Showing posts with label sustainability. Show all posts
Showing posts with label sustainability. Show all posts

Tuesday, 16 December 2014

Living without the car addiction

I don't own a car, not having a licence it makes perfect sense. My partner has a car for work and he occasionally gives me a lift somewhere, but mostly I take the school bus or arrange a lift with friends. Over the years this has led to many comments;
"I thought you were an independent woman"
"But you don't have any freedom"
"How do you get anywhere, it must cost you a fortune"
"What will you do if something happens and you need a car?"

In answer to these comments I usually answer that I am independent and free as I go where I want or need to and don't require a car to do it. It costs me very little to take a bus and if I catch a lift I try to offer some fuel money (and a hearty thanks). I don't have the added cost of keeping another car for the odd times it might be handy, not that we could afford to have a second car anyway. If an emergency arises, I call someone for help, but if there were no other choice I would drive any nearby car to get help (don't drive doesn't mean can't drive).

My reasons for not driving are many, but the main one is that I am not a good driver, in fact I am a dangerous driver, In the past I have tried to learn to drive; my first experience involved a tractor, my father and an inconveniently placed building, after the convergence of these three things (and myself as driver) it was unilaterally agreed that I probably should stick to horse riding. As an adult I have driven into gate posts, scraped the side on trees and fallen over the edge of the road (which was a spectacular achievement as I was travelling at about 50 km per hour). I lack spatial awareness (dyspraxia); the sense of knowing where your body is and what it is doing at any given time. I don't have severe dyspraxia; just a mild case of clumsy, but this lack of awareness makes it hard for me to walk through doorways or beside people let alone drive a car. I am also easily distracted and likely to forget who is in charge of the car and become fascinated with things on the road side or the conversation going on in the car (although this does tend to cease as the car veers towards oncoming traffic). These things have led me to decide that the death toll on our local roads will be lower if I take the bus.

By not driving I am doing my part to reduce Australia's carbon footprint. In 2010 41.7 Mt of carbon were released in Australia due to road transport, mostly passenger cars; by not driving a car and minimising my travel I am helping to reduce the effects of climate change (in a very small way). It also frees up a lot of my 'brain space' for thinking about other things as I am not comparing my car to others, worrying about what that clunking noise is or searching for fuel money. I am happy to be car-less and fancy free. There will probably come a time when I need to have my own transport as the school bus doesn't run early enough for school teachers, when that time comes I will probably get a bike.

Monday, 13 October 2014

What we do to reduce our carbon footprint

We all want to reduce our carbon footprint...right?
Well when you live like we do here in our little humpy, the usual advice doesn't always apply.
There are thousands of 'Reduce your carbon footprint' sites on the internet, mostly giving the same advice. Have a look at just a few;
Australian Museum
Green Wiki

In general the advice seems to be;
Reuse and Recycle what you can (already doing that)
Eat less red meat (I think once a week qualifies as less)
Drink tap water rather than bottled water (check)
Buy less and buy to last (That's us all over)
Use less heating and cooling (no air conditioners here)
Use less electricity (ours is solar so it doesn't apply)
Wash in cold water (There's a hot water option?)
Don't fly as much (We can't reduce this; we don't fly)
Don't drive as much and use public transport (I don't drive and go everywhere on the school bus)
Shop locally, especially fresh foods (Yep)
Grow some vegetables at home (Yep)

What do we do to reduce our carbon footprint?

We use solar power only, no grid electricity. We do use a generator once a week though.

We collect all our own water via a roof and tank system, we use very little fuel to pump the water up to a header tank to supply the house via gravity feed.

We don't buy anything we don't need and all our groceries come from the local Co- Op.

We have a vegetable garden, which could be better but I'm working on it.

I don't drive, I go everywhere on the local school buses or car pool. My partner does have a car for work though.

We sort our rubbish carefully and reuse everything we can and recycle everything we can. Making eco bricks with soft drink bottles and plastic rubbish has been a big step forward in this area. So has our use of old tyres for construction materials.

Of this list there are one or two things we could do better;

My partner has a four wheel drive for work, it uses a LOT of fuel in the course of his working week; we do need to invest in a more fuel efficient vehicle so he can go about the countryside saving carbon (he installs solar electricity systems) AND producing less carbon. I wish there was a work horse type vehicle available in an electric option with a range greater than 200 km.

At the moment we use gas for refrigeration, I would like to change this to an electric fridge (and I dream of a freezer) but that will require double the solar panels we have now, a new set of batteries and maybe a new inverter (the thing that changes 12 Volt power to 240 Volt power).

