An email went around noting that today is World Environment Day, and it provided a list of tips for reducing your impact on the planet. It made for some interesting reading.
Turn down the heat – reducing the thermostat by 1 degree can save 5 – 10% of energy
When I use the heat, I generally set it to about 18 degrees. That’s enough to take the chill off the house. I’m happy to wear a jumper indoors.
Switch off lights, TVs, computers, microwaves and other electrical appliances when not in use
Despite the switch to efficient bulbs, I’ve been much more careful about turning things off recently. Well, mostly. Turning off lights in particular is just a habit you get into. Making better use of natural light during daylight hours obviously helps, too.
Unplug equipment once fully charged eg mobile phones, shavers and electric toothbrushes
Hmmm. Well I know my mobile phone uses a trickle charge once it’s full, so it may make little difference. Dunno about my shaver; must check. My toothbrush is analogue. But the more important thing to do is switch off appliances at the wall — some of them keep burning up the juice even when they’re “off”, and Choice notes that a Playstation 3 can use more power than a fridge.
Use energy saving light bulbs
90% done. There are a couple of light installations which don’t yet have them, as it may not be possible. But certainly I’ve now got CFLs in the most-used lights around the house. If you’re quick enough, this web site is giving away two CFLs per household, though note that their survey of green energy providers is based purely on price — this survey is better at indicating “how green” the providers really are.
Install water saving shower heads and/or take shorter showers
Done the shower head. I found it makes little difference to the shower, but did cut my water usage noticeably — by about 20%. The kids and I probably need to do a little better at shorter showers though. At the old house, the kitchen was next to the bathroom and you could set the microwave timer to four minutes. Now I have a microwave that won’t do that and is too far away, and the kitchen timer keeps bloody beeping when it’s finished; it won’t shut up. (This is worthy of a rant some day.)
Use washing machines and dishwashers only when you have a full load
Well duh. Who doesn’t do this? Unless it’s essential that something be washed by itself, why would you do anything else? In fact I stocked up on extra cutlery and glassware to help with the dishwasher, and bowls and things which don’t stack efficiently in there get handwashed.
I try and avoid handwashing dishes more than every couple of days, but that’s probably laziness.
Dry your washing outdoors & only use the dryer when absolutely necessary
Oh, for sure. I’ve heard tell of some people who don’t really think about this. They just chuck everything in the drier. Personally I put most things on the washing line, and there’s a clothes horse that has a spot indoors, for the cold weather.
Think Before You Print – only print what you ABSOLUTELY need to & always collect what you print
Well, indeed. I’m amazed at how much stuff some people print. Particularly irksome in most offices is the amount of stuff sent to the printer that is then never picked up by its owners. Not to mention the number of people who never bother to find out how to print double-sided from the printers. In most cases it’s not that hard — though it’s the sort of thing IT departments should switch on by default.
Aim for “zero” plastic shopping bag usage – take your own, say “no thanks” when buying one off or smaller items
Yup. In fact I found a foldable re-usable shopping bag, which fits into a pocket or briefcase easily. (A couple of bucks from that discount grocery place near Bentleigh Station.) That said, I end up with some plastic from time to time. But they’re definitely reducing, and increasingly those I use for bin liners are pulled from the stack I piled up years ago before I had re-usable bags.
Well, yes. Pretty self-evident. I’m attempting to only buy the food I know will get used… and in fact there’s many a Sunday night when I chuck together stuff left in the fridge into a big omelette. (Delicious, but not pretty — not the way I cook ’em.)
Consume local, organic, seasonal food
Haven’t really looked into this yet. Not high up on the to-do list to be honest, though I can see it’s a good idea. Pricing pretty much determines what’s in season, so I mostly stick to the reasonably-priced/in-season stuff by default.
Eat less meat
I’ve not yet made this move. Yeah, I know there are sound reasons for doing so — in terms of water consumption and greenhouse gases… and diet. I tried kangaroo meat actually, but I think I need to learn how to cook it to be a bit closer to the taste of the traditional lamb/beef.
Avoid processed foods
Probably should for health reasons as well as green reasons. I’m not the world’s greatest or fastest cook, so we do eat some pre-fab food for dinner — no doubt I can do better at this.
Buy products in bulk and with minimal packaging
Try to where possible, though sometimes it’s impractical. The 3 litre juice bottles, for instance, are too heavy for the kids to lift, and are made out of very thin material which wobbles so much that you splash juice everywhere when you first open it. The 2 litre milk bottles have similar problems.
Buy products made from recycled materials eg toilet paper
Yep. I have problems with the concept of chopping down forests to wipe my arse. Unfortunately recycled tissues have vanished from the supermarket again.
Recycle EVERYTHING you can
You bet. My recycle bin consistently has about three times the amount of stuff that my general waste bin has.
Mulch and compost as much as possible and/or consider getting a worm farm
Not something I’ve done so far, but am certainly considering. If I can’t really use the mulch on my garden, is there really a benefit to having food produce degrade at my house vs being taken away to degrade somewhere else? Tiny reduction in garbage truck fuel I guess.
Store leftover food in the refrigerator in bowls covered with a saucer or a small plate, rather than plastic wrap
Probably a fair point, though you end up washing more stuff. Not sure it’s space-efficient for everything.
Start collecting corks & drop off to collection points for recycling eg Dan Murphys, the Body Shop & Girl Guides
Don’t drink that much wine really. And some of it comes with screw tops now, not corks. The schools periodically collect corks for charity, so if I ever have a surplus, they tend to go there.
Give old clothes, toys, furniture and appliances to charity.
Yep. Well, charity, relatives, or Freecycle.
Repair clothing, appliances and toys, rather than buy new ones
Sometime I must have a go at darning my socks. Even the Holeproof brand ones get holes.
Reduce your car usage by sharing journeys, walking and cycling more or catching public transport
Yep, I know a bit about this. :-) Last time I checked my driving was about a third of the Australian average. (But really, this myth that sharing journeys/car-pooling can make a substantial difference is yet to be proved.)
Avoid short car trips
Kind of, yes. Sometimes it’s unavoidable, but certainly I prefer using my feet for a lot of short trips. And we know that “active transport” has health benefits. If I was braver I’d get the bike out more.
Interesting to see WalkScore.com is now scoring my neighbourhood as 58 out of 100. If it knew about all the other stuff in the vicinity, I reckon it’d be much higher.
Plant native and drought-tolerant plants
Happily, my garden is made up of Australian natives that, for the most part, are thriving with little water. My predecessor designed the garden well, and Andy keeps it well-maintained.
There’s lots of things people can do. There’s certainly more I can do.
And there’s lots of things governments can help people to do… which they haven’t really woken up to yet.
The good news is, if we do nothing, the Earth won’t die. The bad news is, us humans, however, could be in a lot of trouble.