Sustainable Living While The Fires Rage

Right now, Sydney and much of NSW is shrouded in heavy bushfire smoke.

As our eyes sting and the streets look like a Halloween movie, it reminds us how important sustainable living is for the planet and our own health.

Throughout December,  Sydney has consistently ranked in the categories ‘Unhealthy’ and ‘Hazardous’ under the PM2.5 measure of air pollution. You can look at the real-time world pollution map to see what the air is like right now.

So, what can we do?

When it comes to building, renovating — or just making small choices for more sustainable living at home — we can do a lot!

Green Building Council Star Rating

According to the Green Building Council (GBC) website, the built environment is the world’s largest contributor to greenhouse gas emissions.

Its mandate is to transform how buildings are designed, constructed and operated.

Green Building Council has a green star rating for buildings including apartments, homes, retail outlets, and workplaces. It is a national and voluntary rating system in Australia.

As building designers, we at Design Plus Drafting understand that sustainably is by far and away the best way to build. Sustainable builds are better for the residents, the planet, and they can be much less expensive to run.

We can design buildings so that they enjoy solar passive qualities that will require less heating in winter and less cooling in summer. The placement of windows and doors and the adequate sealing of these will do a lot toward sustainable living by maintaining comfort and efficiency.

Building materials also impact sustainable living. This is an area with great innovation and much change. And it is not necessarily expensive to build or renovate for sustainable living.

Of course, there are recycled materials and reclaimed wood, but there are also other super-efficient materials. Here are a few sustainable building and insulating materials to have a think about.

Sustainable Living At Home

If you’ve already built or renovated, there are three little big things we can do to reduce cost and live more sustainability.

arm holding white string bag

Say Bye Bye Plastic for More Sustainable Packaging

Yes, we all know this can be easier said than done. Especially at supermarkets that vacuum seal everything in great spools of the stuff. But it can be done.

This awesome little web page has tips and tricks from luxury shampoos in cardboard to beeswax wraps for food. (Ask any preschooler parent how handy beeswax wraps are!)

Go Solar for Sustainable Power

If you own your own free-standing house, solar panels are a great investment. They are heavily subsidised so you don’t pay the full cost, and they start saving you money immediately.

A small 3kW system after the subsidy (which is often organised by the solar installation company), could be as little as $3,000. (But don’t take my word for it, get some independent advice like CHOICE.)

Solar panels take only a few hours to install and you can feel proud for a looong time to come.

If you are renting or in an apartment, a balcony garden can help reduce the heat coming in and clean your breathing air. It will also reduce your costs for small but expensive culinary items like dill, basil, parsley, thyme and sage. And cherry tomatoes.

Do You Compost? Sustainable Gardening and Growing

only great conversation starters, composting tips build community and, you guessed it, sustainable living.

Food scraps are full of nitrogen, potassium, and phosphorous. Would you believe it, these are the main ingredients of chemical fertilisers!

Let’s complete the cycle! Put uncooked food scraps to great use by popping them in a kitchen compost bin where they can decompose. Then these trace nutrients can go back into our soil to grow more food!

Oh, pooh! Isn’t it going to stink? I have one word for you: Bokashi.

There are even council subsidies available if you want to start composting. There are also many other great compost solutions that are by no means malodorous.

If Christmas is a festival of planet trashing, make it greener this year with brown paper wrapping paper, which can be put in the compost bin. It’s more stylish, too.

As this horror bushfire season gets started, this new normal, let’s not stay behind the smokescreen. It’s up to us to make a collective push to healthier, more sustainable living. That, of course, means sustainable building, renovating, and design. The rewards are there waiting.