In many parts of New Zealand, households are not charged for domestic water consumption and we traditionally think of water as a free and abundant resource. Increasingly we are realising that this is far from the truth – most recently Auckland and Havelock North have been hit hard, but with record breaking water wastage, access to clean, safe water is a global crisis. Today is World Water Day 2017 so here are some tips to help us all use water more wisely.
An average household’s water use is made up from:
Bathroom – 25%
Toilet – 25%
Garden – 20%
Laundry – 20%
Kitchen – 10%
How can you reduce your use?
- Fix leaky taps and toilets
- Switch to a low flow shower head to reduce water use by up to 50%. We recommend Methven’s Kiri Satinjet low flow shower heads which have great pressure and an in-built flow restrictor
- Alternatively, fit a flow reducer behind your existing shower head
- Insulate hot water pipes to keep water warm and speed up hot water flow from taps
- Install tap aerators to reduce unnecessary water flow from taps, yet maintain water pressure
- Reduce the amount of water used per toilet flush with a toilet gizmo
- When buying new appliances, only buy ones with efficient water ratings
Did you know…
All piped water is treated to drinking water standards, yet we only drink 3% of the water that comes from our taps. That means that 97% of the expensive treated water that is piped into our homes is used where untreated water could be used.
Water harvesting is a sustainable way to gather and use water. Rainwater can easily be captured and used both in the home and in the gardens. Check with your local authority, your local public health service or on the Ministry of Health’s website for guidance and requirements on water treatment. 200ltr emergency water tanks are now available via Wellington City Council, or shop for 800ltr water saving tanks from us.
Greywater systems can also be installed to reuse waste water from washing machines, showers, baths and basins. There are a range of options for collecting and using greywater, depending on the source of the greywater and the use intended – talk to the council about rules, legislation and building consent.
Contact us if you would like any more information on how to reduce or reuse water in the home, and don’t forget that if you book a Home Energy Assessment you can get 50% off water/energy saving products.
Here at Sustainability Trust we do our best to walk the talk and limit our carbon footprint.
We’ve got five different bins in our kitchen, a worm farm, and electric bike, solar panels, insulation, energy efficient heating and lighting, sustainable paper and napkins in our loos and are often seen tutting at each other for leaving lights on in empty rooms.
But we’ve still got a business to run, a large part of which involves zipping around town in cars to talk to people in their homes about what measures they can take to create a more energy efficient and healthier home.
We also occasionally travel by plane, use on-grid electricity and generate waste. We estimate we put 43 tonnes of carbon into the atmosphere in 2015, so we’ve decided to work with Ekos to offset those emissions.
Ekos is led by Dr Sean Weaver, the original chairperson of Sustainability Trust, and we’re very pleased to working again with one of our founders.
Ekos is working in partnership with Maori landowners in Southland to preserve 738ha of indigenous rainforest, the Rarakau Rainforest Conservation Project.
The project produces 2430 tonnes of carbon offsets each year – we have ‘bought’ some of those to make up for what we put into the atmosphere.
You could say that we have 13ha of rainforest working for us. The credits are calculated based on what would have happened if the carbon project was not in place – the trees would have been cut down and sold and released carbon. This project and the credits are internationally certified.
As many of you know, we provide products and services to homes and businesses that reduce emissions. In 2015 we reckon we provided services that potentially avoided 450 tonnes of carbon emissions!
We’re also always looking to improve, which this year will include swapping one of our petrol cars for an electric – we’d love to swap all of them at once, but we’re working within limited means!
We’re going to be working with Ekos a bit more closely this year to make it easier for Wellington businesses to offset their carbon emissions, so if you, or your business, wants to join an increasing number of people achieving carbon neutrality by buying offsets, please talk to us and we can help make that a reality.
Electricity prices have increased 70% over the last 20 years and that’s accounting for inflation. So what can you do about it? Here’s some help to understand what makes up your bill, then how to reduce it.
AVERAGE POWER BILL BREAK DOWN
Hot Water 30%
Space heating/cooling 34%
Other appliances 13%
- The sun is the best heat source we have, make sure no vegetation is blocking direct sunlight into the home and make sure curtains are open during the day
- Dry air is easier to heat, look to reduce moisture sources inside and outside the house and ventilate for 30mins daily
- Insulate ceiling and underfloor. Note that standard downlights rapidly affect ceiling insulation’s performance so look to change to insulation coverable LED Downlights
- Check your shower flow by grabbing a standard 10L household bucket and run your shower for one minute. If you can fill the bucket in under a minute your shower flow is too high and big savings can be made by using a low flow shower head. If it fills in 30 seconds you could be saving $150 per person per year based on a five-minute shower only.
