How to reduce your household carbon footprint

Practical tips and resources to help Brisbane households to lower their home energy, waste and transport emissions and save on bills.

Lower your bills and environmental impact

Reducing your household carbon footprint will help make Brisbane a low-carbon and climate-resilient city and can save you money at the same time.

Working together, we can achieve Brisbane’s citywide target to halve household carbon emissions from home energy, transport and waste by 2031.

Below are some handy tips and resources to help you take action to lower your household carbon emissions. For a list of actions tailored to your household, take the Brisbane Carbon Challenge.

Lower your energy emissions

Home energy accounts for 47% of the carbon footprint of an average Brisbane household. Fortunately, there are many actions you can take at home to save on your energy bills and lower your carbon emissions.

Monitor your energy consumption

Install a smart or digital meter

Energy retailers are installing digital or smart meters across Queensland. With a smart meter, you can track your home energy use every 30 minutes and can view real-time data about your consumption using an online portal. By identifying patterns in your energy use, such as when your energy peaks during the day, you can make informed decisions about how to reduce energy consumption in your home.

Get in touch with your energy provider to check if you qualify for a smart meter.  Even if you don’t qualify for a smart meter, you can still monitor your energy consumption using a Home Energy Monitoring System (HEMS).


Resources

Digital meters | Homes and housing – Queensland Government’s information about digital meters, how they work, how to get one installed and your rights and protection.
Smart meters guide  – CHOICE’s article about the pros and cons of smart meters and how you can get the most out of yours.

Case study

How Mike Watson used a digital meter to save $50 per month on his power bill

Use a home energy monitoring system

Home energy monitoring systems (HEMS) are a great way to gain a more detailed understanding of your energy consumption. There is a variety of HEMS available on the market. Some systems monitor your overall home energy use, while others can provide data on energy consumption at a circuit level, allowing you to understand which appliances or areas of your home are using the most energy, such as lighting, or air conditioning, for example. By pinpointing areas where you can change specific habits, HEMS can help encourage all members of your household to take steps to reduce energy consumption.

Resources

A guide to electricity usage monitors – Canstar Blue’s information on energy monitors and how they can help you reduce your electricity use.
Plug in: to energy monitoring – Energy Consumers Australia’s factsheet on finding out if installing an energy monitoring system is right for you.

Case Study

How this sharehouse took back control of their energy bill by using a HEMS

Laura and Finn standing in the yard outside their apartment smiling into the camera.

Quick wins at home that avoid energy use

Switch off appliances at the wall

Standby energy consumption may seem minimal for individual appliances, but with multiple appliances and devices in an average home, it can add up to approximately 10% of your household’s annual electricity consumption. Australia-wide, this builds up to a significant amount of power and carbon emissions that could easily be avoided.

You can make turning off appliances easier by using standby power controllers, Wi-Fi-enabled plugs connected to smartphone apps or smart power boards that automatically cut power off when it detects a device is in standby mode. Timers and sensors can control lighting and appliances to save power when they’re not in use. Smart sensors and remotes are also available for air conditioners, to turn them off when the room is unoccupied. 

Resources

Standby power costs – Canstar Blue’s analysis of the cost of wasted electricity per household item left on standby.
Standby energy savers – CHOICE’s analysis of the cost of wasted electricity per household item left on standby, as well as their verdict of whether it pays to turn off appliances at the wall.

Case study

How the Boyd family used smart technology to track, automate and reduce their energy use

Switch off unnecessary lighting

Lighting can account for up to 10% of an average Australian household’s energy bill. By making it a habit to turn off lights in empty rooms or unused areas, you can reduce energy wastage and avoid unnecessary costs.

You can decrease your need for artificial lighting by bringing natural light into your home. Examples include opening window coverings or using well-insulated skylights or light tubes.

If you frequently leave your outdoor lights on, think about installing sensor lights that turn on only when there is movement and turn off after a short period. As a bonus, sensor lights can also act as an alert for improved home security. Alternatively, you could install solar lights for an eco-friendly option using renewable energy.

To further manage and operate your lighting, sensors, timers and smart controls are available for your home, some with solutions that enable geofencing to automate your lights turning off. Dimmer switches are another option that lets 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.

Resources

Lighting –The Australian Government’s tips for lighting.
How to buy the best smart lights – CHOICE’s information on different lighting options.
Light bulb buyers guide – Light bulb buyers guide – Energy Rating’s factsheet for buying light bulbs.

Air-dry your clothes instead of using a dryer

Clothes dryers use a lot of energy, with CHOICE estimating that drying clothes in a vented dryer once a week could cost over $150 per year. Whenever possible, it’s more cost- and energy-efficient to use a washing line or clothes airer instead.

There are different types of clotheslines to suit all budgets and dwelling types, such as rotary, fixed, folding and retractable clotheslines, and portable clothes airers. When selecting the best solution for your household, consider where it will be placed and the space you have available. Look for a spot with good air circulation and enough space for you and your household members to move comfortably around it. For safety, the clothesline should be away from heaters or hot water units.

If you still need to run a clothes dryer, you can do so more efficiently by keeping the lint filter clean, using the highest spin speed on your washing machine before putting the load into the dryer and maximising the ventilation in your laundry.

Resources

Money saving tips for using dryer – CHOICE’s money-saving tips for using your dryer.
Do you need a dryer? – CHOICE’s pros and cons of owning a clothes dryer.

Turn off or get rid of your extra fridge

Consider whether you really need a second fridge, especially if it’s an older model that consumes a lot of energy. Additionally, small bar fridges or low-capacity fridges tend to use more energy per litre than larger fridges. It’s more efficient to buy the right-sized fridge for your needs and run only one fridge.

Selling, donating or recycling your second fridge can lead to significant energy savings and lower your bills. If you can’t do without a second fridge or freezer, consider turning it off when it’s not in use.

Resources

Substation 33 – Recycle your second fridge with this Brisbane social-purpose enterprise that recovers and recycles electrical waste.
Kingfisher Recycling Centre – Recycle your second fridge with Aspley Special School’s recycling program.
Ecoactiv – Recycle or donate your second fridge with this circular economy platform.


Case study

How the Grugeon/Dillon household removed their second fridge, lowering their emissions and saving on bills

Take shorter showers

Taking shorter showers not only saves water but also reduces the energy needed to heat the water. Even with an efficient showerhead, spending less time in the shower each day can add up to savings in water and energy costs.

Resources

Bathroom Beats – Urban Utilities free Spotify playlist of shower songs lasting less than four minutes.

Easy things you can do at home to reduce your energy use

Use a fan instead of air conditioning

Fans are an effective and affordable way to stay cool during warm weather. They create a cooling effect by evaporating moisture as airflow currents run over the skin, improving comfort levels and making you feel about 3°C cooler. By using fans instead of air conditioning, you can significantly reduce your household carbon emissions and save money on your energy bills. In fact, fans can use as little as 3% of the energy needed to run air conditioning, with an estimated cost of only 2 cents per hour per fan.

There are different types of fans you can use in your home – ceiling, portable and personal fans – and they are typically low-to-medium cost to buy. Ceiling fans require a qualified electrician to install, while portable and personal fans are often plug-and-use.

For even greater energy-efficiency, consider using direct-current fans (DC) instead of alternating-current fans (AC). While DC fans are more expensive to buy, they use significantly less electricity and are also quieter, making them a good choice for the bedroom.

To get the most out of your fan, direct the airflow directly onto your skin to maximise the cooling effect.

Resources

Heating and cooling – Cooling tips and advice from the Australian Government.
Ceiling fans vs. air conditioning – Canstar Blue’s analysis of the benefits and disadvantages of both methods of cooling.
How to find the perfect ceiling fan for your space and budget – Choice’s guide on what to look for when buying a ceiling fan.

Case study

How the Lomas/Adams household installed DC ceiling fans for a cool difference

Use a fan in combination with the air conditioner

Using a fan with an air conditioner can reduce energy usage from the air conditioner alone and save on electricity bills. So, if you need to use the air conditioner, follow these simple tips to maximise its efficiency and save energy:

  • Instead of using air conditioning for the entire time, run it for a short period when you enter your home or room or set it on a timer to turn off once you fall asleep. Once it’s cool enough, switch to a ceiling or portable fan to circulate the colder air.
  • Increase the temperature of your air-conditioner by a few degrees while also using a fan.
  • Point your pedestal or portable fan head downwards: hot air rises and cold air sinks. By pointing your fan towards the ground, you’re circulating the cool air that has settled on the ground upwards to cool more parts of the room.
  • Turn on the fan first, and when doing this, open up doors and windows to dispel the hot air. After the hot air has been flushed out, close the windows/doors and turn on the air conditioner.

