Everyone can play a role in the global effort to lessen the extent of climate change, by reducing their carbon footprint.
Our carbon footprint refers to the Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions, including cabon dioxide (CO2) and methane (CH4), we generate through our actions. When we drive a car, flick on a switch or eat a meal, we contribute to GHG emissions.
But we can reduce emissions simply by reducing electricity, gas, and fuel use and by making a few other conscious choices. An added benefit is that these efforts can also lead to significant, long term financial savings.
To learn more about your carbon footprint, you can access many helpful online resources, including the Australian Greenhouse Calculator, provided by the Victorian Government.
Home energy use makes up approximately 10.5% of Australia total energy use - Australian Energy Update 2020. There are many ways to reduce your energy use at home and in turn help the environment and save money at the same time!
Environmentally Sustainable Design Principals
When renovating a home, or designing a new one, there are many, affordable, design considerations that could significantly improve the energy efficiency of a building throughout its life, as well as improving indoor comfort for occupants, now and into the future. Putting a bit of extra thought into a building at the design stage can drastically increase the energy efficiency of your home for very little (and sometimes no!) upfront cost.
These considerations include:
- Orientation and zoning of your living spaces
- Using high thermal mass materials
- Window performance – glazing and frames
- Wall, roof and floor insulation
- Minimised thermal bridging
- Air tightness and ventilation
The Australian Government’s Your Home website is an informative and reliable sources of publicly available information on environmentally sustainable building design principals. Hard copies of this book can be borrowed from our Libraries.
Renewable Energy Generation and Storage
Regardless of how efficient a home is, there is always a need for electricity supply. Either through on-site generation such as solar Photovoltaic cells (solar PV) or electricity purchased from the grid. Electricity generated at home, for example through rooftop solar PV, leads to reduced grid electricity use and therefore reduced electricity bills; with the added benefit of being 100% renewable and generating zero operational GHG emissions. The addition of battery storage can provide further benefits, making electricity available to a household or a vehicle when the sun is not shining.
To ensure the highest standard of products, workmanship and system sizing advice when purchasing rooftop solar PV arrays for your home or business, and to be eligible for any Solar Victoria rebates, be sure to check that you choose a Solar Victoria Authorised Solar Provider using Solar Victoria approved products.
Tips for Renters and Home Occupiers
There are many ways renters can improve energy efficiency and ultimately save on energy bills:
- Lights and appliances
- When purchasing new appliances, prioritise energy efficiency (add star energy rating label image?)
- Turn off lights and appliances when they are not in use
- Maximise natural light by opening curtains or blinds when it’s light outside
- Change light globes to efficient LED globes, these also last a lot longer
- Wash clothes in cold water and avoid using the clothes dryers when the sun is out
- If you have a second fridge or freezer turn it off when not in use
- Only boil as much water as you need
- Only run the dishwasher when it has a full load
- Heating and cooling
- Set heating between 18°C and 20°C in winter and 25°C and 27°C in summer for optimal energy efficiency
- Seal gaps and cracks around doors and windows, with weather seals and draught stoppers to stop air leaking
- Close doors to rooms you are not using and only heat or cool the rooms you are using
- Shut curtains and blinds at night and on extremely hot days to keep inside temperatures stable
- During summer open windows during the cooler parts of the day to allow airflow and natural cooling
- Choose fans over, or with, air conditioners
Further details on the information above, and more, can be found at the Australian Government’s Energy website.
Certain appliances sold within Australia must carry energy rating labels, these labels use a star rating system with more stars meaning higher efficiency. When purchasing new appliances it is important to consider energy efficiency along with upfront purchase cost, as inefficient appliances will cost more to run and can end up being more expensive. The Australian Government’s Energy Rating Calculator can be used to compare the total cost of ownership of various types of appliances.
In the past it has generally been accepted that gas heating is more efficient and therefore less GHG intensive than electric heating; however, technological shifts in appliances and electricity generation mean that this argument is shifting. Gas is a fossil fuel and GHG producing and using gas will always lead to GHG emissions. Electricity, on the other hand, can be produced with zero GHG emissions via renewable technologies such as solar, hydro and wind power.
Broadened applications of heat pump technology have rendered it an affordable and extremely efficient heating and cooling technology that is increasingly widely used within Australia. Induction cooktops can also be used to replace gas cooktops without the traditional disadvantages of electric cooktops. Couple this with on-site electricity generation through solar PV, and householders can reap the environmental and financial benefits.
Grow Your Own Food
Growing your own food saves on transport, packaging, and cost, which can greatly reduce the carbon footprint of your food. Growing your own food has many environmental and health benefits. There are many fruits, vegetable and herbs that can grow well in our climate across different seasons. This North East planting guide provides local guidance into when to plant. You might also consider keeping chickens, which can provide a fresh source of eggs, among other benefits such as eating organic scraps and providing chicken manure to fertilise your garden.
Establishing a sustainable garden can be rewarding in many ways, including reducing your carbon footprint. Below are some ideas to consider when enhancing or establishing a garden:
- Consider planting natives and/or drought tolerant species to minimise the need for watering.
- Worm farms and/or home composting provide great garden fertiliser, in addition to the benefit of diverting food scraps from landfill and reducing greenhouse gases.
- Garden trees provide localised shade in your garden, in townships they have further benefits like improving the air quality, reducing stormwater pollution, and enhancing biodiversity.
- Indoor plants can create a healthier indoor environment by absorbing carbon dioxide and removing toxic chemicals from the air.
- Biodiversity in a garden has many benefits, ABC’s Gardening Australia has a great factsheet about Backyard Biodiversity
- If you don’t have space or time for a garden of your own consider joining your local community garden, this is also a great way to meet like-minded people.
Purchasing Green Power
Another way for homeowners and tenants to reduce their carbon footprint is to purchase 100% renewable electricity. This has the added bonus of no on-site infrastructure requirements and therefore no upfront cost. Many electricity retailers in Australia offer renewable electricity contracts. For a list of Australian Government approved 100% renewable energy providers see the GreenPower Accredited provider list.
Another useful tool to aid the decision in switching to a green electricity provider is Greenpeace’s Green Electricity Guide. The guide endorses those providers bringing more renewable energy to Australia’s electricity system, while identifying big climate polluters holding Australia back from achieving a renewable energy future. The list also includes small community owned renewable energy retailers, also known as Community Energy Networks, who often provide a greener alternative energy provider.
Home Energy and Water Efficiency Kits
Council now have Home Energy and Water Efficiency Kits and accompanying resources for hire from the library. These kits can be borrowed by anyone interested in investigating ways to save energy and reduce their GHG emissions at home. An easy to read guide is provided with each kit, to make carrying out your assessment so simple it can be done by both adults and school aged children (some safety restrictions apply).
Hardcopies of the accompanying resource Your Home are available to hire through our libraries.
Grants and Funding Opportunities - Households
Rebates Available for Energy Efficiency Improvements
A number of rebates and discount opportunities are available to homes and businesses through accredited providers of home upgrades, appliance improvements, solar PV installation etc. Information is available on the Victorian Energy Saver website and the Solar Victoria website.
Victorian Government Rebates
The Victorian Government provides rebates to reduce the cost of installing solar generation and storage technology through a number of programs; details of these programs can be found on the Solar Victoria website.