- Reduce your hot water temperature in the warmer months. Even better, install a hot water cylinder wrap, or invest in a more efficient water heating solution such as a solar hot water heat pump.
- Use efficient heat sources. Generally heat pumps, wood burners and flued gas heating. Electric heating can add up very quick if used for longer periods.
- Get in contact if you would like a free 2hr Home Energy Assessment (Wellington and Upper Hutt only) or a free Smart Homes Assessment on heating, insulation, lighting, ventilation (any homeowner).
Is your service provider right for you?
Visit What’s my number or Power Switch to see who has the best plan for your needs. Don’t stop there though – it takes hardly any time at all to change providers but you will see the difference every month, every year. Do it!
Rubbish. Trash. Garbage. Lots of us are reducing our rubbish at home – we take fabric shopping bags to and from the supermarket, wash out yogurt containers, separate glass, even feed the worms, and as a result send smaller bags, less frequently, to the landfill. Go us! But how does your business or enterprise fare?
Here at Sustainability Trust, we have been auditing the waste of Wellington businesses for some years now. In general, businesses do a pretty good job of recycling cardboard, but in many other areas there are some big improvements that can be made. Of course it’s harder with a large workforce to carrel, but have hope – we can help.
The key starting place for businesses is a review of where its consumables (throw away items) are coming from, and what is going into the waste. This is actually more urgent than addressing the recycling!
Paper products – e.g. printing and sanitary – are New Zealand’s biggest office consumables. Using a copy paper that comes from fully recycled stock has way less impact that one from virgin sources, and these days recycled paper quality is comparable to other papers. It’s a few years old now, but the Sustainable Business Council review, Which Paper? Is a good place to start your decision making journey. Always check for environmental certifications too.
Changing the way we use paper and thinking about what goes to waste can make a big difference. Making the shift to tracking and editing documents on screen, or screen-based meeting presentations can significantly reduce paper printing and wastage.
Another effective tip is to have two paper trays for collection of waste A4 paper – one for GOOS paper (good on one side) that can be reused for notes (or reuse products like these notebooks) and one for paper that is already printed on both sides and will need to be directed to recycling.
Paper to wipe your, ah, hands on, is easy not to think too hard about – when you are in the moment you will take what’s on offer, right? Sustainability Trust are now suppliers of the Greencane range of sanitary papers – with 70% bamboo and sugarcane, these paper products are sourced from a more sustainable supply chain, do not use a chlorine based bleach process, and quickly and comprehensibly breaks down once discarded.
Switching to less environmentally impacting products is a small move you can make easily. So don’t wait – change in-office behaviours or call us for help today.
Summer in Wellington can be very changeable, but when the sun does grace us it gets very hot, and our homes can offer very little respite. So here are a few ways to stay comfortable in summer.
Letting your home breathe during the warmer months is just as important as it is during winter – so open your windows and doors as much as you can!
Air moving through the house is the number one way to cool the place down, letting out heat that would otherwise stay indoors. It’s also 100% natural, free and sustainable.
If your house has high, hard to access or top-opening windows you could leave some ajar while you are out during the day. This constant air flow will help you avoid walking into a furnace when you get home.
Staying safe and preserving home security is crucial too, so please be careful about how and when you leave windows open.
Air conditioning units / heat pump cooling features
A lot of homes have heat pumps for quick, easy and energy efficient home heating in the winter. Did you know that most models also have cooling functions? The energy efficiency of a heat pump in cooling mode is reduced, but is still over a 3:1kW ratio – much more sustainable than other options such as commercial air conditioning units. So with an easy flick of a switch – instant home cooling and air flow.
Don’t forget to keep doors and windows shut though, otherwise your efforts (and energy) will be wasted.
Positive pressure ventilation systems are another option for total house ventilation. Many models come with special summer settings, such as being able to draw cool air from the shady southern side of a home, and circulating that through the house. Pretty nifty!
Mechanical ventilation systems are also great for damp and/or rental properties as the automatic settings help guarantee the drying and ventilation benefits. They are only suitable for certain properties though so give us a call if you would like more information and advice for your property.
