explainer

Exactly how much it would cost you as an individual to reverse climate change.

I don’t know about you, but in my universe I’ve noticed a shift.

Since the bushfires started in Australia this season – particularly the ones over the New Year which produced terrifying apocalyptic scenes – everyone I know is pushing that little bit harder to be more environmentally and carbon friendly.

Eating less meat, going without a coffee if they forget their keep cup, using their clothes dryer less.

Everyone is just a little bit more, aware.

There is of course a much bigger, scarier picture that needs changing – but it’s one only our government can help enforce with the right changes.

WATCH: David Attenborough’s warning on climate change. Post continues after video.

Video by BBC

Climate scientists say we have just over 10 years before we have missed the opportunity to put a stop to extremely serious and potentially catastrophic events.

If we don’t, disasters like the current scale of bushfires could become a permanent fixture in our future.

Climate deniers love to bring up money at this point because yes, it’s going to cost a bit of money to change for the better. But what about the cost if we don’t? If world temperatures rise to the predicted three degrees celsius, hundreds of millions it not billions will have to leave their current homes once they become inhospitable. It’ll be a refugee movement on a scale that’s never been seen on the planet before.

While our government drags its feet, let’s focus on us for now.

Here’s what you can do in your own home, to reverse your household’s effects on climate change.

Electricity.

Former Wilderness Society and Greenpeace campaigner turned solar energy advocate Reece Turner chatted to Mamamia’s news podcast The Quicky about what we can change (and how much it’ll cost).

Reece says you can start small – with things that cost nothing. For example, the number one electricity load on a house (typically) is air conditioning.

“The old adage of playing with your thermostat and putting it on 24 degrees instead of 22 degrees has an exponential impact,” he explained.

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Then there are things like closing doors and windows while the air conditioning is on, finding any gaps between the house and the outside and filling them.

That’s all free, and worthy.

To listen to Reece’s full chat, here’s The Quicky ep. Post continues after podcast.

Do you have insulation? That helps.

Home Advisor says for an average house, it costs about $1,400 – $2,300.

Then there’s things like design changes to your home – putting in solar, and getting off gas – which are of course pricier again.

As Reece explains however, “solar is cheaper than it has ever been. There are still rebates that exist for up to a third of the cost… and nowadays the average size of a system has risen from three kilowatts to seven kilowatts, which is about 25 panels.”

Reece estimates that’ll set you back about $8000 – $9000.

“Keep in mind, that system is going to pay for itself in around 3-5 years – so it’s a financially prudent decision, as well as being environmentally friendly, and it’s going to last a long time. Panels can also have up to 25 years warranty, and they’ll increase the value of your home,” he told The Quicky. 

Water.

Again, there are things that don’t cost anything at all.

For example, in Orange, NSW, right now they’re on Level 6 water restrictions where it’s mandatory to have buckets under your showers and under your sinks to use in the garden. It costs nothing for those of us on no water restrictions at all to do the same.

Shorter showers will help.

“You can do this with the simple device of a timer. It was used a lot 15-20 years ago, and it’s starting to make a comeback now. So making sure you keep the timer to three minutes, or less,” said Reece.

Going up to that next level, is turning to grey water.

As Reece explained, “At my home, rainwater goes into a tank and that’s used to flush all the toilets and used to run the washing machine”.

Something like this will cost between $3000 – $5000.

Waste Free.

Again, we’re looking at initial costs, that’ll pay themselves off over time.

We’ve divided this section into a few sub-sections to give you a few ideas.

Plastic:

As Erin Rhodes, author of the book Waste Not, told The Quicky, “I invested in some reusable containers. A lot of people think they might be the shiny stainless steel type and I have purchased some of those, but I also went to my op-shop and picked up some old-school Tupperware.”

If you do have to buy single use plastic from time to time, remember that places like Woolworths actually have a return bin for soft plastic items, which they recycle into items such as furniture.

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Menstruation:

We ladies can opt to go waste-free when we’re on our menstrual cycle.

Erin says her reusable cloth pads set her back $65 and her menstrual cup was about $30.

“But I haven’t had to purchase them ever again, so over the last seven years that’s saved me about $700,” she explained.

 

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Food:

Food waste is another thing we can change, for free.

“It makes up a bulk of our bin,” said Erin. “The bin you take out to the street, usually is made up of about 40 percent food waste.”

By writing a shopping list, sticking to it and meal planning ahead of time – we can make sure we’re only buying what we actually need.

To go one step further, you could start composting or get a worm farm. But if you don’t have room for either of those, go to sharewaste.com and they’ll let you know where in your neighbourhood you can drop your scraps.

“It could be a community farm, it could be a friend down the road with chickens,” explained Erin.

 

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Meet Naomi Lacey. ???? Naomi is the President of @austcommunitygardens , which helps connect community gardens and city farms across Australia. Naomi (on the right) has also been a #sharewastehost for over a year. She is an avid suburban permaculturist and a community gardener. She loves that her garden is a great source of tropical foods to cook with. “I have a bucket that hangs on my fence by my letterbox and people can either add to it or swap it out with an empty bucket to take home and fill again. This way I can save about 5 additional litres of organic waste, which my neighbours don’t have to throw into garbage.” ???????????? Do you compost? Would you like to produce more “black gold” to feed your garden and give somebody else the opportunity to recycle their kitchen scraps? Become a host on www.sharewaste.com. And if you’d like to connect with fellow community gardeners or learn more about growing food in urban areas, check out https://communitygarden.org.au/

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Clothes: 

Yes we all love a bargain, but we can be more mindful about our consumption of fast fashion.

Think second-hand, borrowing from friends, or borrowing online.

Erin’s advice is to take it slowly.

“Never compare yourself to someone else, everyone’s life is different. It’s not your fault that our life has become so packaged. Just do the best with what you’ve got,” she told The Quicky.

Offset your carbon.

Lastly, we can offset.

Once you’ve reduced some of your lifestyle choices, this is the next big step you can make to contribute to a project that’s actively reducing emissions.

As the UN’s Global Climate Action’s David Abbass told The Quicky, “The first step is to measure your emissions. How much are you contributing to the atmosphere?”

There’s a calculator here that’ll tell you that.

Then choose a project. David says it could be anything from a cookstove project in Africa to a hydro project in Peru – there are thousands to pick from.

It’ll cost you anywhere between $1.40 per tonne, to $33 per tonne, and David said it does truly make a difference.

Think of it like this: Offsetting is like crowdfunding for climate action, and it’s helping us as individuals do our bit to help climate change.

You can find out more about that here.

If you have more ideas we can consider in our own lives. Let us know in the comments below.

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