How Can I Help?

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How Can I Help?

Welcome to a more sustainable way of life. It doesn’t have to cost any money or any extra time, it’s just about changing habits and everyday choices. 

Whether it's at work or at home - the decisions you make every day can have a significant impact.

Would you like to measure your ecological footprint to see how the way you live is impacting the planet and what you can do to reduce it? Visit the footprint calculator.

You can reduce your impact through small, easy things:

  • turn off your electrical appliances at night,
  • use water efficient shower heads,
  • recycle more
  • catch the bus, walk or cycle
  • just use less STUFF!

The following information provides lots of useful tips and hints for living more sustainably. 

Energy Saving and Renewable Energy

By taking simple energy saving actions and using power as efficiently as possible, you can save money, reduce electricity supply demands and help protect our environment.

Five top tips for saving energy

  • Switch off appliances at the wall
  • Set the thermostat of your fridge to the most efficient setting; your fridge should be set at 3° to 5° and your freezer at -15° to -18°
  • Dry your clothes on a clothes line
  • Run your washing machine only on full loads
  • Keep the oven door closed – every time you open the door the temperature in the oven drops by around 5° – 15°

Hot water systems are the biggest energy users in NSW homes. Choose a climate-friendly hot water system and run it efficiently.

Heating and cooling accounts for almost a quarter of your home's energy use. Energy efficient heating and cooling systems, insulation, sustainable building design and simple strategies, such as keeping out draughts, can help you warm and cool your home more sustainably.

Compare appliances before you buy. Look for the energy rating on the appliance or use a running cost calculator.

Light bulbs and other energy-efficient lighting solutions can provide additional savings.

Pool pumps. In a household with a swimming pool, the pool pump can be the largest single user of electricity, after the electric water heater, if there is one, sometimes using more energy than your washing machine, clothes dryer and dishwasher combined. Turning your pool pump off or down, particularly in winter can make a big difference.

Conduct a simple energy audit at home – borrow one of our ‘Power-Mate Lite’ energy monitors and ‘Save power kit’ from any of our libraries and check your energy usage (Power-mate Lite user instructions).

Need more help? - hire in a professional, plenty to choose from the directory of energy auditors.

You can find further information on all of the above energy savings at Your Energy Savings.

Renewable Energy

Renewable energy comes from constantly replenished natural sources. The most common are:

  • solar - from sunlight or heat from the sun
  • wind - harnessed by a turbine; and
  • hydropower - from moving water.

Other types of renewable energy include bioenergy - from organic waste products, such as manure or crop residue, geothermal - from heat in the Earth’s crust and ocean energy - which includes heat from the sun collected at the water surface and mechanical wave power.

Enough sunlight falls on Australia to supply the nation’s total energy needs many times over.

There are ways that you can help reduce our dependence on non-renewable fossil fuels and cut pollution:

Switch to GreenPower. As more people purchase GreenPower, there is a greater investment in the development of large scale renewable energy sources, generating clean fuel.

Solar panels, also known as 'photovoltaic panels' or 'solar PV', produce renewable electricity from sunlight and can reduce household energy bills by as much as 100%, depending on the size of the panels installed, and how energy efficient your house is.

Hot water systems that run on solar or heat pumps use the heat of the sun and ambient temperature to heat water.

Switching to renewable energy is a great way to reduce your dependence on electricity and save on energy costs at the same time!

Water Saving

There are so many ways to reduce water usage, such as using a broom rather than a hose to clean paths and decks, turning off the tap while cleaning your teeth and collecting water from your shower to water your garden.

Simple water-saving tips can prevent the waste of this precious resource – and your money, too.

Water saving products and appliances

Well-informed purchasing decisions on appliances and products can significantly reduce your water usage and your household bill.

The water-efficiency of white goods and other items – such as dishwashers, washing machines, showers, taps and toilets – is indicated by a Water Rating Label (WELS), which shows a star-rating with a water-consumption or water-flow figure.

On outdoor water-saving products, you can look for the Smart Approved Water Mark. This labelling scheme is voluntary and you can often find it on car washes, cleaners, gardening products, greywater systems, household plumbing, pool covers and filters, rainwater harvesting and watering systems, among others.

Water saving tips in your home

Bathroom

  • The toilet uses 21 per cent of the water used inside your home. A dual-flush toilet uses around 60 per cent less water than a single flush
  • Switching to a 3 star WELS-rated showerhead is the quickest way to save water in your home – more than 50 litres every time you take a shower
  • When showering, first turn on the hot water and add cold as required. You can use the initial lukewarm water instead of just running it off while the shower heats up
  • Try to collect greywater in a bucket while you shower to use on the garden or indoor plants
  • A hot-water circulator fitted to your pipework will recirculate water until it is warm enough for your shower, saving you around 17,000 litres each year
  • Don’t leave the tap running while cleaning your teeth
  • To rinse your razor, run a little water into a plugged sink
  • Use a tap aerator to reduce water flow
  • Install only WELS-rated taps and bathroom fixtures

Laundry

  • Wash only with a full load
  • Buy a 5 star WELS rated clothes washing machine

Kitchen

  • Wash your vegetables in a partially filled sink, rather than under running water
  • In warmer weather, instead of running the tap until the water is cold, collect it in a jug to chill in the fridge
  • Buy a dishwashers with a high WELS-rating
  • Only run your dishwasher when it’s full
  • Cooking vegetables in a steamer, microwave, pressure cooker or in pots with lids uses less water and energy. It also helps retain the nutrients of the food
  • Fit the size of the pot to the amount of food being cooked. Try not to use a large pan filled with water for a small amount of food

For more tips check out Sydney Water's Your Home guide.

