Tools for individuals
Science is agreed about the need to reduce our negative environmental impacts, including achieve net-zero carbon emissions, to avoid the worst consequences of climate change. We have provided some resources to help individuals measure, manage, and reduce their impacts.
- Understand and reduce your personal carbon footprint
- Purchase environmentally responsible goods and services
- Other sustainable resources
Have you seen one of our marks on a product and want to know more about what it takes to earn that certification?
Measuring your footprint helps you to understand and strategically manage those emissions. We offer free calculators for you to estimate and optionally offset your household or travel carbon footprint. Click here to get started.
There are many simple, low- or no-cost ways to reduce your greenhouse gas emissions. Remember – saving energy also saves you money and contributes to a more sustainable lifestyle.
In terms of reducing emissions, the key targets usually include energy, transport, waste, and food. Easy fixes include purchasing power only from renewable sources, reducing your electricity consumption, using alternative transport instead of driving, recycling and reusing instead of sending waste to landfill, composting green waste, supporting local food producers and buying only what you need to avoid waste, divesting from fossil fuels in investments and supporting likeminded businesses.
Bigger lifestyle changes include avoiding plastics and non-reusable packaging, avoiding unnecessary travel and offsetting any remaining travel that produces emissions. Essentially, anything that uses fossil fuels or their by-products (like plastic) need to be addressed.
The real change will come when businesses and organisations are also changing – the bulk of emissions in our lives are indirect, coming from goods and services we purchase, sometimes well up the supply chain and production line. This means we have no direct control over them apart from demanding change from businesses and governments to take bold action to prevent waste, reduce and offset emissions, and choosing only to support those that are taking that action will be necessary for widespread impacts.
Quick reduction tips
- Refuse, Reduce, Reuse, Repurpose, Recycle (and buy recycled)
- Avoid single use plastic
- Drive less
- Think before you fly
- Read, review and improve your company's environmental policy
- Purchase local if possible and only what you need, especially for food
- Turn off plugs at the wall
Keen to take even more action to reduce emissions? Keep reading below!
Purchase environmentally responsible goods and services
Vote with your wallet – choose to support organisations, products and services that are managing their environmental impacts and avoid purchasing from those who don’t. This will help encourage that behaviour to spread – the trick is to look for organisations that are measured against an agreed standard and independently verified or certified. For example, if an organisation is claiming to plant trees to be carbon neutral, they are doing a great ecological project but cannot actually claim to be carbon neutral. Our members offer a range of services and products and each is independently certified as taking credible action for a better environment. See the full list of currently certified organisations and products here.
When shopping, look for these certification marks on products or business materials. Independent certification from Enviro-Mark Solutions proves that a company or product is taking the right action for the environment. A summary of each type of certification follows, and you can learn more about the specific requirements to achieve each type of certification here.
Enviro-Mark certification means the company has or is developing an environmental management system, or a set of procedures and policies to manage all environmental impacts, risks, and aspects. Certified companies can be one of five levels depending on how far along they are: Bronze, Silver, Gold, Platinum or Diamond.
Energy-Mark certification means the company has or is developing an energy management system, or a set of procedures and policies to manage energy use and efficiency. Certified companies can be one of three levels depending on how far along they are: Bronze, Silver or Gold.
Certified Emissions Measurement And Reduction Scheme
CEMARS certification is awarded to companies, products or services that are measuring and actively working to reduce their carbon footprint.
|carboNZero certification is awarded to companies, products or services that are measuring, actively working to reduce and annually offset their carbon footprint.|
Energy use in your home
The average New Zealand household spends almost $2,0001 per year on home energy. Some of this is fixed costs, and the rest is costs associated with how many units of energy are used. The following table gives an indication of where the energy is used.
Energy use in New Zealand households
(BRANZ 2010: Study Report SR 221 (2010): Energy Use in New Zealand Households – Final Report on the Household Energy End-use Project (HEEP))
Savings can be made in the following areas:
General tips for energy-efficient homes
When building a new home:
- Ensure passive solar design principles are incorporated – you may like to get a Homestar rating.
