Create a Greener Home
true green home

Don't stand by

Standby power can cost the average Australian household as much as $50Ė100 a year. When appliances are left on standby, they are not off. This wasted energy accounts for as much as 10 per cent of all household electricity. The simplest way to save is to turn them off at the wall. Just switching off your computer, television and CD player properly can save around 115 kilograms of greenhouse gas emissions every year; and youíll save even more if you turn off all your gadgets. Ensure you have power boards with individual switches so you can isolate items you use less often, and use standby sparingly, to retain your settings on specific appliances.

Don't get sucked in

Australians bought 1.13 million vacuum cleaners in 2006, and the number is increasing every year Ė which raises two questions: what are we doing with all those old cleaners, and how many vacuum bags go into landfill? Invest in a bagless cleaner to reduce the waste, and choose a machine with a long warranty, so youíre not adding it to landfill after just a few years. If it breaks, get it repaired. Clean filters and tubes regularly to maximise energy efficiency.

Check what's cooking

As a rule of thumb, gas cooking only generates half or even less of the energy generated by electric cooking. However, electric induction cooktops can be 50 per cent more efficient than electric hotplates, so consider this option when itís time to get a new one. Just putting lids on saucepans and simmering food gently rather than boiling vigorously can make a big impact. Remember that each litre of water boiled off generates up to a kilogram of CO2. With our great climate, make more use of your barbie for everyday meals, as cooking outside immediately saves you from having to switch on lights and exhaust fans.

In the tub

Many Australians are simply getting used to showering instead of bathing, since a bath uses up to 150 litres of water compared to a possible 40-litre shower. But there are occasions when a bath is indispensable, such as for therapeutic reasons or when bathing a child. There are still a few things you can do to reduce water and energy consumption, though: bathe the kids together, insulate around the tub or install an in-line heater to keep the hot water hot, and you wonít have to constantly refill. After their bath, use that grey water for the garden, and make sure to get the kids involved.

Pick up the steam

It is essential to have an exhaust fan in your bathroom to reduce mould and other harmful contaminants, but thatís no reason to forget the fanís negative environmental impact. Choose energy-saving exhaust fans that are thermostatically controlled and not connected to the light switch, so they turn on when the air temperature rises rather than when anyone puts on the light. Clean the fanís filter once a month to ensure that it runs efficiently.


Make your washing area an eco-friendly haven with a few small changes to your bathroom basics. Toss out that PVC plastic shower curtain in favour of a natural alternative, such as a 100 per cent organic hemp or a heavy cotton one, that doesnít cost the earth (literally) in its production and is more naturally resistant to mould. Update your bathroom linen with organic cotton towels. Choose earth-friendly soaps and cosmetic products. That plastic bathmat can go too, in favour of a washable cotton alternative. And donít forget to recycle bathroom containers for shampoo, conditioners, bubble bath, mouthwash and so on.

Cotton on

Weíve all stayed in hotels where those polite signs in the bathroom suggest you hang up your towel so you can use it again, to save precious water and energy. Many hotels claim around 70 per cent of guests happily opt to do this and in doing so help to achieve at least a 5 per cent reduction in energy usage. Itís a good idea at home too. Fresh-air drying your towels each day will cut down on the number of times you need to wash them. Youíll just need to train the teenagers in your household to pick up damp towels off the floor and hang them out to dry. And remember to only buy 100 per cent organic cotton towels when you update your linen press Ė they also make great gifts.

Roll on up

When repainting your home, get your painting estimates right to avoid having paint left over. This will not only cut down on the clutter in your garage or backroom, but also help the environment and your renovation kitty. Most hardware stores will help you find out how much paint you need. Just make sure you measure up all of the wall and ceiling spaces before you go to buy paint Ė and donít forget to deduct the window and door areas from the total figure.


When it comes to buying furniture, one of the best things you can do for both your wallet and the environment is to buy pieces that will last forever. While it may seem a little steep to fork out all that money for your dream chair when your car registration is due, just save a little longer and you can afford timeless, quality pieces that wonít end up in the landfill. Have your chairs and couches re-upholstered to update your interiors. Also, look out for good second-hand options that can be restored to their former glory.

Ethical style

More and more manufacturers of furnishings are making commitments to green procurement and manufacturing standards. When you are decorating your home, make it your business to know what youíre buying and who you are buying from. Check the labels. Do your research and donít be afraid to ask too many questions to be sure your piece of furniture also has a green conscience. Only when you know where the materials came from, what they were treated with and who made them should you purchase the furniture. That way you can be sure youíre not encouraging unethical or unsustainable production.

Mood lighting

Thereís nothing more charming than dimmed light to set the mood of a room, but for soft and nonĖfossil fuel lighting try a few candles. Avoid spending money on over-packaged, artificial-fragrance paraffin wax products that are derived from crude oil and emit carbon dioxide. Beautiful beeswax candles are much more environmentally friendly and are often available from a local supplier; plus you can add a personal touch with a few drops of essential oils Ė much more romantic. Pure soy wax candles are another healthy and natural alternative to paraffin wax candles. Soy wax is also easier to clean if spilt on fabric: with a little rubbing and warm soapy water, itís gone.

Refreshing air

Reduce the air pollution in your home by airing your house regularly. Choose environmentally friendly products to keep your home smelling fresh Ė why use artificial room deodorisers, especially those that require electricity, when you can just open a window and use the sanitising effects of sunshine and fresh air to reduce food and pet smells? Or make your own non-chemical, cheap room deodorisers, by mixing a teaspoon each of baking soda and lemon juice, or just a few drops of an essential oil you like, with two cups of hot water in a reusable spray bottle.

Safe-home office

Australians send 34 printer cartridges to landfill every minute. That comes to 2040 an hour, 5000 tonnes per year. However, itĎs easy to reduce unnecessary waste by watching your printing use, recycling your empty cartridges responsibly in the bins provided at office supplies outlets, or having your empty ink and toner cartridges refilled. Reduce the possible risk of any laser printer emissions that may be harmful to your health and ensure that you home office is well ventilated to allow airborne particles to disperse.

Reduce e-waste

About 98 per cent of discarded televisions, computers and mobile phones become e-waste, dumped in landfills. Many of the items contain dangerous materials including mercury and cadmium, which can leach into landfill sites and eventually the water system. E-waste is growing at five times the normal waste rate Ė the fastest growing stream of waste in the western world. The response to this is: repair, reuse and recycle. Fix repairable items, reuse working components, and source specialist recyclers (eg, Failing that, donate your old computer to charity or use a registered recycling facility (eg,


Australians toss out around 3.3 million tonnes of food every year Ė thatís a quarter of our actual food supply. But recycling your organic and green waste literally gives you something for nothing: your own 100 per cent organic fertiliser for your garden that will improve your soil, its water retention and the vigour of your plants, by delivering to them much-needed nutrients like phosphorus and nitrogen. Large gardens can keep great compost heaps going; if you have a courtyard garden or are in an apartment, source a system suitable for indoors.

Edited extract from True Green Home: 100 ideas to help you create a greener home by Kim McKay and Jenny Bonnin, ABC Books, rrp $22.95.

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