How to lower your carbon footprint

Let us help lower your carbon footprint with these tips and resources!

Below are some handy tips and resources to help you lower your carbon footprint on the next step in your Brisbane Carbon Challenge journey.

By making some changes at home, and to how you get around and dispose of your waste, you can help lower your carbon footprint and reduce the impacts of climate change to your family, our local community and globally – and save money at the same time!

How to lower your carbon footprint

Step 1:

Calculate your household carbon emissions from home energy, transport and waste. Quickly and easily do this by taking the Brisbane Carbon Challenge online calculator.

Step 2:

Make some simple and easy changes to your behaviour that can lower your carbon emissions and save you on related bills!

Read our comprehensive list of tips and resources below and choose which actions suit your needs, lifestyle and current household emissions source. For instance, if the results from step one show that your emissions from home energy use is well above the Brisbane average, focus on these actions.

Step 3:

Retake the calculator, track your progress and share your results!

Sustainable transport

Transport is one of the biggest sources of carbon emissions for a typical Brisbane household, accounting for almost half of the average household footprint. Tackle this and you’re well on your way to reducing your overall carbon emissions.

Car ownership is also a major household cost. For example, RACQ puts the annual cost of owning and running even a small car at over $157 per week. 

Explore alternative transport options below.

Public and active transport

Replace car trips with active travel
Walk or ride instead of driving to get fit and reduce your carbon emissions at the same time. Walking and riding is proven to improve mental and physical health, boost immunity and contribute to longer life expectancy.

If you can’t avoid driving, park a distance away from your destination and walk, ride or scooter the rest. You’ll still benefit from more activity and help to reduce your carbon emissions.

Brisbane has an extensive network of more than 4,800 kilometres of bikeways and shared pathways that make it easy to get around on foot or by bike or scooter. The Cycling Brisbane program provides helpful resources and information to help you get around by bike, while the Active School Travel program offers resources and incentives to leave the car at home and actively travel to school.

CityCycle – Brisbane’s bike hire scheme.
Cycling Brisbane – Get road and cycle path routes, safety tips and more.
Active School Travel – A program to enable students, parents, carers and teachers to leave the car at home and actively travel to school.
Riding in Brisbane – Information on bikeways, road rules and upcoming projects.
Catch public transport
Avoiding car use for your daily commute and hopping on public transport can save a lot in fuel and other car running costs. Trips on Brisbane City Council buses are also carbon neutral.

Brisbane City Council runs modern public transport services, including one of the largest bus fleets in Australia. Council’s bus fleet is 100% air-conditioned and wheelchair and pram accessible. Translink provides everything you need to know about using public transport, including a journey planner and ticket and fare information.

Public Transport in Brisbane – Did you know seniors can travel for free on Brisbane City Council buses, CityCats and ferries during off-peak times? Council buses, CityCats and ferries are also carbon neutral.
TransLink – Find your local ferry, bus or train timetable.

Going electric

Make your next car purchase an electric vehicle
The bigger and more powerful car you drive, the more emissions and fuel you use. If you need a large car, compare the fuel efficiency of different models, as the amount of fuel used by cars that otherwise seem similar can vary greatly.

While the upfront cost of electric vehicles (EVs) is currently more expensive than conventional vehicles, powering an EV is cheaper per kilometre, which means you’ll save on fuel costs. A range of mid-range EVs have entered the Australian market, including the Hyundai Ioniq ($44,990), Renault Zoe ($47,490), and Tesla Model 3 (around $55,000).The Green Vehicle Guide provides information on the environmental performance of light vehicles sold in Australia, including fully electric and hybrid vehicles.

Electric vehicles reduce harmful air pollution from exhaust emissions and produce zero carbon emissions when powered by renewable energy.

Green Vehicle Buying Guide – Start your journey to lower-emissions driving here, including buying your first hybrid or fully electric car.
Whirl – Want to see what an EV is like without the pressure of a salesperson? Test drive an EV with Brisbane owners today.
Try e-bikes or e-scooters
E-wheeling is also emerging as an efficient and low energy way to travel in Brisbane. E-scooters and e-bikes are a fantastic way to travel short distances without using petrol.

