Greets to you all, oh Rambling Masses,

I am in a didactic mood this morning, so I thought that I would write a little post describing the oh so simple little things we can all do in our lives to reduce our ecological footprint, giving this great world of ours a little bit of breathing space.

Now, I would like to point out that I am practising what I preach - these are all things that are not majorly inconvenient, and they do indeed help to minimise the wasteful existence that is modern suburbia.

Water Smart

Saving water and using your waste water around the house is a very easy thing to do. Our household currently uses 97 litres of water per day, as per our last water bill. This is waaaay below the average household water usage, but is still too high in my opinion, so I am working on ways to reduce this further.

Just for the record, the Sydney Water website states that for the February-April period, a water efficient household on a medium sized property with two occupants should use an average of 375 litres per day. Really, that is an obscene amount of water.

I believe that we should be paying a base rate per litre for, say, 150 litres per day based on the above-mentioned statistics, and then pay a much higher rate for usage above and beyond this. It seems to make sense to me that most people won't bother being water smart unless you hit them in the hip pocket. Then, all of a sudden, it becomes a priority (as it should be in all our lives without the financial incentive).

Here are my practical tips for being water smart:

The Garden:

  • Don't water the garden more than you have to.
  • Spread mulch to retain soil moisture.
  • Plant as much drought tolerant Australian native flora as you can. As a rate payer in your local council area, you are entitled to a number of native trees, shrubs and ornamental grasses. Find out when these pickup days are organised, and avail yourself of that service.
  • Use grey water to water the plants.
  • Install a rain water tank.
  • I have not used a motor/petrol-powered lawnmower in over 10 years. I do it the good old-fashioned way with a rotating-blade push mower. It's quieter, it's cleaner, and it gives you a bit more exercise.

The Taps:

  • Don't waste the water when you are waiting for your hot water tap to get hot. We have a couple of 2 litre plastic drink containers that we fill up with water until it heats up. This water can then be used to water the garden, to fill up your pot when you are boiling water for pasta, etc. Most houses will waste about 3 litres of water each time they wait for the water to warm up out of the tap.
  • Don't keep the taps running when you are brushing your teeth.
  • Don't keep the taps running when you are shaving the old-fashioned non-electric way. Fill the sink with hot water, and use that.
  • We are lucky enough to be blessed with a gravity fed hot water tank in the ceiling. This means that our hot water comes out at quite low pressure. This makes it easy for us to save water when showering, as you can't blast the water out at a high wasteful pressure. For people who don't have this mixed blessing, install water-saving shower heads.
  • Replace tap seals in leaking taps. Even a slow leak can waste 10-20 litres per day.

Washing Machines:

  • Our washing machine is an ancient and small top loading unit which, thankfully, has a drip dry setting. This allows us to pump the final rinse grey water into watering cans for use in the garden. When this washing machine eventually carks it, we will get a water efficient front loader. They're gentler on the clothes than top loaders, too.

The Toilet:

  • Ahhh, all of that good clean potable water, being used just to flush our waste away. It makes you cry, doesn't it? I (being a guy and built in such a manner as to allow it) sometimes wizz in the garden. This saves 10-15 litres per tinkle, and is good for the garden as long as you don't pick the same spot all the time...
  • Get a smaller cistern with a half-flush button.

Electricity Smart

Here are my tips for being electricity smart:

  • Use energy-saving light bulbs. Even better, use LED-based lighting.
  • Don't stand in front of the open fridge door for 5 minutes trying to work out what you want to get from the fridge.
  • If you're not in a room, turn the light off.
  • Turn off all "standby" appliances like TVs when you aren't using them. Standby mode consumes power.
  • Use rechargeable batteries instead of disposables. You can get a solar-panel-powered battery charger and be even more green.
  • Do you really need to turn the heater on? Put on a jumper or do some exercise instead.

Shopping Smart

Stop shopping! It is our heavy-handed consumption ways that are screwing this planet up. If you don't need it (or really, really want it) don't buy it. Stop the cycle.

Here are my tips for being shopping smart:

  • Buy fresh produce. Even better - buy locally grown fresh produce. It's much better quality, and the environment will thank you too. Yay! Win-Win makes Silenus a happy boy.
  • If you have to buy processed foods, make sure the packaging is as recyclable as possible.
  • As Tim Minchin says - Take your canvas bags to the supermarket. Don't use plastic bags. If you must use plastic bags, reuse them as bin liners.
  • At the chemist or alcoholic beverage store, stop them from automatically wrapping everything in a paper bag. You don't need it.
  • Buy non-bleached recycled-paper toilet paper. It is just as good at wiping your bum as the triple-ply specially-dimpled pristine-white-because-of-polluting-bleach aloe-vera-impregnated paper.
  • If your sofa doesn't quite match your decor anymore, get over it. If it is still comfortable and doesn't have gaping holes in it, keep using it.
  • Try to discourage the chuck-it-out culture that is part and parcel of the modern age. One of the biggest problems with modern consumerism is that we no longer make quality products that last, as it's much cheaper just to chuck the cheap crap out and buy another cheap crap replacement. Don't fall into this trap. It's wasteful and destructive on a planetary scale.

Recycling Smart

It's funny, you know. I couldn't fill our half-size garbage bin that gets collected by council if you gave me 2 months. However our large size recycling bin is full almost every fortnightly collection time, as is our green waste bin. Don't forget that things like aluminium foil can also be recycled.

Glass Re-use instead of Recycling:

One thing that I would like to see introduced in Australia is something that they have had in Denmark for about 20 years. Instead of recycling their plastic soft drink bottles and glass beer bottles, they clean them and reuse them. This is much more energy efficient and less polluting than remelting the glass every time you want to reuse it.

You pay a deposit on all bottles, which you get refunded when you bring them back. All supermarkets have a bottle processing station near the entrance, where automated machines count the bottles that you return, and give you a receipt redeemable at any supermarket.

The bottles are then cleaned and sent to bottling centres, where they are relabelled and filled with whatever they get filled with. It makes so much more sense to me than re-melting them every time.


Hopefully I haven't bored you with all of these thoughts on reducing our ecological footprint. This is important shit, oh Rambling Masses, and your children will thank you for it.