendly homes, the positive impact on the environment can be felt with every individual who implements ‘greener’ strategies in their own home. Here are several options you should consider, with some actually saving you money in the long run.

1. INSULATION

Having good quality insulation is the best way to keep heat in during the colder months, and hot air out during the warmer months. This will ensure you don’t need to run expensive heating cooling systems for extended periods of time that have damaging effects on the environment. Eco-friendly insulation can save the average household up to 50% on their energy bills, and can be made from an extraordinary range of natural and recycled materials such as shredded denim, sheep’s wool and hemp, cork, newspaper and spray-in foam made from soybeans. While there is the initial expense associated with insulation, there are cheaper and free measures you can take now such as hanging heavy curtains and drawing them shut at night, and blocking drafts coming in through window seals and underneath doors.

 

Homebuyers Centre has R4.1 ceiling insulation batts included on all homes built with the Standard Specification.

 

2. LOW WATTAGE LIGHT BULBS

 (Courtesy of Beacon Lighting)

A simple way to decrease the amount of energy you use in the home, thus reducing your carbon footprint, is by using eco-friendly light bulbs. Light emitting diode (LED) bulbs and compact fluorescent bulbs are two very popular choices. They use less energy than regular incandescent bulbs to produce the same amount of light, and while they usually cost more, they can last up to 10 times longer while also saving money on your energy bills. No matter what sort of light bulb you use, they must be disposed of correctly when they die. Throwing them in with the regular rubbish isn’t good enough as most varieties contain at least a small amount of mercury. Most local councils should be able to inform you how to dispose of them correctly in your area.

 

3. HOUSEHOLD APPLIANCES

When purchasing new household appliances, you will often notice each item comes with an energy rating, telling you how much is used to run the appliance. You may also notice that the more energy efficient it is, generally speaking, the more expensive it is. However, often the few extra dollars spent purchasing a more energy efficient appliance will be saved quickly on your energy bill.

 

●     Energy efficient dishwashers can use less water than washing the dishes by hand.

●     Fridges and freezers are some of the biggest energy consumers in the home, and often we can comfortably get by with smaller versions.

●     90% of the energy used in washing machines goes into heating the water, so consider turning the temperature down. Also, older models can use up to 50% more water than newer models.

●     Unless absolutely vital, say goodbye to your tumble dryer.

 

If you do replace an appliance and throw out the old, ensure it is disposed of correctly, and not simply added to burgeoning landfill sites. Often the store you purchase your new appliance from can take your old one away and dispose of it properly.

 

4. RECYCLING

Every household produces tonnes of waste every year. Anything that is not recycled is sent to landfill sites or, believe it or not, third world countries. Landfill sites have detrimental effects on the environment such as soil damage, wildlife issues and pollution. there are many ways to recycle in the home:

 

●     Creating a compost pile will produce rich soil to grow your own organic food and to feed the flowers in the garden.

●     Separating plastic, paper, glass and metals into their own bins makes recycling easier. All of these waste products can be used again, but if mixed up and thrown out in the regular rubbish, it becomes more unnecessary landfill.

●     In Australia we contribute 21,000 tonnes or four billion plastic bags to landfill every year. Reuse ‘green bags’ at the supermarket with each visit instead.

 

5. REDUCE WATER CONSUMPTION

Global fresh water supplies are decreasing and it’s vital we conserve our water resources. Water is such an important part of our everyday lives, we use it for drinking, cooking and cleaning, not to mention for producing electricity. With the global population increasing by as much as 40-50% over the next 50 years, it’s important start conserving water now.

 

●     People flush the toilet on average six times per day. Try and push the half flush button to reduce the water used.

●     Using a low flow showerhead can decrease water usage in the shower by 25-60%, saving water and decreasing your water bill.

●     If you’re not using the tap at any particular moment (such as when brushing your teeth) turn it off.

●     Repairing a leaky tap can save hundreds of litres of water every year. Installing water efficient taps can save up to 90 litres of water for every 10 minute shower, and reduce energy consumption by up to 47%.

●     Where possible re-use water. For example, when washing vegetables in the sink, put the plug in and use the water for plants or to do the dishes later.

 

If you have the space, consider installing a water tank. They were once unsightly eyesores, today’s designs fit well into the aesthetics of your home or into spaces where they may not be seen or noticed. Catching rainwater in water tanks can then be used for the garden, washing machine, flushing the toilet, washing the car and many other uses, once again saving water use and costs. Jump over to The Water Corporation for some handy do's & don'ts.

 

6. SOLAR & THERMAL PANELS

Solar and thermal panels use the sun’s rays to produce energy. This energy is clean and pure as neither generate carbon as a bi-product, and can be used to heat water, turn on appliances and regulate the temperature inside the home. By installing solar or thermal panels, not only can you save money on your energy bills, but you can also make money by feeding any unused energy back into the electrical grid. Often there are Government schemes or private solar panel companies who are willing to subsidise the costs of installation.

 

7. ADDITIONAL & QUICK EASY STEPS

●     Donate any functioning old appliances to second hand stores. This will save them simply adding to the landfill problems that already exist.

●     Grow your own organic food. If enough people do it, there will be less trucks on the road, cargo ships in the seas and cargo planes in the skies emitting carbon into the atmosphere. You’ll also save money!

●     Reuse glass jars as storage containers or drinking vessels.

●     Turn everything off at the source. Even in standby mode your electrical goods are using electricity, costing you money and increasing your carbon footprint.

●     Save the environment from manmade chemical poisons and make your own cleaners - lemon juice, vinegar and baking soda are usually just as good.

 

It doesn’t need to be difficult or expensive to turn your home into an environmentally friendly space. Often, not only will making small changes have a positive effect on our environment, but in the long run can save you money as well. By reusing what we have, being smarter with our purchasing choices, thinking economically and doing more for ourselves, we can all combine to reduce our collective carbon footprint, conserve our natural resources and protect our ecosystems.