Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Sustainability in Oz

Historic cottage with simple water capture system.

Online research over the last decade or so has consistently directed me to sites in Australia which seems to be at the forefront of sustainable cogniscence and technology - if nothing else, out of basic necessity. An enormous continent with diverse, but limited resources, Oz has what we would consider an underpopulated, but still rapidly growing culture to support.

Some of the simplest ideas are immediately experienced by the briefest of visitors. Many hotels here (and elsewhere in Europe btw) operate on a card key system that requires your room card to be inserted in a slot near the door in order to activate all electricity to the room. There is no standby current. When your card activates the electricity, you are welcome to do as you need, with the added bonus of a small exterior light indicating that the room is occupied. Upon leaving the room, you remove your card for re-entry, thereby instantly shutting off the current. No leaving the light on, no wondering about that pesky iron....
We’ve seen the same electricity limit principle used residentially here and in South Africa (which has similar power & water challenges). With each outlet, there is an on/off switch to activate power. There is, of course, more room for error here, as you don’t necessarily remember to switch off the outlet energy when you’re done with an appliance - but it’s just a matter of habit. And a handy safety measure as well, I’m sure.

Grey water capture & useage is also very big here (and, again, in SA). Some houses have simple, comprehensive set-ups for rain collection with directed gutters and linked storage, others just use a simple gutter irrigation system. We have seen a total of zero sprinkler systems. The Parks Department in Sydney uses a small greywater tanker truck (the size of a mini-pickup) and a hose to make sure that only the plants that need watering are watered only when needed. Dish & laundry soaps are certified graywater friendly, as I’m sure many people have in-home graywater processing systems.

Other watersmart measures include installing a rooftop hot water tank & solar panel - relatively common. There is a small panel near our shower that, presumably, monitors the rooftop tank with a digital thermometer & power switch. (We’ve not been coached on useage.) And, also in the bath, even the most antique of toilets are equipped with a half-flush option.

Solar panels have government support & sponsorship, and we’ve seen ads for complete residential solar systems installed, beginning at Australian$1500, around $900 US.

And the entire country is very big on “Australian Made & Owned”. Going local and proud is a big deal when your nearest exporting neighbor is New Zealand.

No comments: