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- World Environment Day 2018: Beat Plastic Pollution
- At work—what can I do?
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- Energy-saving guide for Northern Australia
- Home-based businesses
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- Outdoor living
- Reduce your energy bills
- Seniors' guide to energy saving
- Sustainable House Day
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Buy energy-efficient outdoor equipment
Choosing energy-efficient equipment saves you money by using less energy, and reduces pollution—at peak times (for example, summer weekends) it’s estimated that small petrol engines contribute up to 10% of overall air pollutants in our urban environments.
Maintaining your garden and outdoor may require additional tools and equipment so using outdoor appliances efficiently is also important.
- Get the right outdoor equipment for your needs and preferences
- Save money and reduce your environmental impact
- Reduce overall costs by choosing manual and multipurpose tools, sharing and swapping
At a glance
- Savings 2
- Ease 3
- Impact 2
Before buying any equipment and tools, think about:
- Whether you really need it or if there are other, less costly, ways to do the same thing
- Hiring or borrowing equipment and tools you don't use often—this can help save you money, resources and space.
- What it will cost to run the equipment.
- How you will dispose of the equipment at the end of its life.
When you buy, remember to:
- Buy the right size so you don't end up paying for energy or functionality that you don't need.
- Think about long-term needs and whether there is a multi-purpose tool that can do a number of the jobs you require, rather than purchasing a different tool for each task.
- Consider electric over petrol-powered tools where possible as they produce far less pollution. Solar powered options, where these are available, have even less impact.
- Consider manual tools where appropriate, for example smaller jobs or those you do less often.
- Consider the water efficiency of products or features as well as any waste products from maintaining your equipment such as used motor oil.
If you’re in the market for new garden and lawn tools, you can reduce your energy use and environmental impact by doing some pre-purchase research. For example, a two-stroke leaf blower used for 1 hour can emit the same level of emissions of oxides of nitrogen as a car, and as much hydrocarbons as 150 cars used for an hour.
If you're planning on planting a new lawn, talking to an expert about the best species of grass for your climate and circumstances may be helpful. By choosing a suitable variety you'll minimise water usage and reduce lawn maintenance.
Choosing a mower
General things to consider when purchasing a lawn mower include the size of your lawn, initial purchase price, running costs, how regularly you intend to cut your grass and how much storage space you have. For example if you have a small lawn area, you may not need the largest or most powerful model.
The 3 main types of mowers to choose from are push, electric and petrol mowers:
- Push mowers are the lowest impact option as they are pollution-free, quiet, small, and easy to store. Cheap to buy and simple to operate, what push mowers save in power you expend in energy, so a great way to stay fit but they may not suit everyone. Using a push mower will take longer than mechanical models, so they're not really recommended for large areas or long, tough grass. If you do opt for a push mower, remember to purchase one with a grass catcher if you want to save yourself lots of raking.
- Electric mowers are a sound alternative, and even more so if your household uses GreenPower to power the mower. Fume-free and quiet, electric mowers are light, easy to use and easy to store and start. Corded or battery-powered, electric mowers don't tend to be as powerful as petrol models so are generally better suited for smaller lawn areas. Improvements mean newer electric models are closer to petrol versions in performance.
- Petrol mowers are the highest impact option, producing more pollution, noise and vibration than electric or push mowers. Although bigger and heavier, petrol mowers are easy to push and are generally faster than the other options, making them well suited to large lawn areas. If you decide that a petrol mower is for you, opt for a four-stroke over a two-stroke engine as two-stroke motors burn a mixture of petrol and oil and emit much more pollution.
Choosing a leaf blower
Leaf blowers can make it easier to remove leaves, grass clippings, debris and even light snow from around the garden. There are about as many types of leaf blowers as there are uses for them.
- Consider your needs. The type of leaf blower you buy will be determined by the size of your yard, the amount of work you have to do and how regularly you intend to use it.
- Electric hand-held models are generally lighter, quieter and lower impact option. The standard choice for suburban gardeners, these smaller handheld models either come with a cord—or as a cordless model with a rechargeable battery. Both are great for smaller areas.
- Powerful petrol-powered leaf blowers come in three styles: handheld, backpack and walk behind machines. Designed for bigger spaces or more regular use they have either a four-stroke or two- stroke engines—of which the two-stroke is noisier and much more polluting. Petrol blowers are suitable for professionals and those with large areas to manage.
- Consider alternatives. If you're willing to put in the elbow grease, the classic rake and broom are still the lowest cost and impact way to collect leaves and garden debris. Tried and true gardening techniques, these work well for small areas and can be a great way to stay fit at the same time.
Choosing a trimmer
Trimmers, whipper-snippers or brush cutters can whip your garden edges, pathways and hedges into shape and come in petrol, electric or manual models.
- For small hedges, manual shears and loppers can make light work of your pruning and garden maintenance tasks and are cheap and easy to use.
- Consider a manual rotary lawn edger. Perfect for small areas, they produce no pollution and are lightweight. They require less strength to operate but can be more difficult to use than powered options.
- Electric trimmers are a lighter and quieter alternative to the petrol trimmer. Corded or battery-operated, they produce less pollution than petrol trimmers but aren't as effective for heavy duty work and require an extension cord or battery, so are best suited to small areas.
- Petrol trimmers are powerful and well suited to heavy work and larger gardens. Loud and heavy, they produce more pollution than electric options but aren't limited by or cord or battery life. Choose a four-stroke model over the more polluting two-stroke version.
