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Can individuals do anything to reduce national carbon emissions?

By Valerie Yule - posted Thursday, 14 January 2016

Reducing carbon emissions by reducing emissions from coal-fired power stations is hardly possible unless the citizens try to reduce their own energy use too. If the citizens use less power, then power companies need to provide less.

Households could easily reduce their power and water consumption by half or more by adopting measures like the following.

An example is a sustainable house of the 1960s of old-fashioned brick veneer, that does not need central heating or air-conditioning, because of its design with a passage for draughts to go through, and separated rooms that can each be closed off, and used according to the coolest or warmest. This means that one or two rooms at a time can be used at the temperatures needed to live in, between 15oC and 25oC.


A home can have solar panels, sky-lights and a water-tank. Double-glazing in some windows, summer awnings, venetian blinds, roof insulation and thick curtains - all keep the house temperature close to what is needed.

Physical energy is used for most housework. It not only saves electricity but there is no need to go to a gym.

When suitable, a carpet-sweeper is used rather than vacuuming.

Light laundry is hand-washed as easily as a rinse, and spun-dry in a twin-tub washing machine. Only occasional heavy laundry needs a modern power-hungry machine by most people. Laundry dries outside on an Australian Hills Hoist or inside on a clothes-horse. No electric clothes-dryer is necessary. Pillow-slips, shirts and handkerchiefs that have been drip-dried are folded and put away with no need for any ironing at all. That is a tremendous saving in electricity.

In the kitchen, to wash-up, two basins in two sinks cam be used. and a strong dish-rack of metal coated with plastic that takes all the dishes, pans, cups and cutlery without needing drying or putting away. No dishwasher. Use the saved water on the garden.

Clothes, rather than heaters, keep people warm. But there are two single-room heaters and two portable fans. In the bedrooms, a heater is used when dressing and four heated wheat-bags warm the bed. An electric lap-robe is used in the study when sitting at the computer or desk.


When visitors come, a heater warms or fan cools the sitting room as required. While other people throw out their furniture because the covers are split and cannot be mended, give sofas and chairs the versatile British removable and washable stretch seat-covers which last for ages. I cannot understand why there are no Australian stretch-covers like them. Furniture which is expensive and does not last is avoided this way – saving dollars and emissions.

In the kitchen, meals are planned to use just one appliance: microwave, small oven, large oven, frying pan. And in the bathroom, quick showers are the norm except for an occasional luxury long one, and hair is washed weekly, not daily.

Clean with laundry vinegar, soap and bicarbonate of soda – no commercial cleaners are needed except one for polishing wood and one to wipe tables.

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About the Author

Valerie Yule is a writer and researcher on imagination, literacy and social issues.

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