Friday, October 30, 2009

Local solar buying group - last week to secure a great deal

TTKD member and the director of Brisbane Energy Audits Ian Gittus has set up a bulk buying group for solar power (solar PV) and solar hot water.

By bulking buying the solar panels and securing a top price for the RECs the buying group is able to offer solar systems for thousands of dollars cheaper than leading solar companies. (For a full explanation of RECs and the new federal government solar credits scheme see here).

However this price cannot be maintained due to the falling price of RECs, to get the deal applications must be in by Friday Nov 6th. On a positive note by purchasing through the local group the solar panels should be installed by early December, months quicker than the current industry average.

A range of solar PV systems from 1.5kW to 5kW are available. The package includes the 180 watt monocrystalline solar panels, a top quality inverter with 5 or 10 year warranty and standard installation.

Prices start from $3600 for a 1.5 kW solar PV system.

To enquire about the solar PV deal, solar hot water or to book your free home energy audit go to the Brisbane Energy Audits website.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

An alternative to plastic bags: Onya weigh bags

To reduce the use of plastic bags a lot of people have switched to using "Green" bags when shopping in general, however putting loose fruit and veges into separate plastic bags at the supermarket or local farmers market is still very common.
Personally I don't have any problem with my broccoli hanging loose with my corn and apples etc inside one big "green" bag, but realize it's not as convenient when getting things weighed at the checkout. To the rescue comes Onya Weigh bags.

Onya weight bags are super thin, ultra lightweight, transparent bags, contained within a pouch. They are they are strong and durable so can be used over and over again.

Onya weight bags are made of a fine mesh meaning you can use them as a collander and wash your produce while it is inside the bag. And if the bags get dirty you can put them in the wash and afterwords they dry almost immediately.

As the Onya website says
"So you have remembered your reusable bags, but still need to use plastic for your fruit 'n' veg.....Not any more"!

*This Turquoise pouch contains 5 strong Tulle bags (each can easily carry 2 kilos of produce)
*They are incredibly lightweight, so they don't weigh anything on the scales
*Being see-through, shop assistants know what's inside
*Because washing fruit 'n' veg is important, these bags are designed so you can use each one as a collander washing the produce inside
*Most fruit 'n' veg store better not sitting in a plastic bag where they can sweat

Other uses:

*Just as useful in the Health Food shop for: nuts, grains, rice and lentils etc
* Laundry bag.

Onya bags come in sets of 5 or 8 can be purchased from onyabags.com or from biome stores
For more information see the onya bags website

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Images from 350.org events around Brisbane

The 350 Ultimatum (West End) - 350 Frisbees

Photo, Ken Burridge




Photo credits
Ronnie Wright/Oxfam Australia, Jesse Hunter and Ahmad Zamroni


Picnic in the Park (New Farm)






Photo's: Ken Burridge


Ring out the Bells (Bardon)



Mt Coot-tha Botanic Gardens




Not Stupid: Ken Hickson and Age of Stupid film (Indooroopilly)




Thanks to everyone who came along and made it a successful day. Heaps of stories and thousands of photos from the ~5200 event in 181 countries can be found at 350.org and on the 350.org flickr photostream.

A few myths debunked

It's been a busy week for myth debunking. Some of my contributions:

  • Wind power myths on ABC radio – debunking myths propagated today on Australia All Over that wind power requires a large spinning reserve of coal power plants
  • No, global warming hasn't ended (again) – debunking a false claim doing the rounds that leading Germany-based climate scientist Prof Mojib Latif, (Leibniz Institute of Marine Sciences, Kiel University) has predicted that we are headed for two decades of cooling
  • Climate of Fraud Part 2 – latest episode of my war on climate change denial at The Australian

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

350.org International day of Climate Action on Oct 24: Events in Brisbane

Given our talk about reducing waste last night I am recycling this blog post as a final reminder about the 350.org International Day of Climate Action coming up this Saturday the 24th of Oct.


On Saturday there are a number of events being held around Brisbane. These events are just a few of more than 4,300 (and climbing) events being held in 171 countries around the globe calling for:


- a fair and effective climate treaty to stabilise atmospheric CO2 at less than 350ppm (parts per million)
– everyone to play their part in reaching a safe climate and a just world.
Here are some of the main events in Brisbane:

On the west side of town:

Sustainable Jamborees' 350.org event


2 - 5pm, Sat 24 October, Indooroopilly Library
ABC of Carbon; and
The Age of Stupid film

At Indooroopilly, join us to hear author Ken Hickson give a short talk about the ABC of Carbon followed by a showing of 'The Age of Stupid' (1.5 hrs).

RSVP to Ngaire, ngaire@sustainablejamboree.org by Thu 22 Oct.
Earlier on the day, Ken will also sign copies of his new book from 11.30am – 12.30pm, Sat 24 October at the Angus & Robertson book store, Mt Ommaney Shopping Centre.