Chainsaws, drills and sanders certainly make light work of DIY tasks and outdoor maintenance, however the power to run them adds to your energy costs and pollution. Household power tools can help you with drilling, cutting, shaping, sanding, grinding, polishing, painting and are either stationary (fixed to a bench or floor) or portable. They are generally powered by an electric motor, battery, petrol engine, although some tools are powered by an air compressor.
- Consider your needs. Rather than buying multiple tools for various jobs, minimise your spending and environmental impact by choosing a multi-purpose tool. Consider if a hand tool may also do the job.
- Where possible opt for electric over petrol power tools as they produce far less pollution. A number of garden tools such as chainsaws now come in electric or battery models. For other tools like drills, sanders and impact wrenches, electric is a more efficient option for household tasks than those powered by an air compressor.
- If using petrol-powered tools, follow good practice by avoiding spillage of petrol, not leaving the engine idling unnecessarily and refilling petrol in the cooler part of the day during summer to avoid evaporation.
- If considering an air compressor, for safety or weight reasons ensure you get the right-sized system to power your air tools efficiently and properly. You'll need to consider what tools you want to run and if you'll be running more than one tool at the same time. Make a list of your requirements and get advice from your local hardware store or specialist tool supplier.
- If you don't use power tools often, consider hiring or borrowing rather than purchasing.
The number of specialised tools available to help you with different tasks around the home means you could easily spend a lot on purchasing all the ones you may need. Given power tools and garden equipment can end up sitting around unused, it makes sense to consider which ones you really need to own—and which ones you can borrow, hire, or perhaps buy second-hand. This reduces the purchase cost and saves on storage space, running costs and maintenance.
- Check with neighbours and friends to see if they have what you need before buying. You could set up an arrangement where you swap tools and equipment.
- Check online for commercial operators who have items for rent. This can be good for larger and more specialised equipment that you might need for bigger projects or home renovations.
- See if there are organisations and co-op initiatives that share, swap and rent tools between private individuals online. You could also consider listing your own tools for others to borrow or hire.
- If buying second-hand, opt for the newest model you can afford and find out if it has been well maintained, you can also have it checked by a qualified repairer. Compare the energy use of older power tools and equipment with a new model as they may be less energy efficient.
Whether for entertaining or everyday eating, outdoor cooking options range from the hotplate to gas or wood-fired BBQs complete with accessories including range hoods, rotisseries and wok burners. Beyond the BBQ there are pizza ovens, braziers and fire pits.
By thinking about your needs and doing some research, you can find something that suits your needs and budget, improve your outdoor dining experience and reduce the environmental impact of cooking activities.
- Make a list of your requirements and opt for the right size and type of BBQ for your needs. For example, how many people will you be cooking for, how much space do you have, will you need to store?
- Do your research. Specialised outdoor cooking options now include pizza ovens, fire pits and even solar ovens. Your choice will vary depending on the food you want to cook, how many people you will be cooking for and whether it's for everyday eating—firing up a pizza oven every day may not be practical.
- Look for durable options that will meet your cooking performance needs and stand the test of time. Solid construction, rust-resistant cooking surfaces that are easy to clean, ease of use and safety are important factors to consider.
- Choose gas over charcoal. A charcoal grill produces nearly 3 times the carbon footprint of a natural gas grill. As well as involving less energy to produce and use, gas also burns cleaner creating less air pollution.
- If you want the taste that comes from cooking over charcoal, consider natural options including lump charcoal preferably from Australian sustainably-managed forests over other products such as briquettes. Briquettes are usually made of sawdust which comes from scrap wood but can contain harmful chemicals that release carbon monoxide and other volatile organic compounds (VOCs) when burnt.
- If your home uses solar energy or you have GreenPower, consider buying an electric grill. Look for the most efficient models that will use the lowest number of kilowatts of energy.
- Outdoor ovens are most commonly fuelled by wood—although some gas versions are available. When fuelled with sustainably sourced and harvested wood from properly managed forests and burnt efficiently, the environmental impact from emissions is greatly reduced.
- If choosing a wood-fired oven you can reduce your impact by selecting one that is the right size for your needs. The larger the oven, the longer it will take to heat up and the more fuel it will use. If building the oven yourself try to source recycled bricks and materials.
Pond pumps run continuously to filter the water and maintain a healthy pond environment, so it makes sense to keep your energy costs down by buying the right pump for your needs.
- Before shopping, research your requirements. The size of your pond or fountain will determine how many litres per hour you'll need to pump. Consult a specialist or pump supplier for advice on the best type of pump for your circumstances.
- You can calculate the running cost of any pond pump by using the information on the pump label. You'll need to know the wattage of your pond pump and the amount you pay for electricity—you can find this on your bill or use 28.55 cents per kilowatt hour (kWh) as an average.
- Choose the smallest pump appropriate for your pond or fountain's water levels. This will prevent unnecessary splashing, keep your water clean, reduce over-pumping and maximise your energy use.
- Consider a solar-powered pump. Solar pumps can come in kits that include a solar panel, pump and cable, which are easy to install. Submersible and suitable for small water features, solar pumps don't require an outdoor electricity source and have zero operating costs.
If you elect to purchase an electric-powered pump, consider switching to time-of-use electricity pricing to minimise your running costs. Purchasing Green Power will help to reduce your environmental impact.
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