E-wheeling – Cycling Brisbane’s guide for everything you need to know for hiring or owning electric bikes or scooters in Brisbane.
Road Rules – Queensland Government’s guide to road rules for wheeled vehicles.

In the car

Use biofuels (like e10) instead of unleaded petrol
E10 fuel is a blend of up to 10% ethanol (a renewable energy source) and 90% unleaded petrol. For compatible vehicles there should be no noticeable change to performance or drivability. You can check your car’s compatibility in your owner’s manual or with your vehicle manufacturer. E10 costs around the same as regular unleaded petrol, but you’ll need to use a little more (around 3%) as ethanol has a slightly lower energy content.

This simple switch will reduce your car’s carbon emissions by around 7 percent.

E10 OK – Find e10 fuel near you.
Fuel types explained – A guide to help you know which fuel to use.
Learn and adopt eco-driving techniques
E-wheeling is also emerging as an efficient and low energy way to travel in Brisbane. E-scooters and e-bikes are a fantastic way to travel short distances without using petrol.

RACQ Eco-drive – Read about eco-driving and learn quick tips that can save you on bills and lower your carbon emissions.
RACQ Eco-driving online course – Take the short, online course to learn how to change the way you drive, care for your vehicle and other means to lower your emissions and save on bills.

Minimise your home energy use

After transport, home energy use is the second-highest source of carbon emissions for Brisbane households. The good news is that there is much you can do at home to reduce your energy bills and lower your carbon footprint.

There are many resources available online that can give you a comprehensive understanding of your home’s energy efficiency and how to improve. Some of these are listed below, as well as our comprehensive tips and resources.

Energy.gov.au – Energy tips and advice from the Australian Government.  
Energy Ratings – Find out the energy efficiency rating of your next appliance to reduce your energy use, costs and emissions.
Your Home – The Australian Government’s guide to creating environmentally sustainable homes.

Quick wins at home

Always wash clothes and dishes with a full load
Washing full loads means fewer washes overall, therefore reducing the amount of energy and water used. Dishwashers tend to use the same amount of energy and water whether washing a half load or a full load.

Dishwasher running costs – Canstar’s information on the true running costs of your dishwasher.
Washing machine running costs– Canstar’s information on the true running costs of your washing machine.
Washing Machine Size Guide – CHOICE’s guide for washing loads and machine sizes.
Air-dry your clothes instead of using a dryer
Clothes dryers can use a lot of energy. CHOICE estimates that drying clothes in a vented dryer once a week could cost over $150 per year. Dry clothes on a washing line or clothes airer, where possible.

If you do need to run a clothes dryer, do so more efficiently: keep the lint filter clean, use the highest spin speed on your washing machine before you put the load into the dryer and maximise the ventilation in your laundry.

Clothes dryer guide – CHOICE’s guide for knowing how to get the best out of your clothes dryer.
Switch off unnecessary lighting
Lighting accounts for up to 10% of an average Australian household’s energy bill. Try to make a habit of turning off lights in empty rooms or unused areas to reduce energy wastage and unnecessary costs.

If you have outdoor lights and regularly leave them on, consider installing sensor lights so they only turn on with movement and turn off after a short period. Sensors, timers or smart controls can help manage and operate lighting. Dimmer switches are another option, as they let you adjust the level of light in a room to meet your needs and can prolong the life of your bulbs as well as save power.

How to buy the best smart lights – Information on different lighting options suitability.
Switch off appliances at the wall
Most appliances will individually only draw a small amount of energy on standby, but Australia-wide it adds up to an immense amount of power and carbon emissions. With more and more appliances and devices in the average home, it can even add up at a household level to around 10% of your annual electricity consumption.

Consider using stand-by power controllers or Wi-Fi enabled plugs with smartphone apps to make turning off appliances easier. Timers and sensors can control lighting and appliances to save on power when they’re not being used.

Standby power costs – Canstar’s analysis of the cost of wasted electricity per household item that is left on standby.
Standby power costs – CHOICE’s analysis of the cost of wasted electricity per household item that is left on standby.
Use smaller appliances more often
Smaller appliances generally use less energy so are often better for cooking small amounts of food. Try to restrict oven use to when you need to cook multiple things or larger quantities.