Me and the other Home Performance Advisors at the Trust always recommend natural ventilation as the top way to keep your home cool. Book a free home assessment and find out for yourself!
Saying that, we will tailor our advice to what is best for you and your property, and any heat pumps, ventilation or other home energy products we do recommend will be the best, energy efficient products on the market. That’s how we roll.
Last but not least, my number one top tip for staying cool in summer? Make sure the freezer is stocked with ice-cream!
We’re glued to our smartphones and there’s an app for just about everything these days – so why not use its power for good? There are 100s of mobile phone apps out there that encourage and enable positive change – we’ve picked a few which might help you reduce your carbon footprint or make better consumer choices.
Note, we’ve left out website-only tools, because there are too many good ones to include!
CLIMATE + ENERGY
- Flick Electric Co customers are lucky to have the Choice app available to them. It measures the real time carbon impact of a customer’s energy use and tells them when the grid is using cleaner, renewable energy.
- #climate aims to amplify climate action by giving you easy ways to get on board with solutions and connect and share with others.
- Ecosia is an app and a website, an alternative to Google and other search engines. Every time you search, they earn money for planting projects in developing countries.
- Plugshare is a worldwide map of charging stations for electric vehicles, with both public and private stations listed. The app makes it easy to access that info on the go. (By the way, we’ve got one!)
- Mevo is the new kid on the block, making it easy for Wellingtonians to hire and pick up an electric car. The app allows you to book and find the car, and also unlock it.
- Chariot, another Wellington start-up, is an app which connects people willing to carpool. Members can list and request rides, and organise for passengers to chip in for petrol.
- Metlink, Wellington’s favourite public transport provider, has an app so you can plan routes and get real time information.
- Thanks to a successful crowdfunding campaign, ethical shopping guide Good on You is now available for New Zealand shoppers and let’s you check where the clothes you’re looking at were made, and how.
- Safe Shopper is an app which helps New Zealand shoppers pick products which have not been tested on animals. It classes products by Vegan, Some Vegan, NZ Made and Parent Company May Test.
- Wellington-based Conscious Consumers have made the Good Spend Counter, which does what it says – logs the transactions you make around the city according the sustainable credentials of the businesses. Conscious Consumers have been accrediting businesses in 19 different categories ranging from Vegan to Living Wage employers and are now encouraging people to spend where it matters.
- You’re not much good to the world unless you’re healthy! Foodswitch allows you to scan barcodes on food packaging and get info on the nutrition of the product and give it a traffic light health rating.
- Best Fish Guide is a New Zealand made, independent consumer guide to sustainably caught seafood. Forest & Bird’s app ranks the sustainability of seafood so you can make environmentally friendly choices when you’re at the supermarket or in a restaurant.
- Buying local and seasonal is a great way to reduce your impact, and Farmstand makes it easy to find local markets.
- Medium is a platform which allows you to publish writing on stuff that matters and have it shared with people that care. New Zealand’s Action Station has been making really good use of it if you want to see some examples.
- The EasyGiving app, launched by Christchurch-based tax refund company WooHoo, allows people to claim a 33 per cent rebate from the IRD for all donations over $5. It gives those wanting to give to charity a single app for all their donations, a record of their giving history and a quick way to claim tax credits without needing paper forms or receipts. WooHoo charges 5 per cent of every donation to cover costs and credit card companies will charge a further 2 per cent, leaving 93 per cent of each donation for charities.
Did you know? If your phone can’t manage all those apps and is on its last legs, you can hand it over to us for free and we’ll take care of it – our partners sort old mobile phones into those that can be reused, or that need to be stripped for parts to be recycled or disposed of responsibly. More details here.
If you’ve just shoved everything from the spare room into various closets so Aunty had somewhere to sleep, or just had an upgrade via Santa, you might be thinking about a declutter.
Here are our tips on what should go where so you’re giving your stuff another life and not sending it to landfill.
Curtains: We take them! If they are good quality, clean, mould-free curtains we can upcycle them for families in need. Drop them off to our EcoCentre at Forresters Lane (off Tory St), or at Eastern Suburbs or Porirua CABs. We also take tracks, but can’t take blinds. More details about Wellington Curtain Bank here.
e-Waste: Laptops, mobile phones, TVs… but also electric toothbrushes, toasters, vacuum cleaners, you’d be surprised what we take! And we also take batteries but advise the use of reusable batteries for all those new Christmas gadgets. Check here for a full list of items and prices. We get them to partners who dispose of them responsibly, recycling or re-purposing where possible.
