7 ways to make your home more sustainable

Striving to incorporate more eco-friendly habits into your daily life? You’ve come to the right place, and like many good habits, they begin at home. 

There are a number of simple ways you can improve sustainability throughout the home, from more efficient heating and cooling to creating a compost bin.

We spoke to environmentally-aware builder and construction expert Dean Ipaviz for the low-down on seven ways to lessen your home’s carbon footprint.

1. Go solar

Adding solar panels to your home is a good place to start. Not only could they save you thousands off your electricity bill in the long run, but you can do your part to reduce the impact of non-renewable energy sources on the environment!

However, there are some things to consider before getting those panels installed.

Get a consultation to see how your home can handle solar. Picture: Kate Hunter

“Installing solar on different types of roofs can be difficult. So if you have a tiled roof or a slate roof it’s going to be considerably harder to install,” Ipaviz warns.

“Secondly, you want to understand the orientation and where the panels will get the most sun. If there is too much shade on your block, panels could be redundant and it’s time to explore your options. So, you need to understand where you can maximise exposure to the sun.”

You also need to consider the orientation of your home, which ideally should be north or north west.

A consultation from solar experts, like those at Origin, can help you understand where to place your panels to get the most out of them.

2. Opt for natural cooling solutions

There are so many ways to naturally cool your home without air-con.

We all want beautiful, big windows but summer in Australia means fly screens too. Picture: Getty

“Cross ventilation is key. You will probably want to install fly screens if you don’t already have them, because the idea is that you can open your windows at night to allow those cooling breezes to come through the home – and you don’t want the bugs to get in,” Ipaviz says.

Glazed windows or shutters can also help you beat the heat.

3. Retain heat in winter

Instead of maxing out your heater, there are clever, energy-efficient ways to generate and retain the warmth you need at home.

You want to be retaining as much thermal mass as possible, Ipaviz says. One example is to consider concrete floors or walls when building as these rare ideal for insulation.

Also ensure the heat can’t escape through cracks in your walls, windows or doors.

Concrete can absorb the heat from the sun without getting hot, and slowly release it for a natural heating solution. Picture: Getty

Finally, Ipaviz recommends using a fan with a counter-clockwise or ‘winter’ setting.

“This will push the heat down and around the room. So you can put your heater on a lower setting, reduce your power and still keep the room ambient and warm,” he explains.

4. Go green

There are so many benefits to having more plants at home. They purify the air, help reduce street noise and are even proven to aid stress and anxiety. They can also help provide shade to cool the home, lessening your reliance on non-natural cooling systems.

Plants can provide natural shade and insulation, and also help purify the air. Picture: Al Richardson

Another way to be more sustainable is to start a compost in your yard. Through composting, you lessen your contribution to landfill, allowing natural items like fruit, veg, coffee and tea to break down organically. Compost also makes a great fertiliser for your garden!

5. Creative water solutions

Solar-heated water is one way to be more sustainable, using rain water tanks are another. But there are also a series of small, cost-free adjustments you can make to conserve water.

Install a rain-water tank to reduce pressure on our supply systems. Picture: Getty

“Retro-fit a water tank to your house and start trying to capture as much rain water as you can,” Ipaviz recommends.

“We’re really starting to see the effects of drought and being connected to a main water supply means we [in non-regional areas] are really disconnected from what is happening.”

Doing your bit to conserve water is also important, and it can be as simple as washing your car on your lawn or adding a bucket to your shower to capture excess water that could be used to water your garden.

6. Think about your household items

Another easy way to be more sustainable is to think about what you buy and how you use it at home.

If you’re buying new clothing or furniture, consider shopping second-hand and saying no to brands with a high-waste output or unethical production.

Look to buy items with natural ingredients, particularly soaps and shampoos that will go down your drain. Consider the packaging of your products – are they recyclable or made from recycled materials? Reduce single-use plastics, and double check you’re recycling all your items correctly.

Limit single-use plastics, and use sustainable items instead. Picture: Priscilla Du Preez/Unsplash

“Make use of the recycling programs, like REDcycle, at most major supermarkets now,” Ipaviz advises. “If you are using single-use plastics, make sure you take them to the appropriate recycling bins so they can be disposed of correctly and turned into new products.”

“It’s also worth reviewing your local council recycling restrictions and what can or can’t go into your red and yellow bins, because there is a lot of confusion around that and some councils do different things.”

7. Be more energy conscious

The best way to make a difference in your household is to just be more curious and aware of your energy habits, and make even tiny changes to your daily routine.

This includes turning light switches off, shortening showers and not relying on air-con or taking it for granted.

Changing everyday habits is the most effective way to save energy. Picture: Al Richardson

“We need to start becoming more aware that there is a large footprint behind every electrical switch, behind water heaters or air-con, and start to realise that all of the little savings we make, add up to a really big saving globally,” Ipaviz reminds.

Originally published as 7 ways to make your home more sustainable

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