Microwaves, for example, are more energy efficient than stoves and ovens in most types of cooking and their running costs can be as low as $10 a year. The cost and emissions savings estimates in this table are based on using a microwave for one hour a week.

Buying guide – Microwave – Product options and information for buyers.
Buying guide – Multi-cooker – Product options and information for buyers.
Buying guide – Air fryer – Product options and information for buyers.

Changing the energy at the source

Switch to a GreenPower energy plan
If installing a solar system is not an option for you, consider buying accredited renewable energy through your electricity retailer. You’ll pay a small premium for the energy you use, but reduce your electricity emissions to zero, if you opt for 100%.

GreenPower is a government accredited renewable energy product offered by most electricity retailers to households and businesses in Australia. GreenPower may cost an additional 4 to 8 cents/kWh on top of your current electricity rate.

GreenPower Costs – Australian Government guide on GreenPower prices.
Halve your carbon footprint – Live for Less article explaining GreenPower and how it can halve your carbon emissions.
Install a solar system
Solar panels can power your home with zero emissions energy, significantly reduce electricity costs and typically pay for themselves in 2 to 7 years. To appropriately size your solar power system you need to work out how much electricity you use and when you use it. As a general rule, your solar system should cover as much of your daily household consumption as possible.

In Brisbane, a household solar system may produce 3.8 to 4.2kWh/kW/day and the cost/benefit of installing a solar system will depend on the correlation between the system’s production and your household’s electricity use. The greater the correlation, the greater the benefit. System costs (installed) may range from $2,800 to 5,600 for 2kW up to $7,600 to $14,100 for 10kW.

How to buy the best solar panels – CHOICE’s guide to buying a solar system.
Buying solar – Clean Energy Council’s guide to buying a solar system.
Is solar right for me? – Clean Energy Council’s advice for buying a solar system.
Install solar power with battery storage
Batteries can store excess electricity produced by your solar system for times when the sun isn’t shining. This is a great way to offset the weather and ensure you have power available at all times of the day.

Costs vary significantly for solar batteries, but generally, the higher the battery capacity, the more you can expect to pay. Costs may range from $4,000 to $9,600 for a 6kWh battery up to $9,600 to $15,000 for a 13kWh battery. If you’re adding a battery to an existing system, you may also need to add the cost of a new inverter and extra cabling. It can be more cost-effective to buy a battery as part of a new solar panel system than to retrofit it to an existing system.

Buying battery storage – Clean Energy Council’s guide to buying battery storage for a solar system.

Upgrade appliances and fixtures

Washing machine
When replacing your washing machine, consider a water-efficient model and also remember that washing machines need energy to heat up water quickly. To lower your footprint and save on bills, buy a water-efficient washing machine and also run your loads on a cold wash to conserve energy.

Energy Efficient washing machine guide – Canstar’s information on costs and savings for different levels of energy efficiency in washing machines.
Clothes dryer
Before you buy a dryer, think about how often you will use it, the kind of items you want to dry, the size of the loads you will be drying and the space and ventilation where you are intending to put the dryer. Vented (most common) dryers are cheaper to buy but more expensive to run, which may be appropriate for occasional use. If you will be using the dryer often you may consider a heat pump condenser dryer which is very energy and cost efficient to run. Look for a high energy rating.

Clothes dryer pricing guide – CHOICE’s guide to buying a clothes dryer
Clothes dryer reviews – Reviews and comparisons of Australia’s best clothes dryers.
Dishwasher
Did you know that using an efficient dishwasher is often more sustainable than handwashing? Like washing machines, use a water-efficient dishwasher to save on water and always wash dishes on an ‘eco-wash’ setting to help save energy.

Dishwasher lifetime costs – Canstar’s guide to the total costs of running a dishwasher.
Fridge
Fridges are often some of the biggest energy guzzlers in the average Brisbane household, alongside hot water systems, pool pumps and aircon. And the more gadgets it has like icemakers and water dispensers the more energy you waste.