Bikes: If your bikes are gathering dust and you think you’re unlikely to find the time to spruce them up, drop them to us and we’ll hand them over to ReBicycle, who refurbish them for low-income families. There’s also the Green Bike Trust in Porirua, Recycled Rides in Epuni, and in Upper Hutt the Rimutaka Prison Community Bike Recycling scheme.
Single-sided paper: If you’ve got non-confidential paper that’s still good for use on one side, you can drop it in our Misprint bin. They take it away and turn it into these good-looking notebooks for sale.
Baby car seats: For now, hold on to them. But early in 2017 we’ll be announcing a new partnership which will allow Wellington parents to drop their expired car seats to us so they can be disassembled and the parts recycled where possible. Watch this space.
Toiletries: If you’ve been taking all the mini shampoos and the mini soaps and the toothbrush kits from hotels and aeroplanes but they have been sitting in your bathroom cupboard for years, they might be better used by an organisation like Women’s Refuge, Evolve Youth Service or Wellington Homeless Women’s Trust. Be kind and buy some new sanitary items to donate too, they’re always appreciated.
Quality baby gear: If you’ve got quality toys, clothing, and baby essentials, Little Sprouts can use them to make packs for parents in need. Kiwi Community Assistance also have a focus on organisations which support families, so may also need gear for kids and babies. Check here for KCA’s full list.
If you’re really sure you can’t use it or fix it, then give it away:
In the last of our Christmas home tips, chief executive Phil Squire talks about how to give well over the holiday season.
Christmas is just round the corner.
The festival that commemorates the birth of Christ and occurs around summer solstice and is widely celebrated with northern hemisphere Yule-type symbols (such as pine trees and fake snow) is upon us.
For non-Christian, southern-hemisphere dwelling types, Christmas might seem a little confusing. But there is one common theme – it is the season in which we intently practice giving and receiving.
In this season, the question arises for me: ‘How do I give freely without expecting something in return? Or how do I receive freely without feeling indebted or embarrassed?’
I think these two seemingly opposing activities are at the heart of our dilemma as human beings and lead directly to our environmental and social challenges.
At ground zero, we tend to view ourselves as islands in the middle of turbulent ocean of change and uncertainty and hang on to what we’ve got out of fear of loss.
By giving away our accumulated love, energy, time and money we take the steps towards breaking down those distances and recognising our common humanity riding the community ferryboat.
So in that vein, and as champions of low-carbon, zero-waste, fun-on-a-low-budget festivities, we’ve compiled a plethora of ways that you can celebrate, give the gift of love, and leave the world a little better after the dust of eating, drinking, and revelry has subsided.
This season may we harness that natural rush of creativity and channel it into profound beneficence!
- Give charity on someone’s behalf, perfect for the last minute gifts, e.g. Oxfam Unwrapped
- Volunteer over the holiday season, e.g. Christmas lunches at City Missions, Women’s Refuge etc.
- Do a favour for a friend – e.g. look after their kids, helping them out in the garden, help them with painting stuff
- Take your spare backyard grown veggies to your neighbours (who needs that many passionfruit!?)
- Sign up with Wellington Timebank and stretch the giving all year
- Buy a stranger a coffee
- Give buskers/charity collectors more than you usually do
- Get involved in Bookcrossing
- Buy sanitary products or Snapper cards for homeless women or collect toiletries, old mobile phones for Evolve Youth Service
- Give at least three (genuine) compliments a day
- If you’re a baker, sign up for Good Bitches Baking
- If you’re a crafter, sign up to help Little Sprouts
- If you’re a great cook, sign up for Meals for Mum or Bellyful
- Be nice to nature, organise your family to do a beach clean up, or if you’re thinking bigger, tips from Sustainable Coastlines
- Start the New Year carbon neutral. You, your family, business, church group, etc. can make a big difference by buying and/or gifting enough carbon credits from Ekos to neutralise your emissions over the past and coming year.
- If you buy gifts, think about quality, long-lasting, people-powered alternatives that won’t end up in the rubbish after a week’s use. Rena had a few tips on that…
- Or give something that will actually reduce use of our limited resources like LED lights, push lawnmowers, worm farms, insulation or a bicycle.
Have a great Christmas and New Year, and we hope to see you all again in January.