Simple ways to save the planet

Last updated 12:26 17/01/2012

Here's a beautiful video video a Facebook friend shared about our home and how we live.

We live in one of the world's best playgrounds, and it's never more obvious than in summer when we're out catching fish, enjoying the rivers and exploring the wilderness.

What puts it at risk are really big trends: climate change, loss of habitat, the spread of invasive species, pressure on endangered species, the poison we pump into the air and leave in the ground and the relentless depletion of finite resources.

Last year in our house we set the goal of cutting our power bills by a third. The year before we cut our water use by a third. This year I want to cut our rubbish disposal by a third.

In each case the changes turned out to be mostly easy (except I took the power saving light bulbs out. Worst invention ever.) The point is, I didn't have to become a hippy. Once the changes are made we don't notice them - or else they don't last.

For example, cutting the amount of rubbish we throw out was as simple as adding all our household paper and cardboard to the garden compost, recycling diligently, but also making much tougher choices when we buy things. I try to avoid packaging, especially polystyrene and that horrible tough display plastic that toys often seem to be cased in. I choose paper or recycled plastic if I have to have something. We'll see how it goes.

Our local council has an energy consultant who comes around for free and gives advice room by room about how to cut power and water use. He talked me out of putting in recessed ceiling lights. They're an ecological disaster - like having mini chimneys all over the place. He also talked me out of some pricey plans to install a heat pump, and came up with far cheaper and more effective ways to warm the house.

Anyway, if you can get an energy consultant, I strongly recommend it.

I was going to write about the law changes our natural environment needs, but if everyone cut our power, water, rubbish and transport by a third, we wouldn't need to regulate much, would we? 

Conservative politicians seem to think being conservative means helping yourself to as much as you can get, when you would think it meant being a conservationist. The point is, if you believe in personal responsibility and you're generally opposed to waste and government regulation, then you really ought to be taking all the conservationist steps that you can.

John Pagani is a former senior adviser to Labour leader Phil Goff and before that was a key player in Jim Anderton's Alliance team.

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29 comments
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Alan Wilkinson   #1   01:04 pm Jan 17 2012

"The point is, if you believe in personal responsibility and you're generally opposed to waste and government regulation, then you really ought to be taking all the conservationist steps that you can."

No, you should be taking all the conservationist steps that make sense. There is a very big difference.

Likewise: "if everyone cut our power, water, rubbish and transport by a third". "Everyone" does not have the same usage, waste and need profile. Blanket generalisations make no sense.

Field Marshall   #2   01:51 pm Jan 17 2012

"...Anyway, if you can get an energy consultant, I strongly recommend it..."

Why ?

"We've got to pause and ask ourselves: How much clean air do we need ?" - Lee Iacocca, CEO Chrysler Corporation '79-'92

Well it's true - the Green's will only be happy when we are ALL living like cavemen.

So to what standard should we all be ALLOWED to live?

Hydro and nuclear generated power do not damage the enviroment - and it's cheap!

We do not need the Greens and consultants from BIG CAPITALIST power companies telling us how to live on a daily basis!

The Greens are stupid - and so are those who listen to them!

Field Marshall   #3   02:12 pm Jan 17 2012

Get used to it - NZ is not 100% pure - it NEVER EVER will be !

Hydro a nuclear power generation have NEGLIGBLE impact on the enviroment !

But if you don't build these generators because of the Greens current policies of NEGETIVE power generation - then that will have a MASSIVE impact on YOUR lifestyles!

Mothers living in the suburbs should not have to worry about absurd nonsense while they are bathing, cooking & washing clothes for their children.

And the old aged should not have to worry about heating and air conditioning.

Why would NZ want to impose the Greens policy of non-compassion on NZ's citizens?

Ignore the Greens and build them!

The NZ Greens I believe - are mad !

JessL   #4   02:16 pm Jan 17 2012

Totally agree with your post! We should all look at our power/water usage and how much rubbish we generate! I live in Dunedin and my flattie and I aim to only throw out one black bag a fortnight. We did the same thing, aiming to buy products with the least amount of packing. Works really well and saves us money on the black bags!

Something else we could all look at - Water heaters/ Hot water cylenders. When we go on holiday, or away for the weekend, we should turn these off! If there is no one in the house, why pay to heat water ???

Futher ideas - Turn your screen/computer off when you leave work, turn appliances off at the wall (reduces fire hazard anyway), use a washing line over the drier!

If we all take some personal responsibility around these issues we can make this a better place to live!

Marjorie Dawe   #5   02:29 pm Jan 17 2012

Its not only about conserving our planet by individually reducing our carbon footprint although this will help. There is a wider picture as well. By increasing mining and allowing deep sea drilling for oil we are putting massive amounts of potentially harmful chemicals into our environment. We have had trouble containing even the relatively small amount of oil from the Rena so how are we ever to ensure that our beaches and playgrounds are not permanently ruined by an environmental disaster. Nobody sets out to create such havoc such as the Rena or Pike River and most have good intentions but; the increasing number of disasters seem to indicate that shortcuts and risks are being taken. This could result in long term disastrous outcomes. I would rather we just not go there especially for the pittance we will receive from such ventures.

JessL   #6   03:13 pm Jan 17 2012

@ Field Marshall #3 - Ah negligable impacts from Nuclear... What about the TONNES of toxic waste produced which we are unable to deal with, our solution is to bury the waste and hope it deactiviates.. What an awesome solution!

Alan Wilkinson   #7   03:26 pm Jan 17 2012

Marjorie: "We have had trouble containing even the relatively small amount of oil from the Rena so how are we ever to ensure that our beaches and playgrounds are not permanently ruined by an environmental disaster."

When the Rena happened we had all sorts of clowns carrying on as though it was the end of the world. It wasn't. It was regrettable, somewhat costly and troublesome but very, very far from disastrous.

In comparison the Christchurch earthquakes were disastrous but had nothing to do with pollution or lack of conservation. They were simply the result of an unforeseeable event colliding with unpreparedness for it. As a consequence we will better understand and manage that risk in the future. Exactly the same applies to deep sea drilling and everything else we do.

Avoiding risk is not an option. Our whole existence and everything we do and depend on involves risks. We cannot avoid them. We must simply manage them as best we can.

Brett   #8   03:27 pm Jan 17 2012

Frau Clark would be most disappointed you are not using her eco light bulbs and governing your shower to 40 deg John. Heat pumps are very efficient and reduced our energy costs significantly. Our council has a comprehensive recycling program, our wheely bin which goes to landfill generally goes out with only lawn clippings in it and food scraps go down the garbage gobbler to be composted at the waste treatment plant. Even my V8 Holden and Harley Davidson run on recycled dinosaurs, no biofuels at the cost of rainforests for me! I agree with you on recessed lights, worst invention ever - very poor lighting and blown bulbs every week.

Realist   #9   03:41 pm Jan 17 2012

Blah blah bah is all hear. The world has ages like the stone age, ice age etc. We are going into the dry & hot age where all plants will burn off have, water evapourating and life will not survive. It is a natural occurence especially as the sun is getting bigger and closer to earth so its only time......so treat life like you have uncurable cancer and live life to the fullest. Save all the power, water, rubbish you want it isnt going t stop the inivetable. But what ever each to there own i guess.....I still recycle, have a garden and only have an $80 power bill a month for our household, but i hate people telling me i should do this otherwise the world will hate you.

millymolly the original   #10   04:08 pm Jan 17 2012

Execellent column John I am really trying in my tiny flat to conserve energym and water and I am becoming much more diligent about recycling.

I have found my power saving bulbs ok just have to wait for themn to warm up before they give adequate light .


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