Resources

Ceiling fans vs. air conditioning – Canstar Blue’s analysis of the benefits and disadvantages of both methods of cooling.

How to find the perfect ceiling fan for your space and budget – Choice’s guide on what to look for when buying a ceiling fan.

Reconsider the set point temperature of your air conditioner and heating

Using air conditioning can cost a Brisbane household hundreds of dollars per year. The further away from the outside temperature you set your air conditioning, the more energy it consumes to achieve and maintain the desired temperature.

Therefore, by setting your air conditioner between 24°C and 27°C in summer and between 18°C and 21°C in winter, you can significantly reduce your household’s energy consumption and related emissions.

In fact, for every 1°C you set your air conditioner cooler in winter or warmer in summer, you can lower the running cost of your heater and air conditioner by up to 10%. Additionally, adjusting the set point to be higher in summer and lower in winter helps reduce general wear and tear on your appliance.

If you’re looking for even more energy savings, consider using smart controllers for split-system air conditioners. These controllers can restrict the temperature range of your air conditioner to a pre-set range.

Resources

Air conditioner temperature costing guide – Canstar Blue’s costing guide for using different air conditioner temperature settings.
How much electricity does my air conditioner use? – Canstar Blue’s guide to air conditioning running costs in Australian capital cities.

Wash your clothes in cold water instead of hot

Most of the energy used by a washing machine is for heating the water. By washing your clothes in cold water, you can use up to 10 times less energy. Besides, washing in cold water has minimal impact on washing performance for most items you can safely put in the washing machine. Saving energy is not the only benefit of washing clothes in cold water: it makes them less likely to fade and more likely to last longer.  

Resources

Hot vs cold: What is the best way to wash your clothes to help them last longer? – An article by ABC Radio Brisbane.
Hot vs cold water – An explanation article by Canstar Blue about the difference between hot and cold water washing.
Washing machine running costs – Pricing information by Canstar Blue for running different washing machine settings.

Always wash clothes and dishes with a full load

Washing full loads means you need fewer washes overall, which helps reduce 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.

While the impact of washing full loads may seem small per load, reducing the number of washes in a week can lead to significant savings on your annual emissions and bills when multiplied over a year.

Resources

Dishwasher running costs – Canstar Blue’s information on the true running costs of your dishwasher.
Washing machine running costs – Canstar Blue’s information on the true running costs of your washing machine.
Washing machine size guide – CHOICE’s guide for washing loads and machine sizes.

Replace your incandescent and halogen lights with LED lights

Lighting accounts for approximately 6% of the average Queensland household’s energy bill. Fortunately, with the introduction of LEDs and the phasing out of incandescent light bulbs, electricity costs for lighting have been going down in recent years.

If you still have incandescent or halogen lights in your home, consider upgrading to LEDs light bulbs. LEDs can be used in most existing light fittings and are a better value for money and a more energy-efficient option. They use approximately 75% less electricity to produce the same amount of light and can last 5-10 times longer before needing to be replaced. According to the Australian Government, the upfront cost of LEDs generally has a payback time of less than a year. By replacing 10 halogen light bulbs with LEDs, the average Australian household can save approximately $650 over 10 years on their electricity bill.

When upgrading to LEDs, you may wish to consider investing in smart LED lights that can be controlled using voice assistance devices or smartphone apps to turn off lights centrally or use geofencing technology to automatically turn off lights when no one is in the room. Smart LED lights are particularly beneficial to those with limited mobility.

Resources

Lighting guide – Australian Government’s information on lighting.
Light bulb buyers guide – Energy Rating’s factsheet to buying light bulbs
Smart lights buying guide – CHOICE’s pricing and information for buying smart lights in Australia.
E-waste in Brisbane – Council’s tips to reduce e-waste, including a list of recycling drop-off point or collection service for light bulbs.
How to buy the best light bulbs – Choice’s guide to understand the difference between the different types of light bulbs so you can choose the right one for your needs.

Invest in renewable energy

Install solar panels

Solar panels convert the sun’s renewable energy into electricity to power your home during the day with no associated emissions. This significantly reduces ongoing electricity costs, so much that the average solar power system will pay for itself in 3 to 5 years. When choosing a solar power system, consider the size that is right for your current and future energy needs. As a general rule, your solar power system should cover as much of your daytime household energy consumption as possible.

To future proof your investment, consider installing a solar power system that can accommodate batteries to be added later.

In Brisbane, the average 5.5kW household solar system may produce approximately 23.1kWh daily. The cost benefit of installing a solar system depends on how well you can match your household’s electricity consumption to when your solar system is producing electricity. The greater the correlation, the greater the benefit. The system and installation costs may range from $4,200 to $10,400 depending on the size of the system. Many banks offer green loans with discounted interest rates and sometimes no fees to help finance projects that improve your home’s energy efficiency.

When choosing a solar installer, make sure you get multiple quotes and choose a Solar Accreditation Australia (SAA) approved solar retailer working with an approved installer under the Small-scale Renewable Energy Scheme (SRES). Also ensure they offer the best warranty terms for solar panels and inverters, as well as warranties on installation and workmanship.  

Installing a solar power system has the added benefit of potentially adding value to your home, with a realestate.com.au survey reporting that 85% of Australians believe solar power adds value to a property.

Resources

Buying solar – Clean Energy Council’s downloadable and comprehensive guide to buying a solar system.
Solar PV guide – Energex (the electricity distributor used in Brisbane)’s guide to installing solar power systems.
Solar Consumer Guide – This guide offers you free and helpful information about rooftop solar and batteries.
How to buy the best solar panels – CHOICE’s guide to buying a solar power system.
Is solar right for me? – Clean Energy Council’s advice for buying a solar power system.
Solar Price Index – Solar Choice publishes average solar power system prices on a monthly basis
SunSPOT – The not-for-profit SunSPOT has built a calculator to help households thinking about installing a solar power system estimate a system size, cost and savings.
Solar for rentals – This Queensland Government calculator helps renters and landlords understand if installing a solar power system is right for them.
Small-scale Renewable Energy Scheme – Information on the Australian Government’s rebate scheme for buyers of household solar power.

Case study

How the Wood household received a $7 electricity bill for the month of December after installing a solar power system
Marina and Adam Wood holding their dog, smiling into the camera

Install a battery with your solar power system

Storing the excess electricity generated by your solar system in a battery for use when the sun isn’t shining has a few benefits. It will allow you to have power available at all times of the day and reduce your reliance on electricity from the grid while also mitigating the impact of unfavourable weather conditions.

Although solar batteries have been available for decades, their high price made them unaffordable for most households. However, recent technological advancements have made solar batteries more accessible for consumers. A 5kW battery now costs approximately $6,000, excluding installation costs. Many banks offer green loans with discounted interest rates and sometimes no fees to help finance projects that improve your home’s energy efficiency.

When considering whether to install a battery, it’s important to weigh the cost of the battery and its installation against the long-term savings. Prices for batteries largely depend on their storage capacity, efficiency and lifespan.

If you’re adding a battery to an existing system, you may also need to factor in the cost of a new inverter and additional cabling. Buying a battery as part of a new solar power system might be more cost-effective than retrofitting it into an existing one.

When choosing a solar installer, make sure you get multiple quotes and choose a Solar Accreditation Australia (SAA) approved solar retailer working with an approved installer under the Small-scale Renewable Energy Scheme (SRES). Also ensure they offer the best warranty terms for solar panels and inverters, as well as warranties on installation and workmanship.  

If you need to upgrade your entire solar power system to accommodate batteries, make sure to reuse or recycle the solar panels and inverter.

Resources

Buying battery storage – Clean Energy Council’s downloadable and comprehensive guide to buying battery storage for a solar power system.
Battery storage buying guide – CHOICE’s guide to evaluating and buying solar power storage batteries.
Installing and connecting solar panels and batteries systems – NSW Government’s guide, including a series of videos, to consider when installing a solar power system with batteries.
Home Batteries – advice from Energex (the electricity distributor used in Brisbane) about home battery energy storage, including steps to get pre-approval to connect to the grid and the installation process.
Home battery solar price index – Solar Choice publishes average battery prices on a monthly basis.
Recycling solar panels in Australia – Canstar Blue’s guide to reusing and recycling your old solar panels.
E-waste in Brisbane – Council’s tips to reduce e-waste, including a list of recycling drop-off point or collection service for solar panels and battery storage.

