Last week, we talked about how important it is to measure your progress when setting green goals for the year ahead. To elaborate on this, we’re going to look at a very basic self-audit of your home and lifestyle so you can see where you’re at and what needs to be improved.
The word “audit” sounds like hard work, but it can be as simple as making observations, and as complex and detailed as you want it to be. Your home audit can include:
- Gas, electricity and water usage
- Car mileage
- Outgoing waste
- Incoming stuff
Step 1: read your bills
Do you pay attention to all those numbers and graphs on your water and electricity bills? Or do you grumble a little, pay the damn things then stuff them in the “to file” drawer? Well, guess what? Utilities companies don’t just want to demand money with their bills (honest!), they actually have to show you what you’re using and, crucially, how it compares to the average user.
Somewhere on your bill, you will find something that looks like this:
Or like this:
These numbers are a great place to start when looking at your household energy and water use. Depending on what you see there, you might need to think about ways to reduce your usage, or make plans for maintaining it. Also look at the graph that compares each quarter and think about the fluctuations there.
Another way to measure your impact is to look at it in terms of greenhouse gas emissions. There are heaps of calculators out there, but I’ve found this ghg calculator by Victoria’s EPA to be really thorough and useful.
Step 2: pay attention to stuff
Some things are easy to measure, others not so much. But if you spend some time observing, you can get a good grasp on the object of your interest. For example, I wanted to audit our kitchen rubbish, so for a couple of weeks, I moved the destined-for-landfill bin onto the kitchen bench alongside the chook, worm and compost buckets and observed what went into it. Here are some other ideas for measuring what you use and dispose of around the home:
- To measure water wasted at the kitchen sink, place a bowl or bucket under the tap for a day (use wasted water on the garden).
- Track your average kilometres by resetting the button on your odometer to zero and seeing how far you drive in a week.
- Collect receipts for everything you buy.
- Count bags of rubbish that go into your bin every week or mark halfway and quarter-marks on your wheelie bin.
- Only put your bin out to the kerb when it’s full and see how many weeks you can stretch it (thanks for the tip, Sharon!).
- Count all the soft-plastics you collect (remember, you can take them to Coles to be recycled) or if you have, you know, a life, weigh them instead.
- Count all your belongings and see if you have more or fewer at the end of the year.
- Here’s a fun one: make a list of all the things you use and compare it to all the things you have.
- Count how many meat and dairy-free meals you have each week.
- Track your expenses in a diary and work out how much money you spend at the supermarket and how much on local suppliers.
Step 3: write it down somewhere
It’s one thing to work out what you’re using and wasting in terms of belongings, energy and water, it’s another to act on it. The simple act of committing to paper (or its online equivalent) your situational analysis is enough to make you want to act on it.
Writing the numbers down also gives you concrete evidence of your efforts, which is essential for keeping it up throughout the year. Believe it or not, I get really excited about getting our water and energy bills – I love seeing that orange line drop!
Step 4: set your goals
Now you’ve got a clear picture of where you’re at, you are in a better position to set your SMART goals. The question now is what to strive for?
Your local council and/or utilities company will be able to provide you with average figures for waste and energy/water usage in your area (it’s important to take local factors into consideration – a lot of my household’s energy savings are due to the fact we have a high-set house that gets summer breezes in an area that doesn’t get very cold in winter).
You can set personal challenges, as Caitlin from Mother Down Under has done this year by determining she will buy no new clothes in 2014.
Personally, I plan to reduce the amount of plastic packaging that comes into our home and I think the best way to do this is to count the items (my husband thinks I’m insane…) I collect for the Coles recycling bins.
If you haven’t already, check out the previous post on setting green goals for more ideas on how to make your resolutions a reality in 2014.