Events in Central Brisbane:

350 Ultimatum 11am – 1pm

350 frisbees thrown to the beat of 350 drums!

11am – 1pm at the West End Markets, Davies Park
Come down to the markets and join in an amazing celebration of drums and ultimate Frisbee – feel free to bring your own disc, drum or shaker and join in!
___________________________

New Farm Park 3pm – 5pm

Come to New Farm Park for the culmination of the day's events, and a major chance to generate media coverage – so bring everyone! Be there from 3pm-5pm to enjoy stilt walkers and a circus performance and to be a part of making a daisy chain of messages to send to Canberra. We will have a Very Special Guest arriving by city cat at 3.22pm. We look forward to seeing you there!

Location within New Farm Park: Near the river and close to the Powerhouse.

> GIANT 350 DAISY CHAIN – We'll be writing our climate messages to Kevin Rudd on 'daisy' strips. All messages will be joined together into a giant chain calling for fair and effective global action for our climate.
___________________________
Other local events include:
- Giant '350' sign in plants & flowers at the Mt Coot-tha Botanic Gardens, 10am-1pm
- Bell ringing in Bardon at 371 Simpson's Road, Bardon, at 12pm Saturday 24th
- GRIFFITH Climate Action Day on Thursday 22nd, 11am - 4pm Nathan Campus Griffith University
- Global Change Institute UQ - *HIT THE SWITCH & POWER DOWN* Encouraging staff and students at the University of Queensland to turn off all non-essential electrical equipment at the wall switch when they go home for the weekend on the 23rd October.

Saturday's events represent one of our best (and final) chances to make our voices heard before Copenhagen, so make sure you get along to one (or more) events and show your support for a safe climate.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Focus on Waste and Recycling at next TTKD meeting: Wed Oct 21

Our speaker for this Wednesday's meeting is Michelle Prior who will be talking to us about Recycle, Re-use and Refuse as ways to lower our carbon footprint.

Michelle is an Environmental Researcher and Principle Advisor to IOSS (Integrated Open Space Services) and has a degree in Natural Resources as well as in Urban and Regional Planning.

And remember if you want more information about what you can and can't recycle on Brisbane you can check out recycling information found on the BCC website.

Well also be discussing a range of other topics at the meeting including how to get involved in the upcoming 350.org events this Saturday, opportunities for future Guerrilla Bagging and of course finding out who gets this months prize of a packet of TimTams for the lowest GreenStreet score.
And, as always come along and tell everyone what you've been doing to live more sustainably and your ideas for future group actions.

Wed Oct 21st
7:30pm Uniting Church Hall
Moggill Rd
Kenmore

All welcome, see you there

350 Practical Actions


It is heartening to see a surge in climate change activism at the moment with
350.org doing a great job in raising popular awareness. I find the message sometimes, (well maybe often,) overwhelming as well. Being out in my garden, just noticing what's going on, calms the mind. I have observed this effect on myself for many years - a swim in the ocean, a country weekend, alfresco dinning! Of course there is now a name and academic analysis of it - ecopsychology , a relatively new branch of psychotherapy.These moments are refreshing because they reconnect us with our true nature, too much of our contemporary lives have become an abstraction. Ecopsychologists argue that the ecological mess we find ourselves in, is directly the result of our efforts to ignore and repress all that is natural (and uncertain, mysterious,uncontrollable and real).

So to the garden -
Even the most neglected garden can be therapeutic. This week I looked beyond the weeds and dead dry lawn and saw that my paw paw had ripened and a respectable amount of cherry tomatoes were ready. The rocket went to seed over the holidays. I managed to save them (the seeds) using new skills gained from the OOOBY workshop. Not a bad effort I thought to myself, considering this time last year I was, (a complete novice), just starting my horticulture cert at Northy Street. If I applied myself to 350 such practical actions, (1 per day and 14 days reserved for inaction or impractical actions,)why that would be a year of good mental health plus as much paw paw and tomato as anyone could eat!

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Take advantage of Government assistance to green your home. Part 4: The ClimateSmart at Home service

In previous installments of this series we looked at Federal Government programs such as Solar Credits, Green Loans and the Energy Efficient Homes package, this time we'll look at the QLD State Governments' hugely popular ClimateSmart Home Service.

Although I am confident many TTKD members will be part of the more than 100 000 households who have taken up this service I would encourage any who has not to book here. So why do I recommend this scheme and what do you get from it?

Funded by the QLD government the ClimateSmart Homes package sees an electrician come to your house and
1) Install a wireless energy monitor
2) Install a low flow shower head
3) Replace up to 15 incandescent light bulbs with energy saving CFLs
4) Conduct a brief energy audit and suggest additional steps you can take to reduce energy consumption, save money and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

By reducing the energy needed to light you house and heat water (through decreasing the water flow in the shower to a still more than acceptable 9 litres per minute) you will save money on your energy bills.

