What can you do?
The challenge is to reduce our “foot-print” on the planet, to reduce the amount of wastes we create, and to reduce the amount of energy that we use.
Ideally, the first step involves the design and construction of our home. Most of us will not have that opportunity, but if Climate Change is to be taken seriously, then there is an urgency to sort out the fundamentals of energy-efficient house design, and get them implemented just as soon as possible. This involves determining a much increased quality of building, designed and constructed to maximise use of solar energy. A new standard being trialled in Germany, (Passivhaus), features the construction of a home that utilises passive solar systems, and requires no additional space heating or cooling. At a relatively low cost of about $5,000 to $10,000, a huge difference can be made to the life-time energy requirements of our homes, and in fact, the same principles can be applied to all occupied buildings, factories, hotels – everything. These extra costs will be recouped in just a few years. Check out the Green Building Council at: www.nzgbc.org.nz
What I can do in my home – direct energy savings
We can save energy directly – turn the wall switch to “OFF” when not using the appliance. In New Zealand, about 35% of our electricity is used in our homes. New Zealand generates around a third of its electricity from coal and gas, so when we use electricity in our homes, we are contributing to the production of waste carbon dioxide emissions. Every bit of electricity we can save will make a contribution towards solving the problem. EECA have calculated that just one replacement low-energy bulb can save up 250kg CO2a year, and $10 a year off your power bill. A typical New Zealand family household will spend $1500 a year, using energy as follows:
Hot water heating
Home space heating
Reduce your wasted energy. Write up an energy-saving plan for your home. The immediate action goals can be put in place at very little cost, but will still make a worthwhile contribution. You may already have actioned some of these, but it could look something like this:
1. For Immediate action:
- Replace majority of light bulbs with energy-saving bulbs - save 2%.
- Turn lights off when we leave the room, and electronic items ‘off’ when not in use, rather than leaving on stand-by – save 2%.
- Wash clothes in cold water – save 2%. Use clothes line to dry washing when possible – save 1%.
- Turn hot water off when going on holiday – save 1%.
2. Short term goals:
- Improve insulation of hot water cylinder and hot-water pipes – save 2%.
- Replace/discard inefficient old beer fridge – save 1%.
- When buying new appliances, go for those rated as energy efficient – save 1%.
- Install either solar or heat-pump water heating, at a cost of $4000-$7000 – and save up to 75% of your water heating bill
- Install a heat-pump for efficient space heating in your home. This could save up to 20% on your power bill, providing you don’t use the cool air-conditioning cycle in the summer!
3. Medium to long-term goals:
- double-glaze windows, starting with the south-facing windows; windows leak 10 times as much heat as the walls;
- instal extractor fans in kitchen and bathroom to ensure removal of moist air from your home, and ensure your home is correctly ventilated. Heating warm, moist air is wasteful - and a damp home also promotes asthma and ill-health, and can lead to the rotting of your timbers;
- Retro-fit your home with increased insulation in walls, ceiling, and under floor, making proper provision for adequate ventilation;
- install water-saving devices - as for toilets, shower-heads etc.
- install roof-top photo-voltaic panels for electricity
- install roof-top wind-power unit.
What I can do in my home – indirect energy savings
I can reduce energy use by reducing my waste
We can save energy indirectly by our efforts to reduce waste. Recycling 1 ton of paper saves 17 trees, 2 barrels of oil, 4,100 kilowatts of electrical energy, 3 cubic metres of landfill space, and 30 kgs of air pollution. In our homes, most of us now have the opportunity to sort and put out some of our recyclables to Council collections. Every bit helps, so let’s get stuck into it! Some Councils, such as Timaru, are now separately collecting green and kitchen wastes. Encourage your Council to do the same, and remind them that these wastes can be utilised for the production of biogas and compost. If this service is available to you, make sure you help by separating and diverting your garden and kitchen wastes. We suggest you look at everything your house sends out from your home as waste, and come up with a plan of attack. Your personal or family plan in this area might include:
1. For Immediate action:
- When making purchasing decisions, we will go for reduced/recyclable packaging, and will buy items that incorporate recycled materials, such as toilet and tissue paper made from recycled paper.
