Virtually there - June 09
|As the frog said, “It’s not easy being green”. Especially not in a New Zealand house in a New Zealand winter, where domestic life has become a trade-off between cost, comfort, convenience and carbon footprint. In other words, turning off the heat may be good for your budget and your conscience, but bugger the environment if the house is so cold that the children have chilblains and Granny freezes to death. |
So how to get the balance right? The answer is information. Do you have any idea how much energy you might be wasting and how to save it? The place to find out is the EECA website. There you’ll discover information about the general costs of home energy and where energy is used in your home. You might be surprised by where the wastage is occurring. On the positive side, the website follows up with handy hints on how to improve the situation and save energy. You can take a test to see how efficient your home is and get tailored information on the best improvements to make at home.
Both energywise.govt.nz and the Consumer website have excellent information on cost comparisons of heating fuels and the pros and cons of various heating options. Among the recommendations: the best combinations of cheap and green are wood or wood pellets in modern burners, while electric heaters are best for renters. Take note though: Consumer NZ is a not-for-profit organisation. Though that means that its advice is neutral (because it is not trying to sell you anything), it also means you have to pay to read much of the site. But, with online subscriptions starting from $25, following their advice to put a timer on your heated towel rails will have it paid for in no time. (Your towels will still get dry and you will save around $100 per rail per year.) Happily, Consumer’s very useful electricity price comparison calculator PowerSwitch is still free.
For an international perspective on conserving energy, National Geographic’s GreenGuide.com has to be one of the most comprehensive green sites around. It also covers difficult green decisions (keep that old, energy-inefficient fridge or consign it to landfill?), sustainable consumerism and fair trade issues.
Of course, the simplest way to live in an energy-efficient house is to build it that way. There are plenty of online resources for those lucky people building or renovating. SmarterHomes.org.nz is the starting point for healthy, affordable, energy-efficient house design. Follow that with the BRANZ Easy Guide to Eco Building and then visit GreenHomeScheme.org.nz to learn about the BRANZ house-rating system designed with energy use, sustainable materials, water economy and health issues in mind. EcoBob.co.nz has a comprehensive directory of eco-aware designers, architects, builders and suppliers, plus an inspirational gallery of eco-homes. And, if you don’t own your own home, EcoBob provides a thoughtful link to the Renters’ Guide to Sustainability.
Sustainability is not just about the choices you make while you are alive, however. The cremation versus burial debate points out that neither option is remotely environmentally sound (read what GreenDaily.com has to say on the issue), which can leave you without too many options. However, Return To Sender makes eco-coffins out of untreated, sustainably grown wood, with no screws or plastic handles. They look great too, so you can compost quietly away, secure in the knowledge that you have done your final bit for the environment in style.