Most useful though is the wireless energy monitor. Because power bills only come every few months there is a disconnect between using power now and the actual cost of doing so. The energy monitor, in contrast, provides constant feedback on how much energy our houses are using, giving us much more control over power usage and therefore power bills.
By showing in real-time how much power our houses are using the monitor displays just how much power various appliances use (expect some surprises), encourages more efficient use of power and acts as a reminder whenever something is left on (always useful).
The only side-effect, as noted on Grahman Readfern's GreenBlog (and also found somewhat in our house) is the emergence of a obsessive energy auditor, hunting down any stray or wasteful power usage in the home, leading to even lower power bills.

Although hardly a scientific finding, the experience of our household has been of a fairly significant decrease in power consumption and therefore in our electric bills in the ~6 months since we had the service. Showing that it really does work.

So who can get it and what does it cost?
Subsidised by the State Government the initial service cost $50, however the BCC provides a $50 rebate once the service has been completed (BCC rebate application form available here). So all in all the service is completely free for Brisbane residents.
The service is open to both home owners and renters (with written permission from the landlord).

The ClimateSmart at Home service is a great energy efficiency measure that helps households save power, reduce their energy bills and reduce their carbon footprint while. Best of all it's free so if you havn't signed up yet go here to do so, or go here for more information.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Environmentally friendly laundry: Washing with balls

Doing the laundry is a necessary household chore and part of life, unless of course you're going for that dirty, smelly, unkempt look. Modern laundry methods can use a lot of water, power and phosphate/bleach containing cleaning products which are not very grey water safe. So, without going back to a washboard and homemade soap how can we "green" doing the laundry?

Clearly a good starting point is an energy efficient front loading washing machine, this will act to significantly reduce both the electricity and water used to do a load of washing.
But how to clean the clothes without chemicals that we really shouldn't be putting down the drain willy-nilly?

Luckily for you, we have been experimenting. Here are our results (with thanks to Char for writing the report of our laundry results):

"For lightly soiled laundry items (clothes, sheets, towels) I wash using an Enviro Washball ($49.95, available online here). Enviro Washballs are recyclable plastic balls containing small ceramic stones (no detergents/chemicals/bleaching agents) and last for ~1000 washes).
The stones raise the pH level of the water, which softens the water and opens the weave of the fabric. Water moves through more easily and effectively, removing dirt naturally.
Washing with the Enviro Washball cleans lightly soiled items very effectively however you don’t get that ‘fresh laundry smell’ that is due to fragrances in laundry detergent, so I add a teaspoon of Bosito’s Eucalyptus Oil to the wash. (Although we haven't tested it, it is claimed eucalyptus oil can also be used for a number of other purposes including as an antiseptic, a massage oil, a stain remover and a cleaner).

For medium soiled laundry (dirty clothes, exercise clothes) I use the Enviro Washball and one tablespoon of Earth Choice Front Loader Laundry Powder (phosphorous/petrochemical/bleach free, grey water safe, from Coles).
While for heavily soiled items I first soak them with the Enviro Washball then spot treat any stains with the Enviro Stainstick ($3.95 available online here). I then wash with the Enviro Washball and 1T laundry powder."

So although we haven't been able to completely stop using detergent, we have been able to reduce it significantly using the Enviro Washball (which we supplement with small amounts of grey water safe detergent when necessary). All in all we have found it remarkably easy to make doing the laundry more environmentally friendly and would encourage everyone else to consider how they could do the same.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

GreenStreets: How Green is your Street?

A big part of Transition Town philosophy revolves around building communities and stimulating community action to lower our carbon footprints. But aside from our monthly meetings, our blog and the various activities we carry out, how can we engage the wider community more generally?
And perhaps most importantly, how can we show the progress we, as a community, are making?

One innovative method is GreenStreets, which acts to connect together neighbours and communities to promote living greener. Greenstreets uses its website to track the progress of members while also promoting neighbourhood interactions such as Greenstreet caf├ęs where people can get together, meet other members in their community and learn about how other people are living more sustainably.

When new members sign into the Greenstreets website they calculate their “Greenstreet score” to see how sustainably they have been living, they are then able to compare their scores to that of their local street, suburb, state and country. By implementing some of the tips the site gives they can improve their score in the future and by encouraging their neighbours and friends to join they can get their local community engaged in lowering their impact and see the progress they are making.

GreenStreets is also for businesses, who can calculate their Green Street score and communicate with their customers what steps they are taking to green their business by using the social networking features of the website and by attending social get-togethers of site users.

