19 January 2012
By: Lisa Reid (B.Eng(Environmental))
For many Australians, Summer is all about long, hot days with weeks, even months, of temperatures above 30°C. While the hot weather can be welcome relief from the chilly winter months, there is often the real need to stay comfortable by cooling your home. The most common way to cool a home is the use of air conditioners or fans. In fact, 67% of Australian households in 2008 had an air conditioner or evaporative cooler.1
Air conditioners, while a generally effective way to cool a home, are energy intensive, and can result in high energy bills and excess greenhouse gas emissions. Heating and cooling can account for up to 40% of household energy use.2
Here are some practical steps that you can take to stay cool this Summer and reduce your energy use and bills:
Insulation is a straightforward way to prevent the escape of cool air from and heat into your house. Generally, the easiest and most accessible area to install insulation is in your roof cavity. If you are doing renovations, also consider putting insulation in the walls and under the floor.
Draught-proof your home
While your house may be insulated, the effectiveness of this may be compromised if you have draughts entering your home. Typically, draughts are felt through gaps in windows, door frames or gaps in floorboards. There are many low cost products available from your local hardware that don’t require building expertise to install. Draught-proofing can be as simple as using a door snake to seal a gap between a door and the floor or using an adhesive draught stopper to seal around a window. Filling gaps in floorboards may require a bit more work, so if this isn’t possible, you could buy a new rug or carpet off-cut to reduce draughts in your flooring.
Cover your windows
Single glazed windows have minimal insulative properties and when uncovered allow heat in (in fact 15 times more than an insulated wall2), making your air conditioner work harder. In Summer, external shading of windows (particularly north-facing) is important to keep direct sunlight (and therefore heat) from passing through the glass and heating up your house.3 External shading could be using canvas blinds, awnings, roller shutters or shade cloths or fixed shading such as eaves and pergolas.3 Specifically, shading is necessary for north facing windows, although you want to be able to allow the low angle winter sun in during the cold months. Shading can also be beneficial for east and west facing windows too.
Keeping curtains closed can also help to keep your house cool in summer. So installing heavy, floor length curtains can help. Remember to close north facing curtains during hot days to prevent the sun’s heat from entering the house and open all curtains as it gets cooler and darker in the evening.
Principles of passive cooling design can be used to keep your home cool during Summer. Use plants to shade your home and prevent glare and heat gain. In addition, reduce the amount of concrete or paved areas around your house by planting ground cover. This will reduce the ground temperature, which can add heat to your home.4
Cool only the rooms you are using
If you spend most of your time in the living room, perhaps it would be smarter to invest in a small energy efficient fan for that room rather than using central cooling which cools the rest of the house. If you already have an air conditioner, use it wisely and to its capacity. Close doors to keep the cool air in the area you are using.
According to the Sids and Kids, providing your baby is dressed appropriately for the season, it is not necessary to run cooling all night. So dress your baby as you would in Summer and use common sense.
Once it’s cooled down, open windows in your home to let the cool air enter. Try to get a cross-flow effect by opening windows on two opposite sides of the house to make the most of the cooler air.5
Use air conditioners efficiently
If you do have an air conditioner (the most energy inefficient cooling appliance), LivingGreener recommend the following methods to save energy and reduce your electricity bill:
• Clean the air filter regularly.
• Set the room temperature between 25 – 27°C and check regularly to make sure its working properly. Turning the thermostat up or down by one degree can add to energy consumption by about 5 to 10%,6
• Turn the air conditioner on early in the day, as it operates more efficiently when the outside air is cooler.
• When using a reverse cycle air conditioner, keep windows and doors closed. When using an evaporative air conditioner, keep windows open, as some air flow is necessary.
Finally, if you still need to cool down on those hot days, why not set up a wading pool in the shade, use a spray water bottle or use a wet face cloth to cool yourself down.
