Reducing household energy consumption is something we can all do towards achieving net zero emissions by 2050. Every bit of CO2 that we can prevent from entering the atmosphere is critical.
As women make the majority of decisions in the household - this makes each and every one of us very powerful in the task of lowering emissions.
And it's surprising how these seemingly small changes can add up to big energy savings when a whole community joins in. Turn these 5 small actions into daily habits so they become second nature.
5 ways to save energy in your home, starting today
1. Go car free for local trips - Walk or cycle instead. Reducing private car travel, especially solo trips, is one of the best ways that we can cut CO2 pollution. If you walk or cycle 5km or more a week instead of driving solo you will avoid 1 kilogram of CO2 - that's a reduction of 52 kilograms of CO2 each year.
Work out trips that you can easily take a non-car option for, including in tandem with public transport for commuting eg. cycle to the train station or walk to the bus stop instead of being dropped off by car. Only drive part of the way if you live further out of a city.
2. Powering off electronic devices such as TVs and computers. Stand-by power can use up to 8% of a household's total electricity. Appliances like computers, phone chargers, printers and scanners, gaming consoles, TVs, or standby lights that run continuously, use up unnecessary energy. By switching appliances off at the powerpoint when not in use, households can save a month's worth of electricity every year! Once you have made it a habit it's such an easy win!
3. Take shorter showers. Reducing shower time to a maximum of four minutes, saves water and therefore the energy required to heat the water. Less water, means less energy to heat the water. Cutting your daily shower from eight minutes to four minutes can save up to 350 kilograms of CO2 a year.
If you switch to a water-saving shower head too, and multiply the savings by the number of people in your household, you are really winning.
4. Hang clothes on the line instead of using your dryer (except when it's raining!). Clothes drying is one of the easiest areas to save energy, because you can remove 100% of the cost and 100% of the pollution by simply hanging clothes in the sun to dry! Washing your clothes less often also saves energy. You'll save almost 2 kilograms of carbon pollution for every load of washing you don't put in the dryer. Such a simple change to make.
5. Use your microwave* instead of your gas cooktop. If you're renting, or if replacing your gas stove is not possible anytime soon, you can feel good about using your microwave.
*Compared with an electric oven, Finnish researchers calculated a microwave saves 75% of the time and 80% of the energy when cooking for one person.
Source: A Little Goes A Long Way
A recent UTS Business School, Australian Ethical and Lonergan Research Report shows that almost half of Australians underestimate how much we still need to reduce our carbon emissions.
An easy decision that will make a BIG difference - Switch to a renewable electricity plan
In terms of creating the most impact, but still easy to do, consider this one-off action. And it's great if you're renting or living in an apartment and want to go renewable.
Why do it? If your house is still on the grid (and rooftop solar is still on your wish list), opting for a renewable energy plan is a great way to use your purchasing power to support demand for renewable energy.
How it works - If you purchase a renewable electricity plan, like "GreenPower", your provider will get more electricity from wind and solar farms made and fed into the grid - in place of fossil fuel made electricity. Your electricity provider then has to hand that money over to a renewable power generator, who will put your money's worth of renewable energy back into the grid.
Opting for a GreenPower electricity plan is 13 times more impactful than recycling your household waste (but both actions matter so keep up recycling your household waste!). And it's something you only need to do once. There are costs involved so you will need to budget for this change, but we are not talking huge costs. On average it adds 5-8 cents per KWh more than your current electricity rate. For example, my bill went up by AUD4.34/month.
Check your energy bill to see if you are already on it. Your supplier might call it "GreenPower", "Green Energy" or "Green Choice". If you're not, it takes about 10 minutes to sign up.
Don't confuse it with carbon offset plans that electricity company's offer, which are offsetting emissions, rather than saving emissions.
1M Ready to make the BIG Decisions
You might be hearing the term "electrification of our homes" in the media and wondering what this means.
Our homes can play a huge role in reducing emissions.The largest portion of our domestic emissions, 42.2%, comes from our households (gas heating & cooling, gas stoves, gas hot water, and petrol cars). By electrifying our homes and cars (with power from renewables) we can transform our households so that they emit the least amount of carbon.
"Electrifying of our homes" is what every one of us can do to help reach net zero by 2050.
In a nutshell, it means that once a gas appliance comes to the end of its life - replace it with an electric option!
How will Electrifying our homes reduce our energy use?
If you already have rooftop solar you will start reaping the benefits straight away with your electrical appliances being powered by the sun (for free when it's sunny and always when you have a storage battery!)
We are moving towards a renewable energy future, where 100% of power will be supplied to the grid by renewable sources. Cheap electricity from renewable sources could provide 65 percent of the world's total electricity supply by 2030. Once we reach this point and we have our homes fitted with electrical appliances we will all see our energy usage drop.
Why is this so - because as Saul Griffiths explains in his book "The Big Switch", making electricity with wind, solar or hydro takes one third of the energy of making electricity with fossil fuels. That's because making fossil fuel energy wastes ⅔ of the energy in the process. When we burn fossil fuels to create electricity, we are converting chemical energy into heat, the heat into motion, and the motion into electricity. That's a lot of conversions and each conversion is imperfect, meaning we lose some energy each time.
Some examples of the energy wasted in producing fossil fuel energy:-
- Domestic hot water and space heating - heat pump only needs ⅓ to ¼ of the energy of fossil fueled heaters.
- Induction heating uses only ½ to ¾ of the energy required by fossil fuel powered machines
- Evs use approx ⅓ as much energy as a fossil-fueled vehicle.
Swapping your gas appliances for electric ones is going to take time and money. In order to speed up the process governments will have to step up to help households transition, through offering tax rebates and incentives. Read about how they are transitioning to electricity in the U.S. here.
In the meantime, we can start saving energy and money today by doing the 5 incidental things listed above - it's a great place to start! Our world needs climate action on all fronts - NOW!