Upgrade your solar power system

If you’ve had your home solar power system for some time, consider upgrading it if you’ve noticed your solar production isn’t as good as it used to be or if you could lower your consumption from the grid further by producing more energy.

Solar power systems typically need to be replaced after 30 years as solar panels slowly lose efficiency every year. As a result, your old system will generate less power than when it was installed. Plus, solar technology has advanced significantly since early systems were installed. For example, the average Australian solar power system installed in 2010 was just 1.5kW, but now the average is 5.5 kW with 14 solar panels.

There are usually four options to increase the size of your solar power system. First, check with solar installers if it’s possible to add more panels to your existing inverter. Alternatively, you can add panels with micro-inverters, add a second solar power system, or remove your existing system and replace it with a larger one. Solar power specialists can advise you on the best option for your property.

Your solar feed-in tariff may also influence your decision-making process. If you have a high feed-in tariff, upgrading your system may impact it, so it’s best to check first with your energy retailer.

When choosing a solar installer, make sure you get multiple quotes and choose a Solar Accreditation Australia (SAA) approved solar retailer working with an approved installer under the Small-scale Renewable Energy Scheme (SRES). Also ensure they offer the best warranty terms for solar panels and inverters, as well as warranties on installation and workmanship.  

Finally, if you replace your solar panels, make sure to reuse or recycle the old ones. Solar panels contain precious metals that can be recovered and used for renewable technologies, reducing the need to mine raw materials and diverting e-waste from landfill.

Resources

When to upgrade your solar power system – Canstar Blue’s guide to upgrading your solar power system.
How to upgrade to a bigger solar power system – Your Solar Quotes provides detailed information on the different options you can consider when upgrading your solar power system.
Solar PV guide – Energex (the electricity distributor used in Brisbane)’s guide to installing solar power systems.
Solar Consumer Guide – This guide offers you free and helpful information about rooftop solar and batteries.
Recycling solar panels in Australia – Canstar Blue’s guide to reusing and recycling your old solar panels.
E-waste in Brisbane – Council’s tips to reduce e-waste, including a list of recycling drop-off point or collection service for solar panels and battery storage.

Case study

How Vicki Lorimer, a Brisbane homeowner, upgraded her older and smaller solar power system to a larger system that better suited her needs

Switch to a 100% renewable energy (GreenPower) plan

If installing a solar power system is not an option for your household or if you want to supplement your solar power system during non-sunlight hours, consider buying accredited renewable energy through your electricity provider. It’s a simple option that often only requires a phone call.

GreenPower is renewable energy from government-accredited sources being brought into the electricity grid. When you apply GreenPower to your account, you ensure your electricity retailer will purchase renewable energy equivalent to the amount of kWh you consume.

Most electricity retailers in Australia offer a GreenPower-accredited product that allows you to purchase between 10% and 100% of your energy from a renewable source. Adding 100% GreenPower to your electricity plan will eliminate all of your household electricity-related emissions. On average, a GreenPower electricity plan may cost an additional 4 to 8 cents/kWh on top of your current electricity rate. If your budget is tight, it may be a good time to shop around and compare plans from different energy providers to look for a better deal, so that adding GreenPower might not even affect your bill.

While the Government-accredited program is called GreenPower, each retailer may offer it under their own branded product name. Check the Find a Provider page on the GreenPower website to learn about the product you need to ask for. Note that some large retailers offer their own carbon-neutral product for a premium price. It can be confusing when asking for GreenPower to be applied to your account. While carbon-neutral products may offset your emissions, there is no guarantee that renewable energy is being sourced. If you want to ensure you are reducing your carbon emissions, always ask for the GreenPower-accredited product.

Resources

Get GreenPower – a useful overview of the GreenPower scheme with information on eligibility and how to get GreenPower.
How much does GreenPower cost? – a guide to GreenPower prices.
Find a provider – a list of all Australian electricity providers/retailers that offer a GreenPower plan. This is useful for knowing what product to ask for when calling your retailer.
GreenPower vs carbon neutral – Canstar Blue’s simple explanation of the difference between a GreenPower and carbon-neutral electricity plan.
The Green Electricity Guide  – Greenpeace’s ranking of Australia’s electricity providers that makes it easier for consumers to choose a green electricity provider and make the switch.
Energy Made Easy – free, independent government service to compare the different energy companies and choose the best plan for you.

Case study

How a Brisbane resident, Vicki Lorimer, halved her household carbon footprint by switching to GreenPower

Upgrade appliances

Look for appliances with the highest star rating you can afford

Different electrical appliances come with varying running costs. While cheaper appliances may seem like a bargain, they may end up costing you more in the long term. The next time you’re in the market for a big-ticket appliance – such as a washing machine, fridge, dishwasher or TV – look for the overall best value for money.

It pays to check the Energy Rating Label when shopping for appliances. The more stars on the label, the more energy-efficient the appliance. Energy-efficient appliances may cost a little more upfront, but they will save you money on running costs in the long run.

When purchasing appliances online, most retailers allow you to filter products by energy rating.

Resources

Understanding the Energy Rating Label – Energy Rating’s guide for consumers on understanding the label.
Energy rating calculator – Compare energy consumption and running costs for different appliances.
No Interest Loan Scheme (NILS) – Those who earn less than $70,000 (single) or $100,000 (with a partner) annual income may be eligible to borrow up to $2,000 for essentials, including appliances.

Case study

How the Lomas/Adams household saved on energy emissions and bills by upgrading their 3-star fridge to a 6-star model

Fridge/freezer

Refrigerators and freezers run 24/7, making them one of the biggest energy consumers in the average Brisbane household. In addition, gadgets such as icemakers and water dispensers can further increase their energy usage.

Fridges/freezers account for approximately 8-13% of the average Queensland household’s energy bills, so it’s worth investing in an energy-efficient model. Look for the Energy Rating Label and choose a fridge/freezer with the highest number of stars in your budget range. Most retailers allow you to filter products by energy rating when shopping online.

It’s also important to select a fridge/freezer with a capacity that meets your needs. If you have a bar fridge or a smaller fridge, they tend to use more energy per litre capacity than larger fridges. So if you have more than one fridge in the house, it might be worth purchasing a larger fridge and getting rid of the second one.

Resources

How to choose an energy-efficient fridge – CHOICE article advising what to look for when choosing an energy-efficient fridge.
Energy rating calculator – Compare energy consumption and running costs for different refrigerators on the market.
No Interest Loan Scheme (NILS) – Those who earn less than $70,000 (single) or $100,000 (with a partner) annual income may be eligible to borrow up to $2,000 for essentials, including appliances.

When disposing your existing appliance, consider recycling with these below services:

  • Substation 33 – Recycle your second fridge with this Brisbane social enterprise that recovers and recycles electrical waste.
  • Kingfisher Recycling Centre – Recycle your second fridge with Aspley Special School’s recycling program.
  • Ecoactiv – Recycle or donate your second fridge with this circular economy platform.
  • eWaste connection – Donate your electrical items to this Brisbane social enterprise.
Case study

How the Lomas/Adams household saved on energy emissions and bills by upgrading their 3-star fridge to a 6-star model

Washing machine

When replacing your washing machine, you’ll find two common types on the market: top loaders and front loaders. Front loaders tend to use less energy than top loaders. When selecting your washing machine, choose a water-efficient model and remember that when you use hot water cycles, the appliance uses energy to heat water quickly. In fact, this is where the most energy is used when washing clothes. While it’s recommended to wash clothes in cold water, it’s still important to consider the energy star rating of your new washing machine.

Look for the Energy Rating Label and choose the model with the highest number of stars in your budget range. Washing machines have star ratings for both water and energy savings. Most retailers allow you to filter products by energy rating when shopping online.

Resources

Energy-efficient washing – CHOICE’s guide to energy-efficient washing.
Energy and water-efficient washing machines – CHOICE’s guide to energy and water-efficient washing machines.
Energy rating calculator –  Compare energy consumption and running costs for different washing machine models.
No Interest Loan Scheme (NILS) – Those who earn less than $70,000 (single) or $100,000 (with a partner) annual income may be eligible to borrow up to $2,000 for essentials, including appliances.

When disposing your existing appliance, consider recycling with these below services:

  • Substation 33 – Recycle your washing machine with this Brisbane social enterprise that recovers and recycles electrical waste.
  • Kingfisher Recycling Centre – Recycle your washing machine with Aspley Special School’s recycling program.
  • Ecoactiv – Recycle or donate your washing machine with this circular economy platform.
  • eWaste connection – Donate your electrical items to this Brisbane social enterprise.