Coming out of Samford village, Greenstreets is now attracting members from around the country, is free to join and also offers prizes!

To find out more or to join go to

Ps: To make signing up a little more attractive (and interesting) a packet of Timtams will be given to any household who bests my households’ GreenStreet score for September. (Nb: in the event there is more than one, it will go to the lowest scoring household). Winner to be decided at our next meeting but feel free to post your score in the comments. Good luck!

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Take advantage of government assistance to Green your home. Part 3: The new Renewable Energy Credits (REC) scheme

Actually known as “Solar Credits” (a great piece of bureaucratic bumbling since it actually applies to many small scale renewable generation methods) this Renewable Energy Credits (REC) scheme has replaced the old $8000 rebate. So how does it work and how does it effect people who want to install renewable energy systems at their homes or businesses?

Compared to the old rebate the new system is more complicated, but as I explain below, it doesn't make much difference to buying a renewable energy generation system for your house/business. I have also taken a stab at explaining how the Solar Credits scheme fits into the larger REC situation in Australia see: RET, REC, RPP and SC, how does it all work? Otherwise go straight too “What does it mean for me?”

RET, REC, RPP and SC, how does it all work? (Click to expand)

Firstly a disclaimer, I give no guarantees this explanation is 100% accurate. Information was sourced from the Department of Climate Change and the Office of the Renewable Energy Regulator (ORER)

The federal government has legislated a Renewable Energy Target (RET), recently this was increased to mandate 20% of energy generation be from renewables by 2020. To spur this along, the government sets a Renewable Power Percentage (RPP) every year that will increase to 20% by 2020. Every year power wholesalers must prove they have bought the percentage of renewable power mandated by the RPP. Ie: by 2020 they will need to show the government that 20% of the power they sell is from renewables. So how is this done? As far as I can see this is where Renewable energy credits (REC) come in.

Renewable power generation allows the creation of REC, (which are a type of currency) that can be traded/sold, every year over the life of the power station. In order to meet the RPP, wholesalers must buy and then surrender to the government REC to the level of the RPP. Ie: If the RPP is 3.5%, wholesalers must buy and surrender REC equivalent to 3.5% of the total power they sell. In this way demand for REC is stimulated and new renewable power generation is promoted in order to meet the ever increasing RPP of the RET.

This means generators of renewable power can sell both the power and the REC.
This holds true for small-scale renewable power generation. Small systems such as solar hot water, solar PV, wind turbines and small-scale hydro also generate REC which can be sold. Usually all the REC that will be generated over the lifetime of the systems are given to the system installer to allow a more affordable upfront price (although they don’t have to be).

The Solar credits scheme decreases the price of a small-scale renewable energy by increasing the number of REC the systems generate, with more REC available to be traded the upfront price of the systems is lowered. The Solar credits scheme only applies to small scale systems though so doesn’t effect the creation of large renewable power plants.

It is also worth noting that as the number of REC allocated is determined by how much power is generated, the location of the system can be important. For example areas with more sunshine receive more REC for the same solar PV system than area with less sunshine. Happily Brisbane (with a lot of sunshine) gets the maximum number of REC per kw.



What does it mean for me?

There are three major differences in the new scheme

1) REC multiplier instead of rebate
When a new renewable system is installed it creates Renewable Energy Credits (REC), a type of currency which can be sold/traded. The more power generated, the more REC created. This occurred under the old scheme.
Instead of a straight subsidy/rebate Solar Credits multiplies the number of REC the systems create. Since REC can be sold, multiplying the number of REC generated allows owners to get more money back afterwards, decreasing the “net” cost of the system.
Specifically the new scheme creates 5x more REC on the first 1.5kW of power the systems generate. Overall this will have an effect similar to the rebate as most people normally give the REC to the seller of the renewable system to decrease the upfront price of the system. Now instead of pocketing 1X REC and the rebate, sellers will pocket 5x REC and most customers will notice little difference in the sale process.
One difference though is that the amount of a subsidy created by the extra REC will be affected by the market price of REC. This could mean the price of a system fluctuates depending on how much money the sellers can get for the REC.

2) Eligible Systems
Solar hot water, solar PV, wind turbines and small-scale hydro are all eligible under the new scheme for the REC multiplier. This means households and businesses with a poor solar profile can install wind or hydro generation instead and receive the same benefits.

3) Who can access the REC scheme
Both individual households and businesses can access the solar credits scheme. This makes putting solar PV panels on the roof of a business just as affordable as on the roof of a home. Furthermore there is no means test for the solar credits scheme.


Overall this is a positive scheme that makes small-scale renewable systems affordable for both households and businesses, promoting renewable energy and helping individuals to lower their carbon footprint .

NbL For further info on the Solar credits see the Dept of Climate Change FAQ.
Nb: Part one and two of this series can be found here and here