We moved house two weeks ago and I have been weighing up the eco pros and cons of it, not just in the physical move but in our overall sustainability of our new residence.
We were living in inner city Melbourne, in a 1970’s two bedroom, one living room, one bathroom, double brick apartment.
Now we are spoilt for space with three bedrooms, two living rooms and two bathrooms (eeeek that’s so much more cleaning to do!), in a big-ish, regional Victorian city (pop. 100,000).
So first there was the move, while hiring a 6 tonne truck carries it own impact (CO2) emissions, there were definitely ways for us to have as little impact as possible.
Calculating the CO2 was difficult because I didn’t know the end weight of the truck once it was loaded with all our stuff, but working off the average car emits 120g CO2/km, and weighs about 1.5 tonnes. We used a 6 tonne truck (+ our stuff), which I will say 1 tonne for argument’s sake so I think it would look something like this:
7 (T) / 1.5 (T) = 4.7 (T) or how many cars equal a truck
4.7 (T) x 120g = 564 or how many grams of CO2 per km
564g / km
We moved 120kms but we also have to account for the truck to head back to Melbourne so 2 x 120 = 240km
240km x 564g = 135, 360g
grams to kilograms = /1000 or 135, 360/1000
= 135 kg of CO2
This is a very crude calculation of the extra CO2 emitted from moving our furniture and stuff 120km. I didn’t take off the extra tonne of weight for the drive home as it was only a guess and I believe the truck had to travel further than 120km in total.
In relative terms, 135kg isn’t that much, when you consider the average Australian household produces 18 tonnes per year, 49kg per day, but it’s still extra greenhouse gases that we produced that we wouldn’t normally. All the little things “aren’t that much”, but when you add them all together they make a lot!
The best way to go green when moving is to reuse old boxes for packing. Admittedly we only did half and half. We purchased about 30 used boxes, which came with bubble wrap from Facebook Market place – thinking this would suffice – boy was I wrong! I had to head back to Bunnings on three separate occasions to get more boxes and tubs. It shocks me how much stuff we all accumulate, even after trying to become “minimalist” for the last 8 months. This all happened in the week before we moved, so with time constraints we were unable to scout around for more boxes. These boxes have already been passed onto a friend for their move so they are on their second and third life.
When I ran out of the pre-loved bubble wrap, I moved on to an old newspaper and tea towels to wrap our breakables. Towels are great because you need to bring them with you anyway and newspaper is readily available and free if you know someone who reads it or if you pop down to a local café – make sure you ask first!
Go green! I’ve been working on replacing all my store-bought cleaning products with homemade, simplified, non-toxic versions. If you want more info on this check out my Cleaning post.
I managed to de-clutter even more stuff, meaning our load was (slightly) lighter. Items still in good nick I took down to the op-shop (see post on Minimalism for more) and what was either broken, irreparable or waste, I took to the local transfer station to be recycled. This included:
- Broken light globes
- Dead batteries
- Old nail polish
- Irreparable electronics
- Scrap metal
Dropping off nail polish and electronics at the transfer station.
Eco Pros and Cons of Our New Residence
The sustainability of buying our new home definitely wasn’t the deciding factor but I did consider and weigh up what was going to be more eco-friendly and what wasn’t.
- We have ownership over the entire property – not just the rooms we live in, meaning we can retrofit the building with carbon offsetting measures such as solar panels and hot water temperature gauges. This was not easily achievable in an apartment block, dealing with body corporate and a committee who chose to use plastic salad bowls as light coverings as they were cheaper than actual light coverings (not that there is anything wrong with being thrifty, this is just to make my point about the resistance to spending money on the building that we faced).
- Solar heated hot water, although this is boosted by gas (gas isn’t the most ideal energy option, a post coming on this soon).
- We have a ginormous water tank – 22,500L to be exact. Water tanks help the environment because they mean less reliance on a city’s water reservoirs, which take up land and can be depleted during drought. They also help to maintain gardens – lush gardens means cooler homes, more biodiversity and a link to nature.
