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Green tips

Alex Moors  |  04 August 2015

Want to heed Pope Francis’ call to care for the environment, but not sure where to start? Alex Moors, parent at St Aloysius College in Sydney, offers the following green tips to save energy, reduce pollution and litter, live sustainably and promote biodiversity. Why not practise a few each month and make your school or home 'greener'?

Reduce energy use and save water:

1. Did you know you can reduce your computer’s energy use by about 85% each day by two simple actions?

•    Turn off your computer before bed each night and before you go out for the day.

•    Reduce the timer setting for the computer’s sleep mode for when the computer is idle, to just a short time.

2. Does your electricity bill soar over winter?  Here are some tips to reduce power used for heating at this time of year:

•    Only heat the rooms you are using and close doors to unused rooms.
•    Before you switch on the heater, put a jumper on or grab a blanket.  
•    Use door snakes/ weather strips to prevent cold air entering and heat being lost
•    Use an energy efficient heater when necessary.
•    Avoid overheating as every 1°C can add 10% to your energy bill. When air conditioning heating is essential, have it set to a maximum of 20°C.

3. Electrical appliances such as computers, sound systems, televisions and mobile phone chargers all consume power when plugged in on standby. Consider making it easy to turn electronics off when not in use by plugging them into a power strip and flipping off the power point switch.

4. Do any of your appliances need replacing? Did you know that there is a government website to compare the energy rating of products?

Have a look at:

Or download the Energy Rating app for iPhone®, iPad®, iPod touch®, Android™ and Windows Phones found at:

Once you’ve selected an appliance, to calculate its running cost - multiply its wattage (stamped on the back or bottom) by hours and days used in the year. Then, divide this by 1000 for kWh. Finally, multiply by the current tariff and you’ll have your products running cost. Your such a maths whizz!

5. Over 20 per cent of your electricity bill is from energy used to heat water. Reducing hot water use and installing a more efficient hot water system are great ways to reduce energy use. How about implementing a ‘one-song shower’ concept into your family? Instead of trying to have a four-minute shower (is too hard to practically measure how long this is), instead put a song from the radio on: roughly 4 minutes. Installing water efficient showerheads will save even more hot water.

6. How well do you know your water meter? If the numbers on your meter are turning while there’s no water being used in your home, you could have a leak. Just one dripping tap can waste up to 2,000 litres a month. If you’re not sure where your water meter is, call your water company. Also regularly check your hot water system set is no higher than 60°C to save energy and prevent burns and scalds.

7. Looking for some school holiday ideas for primary aged children? Research shows unstructured play outdoors and in nature promotes a healthy lifestyle, problem solving, and conflict resolution skills, as well as building resilience and creativity. Best of all it gets kids outside and away from screens. How many of your happy times remembered from childhood are memories of time spent outdoors? Take the Queensland Nature Play challenge and see how many of the ‘51 Things to Do Before You're 12’ your kids have done.

Check it out here:

Photo: Anton Fomkin; Flickr

Protect our oceans and waste less:

1. We’re all aware of food waste, but did you know Australians discard up to 20% of all the food that they purchase? To try to reduce this, consider planning well, eating leftovers, and shopping with a list so that everything you buy will be used. The Love Food Hate Waste website has great tips for how your household can avoid food waste.

You can find it at: 

2. Packaging makes up around 1/3 of household waste and its manufacturing uses up energy. Consider avoiding heavily packaged products, such as supermarket vegetables in plastic trays then wrapped in plastic, and buy loose product instead.

3. Do you have a worm farm or compost bin for food scraps? A large 50% of our waste is food, which produces the major greenhouse gas methane when it breaks down in landfill. Worms and composting can turn unwanted food scraps into nutrients for our gardens. Have a special bin for food scraps and use them in your compost or worm farm.

Ask for help at your local nursery or hardware store, or online at websites such as:

4. The fish we choose directly affects the health of our oceans. In response to growing public concern about overfishing, a new guide has been produced at assist us to make informed seafood choices. Australia's Sustainable Seafood Online Guide can be found at : This guide gives an insight into the sustainability of around 90 seafood species commonly found at our fishmongers, supermarkets, fish and chip shops and restaurants.

To ensure you have the information on each species every time you need to make a seafood choice, a free pocket guide can be printed out from the website, or a free Android or iPhone app downloaded.

5. Keep our beaches clean and safe and leave only footprints after visiting. Pick up a few pieces of others rubbish each time you visit the beach to do your bit to protect the wildlife of the oceans.

