As East-coast Australia is smothered with smoke, Australians can no longer dance around the devastating effects of the climate crisis.
Exacerbated by a population growing at an exponential rate, sustainability will need to be at the forefront of our lifestyles.
Some improvements can be made immediately; others will require a bigger investment in time and money.
Sustainable design usually means intelligent design, and this begins at the start of a build or a big reno. But we know this comes with challenges, so we have compiled a list of lifestyle changes to keep in mind – wherever you are in your homemaking.
You can also use a carbon footprint calculator to measure your impact. Plugging your information into a calculator – there are many online – you can understand what other habits need changing.
Passive design choices can reduce energy use by a staggering 40%. When thinking about space, note the orientation of your home to the sun. This can mean unnecessary heat in the summer and greater reliance on cooling. Cross-ventilation is another way to optimise temperature by allowing temperature to travel further in your home.
Insulating walls, floors and having a ceiling board will help regulate temperature. Throughout all seasons, a homeowner can maintain a comfortable temperature regardless of the outside temperature. With less heating and cooling required, your property will be more energy efficient.
Windows are the worst culprit when it comes to heat gain and loss. Tightly seal any air gaps and consider double glazing your windows. Double glazing uses two window panels with argon gas (a poor heat conductor) to stop air from escaping. As an added bonus it also reduces outside noise.
If you want more advice you can find an eco-friendly builder under Master Builders Australia (MBA) and the Housing Industry Association (HIA). Builders in MBA and HIA are trained in sustainable practices.
Related: Construction loans 101
Different states offer different subsidies, which act as an incentive to make the change to renewable energy. You can find out if you’re eligible here.
For solar panels, payback times will differ depending on where you live. Lower Victoria generally have a six to seven year minimum payback period. If you’re in the sunnier areas of SA, WA, NSW, NT and QLD it could take as little as 4 – 6 years. Then you can count the savings.
Different consumers report different percentages of savings, but you will definitely shave hundreds off your bill. You can even have a battery to store excess energy to use in times of less sunlight.
Choose the right materials
Sourcing your materials locally reduces long-distance freight times meaning less emissions.
To make your materials more sustainable, opt for something recycled, either from recycled materials or recycled from another home. Think about your floors, doors, windows and also where your wood has been harvested.
Renewable materials like bamboo are some of the most eco-friendly materials because of its quick regrowth. For more ideas on which materials to opt for, read here.
And to dispel some myths, renewable and eco-friendly materials can be better priced and just as durable, if not better. These materials won’t emit the harmful toxicants found in many traditional materials (Volatile Organic Compounds) either.
Another devastating aspect of climate change is the inequitable distribution of its consequences. For low-income households, changing their lifestyle can be a hard path on a tight budget.
If your options are limited, start with your appliances. Cheaper microwaves, fridges or washers tend to be less energy efficient. But, think of a pricier appliance as an investment. While the outright fee is more, utility bills will drop as less energy is needed to power the appliance. Finally, ditch the dryer.
Replacing fixtures including taps, toilets and adding “low-flow” shower heads will reduce water and save money.
A rainwater tank or a more energy efficient hot water system are other methods which have a quick implementation and turnaround.
If you want a cheaper alternative to double glazing, you can apply a solar window film. Finally, switch to LED lights and keep adjacent trees around your home for their shade.
Words by Michelle Elias
Looking for the perfect mortgage deal? Contact eChoice. With access to 100s of home loan products across over 25 different lenders, our brokers are sure to find you the best deal.