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Simple ways to live and build with an eco conscious mindset!

15 October, 2020 | Mikala Chapman

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Simple ways to be eco conscious around your home.

Whether you’re a fan of David Attenborough or not it is incredibly difficult to argue with his most recent documentary / ‘witness statement’ that the world as we know it is in trouble. 

With all the doom and gloom it’s hard to imagine what we as an individual can do to make a difference. But, if we all do our bit in whatever way we can, as a collective each individual person can make a huge difference to the environment and the impact that we as humans have upon it every day.

By making simple changes around the way we build & construct our homes and the way we live in them we can absolutely do our part.

Be Energy Efficient

There are so many easy ways you can save on your energy consumption around the home simply by being more conscious of the way you use your energy. 

Where possible turn off your appliances at the power point and be mindful to switch off your lights and tv when not in the room. 

Don’t do washing unless you have a full load and try to wash in cold water. Only use your clothes dryer when you have too, if the sun is out, take advantage and use natures energy to dry your clothes.

Hold off switching on your dishwasher until the racks are full.

Upgrade your fridge! If your fridge is more than 10 years old consider an upgrade, new fridges are far more energy efficient so be sure to pick one that has a high star energy rating. Remember to only choose one as big as you need, the bigger the fridge the more energy it will consume.

Install solar panels! While it may feel like a hit to your pocket initially the financial savings in the long term are fantastic, and the best part is that you are reducing your carbon footprint. Can you imagine if all the homes in Australia used solar? We have this incredible resource that shines all year round so we need to start using it.

Heating and Cooling

Size it right, it is important to choose the right size heater or cooler for the size of your space. 

Choose an energy efficient heater such as a gas or convector model and cover your windows and doors. By having window coverings and draught stoppers you help to prevent heat from escaping or the warmth from entering.

Try and only heat or cool the rooms you are using. In the cooler months invest in a few extra winter items such as quality doona’s or throws to reduce the need for switching on the heater, and in the summer, opt for a fan rather than an air conditioner.

If you are lucky enough to be building, invest in insulation, by adding it to your home you can reduce your heating costs by around 30%.

Avoid Landfill

According to ABC Radio Melbourne, Australians buy approximately 27kgs of new clothing and textiles every year. While some natural fabrics are biodegradable, most ‘fast fashion’ is synthetic, resulting in thousands of micro plastic particles being distributed during washing or when thrown into landfill. 

Rather than buying in excess, think about buying quality over quantity, donate your clothes to good will (ensure they are washed and in good condition), or possibly think of a way to re-purpose them; for example, a school might like the fabric for art and craft.

Fast fashion is not just part of the clothing industry, homewares and furniture have also joined this movement. While it is easy to update your décor with the latest trend, think twice about flooding your home with cheap furniture and accessories. 

Before making the decision to purchase something that will likely end up in landfill in 12 months’ time, think about whether you truly love this item, does it have timeless appeal, is it a quality piece and do you really need it. 

Plastics

With supermarkets phasing out single use bags and the vast majority of the public using reusable bags we are certainly on our way to substantially lowering our impact on the environment. 

Plastic bags can take at least 500 years to decompose and have a horrible impact on wildlife who either get caught in the plastic or unfortunately mistake it for food and swallow it.

Minimising the use of soft plastics is ultimately the goal, but the fact is plastic wrap is all around us. They appear on all manner of pre-packaged foods and are difficult to avoid.

So instead of throwing them out collect them up and take them along to your local REDcycle recycling point (found in supermarkets and other central locations). The soft plastics can then be reused to make park benches and garden furniture. It’s not ideal, but it’s better than the alternative.

Plastic wrap is another product that is widely used to wrap lunches across the country every single day. It’s time to re-think the way we pack our lunches, invest in waste free bento boxes for kids and try to use reusable containers when you can.

Building and construction – the Eco-Friendly way

Building an eco-friendly home makes so much sense in so many ways. Not only will you feel great about being kind to the environment, it will cost you less to run, and your home will be decked out with stunning natural products.

There is a lot to think about when choosing building materials for your home, they will after all determine the look and feel of your space. By choosing eco-friendly materials they will have less impact on the environment and even the quality of the indoor air you breath. 

Environmentally friendly building materials emit little to no toxins and have fewer harmful chemical environmental pollutants, and of course are much kinder to our planet.

There are so many positive reasons to go green, it allows you to give back to the planet rather than just taking from it. Surrounding yourself with natural products pulls you into nature and creates a calming effect.

What are some of the positives for choosing Eco?

Sustainably farmed timbers are a great way to encapsulate the carbon dioxide that is naturally released from wood and it leaves the natural environment to flourish.

It reduces your carbon footprint and at times can add value to your home, particularly now because more and more people are pushing towards a positive, environmentally sustainable way of life.

Some popular eco-friendly materials used in Australia are

Concrete:

An on-trend material that is made from a mix of aggregate or gravel and cement. It is incredibly low maintenance, strong, fire resistant and ages beautifully. 

Unfortunately, concrete is a man-made material and is not as eco-friendly as some people think, plus it does require chemical sealing. 

But if you use it in conjunction with other eco-friendly products it will certainly improve its eco-credentials. And a positive side to mixing your materials is that it creates a unique design, often creating spaces that are both earthy and contemporary.

Mud Brick

Made from water, earth and straw mud brick is inexpensive, fire resistant, and a natural material that serves as a great insulator. Suitable for use in all parts of Australia and plentiful in supply it has a rustic earthy finish.

Glazing

When looking to improve the energy efficiency in your home upgrading to insulated glass makes a huge difference. Choosing double or triple glazed windows and or thermal/break window & door frames allows you to have large scale glass openings that captures natural light and views without compromising on a comfortable indoor temperature. The result, you are less likely to switch on the air conditioner or heater.

Green roof and walls

Made from steel, gravel, geo cloth and plants green roofs and walls are becoming increasingly popular, they are often used to soften the look of a more contemporary building or to help blend your home into its natural environment. Green roofs and walls are natural, great at insulating and look fantastic. 

As this is a living material it will need to be watered and maintained, at times replanting will also need to be undertaken.

Green walls and roofs do not cost a huge amount to install but an engineer is required to ensure building guidelines are meet. 

Timber

Timber has eco credentials if it is sustainable grown. If you are planning to use timber in an eco-friendly build the main thing you need to know is that trees absorb carbon dioxide. However, when timber is felled these gases are naturally encapsulated in the timber and are further locked through the building and sealing process, meaning the timber no longer emits carbon dioxide into the atmosphere or your home. 

The most positive and environmentally friendly way to use timber is to choose sustainably grown timber, it’s not so great if you are using timbers that have been cut down from a natural forest where no replanting occurs.

Rammed earth

Rammed earth has a gorgeous textured and earthy look, it’s an amazing product that not only looks beautiful, but it lasts for centuries. 

This material is made from gravel, soil and cement, its fireproof, is a great insulator and sound absorber. 

On the down sound this rammed earth can be expensive and it does not like wet environments. If you live in a very wet area and you want to use rammed earth, you will need to cap it so that there are no exposed parts. You will also need an experienced engineer to make, mould and place rammed earth.

By making considered choices about the way we live and the products we use, each of us can make a difference for the better when it comes to impacting our environment. 

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