August 15, 2012

Walk for Solar - Port Augusta to Adelaide, September 16 - 30

As soon as I heard about the Walk for Solar I knew I wanted to go, even though I already had plans for some of that time and I knew I'd need some training walks in order to manage the 300 km from Port Augusta to Adelaide.

The Walk for Solar aims to win state and federal support for building a solar thermal plant to replace the old coal-fired plant at Port Augusta. Port Augusta is one of the solar locations identified in BZE's stationary energy plan (for converting Australia to 100% renewable energy), and for a number of reasons has always struck me as being the best place to start - even more so now that the Playford B power plant there is slated to close, and the Port Augusta council and residents are keen to replace it with solar. Until it is implemented, the BZE plan is "just" a plan (albeit an exciting one). Now we have a good chance to start making that plan a reality!

What's not to like? An important campaign, walking through lovely countryside in springtime, meeting lots of people who care about climate, and getting more physically fit than I usually am! If you'd like to join in too, you can find the walk details on the Repower Port Augusta website.

Initially this was just something I personally wanted to do, so I started doing training walks and registered to take part in the walk. I then suddenly thought, why not participate as a representative of the One Person Can project? So now I'm wearing two hats.

I am using One Person Can resources to help promote the Walk for Solar, and have set up dedicated result graphs to document what Walk for Solar supporters are doing towards a safe climate in the other 50 weeks of the year. I'm asking walkers, sponsors and supporters, and people attending the associated rallies to take the OPC survey and to select "2012 Walk for Solar" when they do so that their actions will appear in the Walk for Solar result graphs. I'm hoping for some huge numbers in those graphs so I can send them off to government decision-makers to show just how serious all these people are about tackling climate change.

You can see the results so far at

April 10, 2012

Incredible Edible - Incredible!

You must have a look at this article about a UK town that aims to grow all its own fruit and veg, starting with food grown in public spaces where anyone is welcome to take what they want:

March 11, 2012

Can you help think up a slogan for OPC?

Can you help think up a slogan, or a couple of concise sentences, to quickly convey the aims of the One Person Can project?

Those who take the time to look over the One Person Can website "get" what it is all about, but I'm still struggling to find a really short and effective message that grabs busy people's attention and makes them stop long enough to read the Home page and take the OPC survey.

The premises behind the project are simple and logical, and the visibility concept is not rocket science, yet it is devilishly hard to get across the importance of safe-climate action visibility in just a sentence or two (the amount of space typically available for promoting OPC in e-newsletters and on websites). The logic goes something like this:

- In order to act on climate change, people need to think they are capable of solving it.
- The average household can eliminate their own GHG emissions if they give that high enough priority.
- If most households did that, the problem could be solved.
- However, no household will feel capable of solving climate change if they think nobody else is eliminating emissions.
- Despite the above, numerous householders are already reducing/eliminating their GHG emissions, but these actions have very low visibility.
- If everyone could see all these existing actions, collectively solving climate change would seem possible.
- If a collective climate change solution seems possible, more people would take action, and people would take more action.

Key problems:
- We tend not to realise how invisible most safe-climate actions are.
- People who have been living sustainably for years and are surrounded by like-minded friends might forget the wider public does not know what they do.
- Even if people "get" all the above, in order to invest 10 minutes in taking the OPC survey, they need to think the OPC project itself can become visible enough to have the intended effect.

OPC is designed for the general public, but the first step is to get LOTS more survey results to show in the graphs. That would be easy to achieve if I could reach all the 'already converted' and persuade them to take the survey.

Hundreds of heads are better than one. If you have suggestions, please comment or email me!

February 24, 2012

Power consumption makes historic drop

Mr Jonathan O'Dea MP (Davidson, NSW) kindly sent me the following article (ABC News, August 15, 2011,

One of Australia's largest electricity distributors says it is experiencing a "historic" cut in households' demand for power.
Ausgrid, which provides power to much of New South Wales, has announced demand for its electricity by regular households has fallen 2 per cent each year for the past four years.
It is the first time the company has seen a fall in demand since the 1950s.
"If you go right back to the 1950s, residential consumption has continued to rise year on year, and in around 2006, we saw that plateau," Ausgrid energy efficiency specialist Paul Myors said.
Ausgrid says the drop is caused by consumers switching to energy efficient hot water systems and light bulbs after seeing their power bills go through the roof.
"One example where we have seen most strongly is with residential hot water because we often separately meter this in households," Mr Myors said.
"We've seen reductions even greater than 2 per cent, even up to 8 per cent per year," he said.
It is expected the Australian Energy Market Operator will also announce a fall in power demand of 5 to 6 per cent in the next decade.

In a Renew Economy article from February 8, 2012 (, Mike Sandiford had this to say:

Demand for electricity traded on the National Electricity Market – or the NEM – declined in 2011 for the 3rd consecutive year and is now down 3% since 2008.
With industry analysts predicting 2-3% annual growth rates over the period, demand is down almost 10% on expectations.
Partly we are seeing the impact of energy efficiency measures, such as pink batts, and distributed generation like rooftop photovoltaics. We are probably also seeing some price sensitivity entering the market.

And this:
At an average of 5.7 gigawatts, 2011 demand in Victoria was down 2% from 2010 levels and almost 4% from 2008. Similar scenarios played out in NSW where demand is down some 2.7% since 2008, and Queensland where demand has softened by 3% since 2009.

Of course a faster drop in power consumption would be nice, but in a world where we are used to predictions of ever increasing electricty demand, this is indeed good news!

February 21, 2012

Getting from A to B with fewer emissions

By Ross Henderson (Motorcycle Instructor - EliteMCT, WA)

Motorcycle transport is a largely ignored solution to green transport. Not only do motorcycles consume far less fossil fuels to run than other vehicles, they use as little as 1/10th the carbon footprint to manufacture than even the smallest cars.

The majority of modern cars produce 75% of their total CO2 emmissions in the manufacturing stage.
A small increase in motorcycle use as apposed to car use would present a significant change to CO2 emmissions.

February 13, 2012

A telling demonstration - invisible actions

Last night I spoke to the Athelstone (SA) Kiwanis group about the One Person Can project, and by way of a demonstration I asked for three volunteers to look around the room and tell me how many people they could see who, to their knowledge, took a particular climate-friendly action. I asked one to report how many people they could see who turn off unnecessary lights, another to say how many people take short showers, and the third to say how many people buy Green Power.

All responded by saying they couldn't see anyone who they knew took those actions. I then asked for a show of hands. Almost everyone in the room said they turn off unneccesary lights, about 3/4 claimed to take short showers, and I didn't ask for a show of hands on buying Green Power, but several put up their hands anyway. And this from people who talk to each other on a regular basis!

Don't get me wrong, they're a great bunch of people - I'm certainly not thinking they should have known about each others' climate-friendly actions. The demonstration just underlined the fact that we really don't know how many people are already taking actions that reduce GHG emissions. We might assume that most people don't bother. Perhaps we should start assuming that most people do!

Wouldn't it be sad if half the population of Australia (or more!) were taking actions that reduce their GHG emissions, and the other half were doing nothing simply because they mistakenly think nobody else is doing anything.

February 1, 2012

Tips for Renters

by Cate (Victoria)

Long abandoned and maligned in the striving for the great Australian dream of home ownership, renters are a rapidly growing percentage of our population, currently standing at a national average of 30%, that figure is often more than double in many inner city areas and external pressures such as rising house prices and increasingly dense urban living are likely to mean that we’re not going anywhere soon and are here to stay.

We started Green Renters after regularly attending sustainability expos and workshops and leaving empty handed and empty headed, devoid of products, services or ideas that suited us. We quickly realised that focussing on the small, achievable, positive, time and money efficient meant there was actually a tremendous amount that renters could do to be an active part of the sustainability community and have been firmly and proudly flying their flag ever since.