- Ensure all other energy efficient design principles are incorporated such as low flow shower heads, energy efficient lighting and appliances, energy efficient heating options.
- Consider the carbon impact of the building materials you are using.
- Give careful consideration to the size of the house you actually need – even if you have an ‘Eco’ design, if it is an excessively large house then then it might have just as many emissions as a small ‘non-Eco’ house, in the context of both the construction materials and the ongoing energy requirements once living in the house.
- You can choose suppliers who are actively managing their emissions – see our listed members for examples.
For an existing home, take a look at the sections below.
You can choose low carbon products and services – for example you can reduce your emissions by using a carboNZero certified electricity provider.
Keeping your home warm, healthy and comfortable is most important. However, there are many ways to make the heating of your home more efficient. You can save money and help reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the process.
- Damp homes take more energy to heat. Reduce condensation by leaving curtains, windows and doors open on fine days when you are at home. Dry air is easier to heat, and healthier.
- Use thermostats and timers on heaters.
- Use door snakes (draught stoppers) to reduce draughts.
- Capture as much sunlight as possible. Keep windows clean and remove overhanging branches from trees.
- Close curtains before dark to keep heat in.
- Use heaters away from windows – they are more effective against walls.
- Use an extra blanket or hot-water bottle instead of an electric blanket.
- Put on a jersey instead of a heater.
- Plant a deciduous tree to shade your biggest west- and north-facing windows in summer or use awnings to reduce overheating.
- Check the air tightness of windows, floors and doors.
- Increase insulation in the ceiling, underfloor, and walls (if possible)
- Double-glaze windows – do the south-facing windows first.
Many of the changes in the way we use appliances cost little or nothing at all.
- Choose energy-efficient appliances. Check for the energy rating label – the more stars the better.
- Turn off your appliances when not in use. Check out EECA’s running costs calculator and what you can save by using appliances less often.
- Choose fridges and washing machines to suit your household size.
- Let food cool before placing it in the freezer/fridge.
- Position the fridge away from the stove or direct sunlight.
- Set fridge to between 2°C and 4°C, and freezer to between -15 to -18°C.
- Defrost fridge/freezer as required, for efficient running.
- Check door seals regularly.
- Dust fridge coils regularly to remove dirt that stops them working efficiently.
- Use the microwave instead of the oven or stovetop.
- Use the oven to cook more than one dish at a time.
- Don't open the oven door too often; the temperature drops 15°C each time.
- Use the correct size of pots to match the ring size on the stove top.
- Use lids - uncovered pots use three times more energy.
- Use the smallest amount of water to simmer food.
- Boil water in the electric kettle, not on the stove top.
- Make sure your dishwasher is both energy and water efficient. Only run the machine when it is full and use the economy cycle. Use the dishwasher to heat its own water as it is cheaper than using water heated in an electric hot water cylinder.
In the laundry
- Wash clothes in cold water and only when the machine is full.
- Instead of using your dryer, dry clothes outside using the power of the sun.
- Make sure clothes are well spun before putting them in the dryer.
- Use low heat settings on the dryer whenever you can.
- Make sure the dryer is well vented to the outside.
- Clean the lint filter after each use.
- Do all your ironing at one time.
- Turn off heated towel rails in summer months and when not using them.
- Shower with windows open or vent the room to avoid moisture build-up.
- Turn off appliances either at the on/off button or at the wall when not in use.
- Turn your computer monitor off when not in use as it uses over half the total energy needed to run a computer (the screen saver does not save power).
- Turn the hard drive off when going out or overnight.
- When going away for holidays, turn off all non-essential appliances at the wall.
The most electricity saving gains can be made through efficient water heating. Forty-five percent of your electricity bill is due to hot water heating.
- Fix dripping taps – leaky hot water taps could be costing you hundreds of dollars per year.
