It’s easy to look at the daily news reporting on climate crisis after climate crisis and despair. Is it too late? (Not yet!) What can one person do?
My house was built 50 years ago — two stories, brick and glass. It was cheap at the time, in the outer suburbs of Brisbane, the sub-tropical capital of Queensland, Australia. In the ’70s, Brisbane weather was mild, and although the humidity has always been a problem for me, I don’t remember too many summer days over 30 degrees Celsius (the forecast is 35° today — at the beginning of summer).
Being on top of a ridge, the builders placed the house on the block to maximize the views. To the east, we can almost see the ocean (we are 4 km from the sea), and to the west, the mountains of the Daguilar Range. Floor-to-ceiling glass doors make the view easily accessible. Add to that a cathedral ceiling and the sense of space is magnificent.
Over the years, summers are getting hotter and the house less and less comfortable. I love the view, but the heat coming in during the afternoon is unbearable. So what do I do?
We have planted trees across the front of the house, sacrificing my prized rose garden for fast growing lilly pillies. I cut them down in winter when we need the sun and let them grow in summer for the shade. The trees are watered by greywater from our shower and the washing machine. We have tinted all the windows and installed security screens. The security screens mean we can leave the doors open at night when the weather cools down and wake up to a cool house.
The main living area is also cooled by two 7 kW air conditioners (heat pumps in winter). Ducted air conditioning was just too expensive, so we have smaller air conditioners in the bedrooms, the home theatre room, and the office. We have disconnected our gas heater.
All of this is powered by solar panels on the roof, which also charge our electric car. These improvements have been made gradually over the past 10 years to make the house we live in more comfortable.
What can you do? You can at least plant a tree, or encourage your local council to plant trees. Vote for politicians who will bring in climate-saving policies. As your finances permit, put solar on the roof; as appliances wear out, replace gas with electric. Be food aware – only buy what you need, compost where you can. Be mindful of your impact on the planet.
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