If you have a second fridge, consider whether it is absolutely necessary or whether you can let it go. Most of those second fridges storing beer in the garage are older models that consume a lot of energy. Selling or donating your second fridge could make a big impact on your energy bill savings!

Fridge buying guide – Pricing and information for buying different fridge models available in Australia.
Computers
Try to use a laptop instead of a desktop computer and monitor. Laptops and notebooks are generally much more efficient than desktop computers. They are designed to run on battery power so in many cases the processor and other hardware is less powerful than a desktop model. Tablets use very little electricity to run. With no moving parts and highly efficient components as well as limited processing capacity, the energy requirements of tablets are very low.

Laptop charge buying guide – Information on average costs for laptop charging.
Technology energy usage guide – Comparison information on different technology product’s energy usage.
TV
The size, display technology and age of your TV all affect its power usage. Generally, LED display technology is more efficient than LCD and plasma. Choose a TV size appropriate to the room size, how far away you’ll be sitting from the screen and your viewing preferences. Energy labels indicate how efficient TVs are to operate. The more stars, the more efficient they will be.

TV buying guide – Pricing and information for buying different TV models available in Australia.
Smart TV reviews – CHOICE’s TV review and comparison service.
Air conditioner
Air conditioners are one of the most energy intensive appliances in the home. By choosing the right air conditioner for your home and installing an energy-efficient model you can save hundreds of dollars a year. Setting the air conditioner at the right temperature level (such as keeping your air conditioner set at 24-26°C in summer and 18-21°C in winter) will help lower your electricity bills.

Air conditioner buying guide – Pricing and information for buying different air conditioner models available in Australia.
Air conditioner upgrade rewards scheme – Did you know Energex may reward you up to $400 for upgrading to a PeakSmart air conditioner model?
Lighting
Upgrade any remaining hallogen light bulbs at your property with LEDs.

LED light bulbs are better value for money and more energy efficient than incandescent and halogen light bulbs, using around 75% less electricity to produce the same amount of light and lasting significantly longer before needing to be replaced.

Light bulb buying guide – Pricing and information for buying light bulbs in Australia
Smart lights buying guide – Pricing and information for buying smart lights in Australia.
LED lighting costs – An LED lighting cost calculator.
Energy rating calculator – Official rating for appliance energy efficiency.

Heating and cooling

Draught-proof your home
Sealing your home against air leakage is a simple and often overlooked way to increase comfort while reducing energy bills and carbon emissions by up to 25%. Use draught-excluders, door and window seals, or gap filler to prevent draughts. When using gas appliances, always ensure you have enough ventilation to avoid creating a serious health hazard.

Passive Design – Information on home sealing techniques.
Draught proofing instructions – Best practice information for draught-proofing.
Adjust setpoint on air conditioner 1°C warmer in summer and cooler in winter
Each degree outside the recommended set point increases the energy used by your air conditioner by around 10%. Finding a temperature between 18°C and 21°C is recommended for heating. Every 1°C cooler may lower the running cost of your heater by up to 10%.

Air con temperature costing guide – Information on expenses for different temperature air con settings.
Use a fan instead of air conditioning
Fans evaporate moisture from the skin creating a cooling effect. The energy use and running cost of fans is a fraction of air conditioners. Fans may also be more effective in small to medium rooms.

Instead of using air conditioning for the entire night during summer, try putting it on a timer for an hour as you go to bed and then leaving the fan on to keep your room cool while you sleep.

Ceiling fans vs. air conditioning – An analysis of the benefits and disadvantages of both methods of cooling.
Install roof insulation
Good insulation will keep your home more comfortable all year around and help reduce your energy bills. The cost of roof insulation depends on the materials used and whether or not special equipment or expertise is needed to install it. When comparing the prices of various types of insulation, also carefully consider their R value (R value is a measure of thermal efficiency). It may be worth it to invest a little more in a product with a higher R value.

