these are the first five things You should do If you’re serious about lowering the environmental impact of your home
1. Bank ethically.
Most people who build or renovate borrow money to do so. Often, this money is borrowed on top of an existing mortgage. The interest you’ll pay on a home and/or renovation loan is likely to be one of the biggest spends in your life. Why not use that consumer power wisely?
Activist pressure means that the big four banks have agreed not to finance the Adani coal mine. But that doesn’t mean they won’t fund other projects that cause environmental harm. If it’s at all possible, support a bank that works towards environmental and social justice. If you really can’t leave your bank, at least use your clout as a customer to lobby them hard!
If you want to see how your bank stacks up, or to learn more about how you can contribute to campaigns to improve banking practices, visit https://www.marketforces.org.au/info/compare-bank-table/
2. Build small & build well.
The smaller your building’s footprint, the lower its impact. When developing your design brief, it’s helpful to think in terms of functions your home needs to fulfil, rather than what rooms you need to have. Often a space can serve multiple functions.
A well-constructed house has minimal air leakage and few opportunities for uncontrolled heat gain and loss. Practically, at a minimum, this means draught-proofing, insulating, and double glazing (or otherwise protecting) your windows.
3. Go solar & ditch gas.
Recent research by the Alternative Technology Association found that it’s economically preferable to buy as big a PV system as you can afford, regardless of your energy usage. Other research has shown that for many households, ditching gas (or not connecting in the first place) will not only impact positively on your greenhouse gas emissions, but also on your bills.
You can read more in Issue #140 of Renew magazine.
4. Join the dots & build community.
Community is all around us! Community can nurture, protect and provide the building blocks for us all to live more sustainable lives. There are thousands of ways to make your own community stronger and more resilient – from shared gardens to tool libraries, communal meals to childcare clubs. Communities that acknowledge and celebrate diversity are the strongest, so I encourage you to be open to learning about and seeing ways that people are marginalised, to ensure your community is inclusive and welcoming.
5. Support activism.
There are lots of reasons to work towards a more sustainable home. Apart from anything else, sustainability is just another aspect of quality, and we all want that for our homes. Buying more sustainable products can also support small businesses to develop their products and/or support the business case for environmental thinking.
These outcomes are all important, but – in and of themselves – they will not stop the juggernaut that is climate change. For that, we need big solutions that put planetary considerations before profit. There are lots of different approaches to systems change and I’m not about to tell you what to think. Rather, I encourage you to recognise that your small consumer choices, while not unimportant, can never be enough. Please support activism towards a better world in whatever way you can.
My preferred activist organisation is Friends of the Earth (FoE). My family donates both time and money. Whatever we save in tax by donating money, we give to FoE the following year (in addition to regular monthly donating) ... it's the gift that keeps on giving.