- Speaking of, being in a regional city, we are ultimately closer to nature. Even after a week we have been exposed to more wildlife (frogs, birds, kangaroos and even livestock) on or urban “bush walks”. Well it feels like the bush after a decade living in a concrete jungle. Surely there is a link between being closer to nature and the likelihood of being an environmental custodian? A quick Google search let me know there are many health benefits of living closer to nature – but let me know if you know any truth behind my assumptions!
- Quieter roads meaning more chance of cycling. I love cycling but I constantly lived in fear of being car-doored in Melbourne after a few near misses. Country roads are generally wider with a lot less traffic – meaning safer for me and child.
- Quieter roads also means less traffic jams, meaning less idling and stop starting, which use more fuel than necessary.
- A clothes line. It’s the simple things in life that get me excited. For years we have lived without an outside clothes line, drying our clothes on racks on balconies and in our living room, with a load taking up to 5 days. When we were in desperate need of something to dry we would pop down to the laundromat to dry it. Even in spring, a load of washing will dry in a day on our clothesline. The other bonus is sometimes clothes, particularly jeans get a bit wafty but not necessarily dirty so I would always wash them. Now I hang them out on the line for a good airing instead – the poor mans wash!
- Dog poop composter. This is on the to do list – build a dog poo composter so that we can minimise the amount of plastic bags we use.
- Adding an edible garden. This is also on the to do list! This will reduce food miles and plastic packaging. Since I have a brown thumb rather than a green one, I’d best start small with herbs, a product that is becoming evermore difficult to find plastic free.
- The living areas in the new house are north facing (versus south-facing in the old apartment), meaning we will be able to maximise the sun’s heat in winter and minimise it in summer with simple shading devices. In the apartment in Melbourne we received very little daylight and often found ourselves turning the lights on during the day too.
- Newer home (less than 10 years) so it won’t require renovations anytime soon (saving a lot of waste) and new products.
Clockwise from top: drying a king size sheet on the line (we used to hang these over doors to dry – it took DAYS), our 22,500L water tank and a snapshot of the nature around us – it doesn’t really tell the story as there is a lot of greenery around the city outskirts.
- Bigger house means more space to heat and cool – hopefully we can offset this a little by practicing energy saving behaviour and installing rooftop solar.
- Non-zoned central heating – when the heating is on we have to heat the whole house, not just the rooms we are using.
- Open plan living, which is a downfall for heating and cooling as we have to heat more area and we can’t close off as many doors doors.
- Bigger house also meant we bought more furniture to fill it, even though we managed to get most of it secondhand, it throws that minimalist and stuff theory out the window. The most impact came from buying a second TV and a new lawn mower.
- And it means we generally have more lights on, although we now have LED downlights, one of the most energy efficient types of lighting.
- We both now live further away from work, so we have to drive more kilometers and at faster speeds, using more fuel. I used to fill our car up every three – 4 weeks with petrol, now I’m filling it once or twice a week! I looked into public transport options, but at best it would take me just under 3 hours – and that’s if all my travel stars aligned and I miraculously managed to catch the bus and both trains on time. In comparison, driving takes me 75 minutes.
- In Melbourne we lived in a bubble, most amenities we needed (cafes, supermarkets, bulk food stores, green grocer, bakery, library etc.) were all in walking distance, now, although it only takes 15 minutes drive to get from one side of the city to the other, amenities are a 30 minute walk, which will require a bit more planning with a toddler in tow.
- Fewer options for public transport. In Melbourne we had bus, tram and train all within close walking distance – giving loads of options for travel. Here we only have one bus route, not only less options but less frequent too.
DH refurbishing some chairs we picked up from Vinnies for $5 each. We sanded them back and changed the fabric seats.
I’m sure more pros and cons will become apparent as time goes on and we settle in. Obviously we are rookies to home versus apartment ownership so if you have any cool, eco and sustainable ideas we can implement please let me know!