Aside from our website that is chock full of advice, tutorials, news and ideas we undertake many special projects with specific groups of renters such as students and residents in social housing. We are currently small and very busy so are in the midst of figuring out how we also become financially as well as environmentally sustainable!

Enough about us though, what are our top tips for all the renters out there?

Draught proofing
Most rental properties fall into two main camps, with the same end result. Either an old, badly maintained building with cracks, gaps, holes, no insulation and ill-fitting doors and windows. Or a modern, poorly made building sharing at least several of the same characteristics. Bearing this in mind, I would imagine that your rental home is probably losing a lot of heating and cooling on a daily basis. Statistics vary, but probably around 20% of the money you spend on cooling and heating is being wasted, that adds up! So we would consider draught proofing to be your number one priority to bring your home up to scratch.

Things to try
§  Door snakes – A cliché, but like so many clichés, you've probably forgotten to do it. Door snakes are cheap to buy or to make yourself and are a very simple way to reduce draughts. They are also easy to move around and transport.
§  Windows – There are several products available to make your windows more efficient barriers, depending somewhat on what kind of window you have. Films that add an extra barrier, tapes that seal up gaps and rattles, insulated curtains and pelmets.
§  Boiler lagging – If you have access to your water heater or boiler, the chances are that it's pipes are exposed, pipes that contain hot water and are losing copious amounts of heat through not being insulated. If you insulate your hot water pipes with lagging from a hardware store or a DIY method you can actually turn your boiler down several degrees, saving energy and money.
§  Heat the room you’re in – If you’re keen to save energy or dollars, there’s no point heating parts of the house you’re not currently using. Though a combination of draught proofing and just keeping the doors shut you can be nice and cosy with no wastage.

Save power
Electricity is expensive and likely to increase significantly in cost in the near future, not only that electricity generation often comes from a variety of sources that are extremely poisonous to our environment. It’s very easy to reduce your usage of electricity without reducing your quality of life.

Things to try
§  Switch it off – Another oft-repeated nugget of advice that really leads to results. Turning of devices that you aren’t using or switching of devices at the socket when you’ve finished with them instead of leaving them on standby power can reduce your energy consumption up to 20%.
§  Know watt – Most people are familiar with the energy consumption stickers on the front of white goods, but did you know it’s possible to tell the electricity consumption of most electrical goods? It’s usually displayed near the power inlet (or on the manufacturers documentation/website) and is measured in kilowatts per hour, the lower the better. For older electrical items, many local libraries now loan out power monitors that let you figure out the consumption of appliances and then return the monitor when you’re finished.

Chemical free
There are a hell of a lot of expensive, toxic cleaning products on supermarket shelves and consumers are led down a merry path of thinking that they need one expensive cleaner for one task, one for another and so on, adding together to form a cornucopia of chemical cocktails in your home. In fact it's very easy to create perfectly adequate cleaners from a base of three or four ingredients that are healthier, cheaper and better for your home and the planet it inhabits.

Things to try
§  Washing powder – Making your own washing powder is easy and very cost effective, grate some laundry soap and mix it with lectic crystals adding borax for the occasions you have hard to shift stains.
§  General purpose cleaner – Mixtures of natural ingredients such as baking soda, white vinegar and lemon juice can all make highly effective cleaners suitable for almost any purpose.

Start a garden
Gardening is great, plants clean the air and are nice to look at and herbs and vegetables can save you money and bring all sorts of other health benefits too. Just because you don't have a garden or have a very small garden doesn't mean you're out of the game, not at all! The same applies for that ultimate holistic habitat, composting.

Things to try
§  Sprouts – No, not Brussels! Sprouting seeds are quick, easy and tasty crops that will grow absolutely anywhere.
§  Container gardens – Pretty much anything can be repurposed into a planting container and containers can be made to fit into just about any space. They're also easy to move and transport around your home or to a new home.
§  Compost – Don't send those food scraps into landfill, use a worm farm or bokashi bin to turn them into nutritious feed for your (or someone else’s) plants. Worm Farms should generally be kept outside, but bokashi bins work well indoors and outdoors.

