There are steps we can all take on the path to zero emissions. Here are some helpful tips for reducing emissions – and energy bills – at home.
‘Australian households are directly responsible for about 20% of Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions. The average household’s energy use generates over 7 tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions from its premises each year.' (yourhome.gov.au/energy).
- Change to LED light bulbs and turn off computers and other electronics when you’re not using them.
- When upgrading your hot water system, consider an instant hot water system as these are more efficient than large boilers.
- Wash clothes in cold or warm (not hot) water and hang dry rather than use a dryer.
- Look for the highest energy star label when buying new appliances, you can use the government energy rating website to find and compare appliances.
- Installing solar panels is a great way to reduce your household emissions and save money on electricity bills. Sometimes government support is available so keep an eye out for money saving opportunities. You can also invest in offsite renewables, check out Greenpower where you can select a percentage of your current electricity supply to be powered by clean green energy. You don’t even have to change your electricity supplier.
- The NSW Government energy saver website is a useful one to bookmark. It gives up-to-date information on energy saving initiatives for households and businesses.
- Did you know Blue Mountains has a Renewable Energy Co-op? Check out BMRenew for lots of great information on local renewable energy projects and advice. In their owns words; ‘We are a volunteer group of people from the Blue Mountains, Australia, working together to create community owned renewable energy projects right here in our unique World-Heritage listed area'. If you are interested in renewable energy, the co-op meets monthly and welcomes visitors and new members.
- Insulate your home so heat doesn’t leak out your doors, walls, roof, floor and windows. This can be as simple as using door snakes to block heat from escaping under doors and installing seals around gaps in doors and windows.
- Set your thermostat.
- ‘You can save money having a programmable thermostat and keeping the internal temperature set to between 18 and 20°C in winter. It’s nice to feel warm at home when it’s cold outside, but remember every degree lower you set your heating can save you up to 10% on your energy use.' Energy NSW Winter Household Guide
- ‘If you have an air conditioner, use it only when you have to and don’t be tempted to over-cool. Instead, set the temperature between 25 and 27°C in summer, even 1 degree can save you up to 10% on your energy use.’ Energy NSW Summer Household Guide
The entire contents of your red bin goes to landfill where it emits a significant quantity of greenhouse gases as it breaks down. Any reduction in waste sent to landfill makes a big difference.
- Monitor the waste in your red bin. What can you cut down? Food waste on average makes up a third of red bin waste so composting your food waste at home will make a big difference. If you do this already, maybe help a friend or family member get started. Our website also has information on our composting initiatives and workshops.
- Try to buy items with less packaging and invest in some reusable produce bags for your fruit and veg.
- Buy second-hand and donate unwanted items that still have life in them to op shops.
- Borrow tools or repair your own with Toolo, the Blue Mountains tool library. Membership gives you access to items such as angle grinders, gazebos or even an electric pressure cleaner. They also run a montly repair cafe. Visit their website for more information.
- Make sure you know what you can and can’t recycle. Lots of recyclables are still being thrown out in the red garbage bin. Refer to our A-Z of recycling for more information.
- Deal with hazardous waste correctly. Chemicals, batteries and electronics don’t belong in the bin. Recycle them responsibly. Check out our e-waste and chemical cleanout pages for more information.
If food waste was a country, it would be the third largest emitter of global greenhouse gases after the U.S and China according to the Waste and Resources Action Programme (WRAP). In developed countries, food is often wasted because we buy more than we need. The NSW Government estimates the average household throws away nearly $350 of edible food each month. So, what steps can we take to reduce food waste at home?
- Meal plan and make sure you shop to a list. This way you’re less likely to buy too much. If you do have leftovers, get creative. There’s lots of inspiration online for easy leftover recipes. Check out the Love Food Hate Waste NSW Government website for more information.
- Food miles also contribute to carbon emissions so it’s always good to buy local whenever possible – it also supports local industry so it’s a win win.
- Try growing your own veggies, herbs and salads, the ultimate local produce.
- The latest IPCC report on climate change encourages people to eat more plant-based foods and switch to more sustainably produced meat. This is also recommended by Australian healthy eating guides.
- Rather than meat with a side of vegetables, look at switching the emphasis.
- Compost food scraps rather than send them to landfill.
- Consider walking or riding a bike for short trips. This not only reduces emissions but is great for general health and fitness. For longer trips consider public transport or a car share.
- Fly less. If you have to fly, consider offsetting your emissions.
- If upgrading your vehicle, look at fuel efficiency which will make it cheaper to run and kinder on the environment. Perhaps look into the viability of an electric vehicle. These are expected to increase in popularity over the next five to ten years.
In Australia, our average ecological footprints are huge. Data produced by the Global Footprint Network (GFN) in 2012 answered the question “If there is one planet – how much planet is available per person, and how much planet do we use per person?" In a list of the worst offenders for consumption per person, Australia ranks second, needing almost five earths to sustain the global population if everyone followed our example. To put this into perspective, the USA ranks fifth on the list.
You can read more about this on the BBC website.
So, what can we do about it?
- Buy less clothes, see if you can take the ‘buy nothing new’ challenge. If you do buy something new, make sure it’s something you’ll want to wear at least thirty times and try to avoid fast fashion. Organise a clothes swap with friends or workmates.
- Really think before you purchase anything. Do you really, really need it? Often we think our world will change for the better if we have this brand new thing, but it’s proven that once our basic needs are met, new purchases don’t contribute to meaningful or lasting happiness.
- Reducing the things you own and consuming mindfully can actually be really freeing. If you own lots of stuff, what happens to your time? You spend so much of it shuffling that stuff around.
- When you do need to make a new purchase, consider buying something for life. Often if you buy, for example, a cheap toaster – you save in the short term, but you’ll need to buy another when it breaks a year or two later. Instead, consider buying items that are more expensive at the outset, but can last a life-time, or are designed for repair. Have a look at the Buy Me Once website. It’s from the US but many of the recommended brands are available in Australia.
- If you need to furnish your home, don’t forget to look second hand. There are lots of local antique shops, garage sales, op shops and online marketplaces where you can source great stuff rather than always buying new.
- 'Minimalism' is a real buzz word these days. Have a search online for tips on leading a more minimal life, there's a lot of useful information you can put into practice.
- Whether you plant them yourself on your property or you donate to tree-planting efforts, the more trees we plant the better. Mature trees not only capture carbon, but they also provide shade from the summer sun. Remember to look for species that are suitable to your property’s size and location.
- Tell your story, listen to others – It’s important to get everyone on board and working toward climate solutions, and people are often more influenced by friends than experts.