Check out these DIY tips to make your water and energy use more sustainable (and cheaper!) at home and at work.

Understanding your energy at home. 

One of the first and most important steps in reducing your energy use, or improving energy efficiency in your home is understanding how you use energy.

A good way to start this is by doing an 'energy audit'. Whether you rent or own your home, you can benefit your wallet, and the planet by asking yourself these questions:

  1. When heating and cooling your house, do you check the temperature?
    The best temperature range for heating in winter is 18°C-20°C, and cooling in summer is 25°C-27°C. For every degree of heating above, or cooling below these ranges, you will increase energy usage between 5%-10%!
  2. Do you hang your clothes out to dry? 
    It might be the convention here in Queensland, because of warm weather we have nearly year round, but did you know that swapping out your dryer in place of the sun only once a week will save you $40-$80 a year?
  3. Do you turn off your appliances at the switch? 
    The standby power used by one appliance or charger plugged in at the wall might be negligible, but when multiplied out by the number of things you have plugged in, this energy use adds up. The average standby power use is 81.8 watts per hour, which could add up to $250 per year. 
  4. Do you shower for less than 4 minutes?
    A long hot shower on a cold morning can sometimes feel irresistible, however, because heating water makes up around 23% of a household energy use, you could save between $60 and $650 a year if you cut your hot showers short!
Where does your energy come from? 

According to the Department of Industry, Science, Energy and Resources, most of Australia's energy relies on fossil fuels: 

  • 79% of our electricity comes from coal and gas. 
  • 21% of our electricity comes from renewable sources like wind, solar and hydro power. 

Given this current context, where the industry is dominated by fossil fuels, it might feel like you're fighting an uphill battle if you want to reduce your environmental impact. However, there are some things you can consider. 

Choosing your energy provider

There are many factors which might make certain energy providers more 'green' than others, such as: 

  • GreenPower: a voluntary government-accredited program that allows consumers to make a financial contribution towards Australia’s renewable energy industry by instructing your electricity retailer to purchase green energy on your behalf, at your expense. 
  • Carbon neutral initiatives: if the provider chooses to support renewable energy development and reducing carbon emissions. 

Follow this link for more information, and to compare energy providers! 

Energy Efficient Appliances  

Appliance can account for 30% of total household energy use, and so the choices we make when choosing appliance has the power to make a big difference. 

When choosing an appliance, the Department of Industry, Science, Energy and Resources suggests considering: 

  • The best size and power for your needs 
  • The cost of running the appliance compared to other models
  • The most water and energy efficient models

Why care about water? 

According to the Australian Government, although Australia is the direst populated continent in the world, Australians are the greatest per capita consumers of water in the world! 

Conserving water will become even more important in the coming years, due to the impacts of climate change on the frequency and distribution of rainfall across the country. There are two main ways to address water conservation, and that's through habits, and changes around your house. 

Water saving habits

There are a number of habit changes that can be made to reduce our water usage, such as:

  1. Time your showers
    If you were in Queensland during the height of the Millennium Drought, you might recall 'egg timer showers' - that is the initiative to get Queenslanders to take shorter shows by using an hourglass timer. The campaign considered a huge success, and helped bring down the average shower time from 7 minutes to just 4 minutes. The average shower head disperses 9.5L of water per minute, meaning that simple change saved 28.5L of water per person, per shower!
  2. Run appliances on full load
    Running appliances when their full means that you're using less water per item being washed, which just makes sense. However, if you have a dishwasher, did you know that running it even when it isn't full is likely to use less water than a sink full of dishes, especially if it's a newer model. 
  3. Collect incidental water
    If there's room for a bucket, or any container in your shower with you, put it in there while you shower to collect water. You'll be surprised how much water you capture, and you'll be able to give that water a second chance (your house plants will love it!)
Home Changes

In addition to these habit changes, there are a number of things around the house to check

  1. Minimal flow that is needed for sinks and taps
    Attachments such as aerators, which can just screw onto the end of the tap, give the feeling of a high water flow, while halving the water you use. 
  2. Investing in water-saving shower heads, taps, toilets etc.
    Understanding measures such as water rating labels will help you compare different options, and make the best choice for you. 
  3. Fixing leaking taps and showerheads.
    Dripping taps are not only annoying, but can lead to 2000L of water wasted a month. Turn taps off tightly, and if they're still leaking, you may need to replace the washers, which should be done every 1-2 years.

Image by sharon-pittaway from Unsplash


About UQ Sustainability Week 2021

Sustainability Week is an opportunity for the UQ community to celebrate and promote sustainability across UQ's campuses and sites. From August 16-20, a range of activities and events are hosted across all areas of the University, including markets, workshops, crafts and DIY, film screenings, specialist presentations, tree plantings, bird watching and garden tours, solar tours, forums and panel discussions, competitions and challenges to inspire sustainable behaviours.

Join us for the fun, check out the full program! Stay up to date by liking UQ Sustainability on Facebook or following us on Instagram

Important update: Based on the recent Covid restrictions, this year's Sustainability Week will be entirely online. Those events that cannot be transitioned to an online format will be postponed. Keep an eye on our social media channels, and our website for updates! (last updated Wednesday 25 August).