Air conditioner

Air conditioners account for 14% of the average energy consumption in a Queensland household. So choosing an energy-efficient air conditioner that suits your home can save you hundreds of dollars a year.

When purchasing a new air conditioner, look for the type and size that best fits your space. There are different types of air conditioners available, including split-system, multi-split, ducted, box unit or portable unit. Some models only cool the air, while others have a reverse-cycle system that can both heat and cool.

The star rating on air conditioners measures both the cooling and heating efficiency. The labels are slightly different from labels found on other appliances. Cooling-only systems have a set of blue stars, while reverse-cycle systems (those that can heat and cool) also have a set of red stars that represent their heating capacity. The label works in the same way as other appliances – the more stars it has, the more efficient it is. So look for an air conditioner in your budget range with the highest number of stars when you’re buying a new one.

To maximise energy-efficiency, also consider models with eco-modes and/or smart sensors, or ones compatible with smart sensor remotes that allow you to control the air conditioner remotely and automatically turn the system off when the room is empty for a while.

In addition, setting the air conditioner at the right temperature (such as keeping it between 24-27°C in summer and 18-21°C in winter) can lower your electricity bills.

Resources

Air conditioner buying guide – CHOICE’s pricing and information for buying different air conditioner models available in Australia.
Air conditioner upgrade rewards scheme –Energex (the electricity distributor used in Brisbane) may reward you up to $400 for upgrading to a PeakSmart air conditioner model.
Energy rating calculator – Compare energy consumption and running costs for different air conditioner models.

When disposing your existing appliance, consider recycling with these below services:

  • Substation 33 – Recycle your air conditioner with this Brisbane social enterprise that recovers and recycles electrical waste.
  • Kingfisher Recycling Centre – Recycle your air conditioner with Aspley Special School’s recycling program.
  • Ecoactiv – Recycle or donate your air conditioner with this circular economy platform.
  • eWaste connection – Donate your electrical items to this Brisbane social enterprise.

Clothes dryer

While line-drying your clothes under our hot Brisbane sun is recommended, there may be circumstances where you need to use a clothes dryer. When buying a dryer, there are a few things to consider, such as how often you will use it, the type of items you want to dry, the size of the loads you will be drying and the space and ventilation where you intend to put the dryer.

Vented dryers are the most common type, and they are cheaper to buy but more expensive to run. Vented dryers run at a high temperature and vent hot, wet air into your laundry, which can damage your clothes. Plus, the vented dryer’s timers may also over-dry your clothes. However, if you only plan to use the dryer occasionally, buying the most energy-efficient vented dryer that fits your budget may be the most affordable option overall.

But if you plan to use the dryer often, consider buying a heat pump condenser dryer. These dryers use heat exchanger technology and consume approximately 39% less energy than an equivalent-sized vented dryer. Although they are more expensive to buy, they are significantly cheaper to run. Additionally, they don’t vent hot air into your laundry and home and use lower temperatures, making the drying process gentler on your clothes.

Clothes dryers are energy-rated, so look for the highest star rating within your budget range.

Resources

Clothes dryer buying guide – CHOICE’s guide to buying a clothes dryer.
Is a heat pump dryer worth it? – CHOICE explains how heat pump clothes dryers work and whether they’re right for you.
Energy rating calculator – Compare energy consumption and running costs for different dryer models.
No Interest Loan Scheme (NILS) – Those who earn less than $70,000 (single) or $100,000 (with a partner) annual income may be eligible to borrow up to $2,000 for essentials, including appliances.

When disposing your existing appliance, consider recycling with these below services:

  • Substation 33 – Recycle your dryer with this Brisbane social enterprise that recovers and recycles electrical waste.
  • Kingfisher Recycling Centre – Recycle your dryer with Aspley Special School’s recycling program.
  • Ecoactiv – Recycle or donate your dryer with this circular economy platform.
  • eWaste connection – Donate your electrical items to this Brisbane social enterprise.
Case study

How Alexandra Shepherd invested in an energy-efficient heat-pump clothes dryer to reduce the energy bills when her housemates used the dryer

Dishwasher

Modern dishwashers are much more efficient than handwashing as they require less water and most of the energy used in washing up goes towards heating that water. In fact, it takes more than twice as much energy (and money!) to heat water for a sink tap than for a dishwasher.

If you’re in the market for a new dishwasher, it’s important to consider running costs when choosing the right model. While energy and water-efficient models may cost more upfront, they will save you money in the long run. To find the most efficient option, look for the highest star ratings in your budget range for both energy and water efficiency.

When buying a dishwasher, it’s also recommended to choose a model with an eco-mode.  This setting can provide excellent cleaning results for lightly-soiled dishes while using 20-30% less than default cycles.

Resources

How to buy a great dishwasher – CHOICE’s guide on what to look for when purchasing a dishwasher.
Choosing an energy-efficient dishwasher – NSW Government’s Climate and Energy Action guide on buying dishwashers.
Should you use eco mode – CHOICE’s analysis on using eco mode and how to get the sweet spot of energy efficiency and performance.
Energy rating calculator – Compare energy consumption and running costs for different dishwasher models.
No Interest Loan Scheme (NILS) – Those who earn less than $70,000 (single) or $100,000 (with a partner) annual income may be eligible to borrow up to $2,000 for essentials, including appliances.

When disposing your existing appliance, consider recycling with these below services:

  • Substation 33 – Recycle your dishwasher with this Brisbane social enterprise that recovers and recycles electrical waste.
  • Kingfisher Recycling Centre – Recycle your dishwasher with Aspley Special School’s recycling program.
  • Ecoactiv – Recycle or donate your dishwasher with this circular economy platform.
  • eWaste connection – Donate your electrical items to this Brisbane social enterprise.

Upgrade desktop computer to a laptop

The convenience of laptops is a significant selling point. But did you know they are also a lot more energy-efficient than desktop computers and monitors? Desktop computers and their monitors need a constant feed of electricity to operate, whereas laptops are designed to run on battery power. According to Canstar Blue, a laptop generally only costs 1 to 3 cents in energy for several hours of use, while a desktop computer and monitor will cost at least 10.2 cents per hour in electricity to operate.

Tablets also require very little electricity to run. With no moving parts, highly-efficient components and limited processing capacity, the energy requirements of tablets are very low.

If you need to use a computer monitor with your laptop, check the energy rating labels. Look for the highest star ratings within your budget range. Energy rating schemes have not yet been introduced for laptops or tablets.

Resources

Laptop charge guide – Canstar Blue’s information on average costs for laptop charging.
Reduce computer running costs (monitors in particular) at home – Sustainability Victoria’s guide to energy efficiency and computer equipment.
Laptop buying guide – CHOICE’s guide when buying a new laptop (general information).
Energy rating calculator – Compare energy consumption and running costs for computer monitors.
No Interest Loan Scheme (NILS) – Those who earn less than $70,000 (single) or $100,000 (with a partner) annual income may be eligible to borrow up to $2,000 for essentials, including laptops.

When disposing your existing computer, consider recycling with these below services:

  • Substation 33 – Recycle or donate your computer with this Brisbane social enterprise that refurbish computers for students and families in Logan and beyond.
  • Kingfisher Recycling Centre – Recycle your computer with Aspley Special School’s recycling program.
  • Ecoactiv – Recycle or donate your computer with this circular economy platform.
  • eWaste connection – Donate your electrical items to this Brisbane social enterprise.

TV

TVs and home entertainment systems can use a surprising amount of energy in households. In fact, the Queensland Government estimate that entertainment and office equipment (that in the age of streaming devices can double as entertainment systems) account for 9% of the average Queensland household’s energy use.

When it comes to TVs, 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. To choose an appropriate TV size for your room, consider 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, so look for a model with the highest star rating within your budget range.

When using your TV, you can save energy by turning down the brightness, contrast and the volume. If you’re used to having the TV on for background noise, switch to a radio or music speaker as they need less energy. You can also consider turning off the wireless connectivity features that might be using energy through your TV.

To avoid energy wastage from standby power, you can unplug your home entertainment appliances when you’re not using them or use a smart power strip to automatically cut power to your devices when they’re not in use. Standby power can account for up to 10% of your household’s energy consumption; see resources for more information on how to reduce your standby power usage.

Resources

TV buying guide – CHOICE’s pricing and information for buying different TV models available in Australia.
Avoiding power hungry TVs and home entertainment units – CHOICE’s guide to cutting down on energy costs.
Energy rating calculator – Compare energy consumption and running costs for different TV models.