1. Australian Bureau of Statistics, 05/02/2010, Feature Article: Climate Change in Australia
2. Living Greener, Heating and Cooling
3. Moreland Energy Foundation, Sustainability Advice: Cooling
4. Your Home Design Guide, Shading
5. South Australian Government, Designing an Energy Efficient Home
6. Your Home Design Guide, Cooling
About the Author: Lisa Reid is an eco mum and environmental engineer and resides in Melbourne with her husband Tim and children Jacob and Edith. She is a current accredited Home Sustainability Assessor under the Green Loans/Green Start program. Lisa is working to reduce her family's eco footprint by growing her own vegetables, using less chemicals and making her home energy efficient.
10 January 2012
By: Laura Trotta (BEng(Enviro), MSc(Enviro Chem))
It’s currently peak holiday season across much of Australia and many families are travelling to have their annual downtime.
If you've never really thought about eco-friendly holidays, it may surprise you to know that you won't need to compromise on style or experiences. Simply follow our tips below to ensure your holiday is easy on the environment.
Before You Leave
- Ensure all household appliances are turned off at the wall to minimise standby power consumption.
- Empty and turn off your second fridge (if applicable) so you’re only running one while away.
- Set your automatic watering system to only water in the evenings to minimise evaporation.
- Pack only what is necessary as the more you pack, the more fuel you will consume. Space cases are more aerodynamic than luggage on a roof rack or in a trailer.
- Thoroughly sweep out the inside of your vehicle and wash the outside before you leave home, paying particular attention to the tyres and mud guards, to remove any mud or soil that can transport weed seeds.
- Drive to the speed limit and pump your tyres up to 42psi to minimise fuel consumption.
- If renting a vehicle, opt for smaller, more fuel efficient models (resist the luxury car upgrade!).
- Offset your flights.
- Pack your own snacks / sandwiches in reusable containers for consumption during the flight rather than eating highly packaged airline food.
Travelling with Baby
- If using disposable nappies while on holiday, opt for biodegradable varieties such as Moltex. Use biodegradable nappy bags for soiled nappies only and organic/biodegradable wipes rather than the conventional variety.
- Stay in self-catering accommodation so it’s easy to make your own food including baby purees (use the potato masher if no stick blender is present).
At Your Destination
- Stay in registered eco-friendly accommodation if possible (see suggestions at base of article) or camp sustainably.
- Use resources wisely as you would at home - keep showers short and turn off lights when not in use.
- Don’t stray from walking / 4WD tracks as this can damage delicate vegetation systems and cause erosion.
- Do not feed local wildlife – keep them wild.
- Use sustainably-sourced firewood for campfires rather than collecting your own from nearby scrub.
- Observe Total Fire Ban days.
- Participate in environmentally-friendly activities such as wind surfing, kite boarding, cycling, snorkelling, board games/cards, reading, walking/hiking, swimming or bird watching. Steer clear of activities such as sky diving, jet skiing, jet boating and 4WDing.
- Leave the complimentary toiletries in your hotel room. These packaging-intense items usually end up straight in landfill or cluttering your bathroom cupboard. Instead, fill small reusable bottles with your own body products from home.
- Buy local produce to save on food miles and support local business.
- Take litter (or recyclables) away with you if no local disposal/recycling facilities exist.
- Thoroughly sweep out the inside of your vehicle and wash the outside before you leave your holiday destination, paying particular attention to the tyres and mud guards, to remove any mud or soil that can transport weed seeds.
Ecotourism is a blend of conservation and tourism: it’s planned to be sustainable, with the least possible impact on the landscape and environment being visited. As one of the fastest growing sectors of tourism worldwide, there is no shortage of quality eco-friendly holiday destinations and here’s a small number of quality destinations that we recommend:
Huon Bush Retreats is a carbon positive ecotourism village overlooking the Huon Valley in Tasmania’s beautiful south east, just 45km south of Hobart. Established in 2002 when private investors purchased and saved a forest earmarked for logging, Huon Bush Retreats funds the conservation of the forest it calls home. Guests can choose to stay in contemporary cabins or deluxe tipees. Camping and van sites are also available. All accommodation facilities have been built to harmonise with their environment and incorporate solar power, composting toilets and natural rainwater storage. Like the name suggests, this is a true retreat destination and a long list of organised activities simply doesn’t exist. You can walk the interpreted walking tracks and check out the abundant wildlife if you desire, or you can simply slow down and reconnect with yourself and the environment.
