With World Environmental Day hosted this month, we take a look at a few ways to make your home greener
By Ishani Chetty
More individuals across the world are becoming increasingly environmentally conscious in an effort to curb rising temperatures of the Earth’s surface and the impact of gaseous emissions. Homeowners are able to contribute positively to this by making slight changes and improvements in their household.
The World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) spokesperson Andrea Weiss explains that households contribute to energy consumption across the country.
“Overall the 18 major metropolitan areas and secondary cities in South Africa consume about 37% of the country’s energy, making them key drivers of change and players in South Africa’s economy – but this refers to all activities and not only households. Urban areas account for 46% of national electricity consumption, 52% of the country’s petrol and diesel consumption, and 32% of country’s energy-related, greenhouse gas emissions.”
World Environment Day takes place on 5 June 2019 and is aimed at tackling air pollution and its impacts on the planet along with addressing the current state of our environment.
According to the United Nations, household air pollution created by indoor burning of fossil fuels, wood and other biomass-based fuels used to cook, heat and light homes have caused 3.8-million premature deaths. In a positive step towards change, 97 countries have increased the percentage of households that have access to cleaner burning fuels to “over 85%.”
NASA has recorded the rising temperatures of the Earth surface and since 1880 the temperature has increased by an estimated 16.72 °C. Greenhouse gases are the main culprit to rising temperatures and include the effects of carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide. Due to a rise in population, industrial mechanisms and various technologies, the rate of greenhouse gas emissions are increasing at an alarming rate. Construction and architectural technologies are moving towards implementing more sustainable concepts – from the use of green façades to going off the grid with its own water source.
From small to big scale, a range of changes to your household can make a positive contribution to decreasing various gas emissions. These changes can also save homeowners money, decreasing basic costs while helping to save the planet.
Ways to make your home ‘greener’
The impacts of global warming were most recently seen in the Cape Town water crisis, with residents being subject to rigid water-use regulations and fearing the pending ‘day-zero’. Other countries such as Namibia have most recently declared a water crisis int heir capital, Windhoek. Residents came together to save water, creating their own rain-water catchment devices and implementing boreholes on their property.
With weather conditions shifting around the world, homeowners can improve water usage by repairing existing leaks, installing low flow showerheads and taps along with investing in weather-based irrigation systems for their gardens.
Another implementation that can be made to reduce water use is dual-flush toilets. Offering two flush options, one for liquid waste and another for solid waste. According to breaking energy, these toilets could save an estimated 80% of toilet water consumption.
To save water, residents must become water-conscious – reducing the amount of water used and saving this precious resource.
2. Utilizing natural house cleaning products
A host of general cleaning products emit dangerous chemical emissions when they are used. Homeowners can change this by utilizing green cleaning products, made from sustainable materials, non-toxic and biodegradable materials. These green cleaning materials can also be made with a few basic materials. Minimizing the use of harsh synthetic chemical based products can provide a safer environment for families and are cost-effective, requiring cheaper ingredients. Vinegar is a perfect example of an alternative cleaning material as it can be used as an all-purpose cleaner.
Here is a step by step guide to creating your own bathroom cleaner:
2/3 cups of baking soda
½ A cup of quality dish detergent or soap
½ a cup of water
2 tablespoons of white vinegar
1 spray bottle
Place all the ingredients in a spray bottle, stir and dissolve. It can be used to get rid of scum, mildew with a scrub sponge. Once scrubbed, rinse the area.
3. Installing solar panels
With the potential threat of eminent load-shedding, the use of solar power provides a greener alternative to Eskom’s electricity production. Although the initial costs of implementation may be steep, it promises to pay out over time. In some circumstances, a solar-powered home may produce more power than necessary, offering homeowners the opportunity to sell this power to other grids.
Sun exchange, a locally based company, offers solar power users the opportunity to sell their solar cells while decreasing the impact on the environment. South Africa has an abundance of sun and utilizing solar power can eliminate dependency on national power providers.
Nexsolar, a South African based company which provides affordable solar installation, CEO Garth van Sittert says that the coting of solar installation is dependent on the number of people inhabiting the household.
“The starting price for small systems of solar panels starts at R63 000 and includes full installation, electrical compliance certificate and is a system with six panels,” says van Sittert
4. Quality insulation
In order to minimize the use of energy and cut down on costs, quality insulation must be installed during construction of a home. Unbeknown to some homeowners, poor quality insulation can result in higher use of energy and a high bill at the end of the month.
Insulation plays a pivotal role in the regulation of the temperature of the house. Consulting various contractors can provide further insight into quality insulation that will keep ensuring that the home is kept warm during the colder months of the year.
5. Create your own compost and vegetable garden
Purchasing a compost container will be an effective way to reuse all sorts of food waste items. The City of Cape Town launched a programme that has allowed residents to access free compost containers to use at home. These free composting containers will be distributed across the city and are based on an application process, with only 200 containers released a day and at specific venues. Compostable items include fruit and vegetable waste, eggshells, tea bags, leaves and more.
Weiss suggests that planting various species of trees in your garden can positively contribute to the environment.
“Make use of indigenous plants and trees in the garden. They are more water-wise and are also a valuable refuge for pollinators (like bees) and other wildlife,” she said.
Creating your own at home compost will allow for the opportunity to grow your own vegetable and herbs at home. More information about how to access free composting containers in Cape Town is available on their official website, www.capetown.gov.za