When disposing your existing appliance, consider recycling with these below services:

  • Substation 33 – Recycle your TV with this Brisbane social enterprise that recovers and recycles electrical waste.
  • Kingfisher Recycling Centre – Recycle your TV with Aspley Special School’s recycling program.
  • Ecoactiv – Recycle or donate your TV with this circular economy platform.
  • eWaste connection – Donate your electrical items to this Brisbane social enterprise.

Energy-efficient home improvements

Install roof insulation

Many older homes in Brisbane aren’t designed for the local climate, meaning households often spend a lot of money on energy to maintain a comfortable temperature all year round. Installing roof and ceiling insulation can save up to 45% (sometimes more) on heating and cooling costs. Insulation is a material that slows or prevents the heat flow, helping to keep the heat inside the home in winter and outside in summer, thus keeping your home more comfortable all year round.

There are two main types of insulation – bulk insulation and reflective insulation. Bulk insulation works by trapping air inside millions of tiny bubbles that help resist the flow of heat in and out of your home. Reflective insulation deflects radiant heat, making it suitable for hot and sunny climates like Brisbane’s.

While it can be difficult to install insulation in the walls and floors after a property is built, if you have access to your ceiling cavity, roof insulation is simple to install and effective at regulating your home’s temperature.

The cost of roof insulation depends on the materials used and whether special equipment or expertise is needed to install it. When comparing the prices of various types of insulation, carefully consider their R value (i.e. thermal efficiency) and choose the product with the highest R value for your budget range.

Resources

Passive design: Insulation – Australian Government’s guide to insulation.
Home insulation buying guide – Canstar Blue’s information for installing insulation in Australia.

Case study

How the Gittus family installed insulation into their 1970s home’s cathedral ceilings and immediately noticed the difference

Draught-proof your home

Did you know that air leaking in and out of your home can increase your cooling costs by up to 25%? Draught-proofing your home is a relatively easy and cheap way to improve your home’s temperature stability all year round, keeping warm air inside in winter and outside in summer.

There are many ways to draught-proof your home that range from extensive retrofits or simple DIY projects. You can use door and window seals, gap fillers or make your own draught-stopper from recycled stockings or socks.

Resources

Draught proofing instructions – Energy Australia’s best practice information for draught-proofing.
Ventilation and airtightness – Information on ventilation and sealing techniques from the Australian Government.
Draught proofing your home – Sustainability Victoria’s guide on draught-proofing your home.

Case study

How Alexandra Shepherd spent only $30 to draught-proof her rental apartment
Alexandra sitting on her apartment balcony looking out to a sunny day.

Install window coverings/shading or double glazing on windows and doors

Adding window coverings to your windows and doors can make a big difference to your energy consumption and bills. Direct sun can generate as much heat as a single bar radiant heater over each square meter of a surface. In summer, effective shading can block up to 90% of this heat, improving comfort and saving energy you would otherwise spend to cool the room down.

In winter, however, windows can release up to 40% of a home’s internal temperature at night. Therefore, covering them with proper shading or double-glazing windows can be a surprisingly effective way to keep your home warm.

During winter, try shutting your blinds or louvres just before it gets cool near sundown so the daytime heat doesn’t escape at night. In summer, cover windows that are directly facing the sun during the hottest hours of the day. Solar blinds will block UV rays whilst also letting the light in during the day. Some motorised blinds can be programmed and even have sun sensors to adjust automatically to outside conditions and help you save energy.

Resources

Shading product types – An overview of the different outdoor blinds and shading options available.
Double glazing buying guide – Pricing and information for installing double-glazed windows.
Shading 101 – An overview of shading as a tool for passive home design to conserve energy.
Glazing 101 – An overview of window glazing and its use for regulating heat.
How much do double-glazed windows cost? – A Canstar article on the pros and cons of double-gazed windows, the cost and how to fund the upgrade.
Invest in second-hand blinds – Visit Brisbane City Council’s two second-hand shops, which sell donated items such as second-hand block-out curtains and blinds.

Case study

How the Hearne family reduced their household’s energy consumption by 39% by using window coverings, among other techniques
Declan and Verna sitting with their two children on the front porch stairs smiling into camera.

Install a low-flow showerhead

Low-flow shower heads not only save water, but they also save energy. The less water you use when showering, the less water needs to be heated, which leads to lower electricity use and more savings in your back pocket.

If your shower’s flow rate is more than 9 litres a minute, consider installing a water-saving shower head. Low-flow shower heads have a mechanism that restricts water flow without compromising the quality of your shower.

You can easily determine if your shower flow is greater than 9 litres by performing a simple experiment using a 9-litre bucket and a timer. Set your timer for 1 minute, turn on your shower and collect the water in the bucket. If the timer goes off before the bucket is full or just as it’s overflowing, then you have an energy-efficient shower head. However, if the bucket fills before the timer goes off, it’s time to upgrade to a more energy-efficient model. Don’t waste the water in your bucket; you can reuse it for cleaning or watering the plants. Replacing a 20-litre-per-minute shower head with a 9-litre-per-minute one can save more than 20,000 litres of water a year for one person taking a 5-minute shower once a day. Always check the plumbing laws in your area before installing a new showerhead. In Brisbane, changing a shower head is considered plumbing work you can do yourself and does not require a licensed plumber.

Resources

Water efficiency rating – The Australian Government-certified household water efficiency rating explained.
Buying the best shower head – CHOICE’s buying guide for sustainable, low-flow showerheads.

Upgrade your hot water system to a more efficient model

Electric hot water systems account for approximately 25% of the average Queensland household’s energy bill and, according to the Australian Government, they are the largest source of carbon emissions from an average Australian home. Choosing an energy-efficient water heater can lead to significant savings on your bill and a reduced carbon footprint.

Household hot water systems typically need replacing every 8 to 12 years and when it happens, it’s often urgent. Without planning, an emergency hot water system replacement is usually like-for-like, meaning an electric hot water system gets replaced with a similar-sized electric hot water system, for example. Therefore, it is wise to plan ahead using the resources below to make sure you get the most environmentally and budget-friendly hot water unit possible when it’s time to replace your system.

Consider options such as solar, electric heat pump, instantaneous electric or five-star energy-rated gas water heater. While the upfront cost of a more energy-efficient hot water system is higher, the longer-term running costs are significantly lower. Many banks offer green loans with discounted interest rates and sometimes no fees to help with the purchase of a solar or heat pump hot water system.

The best solutions to reduce your emissions from hot water to zero is to upgrade your water heater to a solar system or an electric heat pump system powered with renewable energy from your solar power system or your electricity retailers’ GreenPower plan.

Until you are ready to upgrade, there are steps you can take to check the efficiency of your existing system. For example, make sure the thermostat of your hot water storage system is set at 60°C, and check if it’s worth improving the insulation on hot water pipes and valves or add insulation to your water tank (e.g. with a tank blanket).

Resources

One hot secret to an energy-efficient home – Brisbane Sustainability Agency’s guide to hot water systems.
Hot water systems – Australian Government’s guide to purchasing a hot water system and the different types of hot water systems on the market.
Water heating system buying guide – CHOICE’s information and pricing for hot water systems in Australia.
Water heating energy rating – The official energy rating information for water heating systems in Australia.
No Interest Loan Scheme (NILS) – Those who earn less than $70,000 (single) or $100,000 (with a partner) annual income may be eligible to borrow up to $2,000 for essentials, including laptops. Choosing between a heat pump and solar hot water system – Solar Victoria’s guide to weigh up the differences between the two main types of efficient hot water systems.

Case study

How the Jackson family reduced their water heating energy use by 81% by upgrading to a heat pump hot water system

Run a more energy-efficient pool

Reduce your pool pump’s running time

Did you know that reducing your pool pump’s daily running time by just one hour could save your household up to $100 a year?

According to the Swimming Pool and Spa Association, it’s important to determine the optimum filtration time for your pool to ensure efficient operation. For the average backyard pool, one complete turnover of water every 24 hours is generally enough for proper filtering.

Some pool owners may worry about algal growth and end up running their pool pump longer than necessary. However, prolonged filtration or circulation won’t necessarily prevent this from occurring. But algae grow faster in warmer water, so you may want to set your pool heater a few degrees cooler.

Running your pool pump for six hours per day in summer and four hours in winter is usually sufficient. Talk to your local pool shop to check the best running time for your pool pump.

It’s even better if you can plan to run your pool pump in the middle of the day when renewable energy like solar is strongest. Even if you don’t have a solar system, using less energy during peak hours (typically 4pm to 8pm) helps reduce load on the grid and the need for more infrastructure.

