How to save water, energy and money
How to save water, energy and money
We’ve got all kinds of tips to make bringing up a baby cheaper and gentler on the planet. But remember, there’s no need to go from mere mortal to environmental saint in a single bound. Pick a couple of tips that suit you, see how you go with them, then take on a couple more. Then pat yourself on the back for a job well done.
IN THE LAUNDRY
You’re probably spending a lot more time in the laundry than you used to. Here are some tips:
- Washing in cold is just as hygienic Hot tap water isn’t hot enough to kill bacteria – only boiling the clothes will do that.
- Stain removal tips Some parents resort to washing in hot water due to the stubbornness of kiddy stains. Experienced parents say soaking clothes overnight in ordinary detergent, Sards or a similar soap and hanging them in the sun will get rid of most food stains. Of course prevention is better than cure, so using bibs and getting to stains quickly will also help.
- Wash with full loads Old inefficient washing machines can use 140 litres of water per load! Only run the washing machine with full loads. Remember, using the small load setting may use a bit less water, but it will still use the same amount of energy.
Clothes dryers chew through the energy and greenhouse gases. A couple of ideas to avoid using them too much during those long wet Victorian winters:
- String a clothes line out of the wet on the verandah, balcony or car port.
- Hang clothes inside on clothes horses in heated rooms. Racks on pulleys that can be winched up to the ceiling are also a good idea because they’re out of the way and make use of the hotter air up near the ceiling. Clothes will usually dry overnight inside.
- Try drying washing on racks and lines for the first bit and just finishing them off in the dryer.
- Reuse baby’s bath water Your baby’s bath water is great for keeping plants alive through water restrictions! It’s fine for the garden as long as there’s no poo in it. Just move where you put it around, to prevent build up of soaps and oils in the soil, and don’t put it on plants that are going to be eaten raw.
- Safety tips for grey water use Don’t keep grey water for more than 24 hours, or let the baby or pets play in it, or let it spill into your neighbour’s property or the street. For more information on grey water safety visit www.savewater.com.au.
MORE WATER SAVING IDEAS
- Catch water While you’re waiting for the hot water to come out of the tap, a lot of cold water usually runs down the drain. Have containers handy to save and use the cold water while you wait for the hot. If you don’t have a garden you can use this water to boil your bottles, fill the kettle, flush the toilet, etc., etc.
- You can also get a hot water recirculator that diverts that cold water back into your hot water system or your cold water pipes, allowing you to use that water within the home with minimum effort.
- Efficient dishwashers can use the same or a bit less water than washing by hand, although remember, handwashing saves energy. Scrape instead of rinsing your plates, use the economy setting where possible and only wash full loads to save even more water and energy.
- If you haven’t switched to a water saving showerhead, now’s the time to do it. You can exchange your showerhead for a water saving one for free through your water retailer (the company that sends you your water bill), and installing the new one is easy. A water saving showerhead could save you 40,000 litres of water a year and 700 kg of greenhouse gases, and will still feel like a satisfying shower. If you’re a renter, check out our information on green renting.
Standby energy: Did you know that a microwave on use more energy in a day by just being on than it does to heat up bottles and cook? That’s because it’s on standby all day, using energy by just being switched on even when it’s not doing anything useful. All appliances with standby (with clocks, remotes and lights that stay lit up) as well as adapters and most phone chargers still draw a bit of energy when they’re switched on – so get in the habit of switching them off at the power point when they’re not in use. You can get gadgets to make this easier, like power boards with individual switches so you can turn some things off and not others, and switches on extension cords for hard to reach power points.
Boiling water: If you don’t have a microwave, an electric jug uses less energy than boiling water on a stove top – so boil the jug first then add to the stove to sterilise your bottles. You’ll save energy by only heating as much water as you need, instead of filling the kettle every time. It’s quicker too, so you’ll also spend less time standing there waiting for the kettle to boil.
Insulate hot water pipes: The pipes that run from your hot water system outside your house lose heat as they go. You can buy foam ‘lagging’ cheaply from your hardware shop and tape it on with gaffa tape to keep the heat in and run your hot water system – one of the biggest users of energy in your home – more efficiently.