- Adjust the tempering valve on your hot water cylinder so the water temperature at the tap is no more than 50-55°C. For health reasons, the water in the cylinder should be kept above 60°C
- Use cold water when filling the kettle and only heat the amount you need.
- Take showers (short showers though!) instead of baths.
- Wrap the hot water cylinder with an insulation wrap. Lag (insulate) the pipes up to one metre from the cylinder.
- Fit water-saving shower heads and try reducing your shower by two minutes.
- Choose a hot water system that suits the needs of your household.
- Switch off lights when they are not needed.
- Where you can, use natural daylight instead of turning on the lights.
- Use energy efficient light bulbs – refer to EECA’s light bulb selection guide to choose the best option for your needs.
- Install motion sensors on outside lights.
Travelling in motorised transport, whether it be to work, play, holiday or to get the groceries, may create most of your greenhouse gas emissions. Much more efficient cars are coming into the national fleet. Air travel is also large source of greenhouse gas emissions.
- If you're considering moving home, think about choosing a location that minimises the distance you need to commute or travel to your frequent destinations.
- Carpool to work or school.
- Walk, cycle or use public transport instead of the car.
- Buy a fuel-efficient, low-polluting car.
- Get your car serviced regularly.
- Use fuel efficient tyres – Click here for guidance on the appropriate options for your vehicle.
- Drive smoothly and steadily. Check other driver behaviour options here.
- Use your air conditioning sparingly.
- Do you really need that second car? Consider upgrading your bicycle instead.
- Consider telecommuting and video conferencing as options to reduce the need to travel.
- Make use of the walking school bus scheme if available in your area.
- Think about holidaying locally and avoid air travel.
- When you do consider buying a new car, make use of available tools and guidance for selecting the most efficient option for your needs.
For many of us, the way we live creates huge amounts of waste. Organic matter in particular (kitchen waste and garden trimmings) produces the greenhouse gas methane when disposed to landfill. All the goods and services we use in our everyday life also have large amounts of carbon dioxide embodied in them that adds to our impacts on climate change. If we can be more careful about what we buy, the waste we produce and how we deal with waste, we can reduce greenhouse gas emissions due to our resource use and waste generation.
Some tips on waste reduction:
- Recycle as much as you can.
- Compost food scraps and garden trimmings - organic leftovers sent to landfill generate methane.
- Ensure your printer is set to duplex printing – or avoid printing altogether
- Buy recycled products.
- Avoid using single serve, throwaway utensils and plates etc
- Select products with minimal packaging.
- Take your own reusable bags when shopping.
- Buy only what you need
- Buy local in-season produce as much as possible.
- Don't waste food.
- Use less meat in your diet.
The following New Zealand website links are packed with information, resources, ideas and practical actions on energy savings, home design, energy-saving appliances, renewable-energy options and more.
- www.eeca.govt.nz – information and resources to make your home more energy efficient including information on appliances – Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority
- www.energywise.govt.nz – information and resources to make your home more energy efficient – Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority
- www.rightcar.govt.nz – tools to help you rate your car’s performance for safety, fuel economy and carbon dioxide emissions – Land Transport NZ
- www.smarterhomes.org.nz - resources to help you make your home more efficient – Smarter Homes
- www.sustainableliving.org.nz – information and resources to help you make your household and lifestyle more sustainable
- www.climatechange.govt.nz – information and resources on climate change policy and regulations in New Zealand - Ministry for the Environment
- www.enviro-choice.org.nz – eco-labelling scheme for products and services - Environmental Choice
- www.fuelsaver.govt.nz - options for reducing vehicle fuel use, with a focus on fleet replacement options – Land Transport NZ
- www.nzgbc.org.nz – a certification scheme for new buildings – Green Building Council
- www.travelwise.org.nz – information and tools to help schools and businesses in the Auckland Region to reduce the impacts of travel – Auckland Regional Travel Authority