Monday, March 28, 2011

Our Earth Hour contribution

I have heard mixed reports about Earth Hour - whether or not it's worth doing?  We won't do it unless the big companies do it! We can't make a difference!

Well we did it.  We joined a small group of Orange residents up on the summit of Mt Lindsay - the event was organised by ECCO (Environmentally Concerned Citizens of Orange) and OCAN (Orange Climate Action Now).  We sat and had our evening meal looking out over Orange city by torchlight - it was also our youngest boys birthday so was the perfect opportunity to celebrate. 

We had switched off - we just turned the power off at the fuse box as we left home.

Was it worth it?  Yes, because I believe we can make a difference.  In our Session 2 reading for the Energymark group there was a pie chart reflecting usage of power in NSW - about a third of all power in NSW goes to residential households!  This figure alone gives me the conviction that we as households can make a difference - we don't have to wait for the industrial or commercial sectors.  It is our belief that every little bit counts - so we are trying to reduce our footprint as a family.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Our new Energymark group

Recently we have joined an "Energymark" group - Energymark is a CSIRO initiative to help households and communities reduce their carbon footprints, lower energy usage and save on power bills.  We meet on a Sunday evening once a month to discuss climate change and exchange ideas as to how we can make a difference. 

Reducing our household power consumption was one of our major goals for this year and this group is providing the nudge that we needed to start thinking about things we can further improve on around the house.

Prior to starting this program we had already made some major reductions in our household power consumption through solar hot water.  The graph below shows our household power consumption and the effects our actions have had already (you may have to double click the picture to enlarge it so that you can read the information). 
In summary, we have installed solar hot water  - the reduction in power use for heating our hot water is seen by the reduction in the green line over time - even over winter in Orange when we run a booster frequently.  We have also installed just under 1 kW of photovoltaic panels on the roof and installed an efficient gas space heater in the living area to reduce our use of the the 1980's ducted electric heater.  This has dropped our electricity use considerably - follow the red line on the graph.

The purple line at the bottom of the graph is the our net solar power export - we have recently changed to a gross export meter which will improve the monitoring of our solar power generated.

Putting all our power and gas consumption along with water use into a spreadsheet was one of the first things that we have done through the Energymark program and this has been a real eye opener.  We have also put our water and gas consumption onto a spreadsheet, and have combined our gas and electricity information to present a CO2 emissions graph.

It has also been the incentive we needed to start planning what else we can do to further reduce our power consumption and greenhouse gas emissions of our household.

How does your household rate for power consumption? 

In Australia you can calculate a star rating for your household energy and water use on the NABERS site.  We have gone from a 1.5 star energy rated household to a 5 star energy rated household in the three and a bit years we have been in Orange - but there is still room for improvement.

Have you monitored the changes you are making at a household level?  We have found it a rewarding process.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Going well on our sustainable meats New Years resolution

At the beginning of the year we made a resolution to eat mostly local, organic or free range meat.  To date we have been able achieve our goal by:
  1. Buying local and free range meet from local shops - Totally Local and the Farmgate Butchery.
  2. Going to the local take-away shop that uses free range chickens when we need a hot roast chook rather than getting a non-free range hot chook from the local supermarket.
  3. Even the big supermarket chains in town now offer a range of meat products to support our resolution - we can get free-range chickens (whole, pieces or sausages), free range pork and organic beef.
  4. Finally, we decided to try some kangaroo meat - considered a more environmentally friendly option than the hoofed animals we normally eat (sheep and cattle) and to have lower greenhouse gases produced.  So we tried Roo stroganoff after seeing Linda and Tricia's recipes in the past. Everyone loved it - so I am sure it will be on the menu agin sometime.