Talk about a slow learner.
After I made my house sustainable – Sydney’s Sustainable House – in 1996, a little voice inside me kept saying, “You’re not sustainable”.
“Give me a break”, I’d reply. But in 2000 I found the voice was right. Yes, the house was sustainable but I – my body – was not.
The house leaves over 100,000 litres of water in the rivers and dam, stops over 100,000 litres of sewage going into the ocean, and stops over 8 tonnes of electricity pollution going into Earth’s air because it gets its energy and water from the sun and the rain.
But in ten days eating the typical Australian diet the water in my food exceeds 100,000 litres of water. Just to eat and stay alive my body needs over 20 times the water my house does and over 30 times the energy.
Just by eating no red meat one day a week I save over 100,000 litres a year. A water saving shower head will save 60,000 litres a year if used by four people.
The growing, production, transport and waste of food is the single biggest polluter of Earth’s air after coal fired power stations – over 24% of our air pollution comes from food.
Uh, oh. So now I'm trying to grow all my food where I live at my house, in road gardens out the front and to buy from local farmers.
Don’t get me wrong; I’m not a natural gardener. But I’ve got more thing living now than dying. In our road gardens in Chippendale we have over 1000 fruit trees, herbs and edible plants. About 60 of us garden here in the road gardens and most of us are new to gardening.
We’re also cooling our roads. Roads are red hot radiators heating up our cities 6 to 8 degrees in summer, driving up air con use and killing insects, birds and causing over 9,000 premature human deaths a year, mainly the young and old.
The heat map of Sydney shows our roads were over 33 degrees between 1 and 6 am on 9 February 2009 while the houses and private land were less than 29 degrees. So roads undo any insulation or passive design investment because they heat up the air around your house, office or units. We’re cooling our roads by repaving them with pale tar and gravel, and by increasing the number and canopy sizes of trees with more water. For less than $300 we’re harvesting over 4 million litres of water to irrigate our road verge gardens. We’ve dug up the pipes that cross the verges and replace them with leaky drains we put in ourselves.
Anyone can do these things, they’re so simple; just spend our money on local food and farmers and grow food where we live and eat. If you don’t believe me there are many of several thousand stories in my book, Sustainable Food.
For more information on Michael’s journey, products, design and data on his sustainable house and garden, check out his book: Sustainable House (2 Ed 2010).
You can find his website at http://sustainablehouse.com.au/
We are daughters, mothers, sisters and grandmothers getting on with practical climate action to live better for us and the planet. Join the movement at www.1millionwomen.com.au