Talk to your landlord
Many renters are fearful in the current rental climate that if they complain or ask for things their rent will be increased or worse, they might be evicted for being ‘trouble makers’. We would strongly encourage you to feel confident in your position and at least bring up any issues and problems you have in a friendly manner, you may be surprised as to the response you receive and you are well within your rights to do so. That dripping tap or leaky gas oven could not only be wasting energy, but also has the potential to cause damage to you or your home. Drop by the websites of your states Tenants Union, council of social security or consumer affairs to brush up on the rules and regulations in your state and don’t be afraid to speak up!

This is just a brief overview of some of the ideas and services Green Renters offers. Take a look at our website, come along to one of our many workshops, give us a call, send us an email and we’d be glad to tell you much, much more. 

January 30, 2012

How one person, Eileen, is reducing GHG emissions

By Eileen (Victoria):

I can't remember when I first became interested in climate change.  It feels as if I have been banging on about it almost all my life (I am 62).  I also believe that it is important to live what you believe.  

When we needed to move to Victoria I insisted we buy a place where we could also grow food as well as live.  Now in inner Melbourne we have a great garden with lots of edibles.  I usually refer to my garden as my edible jungle - in part because of the overgrown raspberries which I keep promising to prune in winter.

When we first moved here there were a few fruit trees already:  a huge old fig tree, a peach, pomegranate and kiwi fruit vine.  Whenever anything ornamental died I replaced it with something edible.  Hence the hakea outside the front door became a nectarine (my husband's favourite fruit - and it is amazing how quickly fruit trees produce when road kill is dug in!)  Other additions include a grape vine, apricot, lemon, lime, kaffir lime, apples which are espaliered along the garage wall, plums, tamarillo, pear, blueberries, goji berries, hazelnuts (not good producers as it doesn't get cold enough in winter).  Excess fruit is cooked and frozen for winter meals or given away.  

Because of the tree roots all my veggies are grown in pots - and some fruit trees too.  Especially during summer and autumn but other seasons as well we eat a lot of fresh food from the garden.   

Recently I went to a presentation on keeping chickens and decided to give them a try.  I wish I had known about keeping them earlier, as they would have been wonderful pets for our children.  My two hens are now producing an egg each every day, and lots of lovely manure to add to the compost which will keep the garden happy.  The eggs have made a huge difference to our eating habits.  Now the eggs are there so regularly we have a few non-meat meals every week, which makes a difference to our production of greenhouse gases.  The meat industry produces a huge amount of greenhouse gases - including methane which is more potent than carbon dioxide.  Also there are transport and packaging costs as well.  

A few years ago I made a decision to have solar panels and solar hot water installed.  My husband thought it was a silly idea, spoiling the look of our Californian bungalow by putting something so modern on top, but because we live on a busy road I thought it was an excellent idea, as it sets an example to everyone going past. 

 The most recent addition has been a ventilation system.  I was unsure of the benefits, but have been very happy with it.  Since its installation my husband has been "miraculously" cured of his hay fever, caused by a house dust mite allergy - house dust mites need moisture to breed, and the air in the house is now much drier.  As well, during the hotter days of winter warm air from the roof cavity is blown down into the house, making the temperature much warmer than before, and on hot summer days we look forward to the night time coolness which is also sent in to the house, helping us sleep and making it cool ready for the next day.  Instead of the house running between the minimum temperature of about 5 degrees in winter to 30+ in summer we have had a range of 11-27 degrees in the past year, (using winter heating only in the living room when we are present). We do not have an air conditioner. At last our electricity and gas bills are tiny - mostly connection fees.  

I enjoy reading what others are doing to reduce their energy usage.  If each one of us tries our best, we will eventually make a difference.