It’s a notion that Lucinda Flynn, energy efficiency assessor and sustainability consultant for Going Green Solutions, can get behind. Flynn, whose role includes going into people’s homes and pointing out where they can save energy - and thus money - says a lot of people have trouble visualising their carbon footprint.
“Our carbon footprints are made up of two things,” Flynn says. “The most obvious is the fossil fuels we directly use that create carbon emissions: electricity, transport, petrol, gas.
“The less visible aspect of our carbon footprint is the carbon associated with the life cycle of the things we buy. For example, if you walk past an apple tree growing wild in the bush and take an apple, that apple has no carbon footprint. However, if you drive that apple to your friend who lives 100km away, it then has a carbon footprint.”
Here, Flynn suggests six ways Australian households can reduce their carbon footprint - and save money.
1. Change your electricity provider
Electricity supply in Australia is a huge factor in our national CO2 emissions, but you can reduce your contribution to this. You can do this by choosing to buy your electricity from a retailer that offers the choice to buy accredited GreenPower and offsets the carbon associated with your energy usage. The Green Electricity Guide compares different retailers and is a great way to choose a company that is helping Australia move towards more renewable energy and lower carbon emissions. Top of the list? Powershop, Australia’s only accredited carbon neutral energy retailer.
2. Seal the gaps in your home
This is an easy and cheap DIY job. Reducing the flow of air through your home will help you feel more comfortable, and can save you money on heating and cooling.
3. Clean the filters on your air conditioner
It’s amazing how much dust these can accumulate. Your air conditioner could be working harder than necessary to move air past dirty filters, which uses more energy and can reduce the life span of your unit. How often you need to clean will depend on how much you use the aircon.
4. Change your shower head
Choose a water-efficient shower head (with a flow of nine litres a minute or less). Limit showers to four minutes, and make sure the pipes from your hot water system to your taps are insulated. These three things will all reduce the energy your hot water system requires for heating, helping you save money. There are several schemes in which households can bring their old inefficient shower heads and trade them in for a free replacement. Ask your council or water supplier if they offer this service.
5. Reduce food waste
Did you know that an estimated one-third of the food produced in the world is either lost or wasted? Food requires a lot of energy to get it from where it is grown to us - and the process along the way requires energy and creates carbon emissions through manufacturing, processing, repackaging, labelling and transporting. Food waste that ends up in landfill creates methane, which is an even stronger greenhouse gas than carbon.
6. Control temperatures
When heating and cooling, stick to the optimal temperatures for energy efficiency: for cooling, set your aircon unit at 25-27C, and for heating, at 18-20C. Each degree of extra heating in winter and cooling in summer can increase your energy consumption by 5-10%.
It’s the little things that can make a big difference to both your carbon footprint and your wallet.