Rainwater tanks

Available in a variety of shapes, sizes and materials such as metal, concrete, polythene or fibreglass, rainwater tanks are essential in many regional parts of Australia and can be just as useful in urban areas, helping to:

  • Provide water for flushing toilets, washing clothes and the pool.
  • Reduce your water consumption.
  • Reduce your water bills.
  • Reduce stormwater on roads, drainage infrastructure, creeks, streams and beaches.
  • Reduce contaminants in our waterways.
  • Reduce the amount of sewage discharged to the ocean or rivers.
  • Irrigate your garden during periods of drought.

Greywater

Greywater is the drain-waste from your shower, bath, spa, hand basins, laundry tub, washing machine, dishwasher and kitchen sink. It doesn't include water from toilets, urinals or bidets.

Recycling greywater

As well as saving hundreds of litres of fresh water each day – cutting your consumption and bills – recycling greywater also helps to reduce the amount of sewage discharged to the ocean and rivers.

Is greywater safe?

All forms of household wastewater are potentially detrimental to human health and may pollute the environment, but if used carefully can be a valuable resource. When installing greywater devices and systems, it is essential to follow the Water 4 Life guidelines to ensure the health and safety of your household and community.

Greywater devices and treatment systems

These can be purchased from some hardware stores or direct from the manufacturer and require a plumber to install. NSW Health keeps a register of WaterMark licensed suppliers of domestic greywater diversion devices and accredited greywater treatment systems.

Ways of collecting greywater

  • Manual bucketing: Small quantities captured in a bucket for re-use on gardens or lawns. No council approval is required.
  • Diversion: Using devices to redirect greywater outside to gardens or lawns using sub-surface irrigation. Council approval is required and needs a plumber to install.
  • Treatment: Systems for recycling water to use inside the home (e.g. toilet flushing, washing machine), as well as outside on gardens or lawns. Council approval is required and needs a plumber to install.

For information about installing, treating and using greywater devices and treatment systems you can contact Sydney Water. The Water for Life Greywater Fact Sheet gives an excellent checklist for installing diversion devices, see the links.

Building at Home and the Urban Environment

If you’re building from scratch, you have the perfect opportunity to make your home energy and water-efficient. Along with passive design features such as location, orientation, layout, window-sizing, insulation, shading and landscaping, one of the main considerations is thermal mass – a material's ability to store heat energy.

The Your Home guide contains all the information you need to plan your environmentally sustainable home.

In addition, the Home Renovators’ Guide will help you make your home stylish, comfortable and healthy with minimal environmental impact. Topics include:

  • getting started
  • assessing your home
  • finding information
  • working with designers and builders
  • working room-by-room
  • designing garden and outdoor spaces
  • choosing products, including appliances, lighting, heating, cooling, photovoltaics, rainwater and wastewater systems, and plumbing
  • enjoying your new home.

Reducing Stuff to Landfill

Our collective addiction to material objects is cluttering our lives, straining the planet and not even making us happier. It’s time to break up with your ‘stuff’!

Avoid, reduce, reuse and recycle are key words when it comes to reducing the effects of consumerism on our environment. There are many simple things we can do at home and work to manage our waste better, which collectively can make a big difference.

By far the best approach to managing waste is to cut down on the amount you create. If you don’t need it, don’t buy it – then it certainly won’t end up as landfill. Cutting down can be as simple as re-using plastic containers for storing food or other items, or collecting greywater to water plants.

Tips on recycling

Advice on the best ways to avoid, reduce, re-use and recycle waste. Check out our Recycling and Waste Reduction page.

  • Avoid
  • Reduce
  • Re-use
  • Recycle

    Here's some practical suggestions for recycling that you can do day to day:

    • At Home
      • Put a ‘No Junk Mail’ sign on your letterbox.
      • Plan your meals. Only buy and cook as much food as you need. Food waste costs the average NSW household $1,000 a year. See Love Food Hate Waste for more information, recipes and tips.
      • Use rechargeable batteries.
      • Maintain your products and repair them, rather than throwing them away and replacing.
      • Empty bottles, glass jars and plastic containers can be used to store food and other items.
      • Give your used clothes to someone in need, via a charity store near you.
      • Check with your local council on ways to recycle or safely dispose of batteries, motor oil, chemicals, paints, compact fluorescent light globes, food scraps, crockery, electrical goods, clothing, nappies, cling wrap and cooking oil.
      • Flattening boxes and cans will make more room in your bin.
      • Make sure any bottles you put in the recycling are free from liquid, which can contaminate recycling or damage equipment.
      • Put your grass clippings on the garden as mulch.
      • Household greywater can be used to water the garden.
    • While Shopping
      • Ask yourself before buying anything “Do I really need this?”
      • Choose products with less packaging.
      • Buy reusable products instead of disposable ones, such as paper towels, plastic cutlery and paper plates.
      • Keep bags in your car for when you go shopping and refuse plastic bags offered by retailers.
      • Choose products that are concentrated and available in refillable containers.
      • Buy second-hand items, you can find high quality goods. Not only is it cheaper, some second-hand/recycling stores help people in need.
      • Hire, borrow or share products, instead of buying them new. Look out for ‘collaborative sharing’ initiatives near you.
      • Don’t put plastic bags in your recycling bin, even if they’re biodegradable. Many supermarkets now have plastic bag recycling bins you can use.
    • At Work
      • Take food to work in containers, rather than in plastic wrapping or other disposable packaging.
      • Send an email or use the phone instead of sending a letter or fax.
      • Make sure your printer is set up for double-sided printing.
      • Discarded paper printed on one side can be re-used for draft documents or notes.