Our Ecological Footprint
Introducing the Ecological Footprint… a measurement of the space required to produce and supply all of the resources we need to support our lifestyles and to take up the wastes we generate, compared to the land actually available to us. The ecological footprint takes into consideration the type of food you eat, the amount of water and energy you use, your primary mode of transportation and the amount of waste you generate.
If we divided the earth’s resources equally, each person in the world would have only 2.3 hectares of land available to them? Australians currently have an ecological footprint of 7.8 hectares each.
Mosman Council measured the ecological footprint of Mosman. On average, each resident of Mosman has an ecological footprint of 14.7 hectares. If everyone on earth had a footprint this size, we would need another seven earths to support us all. If all the resources needed to support Mosman lifestyles had to be found within the local area, only 58 people could live in Mosman!
Ecological Footprint project
To help raise awareness of the ecological footprint, and to demonstrate practical ways of living more sustainably, Mosman Council has implemented an Ecological Footprint project involving the Mosman community.
Six households made the commitment to measure their ecological footprint and work out strategies to live more sustainably. They have all risen to the challenge and over nine months, slashed a collective 15.9 hectares from their household ecological footprints, slashed water and energy consumption, reduced the amount of waste produced, and altered their purchasing and traveling habits in order to live more sustainably.
The households will be re-measuring their ecological footprint in another few months, to see how their changes have altered their footprint in the longer term.
Calculate your own ecological footprint
You can join in the fun by calculating your own ecological footprint to see if you are treading lightly on the earth or leaving big heavy footprints in your wake! You can identify where you are having the most impact upon the earth and take actions to minimise these impacts and reduce the size of your footprint.
To calculate your footprint go to:
We invite you, the Mosman Community to follow the lead of our Ecological Footprint householders and begin a journey to more sustainable living. Read the stories of our participating householders, or follow these tips on how to save water, energy and reduce waste.
- Ecological Footprint brochure (PDF 2MB)
Council has also developed a brochure on the Ecological Footprint project, which details the success of each household in reducing their ecological footprint, and contains more tips on how to live more sustainably at home.
Our household champions are:
- Jo, David and family;
- Jenny, Stephen, Alex and Peter;
- Warren and Judy;
- Diana and Wayne;
- Greg, Julie and family; and
- Gareth, Nicole and Lachlainn.
Our six households are largely representative of the Mosman community, and include:
- A married couple with a baby in a rented unit
- A married couple with 3 children in a 3 storey house
- A married couple with 2 children in a semi detached dwelling
- A married couple and 2 uni students in a free standing house
- A married couple in a 2 storey house
- A couple in a semi detached dwelling
For more information on the Ecological Footprint Project contact Belinda Atkins on 9978 4000.
Warren and Judy
Warren and Judy are a couple living in a free standing two storey house. During the project they reduced their ecological footprint from 7.7ha to 5.9 ha each. They cut their car usage by half, by walking and using public transport. In addition to the environmental benefits, it has also made them fitter. Warren and Judy have also cut their gas, electricity and water use, and to offset their remaining car use, have joined Greenfleet. They have also changed their buying habits.
Why did we volunteer for this project?
Because it gave us an opportunity to move beyond feeling vaguely guilty about the disproportionate use of the earth’s resources that lifestyles like ours embodied, and actually do something about it. We wanted to explore what sacrifices, if any, would be needed to reduce our ecological footprint to an area that everyone on earth could aspire to without compromising global ecological sustainability.
We filled in the spreadsheet to assess our footprint. Ours was embarrassingly large. Even though we don’t have airconditioning or a swimming pool, we do live in quite a big house. And even though our car is LPG powered and thus slightly more environmentally friendly than a petrol fuelled vehicle, it is nonetheless a large family sedan. We discovered that whenever we spent money we increased our footprint, but that some purchases have a much more significant input than others. Energy use (electricity, gas and fuel for the car ) are all pretty serious, as is food, although some foods are much worse than others.
To participate in the Mosman Council initiative we had to come up with a plan to reduce our footprint. We were not sure at the time about what we could do to make the biggest difference, so we decided to simply measure our energy consumption week by week (by reading the meters) as we tried various energy conservation strategies.
Low Hanging Fruit
The strategies we tried first were those that would have a minimal impact on us – ones that didn’t really demand us to change the way we lived. We were surprised by what simple things we could do that actually had quite a big impact.
For example, we dramatically reduced our gas consumption by turning the temperature of the hot water down so that we didn’t need to mix it much cold water when we had a shower. We cut water consumption by filling containers with water while we waited for the hot water to reach the bathroom, then used the water so gained for drinking or washing up during the day.
