Q1: What have you done to green your home?
A few years ago our family of four decided to make a real commitment the environment. But we also wanted to continue to enjoy the lifestyle we've always had - so that was our challenge, and we responded by making a number of changes in our home to reduce our energy and water consumption.
We worked hard as a family to reduce our daily water consumption and we're happy about the result - average daily consumption for the Newman family has been 134 litres per person per day over the past 12 months. We managed to achieve Target 140 some 8 months before the Queensland Water Commission introduced Level 5 restrictions. Like many Queenslanders we installed tanks. In our case we plumbed two 4,500 litre water tanks into the house.
Reducing our greenhouse footprint was a challenge, but we managed to cut our electricity consumption by 60% over a three year period. How did we do it? The Newmans undertook a full electricity usage audit and made all the changes recommended (e.g. fluoro globes, standby power usage, use of smart timers for appliances, fridge and air con temps). We decided to install a 1.5kw solar panel array in December 2006, and in February 2007 we began purchasing around 18 kwhr/day in green energy from Origin. That means our household is entirely powered on GREEN ELECTRICITY.
Our year-end quarterly electricity consumption used to be 37.8 kwh/day in 2004, and we cut it to 15.1 kwh/day by 2007. We also generate an average of 4.9 kwhr/ day from roof mounted solar panels, which means that after taking our solar generation into account, we consume 10.2 kwhr. We also reduced our gas consumption over this period by 26%, plus we buy carbon offsets from Greenfleet Australia to cover our gas usage.
We didn't stop with greening our home. Along the way we began to purchase carbon offsets for our family cars (a Toyota Echo and Jeep Cherokee) and also for the 8 cylinder Holden Caprice that I use as Lord Mayor on official business. This is the same Holden model as was used by recent Lord Mayors Tim Quinn and Jim Soorley. I'm looking forward to replacing it at the next changeover. To reduce the family's air travel greenhouse impact I have paid for offsets (including my official travel) since April 2007.
When we combined all of these efforts, my family has been carbon neutral since mid May 2007. Hopefully we have shown that making a large number of small changes can have a big influence on our environmental impact. Plus we are still able to enjoy the lifestyle we love.
Q2: What advice would you give others, having gone down this path?
What would I do differently?
The big lesson is - build using sustainability principles in the first place.
If I was to do anything differently in hindsight, I would have had these features designed into the house when we built it rather then having to retrofit them in later on.