Home insulation buying guide – Pricing and information for installing insulation in Australia.
Insulation price calculator – An online tool to calculate the average insulation costs in your area.
Install double glazing on windows
Double glazing may reduce your energy requirements for heating and cooling by up to 30%. If window frames are in good condition, you can replace the glass at a cost of $200-220/m2 plus $70-90/hour for installation. New windows inclusive of frames may cost $800-1,500/m2 to install.

Double glazing buying guide – Pricing and information for installing double glazed windows.
Install shading/coverings on glass windows and doors
In summer, close curtains and shade windows to minimise heat entering your home. Direct sun can generate as much heat as a single bar radiant heater over each square metre of a surface. Effective shading can block up to 90% of this heat, improving comfort and saving energy.

Shading 101 – An overview of shading as a tool for passive home design to conserve energy.
Blind price calculator – An online tool to calculate the average cost of blinds in your area.
Shading product types – An overview of the different outdoor blinds and shading options available.

Water systems

Wash clothes on a cold water setting
Wash clothes in cold water whenever possible to use up to 10 times less energy, as generally speaking, most of the energy used by a washing machine is for heating water. Cold water is fine for most clothes and other items that you can safely put in the washing machine, and means clothing is less likely to shrink or fade.

Hot vs. cold water – An explanation article about the difference between hot and cold water washing.
Washing machine running costs – Pricing information for running different washing machine settings.
Install low-flow showerheads
If your shower water flow rate is more than 9 litres a minute, consider installing a water saving shower head. Switching a shower head with a 20 litre per minute flow rate to one with a 9 litre per minute flow rate can save more than 20,000 litres of water a year for one person taking a 5 minute shower once a day. Not only will you save water, you’ll also save energy used to heat your water.

Water efficiency rating – Government certified household water efficiency rating explained.
Buying the best shower head – A buying guide for sustainable, low-flow showerheads.
Take 4 minute showers
Taking shorter showers will not only save water, it will reduce the energy needed to heat the water.

10 tips to cut your hot water costs – A useful list of household actions that can lower hot water consumption.
Replace your electric water heating system
Choose an energy efficient water heater, such as a solar, electric heat pump, or five star energy rated gas water heater when your current water heater needs replacing. Water heating uses a lot of energy, up to 25% of an average Australian household’s energy. A more efficient system can have big benefits in terms of lower household energy use and costs.

Water heating energy rating – The official energy rating information for water heating systems in Australia.
Water heating system buying guide – Information and pricing for hot water systems in Australia.
Upgrade pool pump and reduce running time
An energy efficient pool pump can save up to 80% on pool running costs.

To operate your pool pump efficiently, you will need to determine the optimum filtration time for your pool. One complete turnover of water every 24 hours will generally provide enough filtering for the average backyard pool. Pumps are often left to run longer than needed because people fear chemical imbalance will lead to algal growth, though prolonged filtration or circulation will not necessarily prevent this from occurring. In most cases, six hours per day in summer and four in winter should be sufficient. Check the running time for your pool pump with your local pool shop. Reducing its running time by just one hour a day could save up to $100 a year.

Pool pump energy rating – The official energy rating information for pool pumps in Australia.
Swimming pool energy use – Details on how much energy residential swimming pools use in Australia.
Use a pool cover
Cover a heated pool or spa with an insulated cover to minimise heat loss and reduce heating costs. In the case of a heated pool, a well-fitted cover can deliver an energy saving of up to 50%.

Pool covers buying guide – Information and pricing for pool covers available in Australia.
Adjust set point on pool heater 1°C cooler
Much like air conditioning, a small adjustment to the temperature setting on your pool heater can have a big impact on the heater’s energy use and costs. As a guide, exercise or fun activities in the pool are comfortable at 24°C to 28°C. Each degree higher will use more energy to maintain the heat of the water. The warmer you heat your pool, the more you may also need to run your pump for sanitation purposes as algae grows faster in warmer water.

Swimming pool energy use – Details on how much energy residential swimming pools use in Australia.

Reduce waste

While the emissions from waste aren’t as significant as transport and energy, waste sitting in landfill can release carbon dioxide and methane into the atmosphere which can be very damaging to the climate. Luckily, there are a few easy things Brisbane households can do to lower their emissions from waste.

