1. The challenge to make our house carbon neutral

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What I am doing and why

I want to find out out how easy it is to make our house carbon neutral – or as close to it as I can, because I feel the imperative to do my bit to reduce carbon emissions and fossil fuel use. In south eastern Australia, water is also a big issue. So this is an experiment – partly practical, partly philosophical. If I truly believe that we need to collectively and drastically reduce our carbon emissions as soon as possible to help preserve human life on earth, then I need to change the way I live – right now. However like many middle-class Australians, I like my relatively comfortable lifestyle. Most people I know recycle the easy-to-recycle parts of their rubbish, and some have solar panels or rain tanks for their gardens. But that’s about as far as most of us like to go. Anything else is a bit too much hassle or expense. So I’ve decided to be a guinea pig and see how easy it is and to document my progress.

Both my partner and I work professionally, he as a university academic and I as a teacher, and we have three adult children, the younger two at university and still living at home. We have a fairly average Australian family income with a mortgage that soaks up a lot of it, and like most working families we don’t have hours of time to do things ourselves. So I am hoping to find ways of doing this that are not too time-consuming, difficult or expensive and hopefully encourage other people to do it too. Because if we can’t do it, who is going to? As far as possible, I will document suppliers and costs along the way.

One of the first steps for me has been convincing my partner to do this. While I am firmly convinced that we need to act now and radically to save humanity from the worst effects of global warming, he is a scientist and wants “evidence” for everything. While he doesn’t not believe in climate change, he’s also not totally convinced by all the arguments. But he agrees with the argument of “what have we got to lose?” by conserving resources, having cleaner air and water, more liveable cities, preserving wilderness, being healthier, etc etc. So he’s humouring me and going along with it. My children are supportive, though I suspect they think I’m a little weird, but it’s opened up conversations around climate change and sustainability of the planet. Their thinking is being challenged and that’s a good thing.


Beyond Zero Emissions, http://bze.org.au/about an organisation dedicated to encouraging changes in Australia’s climate change policy and  a zero emissions economy for Australia, has issued a nine-step plan to Energy Freedom http://energyfreedom.com.au/ so I’m going to use that as a guide for reducing emissions around the house. I’ll document other resources as I find and use them.  Here we go…! The first few posts will describe what we’ve done so far before really embracing the challenge. Then it’s on for real. Your suggestions and comments are welcome, I could use some help.


3 thoughts on “1. The challenge to make our house carbon neutral”

  1. Hi Sue, my name is Brett Hedger and I was pointed in the direction of your blog by Sally R who suggested it might be worth a look – my profession is giving advice to people doing exactly what you describe above – so feel free to contact me and I’d be happy to visit for a chat if you live somewhere near me in SE Melbourne (at no cost). I also find it curious that your scientist partner needs more evidence about global warming & climate change – even a basic and cursory look at the existing evidence (all over the internet) will show the wealth of evidence that is easily available that is agreed to by 99.9% of scientists – and yes I agree, “what have you got to lose!” I’m currently running a 52 week sustainability challenge for a group of people, we are up to week49 and you may get some good ideas from here if you really want to go close to being carbon neutral. My challenge website is at http://www.lifeinharmony.com.au/mvs/52wc.html and I will leave my details in the fields below if you want to contact me – good on you and good luck.


  2. Hi Brett,

    This is Sue’s scientist partner – In my defence, my position/role has been somewhat dramatised 🙂

    I am not disputing the evidence of climate change (this is clearly evident even from my own personal experience) – I just get a little perturbed when I hear very precise predictions of the exact impact that specific amounts of carbon in the atmosphere will have – in truth, nobody knows for sure, the system is far too complex to make very precise predictions.

    The amount of carbon dioxide being pumped into the environment is obviously unprecedented in history and outrageously high – monitoring this and reducing it are clearly very important. I believe we should be doing as much as we can as soon as possible. I am just not prepared to swallow any dogma beyond this without evidence. I am also a bit nervous that there could be other environmental issues that we might miss if we focus all of our attention on carbon dioxide (it is clearly very important, but I entertain the possibility that there might be other emergent crises worth looking out for).

    Not too unreasonable I think!


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