Resources

Pool energy saving techniques – Swimming Pool and Spa Association’s tips to reduce your pool energy use.
Pool tips – advice from Energex (the electricity distributor used in Brisbane) on how to save energy and money with your pool, including tariff advice, pool pumps information and pool temperature.

Replace your pool pump

Upgrading your pool pump can have a big impact on your bills and carbon emissions, given that up to 30% of the energy bill of an average Queensland home with a pool can be attributed to pool costs.

Since 2022, minimum energy performance standards and energy labelling requirements also apply to swimming pool pumps, making it easier to choose a pool pump based on its energy rating. So when selecting a pool pump, look for the highest star rating in your budget range. While there might be a higher upfront cost, an energy-efficient pool pump can lower your running costs by as much as 80%.

Energy-efficient pool pumps can usually run at different speeds instead of constantly running at high speed. Also keep in mind that many factors, such as pool size, filter type and pipework, affect the energy consumption of a pool pump.

Resources

Pool energy saving techniques – Swimming Pool and Spa Association’s tips to reduce your pool energy use.
Guide to pool pumps – Australian Government’s information on pool pumps.
Pool pump energy rating – The official energy rating information for pool pumps in Australia.
Swimming pool energy use – Canstar Blue’s details on how much energy residential swimming pools use in Australia.
Pool tips – advice from Energex (the electricity distributor used in Brisbane) on how to save energy and money with your pool, including tariff advice, pool pumps information and pool temperature.

Use a pool cover

To minimise heat loss and reduce heating costs, consider using an insulated cover for your heated pool or spa. A well-fitted cover can save up to 50% energy for a heated pool.

Covers are also helpful for non-heated pools. Solar covers can actively heat the water, while all covers prevent leaves and debris from entering the pool, which reduces the need for cleaning and filtering and improves the overall energy efficiency of the pool. Besides, pool covers have the practical benefit of extending the swimming season.

Resources

Pool Covers – Swimming Pool and Spa Association’s tips on why to use a pool cover, the different types that exist, plus installation and maintenance information.
Pool covers buying guide – Canstar Blue’s guide to buying a pool cover.

Adjust set point on your 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 its energy use and costs. For enjoyable pool activities, the ideal temperature is between 24°C to 28°C. Each degree higher will use more energy to maintain the heat of the water. In addition, warmer pool water may require running your pump more frequently to maintain the necessary sanitation, as algae grow faster in warmer weather.

Resources

Swimming pool energy use – Canstar Blue’s information on how much energy residential swimming pools use in Australia.
Pool tips – advice from Energex (the electricity distributor used in Brisbane) on how to save energy and money with your pool, including tariff advice, pool pumps information and pool temperature.

Maintain your pool and equipment regularly

Regular cleaning and maintenance of your pool and equipment will help your pump work more efficiently and reduce energy consumption while extending the life of your pool pump.

To maintain your pool, use a net to remove large debris, regularly clean the skimmer basket, pool pump basket and pool filter, and clear intake grates of leaves and other debris. Using a pool cover can also help reduce the amount of debris entering the pool and minimise the need for cleaning and maintenance.

Resources

Pool energy saving techniques – Swimming Pool and Spa Association’s tips to reduce your pool energy use.

Reduce your waste emissions

While household waste emissions may not be as high as those from transport and energy, they still contribute to climate change. Organic waste that ends up in landfill releases greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide and methane which trap heat in the atmosphere, causing global warming and impacting the climate. Luckily, Brisbane households can take simple steps to reduce their waste emissions.

Reduce, reuse, recycle

Reduce food waste

Food waste makes up more than 26% of the average Brisbane household’s general waste, which significantly impacts the environment and your wallet. The wasted use of resources to produce and distribute food, as well as the disposal of food waste in landfill, contribute to carbon emissions. And money is also being wasted: food waste is estimated to cost the Australian economy $37 billion each year, with Brisbane households spending an average of $2,000 annually on food that ends up in the bin.

The best way to reduce your household’s food waste emissions is to prevent food waste from happening in the first place. Simple steps such as planning your meals in advance, preparing meals and snacks and learning how to store food correctly and visibly will help you buy and use only the food you need.

Other measures, such as growing fresh vegetables, fruits and herbs at home, can help reduce food waste by using just what you need. For example, you could pick a few stems of herbs from the garden instead of buying an entire bunch to use just a small amount.

Involving the whole household in planning can also help ensure food isn’t wasted. Finally, visible prompts such as stickers, colour-coded containers, designated use-it-up shelves in your fridge and pantry, and a board listing leftovers and best-before dates for the items in your fridge can encourage the whole family to reduce food waste.

Resources

Love Food Hate Waste – Brisbane City Council’s helpful tips and tools to reduce food waste at home.
Save Money Save Food – Brisbane City Council’s text message campaign to regularly receive simple tips and hacks for three weeks to help prevent food waste.
Fight Food Waste – OzHarvest’s information hub on reducing food waste.
Tackling Australia’s food waste – What the Australian Government is doing to halve food waste by 2030.
14 easy ways to prevent food waste – CHOICE’s tips for reducing food waste.
Preventing food waste from school lunchboxes – Brisbane City Council’s terrific tips in how to reduce lunchtime snacks (hint, it can be applied to adult lunchboxes too!)
Brisbane’s top three most wasted foods – Brisbane City Council’s tips to avoid wasting bread, meat and salad greens.

Case studies

How the Wood household reduced their food waste (and grocery bills) by storing produce correctly and planning meals in advance
Marina and Adam Wood holding their dog, standing on their front porch smiling into the camera.

How the McAuliffe household reduced food waste by taking the Love Food Hate Waste program

Recycle paper and cardboard

Every year in Brisbane, 27,000 tonnes of paper and cardboard end up in landfill simply because they were put in the wrong bin. This is a shame because these materials can be recycled into new products. By putting them in the recycling bin, you can help ensure they get a second life and stay away from landfill.

When paper or cardboard end up in landfill instead of being recycled, they decompose to release methane, a greenhouse gas with 28 times more global warming potential than carbon dioxide.

If your household is throwing paper and cardboard in the general waste bin because your recycling bin has run out of room, you can order a larger recycling bin from Brisbane City Council. It’s currently free, as the $30 establishment fee has been waived.

Resources

Paper and cardboard disposal guide – A helpful guide from Brisbane City Council to help you understand what paper and cardboard items can and can’t be recycled.
Busting Brisbane’s biggest recycling myths – Brisbane City Council’s insider information to help you bust some of the misconceptions about recycling in Brisbane.
Order a larger recycling bin – How to order a larger-sized recycling bin in Brisbane.

Switch to reusable nappies

In Brisbane alone, more than 12,000 tonnes of disposable nappies are thrown away each year, making up 6% of the average household’s general waste bin. Unfortunately, disposable nappies are non-recyclable, resource-intensive and estimated to take up to 500 years to break down, producing carbon emissions when they decompose in landfill.

Fortunately, reusable nappies, such as modern cloth nappies offer a sustainable and cost-effective alternative. While the initial cost for a full set of 24 reusable nappies can range between $250 and $1,000, households can save approximately $700 annually by making the switch and would reduce their carbon emissions by 0.18 tonnes. Moreover, savings can increase exponentially if the same set is used for multiple children. It’s also possible to purchase cloth nappies second-hand, increasing the affordability.

While there are energy-related costs and emissions linked with washing reusable nappies, the Australian Nappy Association estimates that it costs just $200 in energy, water and detergent to wash nappies for two years.

Even if you choose to use reusable nappies in conjunction with disposable nappies (at night for example), you would still save money and help the environment.

Resources

Nappy waste in Brisbane – Brisbane City Council’s tips and information on how you can reduce nappy waste.
Re-useable nappies factsheets – Australian Nappy Association’s factsheets offering advice from industry professionals on using reusable nappies.
Disposable and cloth nappy buying guide – CHOICE’s guide to information and pricing on different nappy options available in Australia.

Case studies

How the Braatvedt family reduced their waste emissions by using reusable nappies

Break down organic waste

Compost food waste

Food waste makes up 30% of Brisbane’s general waste going to landfill. This has significant environmental impacts due to the wasted use of resources to produce and distribute food, as well as the production of greenhouse gas emissions when disposed of in landfill. By keeping food waste out of landfill, you can reduce methane emissions, a powerful greenhouse gas 28 times more harmful than carbon dioxide.

