Reducing our collective impact on the environment has a ripple effect – a bit of effort from each of us can do a lot to make the world a greener place. Of course, it’s a long way until every home is powered by the sun, where every drop of rain is used for irrigation and every bit of trash is turned into fertilizer, but it’s our homes where the change should start. Here are six ways to make your home greener for a brighter future.
Turn the LEDs on
As the sale of incandescent bulbs has been banned in Australia, many homeowners found themselves in doubt which energy-efficient alternative to choose, CFLs or LEDs. Although compact fluorescent bulbs fit into standard light sockets and produce warm incandescent-like light, they contain mercury, which makes them difficult to dispose of without the heavy metal leaking out. LED lights, on the other hand, not only last longer, so you need fewer bulbs over time, but produce far less heat, which translates to 75% less energy needed.
Use low- or no-VOC materials
The smell of a new carpet, furniture or a freshly painted interior that we associate with a new start unfortunately comes from chemicals evaporating from the materials. Many of those chemicals contain volatile organic compounds (VOCs) which not only irritate our eyes and respiratory tract, but may also affect the central nervous system. Not unlike citizens of other urbanised societies, most Australians spend more than 90% of their time indoors, which leads to concerns about the impacts of indoor air quality, especially where indoor pollutant concentration is equal to or exceeds outdoor levels. Household items like furniture, paint, building materials, carpet and cleaning supplies that are free of VOCs are generally labelled as such.
Prevent leaks and drips
Even though a leaking toilet or a dripping faucet may not seem like a big deal, a factsheet from cleanup.org.au shows us that a single leaking toilet can waste more than 16.000 litres of water a year. You can easily estimate if your toilet is leaking if you put some food dye in the cistern and see if the water in the bowl gets dyed, too. If you’re still using an old-style single-flush toilet, be prepared to say goodbye to 12 litres of water per flush. The newer dual-flush systems use just a quarter of this on a half-flush. Also, pay attention to any dripping noises. Even if you don’t notice a dripping tap, you will notice the spike on your next monthly bill.
Insulate the attic
When you combine a dark-coloured roof and the fact that warm indoor air rises upwards two, you get an attic that is almost 50 degrees warmer than the rest of the house. On the other hand, if your attic is properly insulated, it creates a tight seal for the air in your house, so your air conditioner won’t have to work so hard to keep the indoor temperature cool. When choosing the insulation material, it’s good to know that there are two types – bulk and reflective, and they are sometimes combined into composite. Under the Building Code of Australia (BCA) the required total values for the insulating material depend on the climate zone, but all materials that are sold must meet Australian Standard AS/NZS 4859, even if they are imported.
Remove all traces of asbestos
Due to its undisputable fireproofing, soundproofing and insulating properties, asbestos cement compounds have been used in residential and commercial buildings in Australia between the 1920s and 1980s, when they were phased out in favour of asbestos-free materials. While undisturbed asbestos-containing materials do not pose a significant threat, accidental damage or manipulation during renovation may expose the occupants to asbestos fibres that can lead to a series of health problems when inhaled. If you’re in doubt whether your home contains asbestos cement or friable asbestos materials, you should consult professionals for asbestos removal in Sydney who can determine whether asbestos is present or not, along with the risks involved.
Use native plants for landscaping
Homeowners have finally realized that lush gardens and English-grade lawns are not suitable for every climate. In the last decade, there’s been a movement towards more environmentally friendly approaches to landscaping, such as xeriscaping, which is based on conservation of waster through drop and soak irrigation, and grouping the plants in zones of different water and sunlight needs. Or you can simply use grass and plants native to your region, as they will need less watering, fertilizing and virtually no pesticides.
We often underestimate the amount of pollutants – fertilizers, pesticides, paints, trash and grey water – that homes produce. When combined with irrational energy and water usage, it’s easy to see how our joint effort to create green households can contribute to saving the planet and the quality of our lives.