Photo: Commander, U.S. 7th Fleet; Flickr

Support biodiversity and learn about green gardening:

1. If you water your garden in the early morning or evening water loss through evaporation will be reduced.

2. It’s easy to forget to re-mulch your garden. Regular mulching reduces moisture loss and weeds. 
For more information have a look at:

3. Place plants with similar watering needs together to save water. This Sydney Water  plant selector is useful to help you choose the right plants for your garden.
Follow the link bellow to have a look:

4. Ever had a vision of yourself growing your own vegetables and strolling outside to pick the veggies for your salad, but didn’t know where to start? It’s not as hard as it may seem and there is nothing quite as satisfying as growing your own food. Growing a veggie patch also decreases CO2 and reduces food waste. Some basics to consider:
•    You need a spot in your garden that gets direct sunlight. Morning sun is ideal.
•    Avoid locations under trees or with lots of tree roots that will steal nutrients and water.
•    Create three or four raised beds if you have space, to rotate crops and minimise soil diseases.
•    Following organic gardening principles avoids chemical use to make your garden safer for you, your plants and local wildlife.

For more information, many local councils run courses on growing vegetables.
Information can be found in gardening magazines, nurseries and websites such as The Veggie Patch:

5. Have you considered planting some native plants in your garden or on your balcony? Local native varieties need less maintenance and watering and attract wildlife. Collections of wildlife friendly gardens across cities and towns can act as habitat corridors by acting as stepping-stones, enabling wildlife to move through the landscape.

If you are interested in attracting the widest range and largest numbers of wildlife to your garden, a range of plants of different heights is required, including low (less than 2m), medium (2 – 8m) and tall (over 8m), to mimic what would be found naturally. Your local native plant nursery can provide advice about which plant species are native to your area. Including birdbaths, ponds or water features in the garden will provide water. Whilst piles of rocks, logs and leaf litter will create shelter for lizards, insects and frogs. If you are really keen, nest boxes in trees will create shelter for birds, gliders, and possums, with the added benefit of keeping them out of your roof.

Photo: ItzaFineDay; Flickr

Recycle>Reduce>Reuse and start green cleaning:

1. Did you know that there is a natural and effective alternative to using toxic naphthalene for storing winter clothing? Cedar blocks or bags of cedar chips can deter moths without using toxic chemicals and are available for purchase online or from Howards Storage World.

2. There’s usually an organic alternative for any commercial chemical cleaning product. Avoiding toxic chemicals is better for the environment and most likely our health. Making your own ‘green’ household cleaners uses many ingredients you may already have in your cupboard, such as baking soda, lemon juice, white vinegar, salt, borax and essential oils. Green household cleaners can be used to replace dishwashing detergents, oven cleaners, bleach, laundry detergents, carpet cleaners and window cleaners.

For green cleaner recipes download the ‘Green Cleaning Guide’ found at:

Why not print out the recipe page and stick it on the fridge?

3. Most of us use plastic bags for our shopping, but bringing reusable bags is only hard to remember at the start, it soon becomes a habit. Avoiding use of plastic bags would make a huge difference to pollution, particularly of our oceans. Small reusable bags that fit in a handbag are available from major supermarkets and online.

For those times when you must use plastic bags, they can be recycled (both light and heavy plastic bags) by placing them in the plastic recycling collection bins at the front of Coles, Woolworths, Franklins or Safeway stores. To find plastic bag recycling locations in your area, visit and search for ‘Plastic shopping bags’. Torn or damaged reusable ‘green bags’ that can no longer be reused can also be placed in these collection bins.

Note: Plastic bags and biodegradable bags should not be placed in your kerbside recycling bin at home as they can interfere with the sorting process and machinery at recycling facilities.

4. Most of the 15 billion batteries manufactured each year are alkaline batteries, which are discarded after their life cycle. Batteries that are thrown away and taken to landfills break down and leak chemicals into the groundwater. With so many electronic devices surrounding us, it makes environmental and financial sense to switch to rechargeable Nickel Metal Hydride (NiMH) or Lithium Ion (Li-Ion) batteries. Try to choose reusable batteries and recycle all batteries when they die.

5. Have a look at the toilet paper in your bathroom, the tissue paper in your kitchen and paper in your printer. Does it contain recycled content? It takes 70 to 90 per cent less energy to make recycled paper and it prevents the loss of forests worldwide.

6. Have you tried washing your laundry in cold water in your washing machine? Cold water when used with a washing powder or liquid suitable for cold water performs just as well as hot water while using half the energy.

7. Where possible use refillable or recyclable ink cartridges and toners for photocopiers and printers.  As part of the ‘Cartridges 4 Planet Ark’  recycling program, used printer cartridges can be dropped into a ‘Cartridges 4 Planet Ark’  collection box at participating Australia Post, Officeworks, JB Hi-Fi, Dick Smith Electronics, The Good Guys, Harvey Norman, Office National and Office Products Depot outlets.

To find your nearest participating drop off location visit or call the Cartridges Hotline on 1800 24 24 73.

Photo: Andy Arthur: Flickr


Topic tags: sustainableliving, spiritualityandtheenvironment, environmentalissues

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