While reducing food waste is the best course of action, composting is an excellent solution for the food waste you couldn’t avoid (for example, fruit and vegetable scraps or leftovers that couldn’t be eaten). When you compost organic waste instead of sending it to landfill, not only do you reduce your emissions, but you also create rich nutrients that can be returned to the garden as potting mix, soil enhancer or mulch.

Even if you don’t have a garden, composting solutions are still available to you. You’ll find 26 community compost hubs around Brisbane where you can drop off your food scraps or you may have a neighbour interested in getting more compost. Alternatively, there is a variety of urban composting solutions tailored for properties with limited space, such as bokashi bins, balcony worm farms that double as planter boxes and more.

If you have a backyard, there are several options you can consider, from compost bins and tumblers to solar cones to worm farms and in-ground units.

Some composting systems, such as bokashi bins and solar cones, can handle not just fruit and vegetable scraps but also cooked food, meat and dairy. The bokashi bin comes in various shapes and sizes, allowing all households to compost all types of food waste.

Did you know that Brisbane residents (owners or tenants) can receive a $100 rebate from Brisbane City Council when they purchase a compost solution? Some Brisbane suburbs are also piloting Food and Organic Waste collection in green bins. You can check if your suburb is part of the trial.

Resources

$100 rebate for composting equipment – Brisbane City Council households purchasing their first composting equipment may be eligible for the rebate.
$200 rebate for food waste recycling equipment – Brisbane City Council households purchasing their first food waste dehydrator system or in-sink food disposal system may be eligible for the rebate.
Compost and food waste recycling – Brisbane City Council’s guide to starting your compost and food waste recycling journey.
Compost and worm farm brochure – Brisbane City Council’s introduction to composting and worm farms.
Community compost hubs – Do you know that Brisbane has 26 compost hubs to dispose of food waste? Find one near you.
Composting in an apartment or townhouse – Use a Bokashi bin to store food waste inside, then dispose at a community compost hub.
Free compost and worm farm workshop – Develop your knowledge by attending a free workshop organised by Brisbane City Council.
ShareWaste – A tool to connect people who wish to recycle their food scraps and other organics with their neighbours who are already composting, worm-farming or keeping farm animals.

Case studies

How the Morris family completely eliminated food waste emissions through a combination of composting solutions

How the Debono/Wee household created a thriving garden in an apartment complex, nourished by food waste turned into compost

How the Churton household created a street-wide composting hub and saved one tonne of food scraps from landfill in just four months

How apartment-dweller Eliza Hawken managed to reduce her food waste by 0.4 tonnes annually
Eliza Hawken in her living room smiling into camera

Compost garden waste

Brisbane’s sub-tropical climate makes for luscious gardens and fast-growing lawns in summer, resulting in a significant amount of garden waste, such as lawn clippings, leaf litter, garden trimmings, palm fronds and more.

When you compost garden waste instead of sending it to landfill, you significantly reduce your emissions while creating rich nutrients that can be returned to the garden as potting mix, soil enhancer or mulch.

If you already compost food waste, it’s recommended to use a 50/50 mix of food waste and dry garden waste, such as leaf litter, in your compost bin. Alternatively, you can have a compost system solely dedicated to garden waste, using a mix of fresh and dried garden clippings.

Using leaf litter, grass and plant clippings as mulch for your garden is another option if you prefer to go direct to the garden.

If you produce more garden waste than your compost system can handle and have no more room for mulch, Brisbane City Council offers the option to order up to two green waste recycling bins, and the cost for the green waste recycling service has been reduced to less than $1 a week.

If you still have more garden waste or are a tenant unable to get your landlord’s approval for a green waste bin, you can take your excess garden waste to your local Resource Recovery Centre. This option is also helpful after a big clean up or storm.

Resources

Compost and food waste recycling – Brisbane City Council’s guide to starting your compost and garden waste recycling journey.
Green waste recycling service – Information on Brisbane City Council’s green bin recycling service, including acceptable and non-acceptable items and how to order a bin.
What you should know about garden waste – Brisbane City Council’s top tips for good garden waste disposal.
Resource recovery centres – Information about Brisbane City Council’s Resource Recovery Centres.
Mulch and fertiliser – Brisbane City Council’s guide to making your own mulch from garden waste.

Case studies

How the Lorimer household diverted their green waste from landfill

Sustainable transport

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

Moreover, car ownership is also a major household expense, with even a small car costing more than $157 per week according to RACQ

Therefore, it is worth exploring alternative transport options.

Reduce your car or ride-sharing use

Plan ahead to avoid car or ride-share trips

Planning can help you avoid unnecessary car trips. Using your car less can have a big impact on your household emissions and also save on fuel costs.

When organising your day or week, think about how you could use your car less. For example, you could combine errands into a single trip, do a large shop once a week instead of multiple smaller trips, work from home or attend online meetings instead of driving to in-person meetings. Before jumping into your car out of habit, ask yourself if you really need to use your vehicle.

Minimising your car use not only cut your emissions and fuel bills but also reduces wear and tear on your vehicle. Plus, it can save you time, money spent on parking and lessen the stress and risks involved in driving.

Resources

Tips to reduce your vehicle emissions – Australian Government’s Green Vehicle Guide tips to reduce your car emissions.

Replace car or ride-share trips with active travel

Active travel, such as walking, running, cycling, or using an e-bike or e-scooter, has many benefits over using your car or ride-share. Not only will it save you money on fuel and reduce wear and tear on your vehicle, but being active is also proven to improve your mental and physical health. Plus, swapping several car trips a week for active travel will significantly lower your household 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 on wheels (bike or scooter). Cycling Brisbane provides helpful resources and information to help you get around by bike, while Active School Travel offers resources and incentives to leave the car at home and actively travel to school.

If you can’t avoid driving, consider parking a distance away from your destination and walking, running, cycling or scootering the rest. You’ll still benefit from being more active and reduce your carbon emissions. Else, you may consider combining active travel and public transport. Folding bikes and kick scooters can be taken on any of Brisbane’s public transport services. For other bicycles and e-scooters, check TransLink’s rules before travelling.

Resources

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.
Travelling with a bike or scooter – TransLink’s guidelines for using public transport with bikes and/or scooters, including information about bike facilities at bus stations and park ‘n’ rides.
Bicycle Queensland – The peak body for cycling in Queensland with a simple mission – to get more people riding, more often. They offer members advice, advocacy and insurance.
Cycling Brisbane – Get road and cycle path routes, safety tips, access to free cycling events and workshops and more.
How to buy the best bike for your needs – CHOICE’s guide to purchasing a bicycle.
How to buy the best electric bike – CHOICE’s guide to purchasing an e-bike.
Bike parking and facilities – Brisbane City Council’s list of bike racks, bike shelters, cyclepods and bike repair stations around Brisbane.
Cycle2City – Bicycle storage in Brisbane City for office workers.
RBWH Cycle Centre – Bicycle parking and facilities.
How to get the most out of your run to work – Runner’s World magazine’s top tips to running to commute.
E-wheeling in Brisbane – Cycling Brisbane’s guide to e-bikes and e-scooters in Brisbane.
Rules for personal mobility devices – Queensland Government’s rules for riding e-scooters.

Case studies

How the Cavdarski family took up cycling to lower their carbon footprints, and their tips for commuting to work by bicycle

How the Jackson family didn’t use their second car for months
The Jackson family sitting on a couch outside, smiling into the family. A young pregnant mother, father and their toddler-aged daughter.

How the Blumke family enjoyed the benefits of active travel after they stopped using one of their vehicles

Replace car or ride-share trips with public transport

The average Australian vehicle costs at least $7,000 per year to run. Swapping car or ride-share trips for public transport can save you money on car running costs and reduce wear and tear on your vehicle while also lowering your carbon emissions.

Brisbane has an extensive public transport network that includes one of the largest bus fleets in Australia, the CityCat and ferry services along the Brisbane River, and a train network. All modes of transport are wheelchair and pram-accessible, and Brisbane City Council’s buses and Queensland Rail’s trains are 100% air-conditioned.

TransLink provides everything you need to know about using public transport, including a journey planner so you can plan ahead and easily find ticket and fare information. If you use a go card, you’ll save more than if you purchase paper tickets, and off-peak travel is even cheaper.

Families can take advantage of TransLink’s free travel offer on weekends for children aged 5 to 14 on all modes of transport, while children under 5 travel for free at all times. Seniors can also travel for free on Brisbane City Council buses, CityCats and ferry services during off-peak hours.

If you can’t avoid driving altogether, consider going to the nearest park ‘n’ ride and catching public transport the rest of the way. Else, you could combine active travel and public transport by taking a bike or scooter on board. However, while folding bikes and kick scooter can be taken on any public transport services, check TransLink’s rules before travelling with other bicycles and e-scooters.