We swim most days and have a shower at the pool, so we realised that on those days we could cut out showers at home. This, coupled with an efficient showerhead and shorter showers made quite a big difference to our water consumption. We replaced the cistern on the toilet and were amazed at just how much less water modern dual flush toilets used.
To save on electricity we turned off the spare fridge – really only used at Christmas time when we have lots of visitors. And we set all the computers to power save mode, replaced all the light globes we could with high efficiency ones and simply became much more conscious of lights and appliances left on for no particular reason. We didn’t run the dishwasher until it was full, replaced our old top-loader washing machine with a highly efficient (both energy and water) front loader.
More Challenging Changes
After a while we caught the bug. Rather like swimmers trying to improve their time, we found ourselves trying to improve our performance. As the weeks went by we were even willing to have a go at things that required us to break long established habits – like the habit of driving into work. This was initially quite a challenge. The advantage of driving is that you can leave when you want to, the time travelling is minimised, it is comfortable and air conditioned, you can listen to your favourite radio program and you can carry a lot of work to and from home.
Two things helped us make the change. The first was getting pedometers for Christmas. We knew we weren’t getting enough exercise and bought in to the idea of setting a target on how many steps we should be doing each day. So walking from home to the bus stop and from bus to train and then from the train station to work became a way of clocking up steps rather than simply a chore. The second was the realisation that even if it took a little longer it was much less stressful being driven to work and there was the additional bonus that you could read on the bus.
One problem remained – it was frustrating having to wait. The service itself, both buses and trains appeared unreliable and you could not guarantee getting a seat. But a little research on the wonderful 131500 website showed us that by choosing our time of departure from home to a time when three or four buses are due within five minutes (as happens on our Spit Road bus stop round 7.30 am) the service is really very reliable. The same is true coming home, particularly if we walk from Spit junction – more step counts . Public transport remains problematic – for a start it costs a lot more when two people are travelling and there are no multimodal tickets (apart from weekly passes). But it has its moments such as unexpectedly meeting friends, chatting to your fellow passengers, or simply just taking in the drama of life.
Cutting Down on Purchases
Having tackled energy and water use we turned to what we were spending our money on. We cut back on meat – probably good for our health as well, got ourselves a battery charger and invested in rechargeable batteries, took a big bag to the supermarket, avoided buying food out of season, excessively packaged goods, or goods that had travelled a long way and tried to move over to services or consumables for presents rather than “stuff”. We tried to slow down our book purchasing by at least checking whether we could borrow the book from a friend or the Mosman Library and we discovered a wonderful business at Spit Junction, Echo Electronics that can repair and upgrade computers and TV’s that might otherwise have had to be replaced. Much better to create employment in Mosman than add to land fill.
Then, finally, there was our vegetable garden. The theory is that if everyone grew vegies at home there would be far fewer trucks on the road. We’re not sure about that, but it is very satisfying being able to pick a few tomatoes and some beans from our own garden. Being beginner gardeners we were very lucky to have overheard a conversation in a cafe about a great little book “Square Foot Gardening” by Mel Bartholomew. It is an American book but it covers everything including the psychology of gardening. On Mel’s advice we started off with just two trenches one foot by four feet, one for climbing beans and the other for tomatoes. From early January we haven’t really needed to buy tomatoes or green vegetables. Given the manure we had to buy, we are not convinced that the environment is any better off, but it has been a lot of fun and something that we want to continue.
Now that we have done the easy things the next projects are quite big – replacing the gas hot water with a solar model and installing a concrete water tank under the house so that those vegetables don’t compromise our water consumption target.
Jenny and family
Jenny, Stephen Alex and Peter are a family with two grown children living in a single storey free standing house. During the project, the James’ family footprint has been cut from 5.3 ha each to 4.6ha, and they cut their electricity bill by one third since beginning the project, by turning off all lights and appliances when not in use, and replacing an old and inefficient fridge.
Our family have had a busy few months – working at reducing our ecological footprint! With just a few simple initiatives we have made a substantial difference our energy consumption and waste reduction.
One of our major concerns was our energy usage – some great news, our energy bill is down substantially, almost by one-third, comparing it to the same period last year. We have replaced our old refrigeration with a new 4-star rated model, installed energy efficient light bulbs, as well as making a combined effort to turn-off lights when not in use.
We now compost all our kitchen scraps and some of our garden waste. We have reduced our council weekly garbage collection from two bins, to a small wheelie bin and aim to reduce it further with a second compost bin.
In turn we have used the compost in our ‘no-dig veggie garden’. Created in a very small area in our backyard, re-using some old bricks to make the raised garden bed. It’s a bit like making a lasagna, except your using layers of old newspaper, straw and manure !! Now we’re looking forward to lots of jucy pesticide free tomatoes and home grown herbs.