Breaking down organic waste

Compost food waste
Keep food waste out of landfill and produce fewer emissions of methane, a powerful greenhouse gas which has 28 times the global warming potential of carbon dioxide.

When you compost organic waste instead of sending it to landfill you significantly reduce your greenhouse gas emissions and create rich nutrients that can be returned to the garden as potting mix, soil enhancer or mulch. If you don’t have your own garden, you can still compost your food waste at one of the community composting hubs located around Brisbane or opt for an urban composting solution tailored for properties with limited space. There are a number of different composting solutions that can cater for fruit and vegetable scraps, as well as cooked food, meat and dairy.

Did you know that Brisbane residents can receive a $70 rebate thanks to Brisbane City Council when they purchase a compost solution.

Getting started with composting – Brisbane City Council’s guide to composting at home
Community compost hubs – Do you know that Brisbane has over 30 compost hubs to dispose of food waste?
Composting in an apartment or townhouse – Use a Bokashi bin to store food waste inside then dispose at a community compost hub.
Compost garden waste
When you compost organic waste instead of sending it to landfill you significantly reduce your greenhouse gas emissions and create rich nutrients that can be returned to the garden as potting mix, soil enhancer or mulch. If you don’t have your own garden, you can still compost your food waste at one of the community composting hubs located around Brisbane.

If you produce more garden waste than your home compost system can handle, order a green waste recycling bin from Brisbane City Council.

Green waste recycling service – Information on Brisbane City Council’s green bin recycling service.

Reduce, reuse, recycle

Reduce food waste
More than 26% of the average Brisbane rubbish bin is food waste. This has significant impacts on the environment through the wasted use of resources to produce and distribute food, as well as the production of greenhouse gas emissions when disposed of in landfill. Food waste is estimated to cost the Australian economy $20 billion each year.

Planning meals in advance and preparing a shopping list around what’s in your fridge will help you to only buy the food you need and cut down on waste. Food planning can also help improve nutrition, reduce the stress of deciding ‘what’s for dinner’ and make your trip to the supermarket quicker and easier. Using up or freezing leftovers is quick and easy and can be convenient when you don’t feel like cooking.

National food waste strategy – The Australian Government’s national strategy to reduce food waste.
Love Food Hate Waste – Learn helpful tips and tools to reduce your food waste at home.
Recycle paper and cardboard
Every year 27,000 tonnes of paper and cardboard ends up in landfill in Brisbane, simply because went in the wrong bin. You can ensure these valuable resources are recycled into new paper and cardboard products by putting them in the recycling bin.

When it goes to landfill, paper and cardboard produces 50% more carbon emissions than food waste and twice the emissions of garden waste.

Paper and cardboard disposal guide – A helpful guide so you can be sure what paper and cardboard items can and can’t be recycled.
Recycle soft plastics
Australia uses 70 billion pieces of soft plastic (such as shopping bags, cling wrap, lolly wrappers) every year, most of which are single-use (WWF, 2020). Soft plastics cannot be recycled by the Brisbane City Council, however, households can collect them and dispose of them at their nearest redCYCLE service collection bin. These collection bins can be found at participating Coles and Woolsworths stores.

What to redCYCLE – What soft plastics can be recycled in Australia.
Where to redCYCLE – Where to dispose of soft plastics for recycling.
Where does it go – Learn about how redCYCLE work with many partners to recycle soft plastics into shopping trolleys, footpaths and agriculture fencing.
Switch to re-useable nappies
Each year, Brisbane residents dispose of more than 12,000 tonnes of disposable nappies. Disposable nappies are non-recyclable, resource-intensive and estimated to take up to 500 years to break down. Modern cloth nappies are a great alternative. Even if used in conjunction with disposable nappies, you can save money and help the environment.

Disposable and cloth nappy buying guide – Information and pricing on different nappy options available in Australia.

Haven’t calculated your household carbon emissions yet?

Did you know…?

…that Brisbane City Council is a carbon neutral organisation? Council is taking steps to reduce the carbon emissions from its operations and is investing in emission reduction projects around Australia and overseas to offset emissions that can’t be avoided. Visit www.brisbane.gov.au for more information.

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