- We will keep several ‘green bags’ in the car boot, and use them for carrying our groceries. We will refuse plastic bags if we don’t need them.
- Let’s put a “No junk mail” sticker on our letterbox.
- We will take care to maximise our recycling of clean glass, paper and plastics, as provided for by Council.
2. Short term goals:
- We will compost our food scraps, and have a look into worm farming.
- We will lobby Council to extend the range of items collected for recycling, including separate collection of food and green wastes, collection of all plastics, provision for collecting old foam furniture and mattresses, and proper provision for the collection and safe disposal of our old electronic goods (TV’s, mobile phones and computer stuff) and fluorescent tubes, which contain toxic wastes.
3. Medium to long-term goals:
- We will only buy things when we really need them, and we will try to buy items that can be repaired rather than having to be thrown away if they fail.
- Consider the large energy cost and environmental impact that results from the production of meat, and perhaps eat a little less of it? Changing to vegetarianism will have a greater impact on the planet than downsizing your SUV to a hybrid vehicle!
Recycling an aluminium can saves enough energy to operate a TV for 3 hours.
The manufacture of a single gold ring or wedding band creates more than 20 tonnes of mine waste.
Your plan will need to be tailored to your home, your circumstances, and your budget, but there are many actions that can be taken at absolutely no cost that will get you on your way. Lobby the Government for interest-free loans for energy savings – paid back on your power account! There is a small scheme whereby the EECA offers up to $300 towards the cost of financing solar water heating (with a $40 admin. charge)
Go to the following site for an excellent guide on the many other steps that you can take: www.carbonzero.co.nz/reduce_emissions.asp
This page was created in November 2006.
Out and About: Travel and Transport
The challenge is to reduce our “foot-print” on the planet, and to reduce our energy use. The world’s major energy source today is fossil fuel, and its use is creating massive discharges of CO2 into the atmosphere. Here in New Zealand, more than 40% of all energy use is for transport, accounting for some 46% of all CO2 emissions. We can save energy directly by travelling less – by planning our travel and transport, and minimising it. We can also save fuel consumption indirectly, by such things as using public transport, and by intelligent consideration of the goods and services we purchase.
What I can do about my transport energy use – direct fuel savings
With personal mobility being a particular feature of our modern lifestyle, transport use seems to provide fewer options for savings than measures we can take in our homes. But we can still consider our own individual situation, and make a personal plan for improvement! For the average person, 30% of private travel is social/recreational, and about 12% is for shopping. Every saving you can make in fossil fuel use, will make a direct contribution towards mitigating the problem of climate change. Write up your transport economy plan - it might look something like this:
1. For immediate action:
- Commit drivers to ‘best’ driving practices
- Ensure regular fleet vehicle maintenance.
- Lead from the top with modest, energy-efficient vehicles for staff
- Plan delivery routes carefully
- Avoid use of air-con (it can add 10% to fuel use) unless necessary.
- Plan ahead and bike, walk, or use public transport when possible.
- Use school bus, or walking school bus, rather than driving kids to school.
2. Short term goals:
- Consider flexible working hours to avoid rush-hours, or working at home one day a week?
- Try planned car-pooling with a friend or neighbour, on a regular, if not daily basis.
- If a two-car family, plan for using your larger vehicle for long-distance, multi-occupant travel, and make that second car a small, efficient vehicle for local trips and occasions when there is only the driver and no passengers.
- When buying a new vehicle, consider carefully its fuel efficiency, and its function in relation to your real needs. Purchase of an electric or hybrid vehicle is becoming increasingly possible, and use of these vehicles can readily reduce fuel consumption by 40-50% or more. For some commuters, purchasing an electric scooter may prove to be a great option!
- Check your vehicle fleet utilisation for maximum efficiency; sometimes it might be better to travel by taxi
- Check suppliers delivery and transport charges carefully – is that courier delivery necessary? Is it efficient? Is it possible now to use rail freight?
