Green Living

First Steps Towards An Eco-Friendly Lifestyle Need Not Be Expensive

There is a growing awareness among home designers of the importance of reducing energy costs and creating a home that is eco-friendly, says Nancy Todd, Western Cape Regional Sales Manager for the Rawson Property Group.

“However,” said Todd, “what so often happens is that the man-in-the-street picks up a book or a brochure on this subject and then finds himself daunted by what is expected of him and by the cash outlays required” – but these need not be nearly as expensive as most people think. Potential homeowners/builders should learn to take the necessary steps, one at a time, and to do so with humour and light-heartedness rather than taking this matter so seriously.

“If, however, you do have funds or can get a loan, it does pay to install a heat pump and solar heating as a first step towards sustainable living. These will reduce your energy expenditure by 40% – geysers and pool pumps are the big consumers of energy – thereby recovering the capital outlay in less than three years.

“Again, if you have funds, it pays to install double glazing on those façades which are regularly exposed to sunlight or to noise. Here, too, you can achieve significant savings on energy, said to be in the region of 8% to 12% by most installers.”

In addition, said Todd, it is always a good idea to install an extra layer of insulation in the ceiling.

“The cost of this works out to less than R30 per m2 and it will help you contain an extra 20% to 40% of the heat in the room below. It will also help to keep the room cooler in summer.”

What can you do if you do not have the sort of funds of which Todd is speaking but would like to get on the sustainable living bandwagon?

The first step, she said, should be to start collecting your own glass, tin, plastic and paper in separate containers – and if this is too big a task, at least concentrate on the glass and the plastic. These should then be delivered to a recycling depot and will contribute to South Africa’s recycling transformation.

Tip number two, said Todd, is to start your own earthworm farm. All that is needed is a plastic bucket with holes in the bottom and a few earthworms, which can be bought from most nurseries at a very low cost. Vegetables, fruit and other organic off-cuts should then be fed into the bucket regularly, where the earthworms will devour them and will excrete a plant-nutritious ‘worm tea’, which, if poured onto lawns and flowerbeds, will give an immediate boost to all vegetation.

Earthworm farms work best, said Todd, when complemented by compost heaps – even small gardens should have one of these, which should be kept in good order at all times. It should be fed with plant and grass cuttings and turned over regularly with a little soil added from time-to-time. The resulting compost will do much to help you mulch up and enrich flowerbeds.

In addition, said Todd, homeowners should start growing their own spinach, tomatoes, herbs and other vegetables, even if it means putting them in amongst the existing plants. The resulting combination of plants need not be unsightly.

A further good piece of advice from Todd is to install a grey water system draining off the home’s baths, sinks and other used water which is then fed to the garden, almost invariably with very good results. Such measures will also cut down the home watering bill. A grey water system for the average three bedroom home, says Jeremy Westgarth-Taylor, CEO of Water Rhapsody, will usually cost between R8,000 to R12,000 and the savings in water will pay for the system.

Todd, who has taken many of the steps she recommends, said that the cash savings have been significant and her garden is flourishing as never before. Furthermore, she said, she has had a lot of fun adopting the correct eco-friendly measures.


This article was issued by Rawson Property Group – http://www.rawson.co.za

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