**Mention this article and children will stay FREE on your 2nd and any subsequent nights.**
Rawnsley Park Station is well worth a visit if you’re heading to the glorious Flinders Ranges in South Australia’s Outback. Located 430 north of Adelaide, Rawnsley Park is a working sheep farm come award-winning tourism facility overlooking the southern side of Wilpena Pound. The wide range of accommodation available ranges from campsites through to the most luxurious eco villas, making Rawnsley within everyone’s budget! Four-wheel drive tours, scenic flights, hot air ballooning and mountain bike hire are all available and there is a network of excellent bushwalking trails located on the property. I can personally recommend the Flinders Ranges as one of the most scenic and colourful landscapes in Australia and it’s a place that I return to time and time again. Rawnsley’s Woolshed restaurant also dishes up a yummy feed!
The Great Ocean Ecolodge is located within the grounds of The Cape Otway Centre for Conservation Ecology, at Cape Otway in Western Victoria. Adjoining the Great Otway National Park, wildlife abounds on the property. Delight in the koalas in the treetops or play a vital role in saving the Tiger Quoll. The Ecolodge is designed and operated sustainably, with solar power, solar hot water, pure rainwater and organic dining. All profits are reinvested into wildlife conservation so you can relax, unwind and do your bit for the local environment! Children are welcome.
O’Reilly’s Rainforest Retreat is based in the World Heritage Lamington National Park in the Gold Coast Hinterland, just 2 hours drive south west of Brisbane. Visitors can stay in a variety of accommodation from the guest house-style Rainforest Retreat through to the private luxury of self contained Mountain Villas. Couples and families will delight in the variety of activities on offer including bushwalking, Australia’s first Tree Top Walk, Segway Safari Tours, Birds of Prey Flight Show, guided 4WD tours and bird feeding. A 190m flying fox ride over the picturesque Morans Creek will thrill the young and young at heart!
NEW SOUTH WALES
Honeycomb Valley Farm in Nabiac is 3 hours drive north of Sydney and is an ideal farmstay for families or couples. Children and adults will be delighted by the variety of rare animal breeds farmed here, including miniature Galloway cattle, Saanen dairy goats, Suri alpacas and Black-headed dorper sheep. Check out the variety of rare breed chickens living in recycled caravans and enjoy food from the largest solar oven in Australia. All natural farm made balms and soaps using the farm's goat's milk, honey and beeswax are available for purchase so you can take some of Honeycomb Valley home with you.
About the Author: Laura Trotta (BEng (Enviro), MSc (Enviro Chem)) is an eco mum, environmental engineer and founder of Sustainababy. She currently lives in regional South Australia with her husband Paul and son Matthew. She lived in Victoria, Tasmania and Queensland prior to SA and has travelled extensively throughout these States, generally through National Park walking trails with a heavy backpack. Her most memorable eco-friendly holiday was hiking the 8 day South Coast track in Tasmania (pre-motherhood).
5 January 2012
By: Laura Trotta (BEng(Enviro), MSc(Enviro Chem))
Packing up the Christmas decorations each year is never quite as exciting as assembling them. If you're anything like me, Christmas cards are the last item to disappear. It's not uncommon for them to stay on my shelf for most of January
If you haven't yet packed up your Christmas cards this year, you may like to turn your hand into giving them another lease of life as Christmas gift tags.
Simply cut out the designs with a paper cutter (or scissors if you have a steady hand) and punch a hold in one end. Store with your gift wrap until next Christmas. You will still have a pile of scrap that will need to go into your recycling bin, but you've saved yourself the purchase of gift tags next Christmas and put the "reuse" principle of recycling into practice.
Of course, this tip isn't just exclusive to Christmas cards. Easter, Valentines Day, Birthday cards and more can be transformed into original, eco gift tags.
About the Author: Laura Trotta (BEng (Enviro), MSc (Enviro Chem)) is an eco mum, environmental engineer and founder of Sustainababy. She lives in regional South Australia with her husband Paul and son Matthew.