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Sustainable living – An Intro for the Eco-curious

Green Energy home New Zealand - Eco Friendly

With global warming, the world population explosion, and environmental pollution increasing rapidly, many New Zealanders have become advocates of sustainable living. Let’s look at what it means to live sustainably and how you can make small steps towards saving our precious environment.

What is Sustainable Living?

Conscious attempts at reducing waste and living a lifestyle that helps reduce carbon emissions and environmental pollution is the road to living sustainably.

It could be argued that nobody lives a 100% non-polluting lifestyle. But it’s within our powers to contribute more to the regeneration of the environment and pollute less than we need to. We live in a modern industrial society far removed from the low-impact lifestyles of our ancestors. It’s our responsibility to change our consumption habits and increase our use of alternative technologies to preserve the environment for generations to come.

To live sustainably takes commitment. It’s hard to make efforts every day to reduce waste and support renewable products and services when politicians around the world break their sustainability promises.

The impact of non-sustainable services on the world is devastating.

Did you know Europeans use three to four times the resources of Asians and Africans?
Our neighbours in Australia extract 10 times more natural resources than inhabitants of Asia or Africa. The United States consumption of resources is double that of Europe.

When we use resources, we also consume precious water supply and we increase waste. We also emit more carbon into the atmosphere and change the delicate balance of ecosystems.

Why is Sustainability Important?

Our natural resources become more toxic every year. And as with every system in nature, there’s a tipping point or level where the system breaks down. As for our environment, reaching this point would mean entering an irreversible state of damage.

Sustainability is important because it helps reduce environmental waste and preserves our precious natural resources.

What Does Environmental Sustainability Mean?

When the environment provides for people to live and prosper without depleting natural resources, we call this a system of environmental sustainability.

Environmental sustainability examples in everyday life:

  • Using natural materials for packaging
  • Consuming organic food products
  • Reusing household items instead of adding to landfill
  • Using natural, recycled, materials for clothing
  • Using energy-saving light bulbs instead of regular ones
  • Running smart cars rather than gas-guzzling engines.

How to Live a Sustainable Life

  • Live in an eco-house
    This isn’t a solution for everyone thanks to the effort required in converting your home or constructing a new one. But for more New Zealanders, eco-homes are a big step towards sustainability.An energy-neutral house pays for itself. Imagine a home where you never had to pay for electricity, gas, or water. Where fuel for any purpose is generated within the home itself. Converting a home into an eco-friendly house can be an expensive undertaking but the rewards (personally and financially) are huge.
  • Build passive and active solar energy into your home.
    Passive solar design is all about thinking about how the angle, size, and construction of a house can be altered or improved to take advantage of the sun’s rays.
    Active solar energy is a coin we used to refer to solar PC technology, one of the most important advancements for sustainable living of the last few years. Adding solar panels to your home or business is easy and cost-effective.All you need is a roof or a space to put your panels. Free energy from sun converts to electricity that powers your home without polluting the environment or using up natural resources. It’s a fossil fuel-free, eco-friendly way of saving the environment and saving you money in the long term.
  • Install a home energy management system
    According to a report on residential building sustainability by the Centre for Sustainable Systems in the US, Home energy management systems can reduce a house’s energy use by about 4-7%.If we work out the math on this one, we can see that 7% of $2221 (the average yearly New Zealand household power bill) is $155.47. That’s a decent bit of savings for no extra work apart from installing the system.Electric power consumption in New Zealand has risen from 2,457 kWh per capita in 1960 to 9,026 kWh per capita today. That’s more than triple the power we used 60 years ago.
    New Zealand houses use almost twice as much electricity as houses in the UK. We’re power hungry so for the sake of generations to come, we should look for ways to reduce our non-renewable power demands.
  • Use sustainable building materials in everything.
    Whether you’re buying a new chair, a notepad, some fuel for a generator, or building a house, using recycled materials that can we can recycle again will lower your carbon footprint.Building a house?
    – Use timber instead of limestone, or steel (unless it’s reclaimed).
    Geotextiles, a branch of geosynthetic materials offer significant CO2 saving, rather than regular, non-organic fabrics.
    – Recycled plastic instead of standard plastic.
    – Tarmac with crushed glass.
    – Concrete alternatives such as RCA and PFC contain up to 50% recycled content.Obviously, a detailed plan of action is needed to build a house but these solutions will give you ideas.
  • Fly Less.
    This is difficult to get our heads around. Everyone likes to travel and flying to long-haul destinations is one benefit of modern living.Flying from New Zealand to London takes 1 day. Going by boat, for example, takes 60 days. But it’s clear that not everyone has two months to travel to the other side of the world. Especially when the alternative is a (relatively) short hop by air transport.
    And we might be mistaken for thinking that ships use less carbon. They don’t.So, what’s the solution?
    It’s simple, fly less. Do you really need that vacation in the Caribbean? What about exploring beautiful New Zealand?

    Even cutting out unnecessary business flights will have a huge impact on global emissions. Didn’t we invent video conferencing to avoid travel?
    Or take the bus & rail, a much less polluting form of transport.

In New Zealand, we are heading in the right direction. Much of our energy comes from renewable sources and we’re third in the OECD in terms of renewable energy as a percentage of primary energy supply. At just over 0.01% of the world’s total annual consumption, it could be said that whatever we do to change environmental damage makes little impact worldwide.

But we should be looking to show an example to the rest of the world. And caring for our own local environment should be high on our list of priorities. Industries such as farming and tourism depend on the health of the environment.

Make small changes towards sustainability today so we can make big changes later on.


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