We run our generator on petrol; it is used once a week for four hours to charge the batteries (just an extra boost) while I do the washing as the washing machine uses too much power to run on solar (although a bigger inverter would fix that problem). To get away from this fuel use we would need to either upgrade our inverter or build/buy a hand operated washing machine. I am swayed towards building a hand operated machine myself, but like all hand operated things it needs more time to do things that way. Maybe when I am finished studying....

What do you do to reduce your carbon footprint?
What else can we do to reduce ours? Ideas welcome.

Saturday, 12 October 2013

Eco bricks; Making use of rubbish

Lately I have been thinking about rubbish; specifically the plastic and foil bits that seem to be wrapped around everything these days. We have no rubbish pick up here. No magic bin that mysteriously empties itself if I leave it by the road on a Tuesday night. We take our rubbish to the dump in the trailer and pay for the privilege of leaving it there (we also pay $150 a year to maintain the local dump on our rates). So I have started to think about ways to reduce our rubbish production.

We buy in bulk where we can and I send refillable containers to the local co-operative to be filled up with washing powder and detergent. Glass, recyclable plastic containers, aluminium and tin cans are taken to a recycling centre periodically. Food scraps, paper and cardboard are used in the chook pen for composting. That only leaves that annoying plastic; plastic wrap, Styrofoam trays, chip packets, chocolate wrappers and plastic bags. We commonly fill about one grain bag (20 litre size)  per week of non-recyclable plastic.

 I think I have found a solution at last;

Eco bricks. They have been used to build schools and houses in third world countries for a few years now and provide a handy way of getting rid of rubbish that would otherwise go into landfill.

Basically they involve stuffing clean plastic rubbish really tightly into PET bottles until they are full and hard, then put the cap back on. I have been making them for about two months now and have managed to produce about two a week. I never thought I would be thankful for my partner's coca cola habit, but he manages to provide just enough bottles to keep up with the plastic we produce.

Step one; collect all the clean plastic rubbish you can (wash it if you have to)

Step two; using a stick or an old knitting needle, shove the plastic rubbish down into the bottle.

 Pack it down tight.

Keep filling until you can't jam any more in, then put the cap back on.

Stock pile them somewhere and use them to build.

Beautiful buildings like this.

Maybe I will collect enough to build the toilet out of them.......

Is this idea too crazy?? Can I get the local council to approve? What do you think?

Saturday, 7 September 2013

Short drop toilets

This may be a bit of a taboo subject in polite society...but it is a very important subject for those of us who choose to be responsible for as much of our own lives as possible; toilet designs.
Until recently I have been happy using a short-drop toilet design on our block; this consists of a vase shaped hole about 1.25 meters deep, 60 cm wide at the bottom and tapering to about 40 cm wide at the top. On top of this pit is placed a movable pedestal made from half a plastic live barrel with a toilet seat bolted on top. A tarp stretched over a poly pipe hoop frame completes the set up. We 'flush' by sprinkling a can of lime over the contents to lower the pH and make the contents more worm friendly and less fly friendly. This kind of toilet means that I have to dig a new hole every school holidays.

Lately I have been experimenting with adding compost worms to the mix. Once a new hole is dug and in use for a week or so, I tip in one container of compost worms from the worm farm at school. This makes the hole last roughly twice as long as previously; presently 20 weeks is the record. This means I have to dig less and can avoid the deconstructing and reconstructing of the toilet for a bit longer.

My new plan consists of digging a big enough pit to hold a year's worth of...well....contents, and adding worms to that. I am hoping this will allow enough time for the worms to reduce the contents to worm castings and baby worms, which will then burrow away to seek a new life in a far off place, thus keeping the pit level to an acceptable level permanently (or at least a very long time). Then I can build a more permanent and attractive structure over the top of the pit.

According to the World Health Organisation Pit Latrine Designs, when digging a pit toilet you should allow  0.06 m3 per person per year. In our house that equates to (0.06 x 4 = 0.24 m3) to allow for visitor usage as well. This isn't a huge hole really. I have calculated this to be about the size of a 240 liter fridge.

I am currently digging away at the pit for this toilet and will post more photos as I get to each stage. The ground is very hard at the moment due to the dry weather so going is slow. The next question will be "What do I build the toilet shed out of?"

Do you take responsibility for your own waste?
Would you like to?
Any ideas or comments welcome.