I got the recipe for the no-dig garden from the internet: http://www.abc.net.au/gardening/stories/s867068.htm.
It’s so easy and so much fun. I actually made a second garden, because I had so many extra veggies popping up in the first, so I’ll see how I go with pumpkins.
Diana and Wayne
Dianna and Wayne are a couple living in a semi-detached house. They reduced their ecological footprint from 4.4ha to 3.7 ha each.
Diana and Wayne have made an impressive array of changes to their home, and undertaken a range of behaviour changes as a result of this project.
To improve the comfort of their home, and reduce energy needed for heating and cooling, Diana and Wayne put insulation batts in their ceiling and installed a whirly-gig on the roof to ventilate specific rooms in the house.
Like many of the participating households, Diana and Wayne wanted to reduce the amount of greenhouse gas emissions produced in generating their electricity. They signed up for 100% renewable energy through energy retailer Jackgreen. They replaced their old inefficient fridge with a new energy efficient model, and are also far more conscious about turning off appliances and lights when they are not in use.
Despite her initial dislike for energy efficient globes, Diana undertook an extensive investigation and trial period to find some suitable energy efficient lighting. She now reports that her chosen globe is a Philips warm white 18 watt globe, which produces enough light to read by, fits in her lamps, and casts an attractive light.
Diana and Wayne have also changed some of their buying habits. They have changed to environmentally friendly dishwashing liquid, which they also use more responsibly and efficiently. They have also become more mindful of their food purchases and sustainable lifestyle choices.
Gareth, Nicole and Lachlainn
During the project Gareth, Nicole and baby Lachlainn rented a two bedroom unit. The family reduced their footprint by nearly 10% as a result of the project, from 25.4ha to 22.7ha. As some of the footprint calculations are made using dollar values, Gareth’s footprint measurement of 25.4ha was distorted because of the purchase of organic meat, which is more expensive than normal meat. The calculation also included electricity use and aeroplane flights undertaken for business.
During the project, Gareth reduced his electricity bill by nearly 45%, cut his waste generation by more than half, and also reduced the fuel bill for his car by 50%. He has also cut the number of domestic aeroplane flights taken by half and cut the number of taxi trips taken twenty-fold, and now uses public transport a lot more. He has also shed a number of unnecessary electrical appliances in his home.
Gareth cites the most important changes made during the project as behavioural and personal. He says he was able to make these changes because of his increased awareness of personal environmental impacts, and an increased motivation to reduce them.
“We are so lucky [in Australia] because we have so many choices when it comes to our lifestyle. But if we don’t take care of our environment, we will suffer the consequences in the future.”
Gareth has also been a very hardworking community champion. He made a very-well attended presentation at Mosman’s Home Eco-Living Expo, which motivated many listeners to change their own behaviour. As Gareth notes, a development of community spirit, and a recognition of a holistic approach to sustainability have been important elements of the project for him.
In fact, Gareth has even enrolled in a university course in sustainability since the project started, and has found new work in the environmental field.
Greg, Julie and family
During the project, Greg, Julie and their family were living in an apartment, awaiting completion of renovations to their family home.
In their existing apartment, the family has a tiny footprint of 2.9. While the new home will be larger, Greg and Julie have put in as many environmental design features as possible to cut their ongoing energy and water use and improve comfort. They are now keen to see if they can beat their existing footprint in the new house.
Greg and Julie are installing photovoltaic (solar) cells on the roof of the new house to generate their own green electricity. In the meantime, they are using renewable energy through Energy Australia.
Importantly, though, the new house is also designed to be energy efficient. It has been designed to capture cooling breezes, so no air conditioning will be installed. All appliances and fixtures will be water and energy efficient, too.
Rainwater from the roof and greywater from the shower will be diverted to tanks under the house, and then re-used for garden irrigation. Greg and Julie have designed the outside area to maximise pervious (absorbent) surfaces to reduce stormwater runoff. The garden will also consist of native plants.
All building materials from the house, and any recycling that Greg generates in his business is recycled at Kimbriki Recycling and Waste Disposal Centre at Terrey Hills. The family also minimise waste by saying no to plastic bags when shopping.
Greg has also changed from a six to a four cylinder car, and has purchased a highly efficient hybrid electric/petrol vehicle for his business.
Do you want to live sustainably but don’t know where to start?
One way to live sustainably and lower your ecological footprint is to reduce the amount of water you use.
In your bathroom:
- Install an AAA-rated showerhead and consider installing timers or flow restrictors on your taps to reduce your water use by up to 50%.
- Always replace leaking washers and turn taps off gently so that the washers last longer.
- Install an AAA-rated dual flush toilet and use around 67% less water than a standard single flush toilet.
In your laundry:
- Only use your washing machine when you have a full load. Also consider making your next washing machine a minimum 4A-rated front loader to be more energy and water efficient.