3. Medium to long-term goals:
- Plan your business travel with carbon emissions in mind. If regularly travelling overseas on business is essential, consider adopting a carbon-zero plan, and making a contribution towards tree planting or similar to off-set your GHG emissions. ( See comments below.)
- Plan your holiday travel with carbon emissions in mind. If holidaying overseas is your habit, consider planning for a balance of holidays between at home and abroad.
Your plan will need to be tailored to your budget, but the ‘immediate action plan’ above will cost you nothing, will in fact save you money, and will be an excellent first step on your journey. Go to the following site for an excellent guide for more ideas on what you can do: www.carbonzero.co.nz/reduce_emissions.asp.
What I can do about my transport energy use – indirect fuel savings
As well as our personal transport needs, our society has a huge investment in the Transport Industry. By supporting efficiencies in this area, we are also helping ourselves. Some of the considerations include the following:
- We can support measures for better public transportation. When it is reasonably priced, convenient and reliable, people are happy to use it. It takes people off the road, and when well-patronised, is much more fuel efficient.
- Time and cost considerations are vital, but bear in mind that land and sea travel are better than 3 times more fuel efficient than air travel,
- Consider your current lifestyle requirements in relation to your place of work. Are you travelling huge distances simply to commute? Maybe it would be better to live closer to work, or even work from home!
- Carbon offsets. There are many schemes promoted to travellers whereby you donate money for tree-planting, in order to off-set your carbon use. But calculation of your carbon foot-print for air travel can be confused by the fact that the emission of CO2 at great heights (like 36,000 feet), creates 2.7 times the warming-effect as the same discharge at ground level. So - (very roughly), each 1 tonne of jet-fuel creates 3.5 tonnes of CO2 at 36,000 feet; like discharging 9.5 tonnes CO2 at sea level! These ’save your soul’ schemes are great, but remember that the tree will have to grow for 30-40 years before it has absorbed that carbon, let alone stored it for ever – it may be just as effective to install a low-energy light bulb in your home. But planting trees has always been a good thing, so you could try:www.treesfortravellers.co.nz
- Food miles. This is another complex issue. Any product that is flown around the world to its market, be it an i-Pod (Toy miles), carpet (Magic Carpet miles?), or out-of-season fruit, will make a greater impact than shipping the same goods by sea. But remember that the vast majority of New Zealand’s healthy, pasture-fed meat and dairy products are produced with low energy inputs compared with European and North American products, and even when shipping costs (and emissions) are taken into consideration, their environmental footprint is still much smaller.
A few facts:
In the regular petrol/diesel vehicle that most of us drive, 80% of the energy consumed is converted to heat. About 19% is required to overcome the inertia and wind resistance of a one tonne pile of steel, and 1% is required to move you! It is just so much more energy-efficient to walk!
In the 2006 AA Energywise Rally, the Supreme Award went to a Honda Civic hybrid, which, in the Auckland to Wellington rally, attained fuel consumption of some 21.18kms/litre!
For many more facts and information, go to: www.carbonzero.co.nz
This page was created in November 2006.
Green Gift Shopping
We can consider buying only appropriate gifts; we can consider more environmentally-friendly alternatives; and we can consider how we package them.
Consider appropriate alternative gifts. Gifts come in all shapes and sizes. "Re-gifting" is a must for consideration - how many delightful, lovely, but unused items do you have sitting around your house - filling up scarce space in your drawer or cupboard? Make no pretense about it, but some of them could be much appreciated. Buying second-hand from your local "op" shop or second-hand goods shop is another opportunity to promote the recycling of good, useable items. China and jewellery are a must. I’m told vintage clothing is also all the rage! And children would be delighted with some dress-up clothes.
Then we need to consider the needs of our recipient. Surely some of them must just about have everything? Someone might appreciate a gift of re-chargeable batteries and a battery charger, or some similar really useful product. But we could also consider ’Third Party" gifts - whether it is to a local charity offering comfort and succour at Christmas-time, or an international charity helping to save the world with water supplies or solar cooking devices for Africa. Tell everybody in your card that you have made an extra generous donation to "My Favourite Charity - xxxxx " this year, in lieu of gifts to friends and family, and they’ll be most impressed!
