Since moving to this little piece of paradise we have become more and more determined to reduce our carbon footprint, make our property a safe and attractive haven for wildlife and work towards self-sufficiency. We still have a long way to go but we feel we are making some headway.
We had reduced our electricity use by 25% over five years but felt we needed to do more. Our 3Kw PV (photo-voltaic) solar power system now provides about two-thirds of our power while the solar hot water system continues to provide the majority of our hot water. The pool pump is our major consumer of power so we have just recently added a power-saver system which will reduce our consumption further. Part of our electricity payment goes to Green Power.
One of our major power savings comes through using fans instead of air conditioners. The house is surrounded by trees to provide shade and it is orientated to catch the afternoon breezes. The guest rooms have insulated outside blinds which do a wonderful job in reducing summer heat but the rooms have new, energy-efficient ceiling fans that if necessary can be run all night for less than the power of an hour's air conditioning. Reflective paint on the roof lowers internal temperatures and whirlybirds help remove any residual hot air from the roof space.
|Our eight-panel, 3Kw solar system provides most of our power.|
Our external, insulated blinds keep the guestrooms cool in the hottest summer weather while reflective roof paint and a Whirlibird also contribute to cooling. We also have solar hot water.
We try to limit the use of chemicals in the house and garden. Weedkillers are used very sparingly and never in the vegetable patch. Hand-pulling, whipper-snipping and mulching are not quite so efficient as chemicals but are much safer for wildlife and humans alike. Insect pests in the vegie patch are dealt with by special plantings which attract beneficial insects or by using safer household sprays. Chemical insecticides kill good as well as bad bugs and, in turn, birds are affected by a drop in their food source. Most of our household cleaners are made at home from bicarbonate of soda, vinegar and other low-irritant products.
Although we now have Town Water several years of relying on bore water and rainwater has taught us to be frugal with our water use. We have three rainwater tanks and most of the garden is run off the bore. Nearly all our irrigation is by drip systems as this gets the water to the roots instead of being wasted in sprays. The only sprays are used under the leopard tree at the rear of the house, so helping with general cooling, and in the vegie patch.
We have recently installed a grey water treatment plant which will direct shower and washing water on to the garden under the mulch so we are careful to use phosphate-free washing powder and are reducing cleaning chemicals as much as possible.
Much of our kitchen and vegie patch waste is fed to our three chickens and three ducks, with the remainder going into the compost bins. The chook manure in turn adds goodness to the soil in the veg patch. Any prunings and grass cuttings are spread direct on to the garden beds as mulch, which eventually breaks down, returning the carbon to the soil and adding useful organic matter.
Soft paper waste is shredded for chook bedding so eventually becomes compost. Even weeds we pull up are either used as a direct mulch or rotted down in black plastic to kill the seeds before mulching. We also grow pigeon peas, arrowroot, comfrey, lemongrass and various green manure crops all of which improve the soil by nutrient capture or mulch properties.
Glass jars are re-used for jam-making and other glass, plastics, tin cans and any remaining paper are taken to the recycling depot. Aluminium cans are donated for the Alligator Creek Times, our local monthly newspaper.
As far as possible all bedding is natural fibres rather than polyester-based and much of it is organically grown. If guests are staying more than one night we do not change the sheets and towels daily, but only as needed. Toiletries are provided, but not cheap, harsh products in expensive, wasteful individual plastic bottles. Our guests can use our refillable bottles of SLS (Sodium Laurel Sulphate) and Paraben-free shower gel, shampoo and liquid soap and will hopefully notice how gentle these are. Similarly, the unlimited supplies of tea and coffee are not in wasteful sachets which are often difficult to open and end up spewing the contents on the floor.
Buying local produce reduces the costs to the environment of transporting it long distances. To this end the loose tea and fresh-ground coffee served at breakfast comes from the Atherton Tablelands near Cairns (and guests can buy some to take home with them if they wish). Bacon and eggs are free-range and the unhomogenised milk comes from a small, family dairy in the Tablelands. Fruit and vegies are either from our property or from a local greengrocer who sources locally-farmed produce as much as possible.
We ask that guests respect our aims and protect our precious resources by turning off lights and fans when leaving a room, take short showers and separate their rubbish and recycling in the bins provided in the sitting room.