In your kitchen:
- Rinse dishes in a plugged sink rather than under a running tap.
- Only use your dishwasher when you have a full load.
In your garden:
- Install a rainwater tank to water the garden.
- Always use a broom instead of a hose to clean paths, driveways and paved areas.
- Purchase native plants from the local native nursery to plant in your garden.
- Use mulch and add organic material such as compost to the soil to help the soil retain moisture.
- If possible wash the car on the grass to water and fertilise your lawn at the same time.
Another way to live sustainably and lower your ecological footprint is to reduce the amount of energy you use.
Hot Water Use
Did you know that hot water accounts for up to half an average household’s energy use! To use hot water more efficiently:
- Install an AAA rated showerhead or reduce the length of your shower.
- Use cold water to rinse dirty dishes.
- Fix dripping taps. A tap dripping 45 times per minute wastes 1000 litres of hot water a month.
- Install a hot water unit that is the correct size for your needs.
- If possible install an energy efficient hot water system (e.g. solar).
- Install energy efficient light globes.
- Maximise the use of natural light.
- Switch off lights when not in use or when you leave a room.
- Use timers or sensors on outdoor lights.
Insulation and Draught Control
An insulated home is an energy smart home, keeping your home warm in winter and cool in summer.
- Insulate the ceiling and walls of your home.
- Seal gaps around windows and doors to reduce heat loss or gain.
- Keep curtains or blinds closed in summer or shade your windows from the sun. In winter leave windows facing the sun uncovered to minimise the need for heating systems.
Washing and Drying
- Purchase a 4+ star energy rated washing machine.
- Wash your clothes in cold or warm water.
- Dry your clothes on the clothes line rather than in the dryer.
Standby mode can account for up to 12% of a households energy use.
- Switch off appliances such as the TV, VCR, DVD and computer when not in use.
- Switch to Green Power and have your electricity supplied from renewable energy sources. Call 136 206 or visit www.greenpower.com.au
- Using public transport where you can, car pooling with family and friends, or choosing a more energy efficient model as your next car.
- Walking or cycling for short trips near home. Using your own energy for transport will improve your fitness and wellbeing, and reduce car pollution near your own home.
You can also reduce the amount of waste you produce, and reduce the environmental impact of your purchases.
Here are some handy hints for reducing waste around the home.
Improve your purchases
- Reducing your dietry intake of animal products, highly processed food, and food sourced from outside of the local area.
- Buy goods with recycled packaging, and which are made of materials which can be recycled by you.
- Consider purchasing services rather than goods.
Did you know that the average Australian produces more than 10 times their body weight in garbage each year?
And that every year Australians throw away 6.9 billion plastic bags. If these bags were all tied together they would stretch around the world 37 times!
To reduce your waste:
- Avoid plastic bags. Use calico or hessian bags when doing the shopping.
- Grow your own fruit and vegetables.
- More than 50% of waste thrown away by the average Australian is made up of food scraps or garden waste that can be composted, so purchase a compost bin or worm farm and start composting today!
- Buy green. Purchase products that have less packaging or packaging that can be recycled or made from recycled materials.
- Hire, share or borrow items rather than buying.
Did you know that of the 10 million tonnes of waste thrown away each year, more than half could potentially be reused?
- Reuse containers to store objects around the house or in the garage.
- Give unwanted items to charity or your local secondhand shop.
- Reuse old timber for garden beds.
- Use composted food and garden waste to fertilise your garden.
Did you know that only 1/3 of the waste produced by Australians is being recycled at present?
Every week you can save approximately 3 kg of greenhouse gas by recycling your waste.
Reduce waste to landfill:
- Recycle all paper products. Every tonne of paper recycled saves almost 13 trees!
- Recycle all plastic and glass bottles, containers, cartons, aluminum cans and other recyclable material marked with R, 1 or 2.
- Recycle the corks from your wine and champagne bottles. Contact Guides Australia for more information.
- Recycle your mobile phone and phone batteries. Old mobiles and batteries can be returned to major phone retailers or participating Dick Smith Electronics stores.
- Recycle your printer, fax or photocopier cartridges at Australia Post. Cartridges can be dropped off at the Post Shop located on Military Road Mosman and Spit Road, Spit Junction. More information at www.planetark.com/cartridges and www.recyclingnearyou.com.au
- Recycle your whitegoods, scrap metal, timber, tyres, containers and packaging. These items can be dropped off at the Kimbriki Recycling and Waste Disposal Centre, Kimbriki Road Terry Hills. Open 7am-5pm. Contact (02) 9486 3512.
- Recycle or resell all old or outdated computer equipment. More information at email@example.com or contact the toll free recycling line on 1800 465 890.