Gift vouchers are another favourite. Here we can give a direct gift which makes a contribution towards the purchase of something the lucky recipient really does need. A voucher to the local ’Green’ shop will push them heavenwards, especially after your commentary that the gift is to help save the planet. Gift vouchers can also be used as a very personal and loving gesture, by offering your time - for two hours baby-sitting, or cooking, or gardening, or cleaning, or something even more intimate! Also worth considering would be
- movie tickets
- family membership or tickets for the zoo
- a voucher for a train or boat trip
- a year’s subscription, or tickets for concerts
Making your own gifts also presents many opportunities to impress. A batch of muffins, a cake, or a dozen ginger-bread people! Anything in this line is guaranteed to be welcomed. Consider also a very practical gift encouraging physical activity, such as a volley ball, croquet, cricket or petanque set.
And finally, we need to look at the recyclers’ nightmare - packaging! For starters, how about using newspaper, second-hand wrapping paper, almost-new designer bags from Gucci (or wherever you shop), colourful magazine paper, or even waste scrap cloth materials. And tie those parcels up! Don’t sticky-tape them - tie them with twine, with ribbon, string, or even wool. All these allow the careful opening of the gift without damage to the paper, which can then be flattened and put aside for next year.
Make Your Own Worm Farm
Make your own worm farm
Here is one easy way of making a worm farm. You may need to set up several of these tyre worm farms in a school situation where you want the worms to break down a lot of waste.
There are many other options for worm farms, from raised old baths and wooden box structures to covered rows on the ground. For any of these options, you need to keep the worms’ world cool and damp, so covering it is important. Old carpet and canvas are ideal for covering a ground-based worm farm. There are also many commercial types of worm farms available, from the Tag-G Digesters to the smaller black plastic worm bins of various types. Talk to your local council about which is the best option for your school.
Below are instructions for making the Tyre Worm Farm.
Built entirely from reused & recycled materials.
You will require:
- Old carpet or sack if available (optional
- Phone books or old bricks
- 1 piece of corrugated iron - 600mm x 600mm
- Small piece of silage wrap or similar
- 3 car tyres of similar size
- Something suitable as a lid
- 35 Saturday newspapers
- 1 container such as an old pot or bucket
Operating Instructions for your Worm Farm
1. Soak the newspapers in water and stuff all three tyres full, one sheet at a time
2. Place the corrugated iron on top of the bricks or telephone books, wrap it in silage/ heavy plastic so that the liquid doesn’t touch the metal.
3. Put the first stuffed tyre on top of the corrugated iron. Put an old sack or carpet inside to make a sort of nest for the new worms
4. Fill this bottom tyre with bedding material (ie horse manure, rotting peastraw, compost) and then tip the worms in. Cover immediately with a thick layer of wet newspaper. Now put the other two stuffed tyres on top.
5. Feed regularly with kitchen scraps by lifting up the newspaper. Make sure the farm is kept moist to the touch. Always replace the newspaper to keep it dark.
6. Keep the worms and bedding covered with damp newspaper, plus an old sack or carpet (also damp). Place your lid on top of the tyre stack to prevent fly problems.
7. As the tyre stack fills up you can slide out the bottom tyre and empty it of worm castings/ vermicast. The paper in the tyre will probably be full of worms and can be replaced as is, used in your garden or compost heap or given to friends to start new Worm Farms.
8. The empty tyre is now ready for reuse - stuff with fresh, moist newspapers and place on TOP of the tyre stack.
9. Regularly empty the pot of worm rum - dilute 8-1 with water and spray or pour on to and around your special plants.
10. The nutrients from your kitchen scraps are now available for you to use in your organic garden and your worm population will have increased remarkably.
11. Worms suitable for worm farming can be found in animal manure or rotting pea straw.
Thanks to Wastebusters Trust Canterbury for this information sheet. For more information on Worm Farming email