How to make your home more environmentally friendly

20 February 2020

Homes may be sanctuaries for those who live in them, but most households aren’t sanctuaries for the environment.

The Department of the Environment and Energy has reported that the average Aussie household generates 14 tonnes of greenhouse gasses each year. Across the country, this accounts for 20% of all emissions. On top of that, each of us consumes about 100,000 litres of water annually.

While it’s important to make lifestyle changes to reduce our ecological footprint — like consuming less water and living with less plastic — green fixes around our homes can make these changes easier.

If you’re looking to create an eco-friendly home, use simple upgrades and ‘passive design’ techniques that make the most of the environmental conditions you’re in. These can significantly reduce the work of household systems that require a lot of energy to keep going.

Making our homes gentler on the environment also makes them better across the board. In many cases, it means making them more energy efficient, affordable and comfortable to live in.

With this in mind, consider these environmentally-friendly home ideas for six spots in and around your abode:

1. Walls

When it comes time to give your walls a fresh coat of paint, use a product with few volatile organic compounds (VOCs). Low-VOC paint won’t give off as many toxic vapours as standard house paint, meaning you can breathe easy. Or, try a naturally derived product like milk paint or chalk paint to avoid these chemicals altogether.

Any time you’re renovating or adding an extension to your home, consider using natural insulation like plant-based rigid foam. You can also try sustainable building materials that are less demanding on the environment like straw bale, rammed earth and mud brick. We’ve been using these natural, low-maintenance and durable techniques for centuries.

For a more modern aesthetic, consider building walls out of precast concrete or autoclaved aerated concrete (ACC). These require a lot of energy to produce at first, but they’re so sturdy and well-insulating that they’ll last for generations.

2. Windows

If you’re sweltering in the summer or shivering in the winter due to poorly insulated windows, it might be time for an energy-efficient upgrade.

Then, when it’s nice out, open up your windows. Improve your home’s air circulation with ceiling fans, window fans or whole-house fans. You’ll experience a comfortable breeze and won’t have to run the air conditioning all day and night.

If you’re not ready to swap out your windows, go around the house and seal off any cracks and gaps around your window and door frames. Use adjustable, insulating shades like honeycomb blinds or heavy drapes. Not only can these look stylish, but they’ll also minimise heat loss in the colder months and overheating in the summertime.

3. Appliances

Replace old appliances with energy-efficient models. Check out the government’s Energy Ratings system to find the most eco-friendly home appliances at every price point — the more stars, the more energy-efficient they are.

Additionally, try to make it easy for your appliances to do their job. For instance, move your fridge to a shaded spot so that it doesn’t have to use as much power to keep cool. When your appliances and electronics aren’t in use, remember to unplug them.

4. Water

Swap out old showerheads, taps and toilets for water-efficient ones. Additionally, consider setting up a recirculating water pump. This will store hot water at each sink so you don’t have to waste water waiting for it to warm up. You can even try a dry sanitation system, also known as a waterless toilet, to reduce your water usage.

Make use of existing water, too. Set up a tank to collect rainwater, then connect this to the plumbing systems in your home. Depending on the characteristics of rainfall in your area, you may be able to use this water for your garden and even in your plumbing, laundry and shower. Just keep this separate from your drinking water.

5. Household systems

Invest in home automation systems to promote eco-friendly habits. With smart meters and sensors in your heating, cooling and plumbing systems, these utilities will turn on and off automatically based on your needs. Many can be controlled from a mobile app, making it easy to track your usage, create settings based around your lifestyle and schedule, and receive alerts about leaks or other issues.

As for lighting, switch out old incandescent bulbs to energy-efficient compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs). If you’re looking to overhaul your lighting scheme, install a system that’s designed around daylight patterns. By taking advantage of natural light, you’ll only need to use electricity when it’s dark out.

6. Garden

Once you’ve turned the inside of your home green, head outside and make your property even greener. Reduce the size of grassy lawns in favour of mulched beds filled with native plants to promote biodiversity. These will require less water and improve your air quality.

To go even greener, install a green roof or living wall outside your home. Not only can these look beautifully verdant but they’ll also help with rainwater and insulation. You can even make yours a sustainable fruit and veg plot for the whole family to enjoy.

Any action you take to make your home more environmentally friendly can make a difference. You may even be eligible for government rebates if you do some of these upgrades – connect with local authorities to learn more.

Remember that you don’t need to tackle everything at once; these bigger upgrades can work in tandem with other activities, like making eco-friendly lifestyle changes and choosing sustainable investment strategies.

To find out more about Local Government Super’s responsible investment approach and strategies, contact our team today.

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