SAVE ON HEATING AND COOLING
There are a lot of things you can do to keep your house at a reasonable temperature year round, so you only have to turn the heater or air conditioner on when it’s really hot or really cold.
Install as much insulation as possible. This will make your house more comfortable, and can cut your heating and cooling bills by almost half.
Get thick, lined curtains, as lots of heat escapes through windows in winter and gets in through windows in summer.
Seal all your gaps. Most houses have enough gaps to equal an average size window being left open all the time, if you put them all together. You want to seal out all the draughts.
See our draught proof and insulate section for more information.
Once you’ve done all that there are also some simple tips and habits you can get into to help you stay warm or cool.
Keeping warm in winter
- If you can, make your base with your baby a smaller room, ideally north facing. That way you’ll get heat from the sun, and when you do need the heater, it will be easy to heat up.
- If your heating system will let you, only heat the rooms you’re using. Why pay to heat an empty bedroom when you’re spending your evening in the living room?
- Aim for a room temperature between 19° and 21°. This is a smart way of saving money and cutting down on ‘black balloons’ of carbon pollution. Every degree over 21° adds another 10 percent to your heating bill. With a jumper on this should be warm enough for most people, as long as you don’t have any draughts. Set the thermostat if your heater has one. Otherwise get yourself a thermometer to track the temperature. These are also handy for measuring the temperature of your baby’s bath.
Staying cool in summer
- If you can, spend more time in the south side of your home, away from the sun, and keep your baby’s clothes to a minimum. Instead of wasting money and energy cooling empty rooms, just cool the room you’re in and shut the doors to this room and seal the gaps so your nice cool air doesn’t leak out under the door.
- During the heat of the day shut your external doors, windows and curtains to keep the heat out. Then open up the whole house if it gets cool in the evening, to let the cool air in. Because the coolest changes come late at night, keep your doors and windows open. If you open windows and doors opposite each other you’ll get good cross ventilation.
- Putting your feet in cool water, a wet washer for your neck, a spray mist bottle of water for your face and arms and enjoying a home-made icy-pole will all help cool you down.
- When it gets hot, use a fan first to circulate the air. Then if it gets too hot for the fan, try the fan and the air conditioner together, to help move the air around the room. Fans are a good money saving tip as they cost just 1 cent per hour to run, while a portable evaporative cooler costs 5 cents, ducted evaporative cooling 12 cents, split system air conditioner 30 cents and ducted refrigerated air conditioning 90 cents. It’s worth remembering that while evaporative coolers don’t use as much energy as refrigerated air conditioning, they guzzle as much as 60 litres water an hour for ducted systems.
- When using air conditioning set the temperature to 26°. This should keep your home comfortable and save you money — setting your thermostat just 1° cooler can increase your cooling bill by 15 per cent. Getting your filters cleaned regularly is also a smart way of making sure your air conditioner runs efficiently.
- Grab a mosquito coil and head outside to have dinner and hang out in the cool night air.
The food we eat uses a lot of water and energy to grow or raise, package transport and refrigerate. You can reduce this by buying food in season and grown locally. It’s also likely to be fresher, which means more nutrients for you and your baby, and better flavour. Food is now so readily available that many of us don’t know what’s in season when. See our Guide to Seasonal Food for a handy season by season list.
It costs more, but if you can afford it organic food is a great option. You will be reducing the toxic load on you and your baby, and also at the farm, where the food is produced without chemicals that can get into the soils and water.
Of course the most local food is food you grow yourself in your own garden! If you’ve only got a balcony or window sill, you could still grow your own herbs and greens – delicious and cheaper than the supermarket. Kids learn heaps from gardening, and as they get older, helping you with gardening is something your child will love.
Babies generate lots of food scraps, so it’s a good time to set up a compost or worm farm – these will be fascinating to your baby as they get older! Composting cuts down your greenhouse emissions, halves the amount of waste you send to landfill, and turns your scraps into products that plants love. If you’re in a flat, a bokashi bin might be the way to go. See our composting fact sheet for more.
If you have a backyard, chooks are fantastic, kid-friendly pets as well as being efficient recyclers – turning your food waste into delicious eggs. You can even hire before you buy to see how you go. Type ‘chook hire’ and your location into Google (or your search engine of choice).