Resources

Public Transport in Brisbane – Brisbane City Council’s information about public transport services available in Brisbane.
TransLink – Find your local ferry, bus or train timetable.
Travelling with a bike or scooter – TransLink’s guidelines for using public transport with bikes and/or scooters.
Discounts and ways to save – TransLink’s guide to saving money while using Brisbane’s public transport.
Parking facilities close to public transport hubs – TransLink’s interactive map to find dedicated parking facilities near your location.
Park ‘n’ ride program – The Queensland Government list of park ‘n’ ride completed and planned projects.

Case studies

How the Woods swapped ride-share with public transport on night’s out and saved on money and emissions
A young couple sitting on their balcony with their dog, smiling into the camera.

How the Grugeon/Dillons combined active travel and public transport to reduce their reliance on ride-share to get around inner Brisbane

Go electric

Upgrade your car to an electric vehicle

The average Australian owns a car for just under 11 years, so the car choices you make today could lock in your car-related emissions for the next decade.

Fortunately, electric vehicle ownership in Australia is growing. With more availability and a greater choice of models, more public charging stations, and improved battery life and range, electric vehicles (EVs) are becoming an increasingly attractive and more accessible option. They’re excellent for reducing households’ carbon footprint as fully-electric vehicles don’t burn petrol or diesel, and when powered by renewable energy, they produce zero carbon emissions. Fully-electric vehicles are the most popular EVs sold in Australia, compared to hybrid vehicles that still rely in part on petrol or diesel.

While the upfront cost of electric vehicles is currently higher than conventional fuel vehicles, EVs are cheaper to run per kilometre and have lower maintenance requirements, which means you’ll save significantly on fuel and running costs. Furthermore, EVs reduce harmful air pollution from exhaust emissions, leading to cleaner air for everyone, and they also lower sound pollution. Many banks offer green loans with discounted interest rates and sometimes no fees to help with the purchase of a low-emissions vehicle or EV charging stations.

Given EVs’ significant environmental and financial benefits, switching to an EV makes sense to a growing number of people. With increasing demand and supply, government policies, and ongoing charging infrastructure development and investment, it’s becoming a case of when to switch rather than if to switch.

If you decide an electric vehicle is not the right choice for you, remember the bigger and more powerful car you drive, the more emissions and fuel you use. If you need a large vehicle, compare the fuel efficiency of different models, as the amount of fuel used by cars that otherwise seem similar can vary greatly.

Resources

Queensland Zero Emission Vehicle Rebate Scheme – Queensland Government’s rebate scheme for purchasing a new electric vehicle.
Green Vehicle Buying Guide – Start your journey to lower-emissions driving here, including buying your first hybrid or fully electric car. This Australian Government’s tool allows you to compare the environmental performance and fuel consumption of vehicles sold in Australia.
Fuel vs. electric car running costs – An NRMA calculator which helps you estimate the cost of running a fuel car and an electric car. You can choose any model of car and yearly travel distance to test.
Electric Vehicle Guide – Energex’s guide to electric vehicles, including information on vehicle to grid and registering an EV.
Test drive an EV – Register to an RACQ electric vehicle test drive day.
Owning a Zero Emissions vehicle – An ACT Government website that helps users understand the true cost of car ownership. This compares the ongoing maintenance and fueling costs of zero-emissions vehicles compared to a diesel or petrol (internal combustion engine) car.
Plug in: to buying an electric vehicle – Energy Consumers Australia’s factsheet outlining what to look out for, what questions to ask and how to make the right choice for you.
Hybrid and battery electric vehicle comparison – Climate Council’s paper with information on the different types of electric vehicles (BEV, PHEV, HEV. FCEV) and explanations on why fully electric vehicles is a better choice.

Try e-mobility (using e-bikes and e-scooters)

E-mobility is an emerging low-energy and efficient mode of transport in Brisbane. The ‘E’ in e-mobility stands for electric, which refers to using bicycles and scooters powered by rechargeable electric batteries. When charged using fully renewable energy, e-scooters and e-bikes become a zero-emission option, just like their non-electric cousins, the bicycle and kick scooter.

E-bikes still require the rider to actively pedal, which means you can still enjoy the health benefits while travelling faster and with less effort, especially in Brisbane’s hilly suburbs and hot, humid weather. This makes e-bikes an attractive alternative to cars for short distances.

E-scooters can be used in Brisbane through private ownership or a subscription to a share scheme. The rechargeable electric battery allows you to travel faster without as much effort as a standard kick scooter.

While e-wheeling options cost more upfront than traditional bicycles or kick scooters, they are economical and much cheaper to run than a car. However, there are age restrictions on riding e-scooters and e-bikes, so make sure you are well-versed with the Queensland Government rules to e-wheeling for safe travel.

Resources

E-mobility in Brisbane – 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.
Rules for personal mobility devices – Queensland Government’s rules for riding e-scooters.
Travelling with a bike or scooter – TransLink’s guidelines for using public transport with bikes and/or scooters.
How to buy the best electric bike – CHOICE’s guide to purchasing an e-bike.

Case study

How the Jacksons electrified their active travel

7 News story on mum of two Harriet Muir who rent an e-bike to commute around Brisbane.

In the car

Use biofuels like E10 instead of petrol

E10 fuel is a blend of up to 10% ethanol, which is a renewable energy source, and 90% unleaded petrol. Most petrol vehicles built after 2000 are compatible with E10, but you should always check your owner’s manual or ask your vehicle’s manufacturer to confirm compatibility.

There should be no noticeable change to performance or drivability for compatible vehicles, as vehicle manufacturers have improved engine technology to accommodate the blend. E10 costs slightly less than regular unleaded petrol, but you’ll need to use a little more (approximately 3%) as ethanol has a marginally lower energy content. The net cost should even out, yet this simple switch will reduce your car’s carbon emissions by approximately 7%, making it a smart choice for environmentally-conscious drivers.

Resources

Using E10 in your vehicle – Queensland Government’s information on using E10 in your vehicle.
E10 compatibility check –  NSW Government’s tool to find out if your car is ready to run on E10.
Fuel types explained – Canstar Blue’s guide to help you know which fuel to use.
E10 and the environment – Queensland Government’s information about how E10 is produced.

Adopt eco-driving techniques

By adopting eco-driving techniques, you can increase your vehicle’s fuel efficiency, lower your carbon emissions, and save money (up to $400 per year according to RACQ). Moreover, these techniques can also help reduce the wear and tear on your car, leading to further savings in the long run.

Some effective eco-driving techniques include gentle breaking and acceleration, shifting through gears as quickly as possible, turning off your engine when parked, maintaining a steady cruise speed on highways, checking and maintaining correct tyre pressure and following the manufacturer’s recommended service schedule.

Studies have shown that eco-driving training for Australian motorists can significantly reduce fuel use and related carbon emissions. For example, a study by RACQ found that the combined effect of all eco-driving training trialled showed a significant 4.6% reduction in fuel use and an average reduction of 0.51 litres per 100 kilometres. A later trial by Transurban with Australian motorists showed a 5.5% reduction in fuel use and carbon emissions, and 96% of participants reported their driving improved. This translated to a saving of $290 annually for the average Brisbane car-owner, as of 2023.

To make it easier to adopt eco-driving habits, some new car models have in-car monitoring systems or can have them installed. These systems provide feedback and real-time monitoring of your performance so you can learn and improve your habits.

Resources

RACQ eco-drive – Read about eco-driving, the results of the RACQ eco-drive trial, 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.
Transurban eco-driving trial – Information about the outcomes of Transurban eco-driving trial that saved motorists 5.5% on their fuel use.

Case study

How David Sawers used eco-driving to his advantage during his long work commutes.

How Alexandra Shepherd used an in-car monitoring device to become more fuel efficient.
Alexandra standing in her living room, smiling looking into the camera.

How Heidi Morris learnt eco-driving techniques to lower her bills and transport emissions.
Heidi Morris and two of her daughters standing in their front yard smiling into the camera.

Haven’t calculated your household carbon emissions yet?

Find out more about what Brisbane City Council is doing to reduce emissions

Brisbane City Council is taking real and practical action to lower their operational carbon footprint and have set targets to reduce carbon emissions by at least 30% by 2031-32 and achieve net zero emissions by 2050. 

To learn more about how Brisbane City Council is taking steps to make Brisbane a low-carbon city visit www.brisbane.qld.gov.au and search ‘climate action’ for further information.

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