EcoLogic @ home
The place where we have the greatest impact on the environment is in our own homes. Our daily choices about what we buy are critical.
The house in the EcoLogic exhibition was designed by an architect to incorporate the ethos of reduce, reuse, recycle. All furnishings and timber fittings are recycled or obtained from renewable sources. Appliances are chosen for their energy and/or water efficiency ratings, and a showcase of products shows that industry is already leading the way in design for sustainability.
The Powerhouse Museum does not specifically endorse particular products, but, in response to overwhelming public request, the suppliers of some of the products displayed in the exhibition’s EcoHouse are shown here.
Learn more about the ecological impact of these items below.
Aluminium is made from a white powder called alumina which is extracted from bauxite.
The whole refining process uses so much coal and gas that it makes aluminium a precious metal. It is certainly one of the most valuable materials in the waste stream.
Recycling aluminium saves 95% of the energy needed to make new metal from bauxite. Although it is costly to refine, aluminium saves on fuel bills during its lifetime because it is extremely light and strong.
For more information: www.alcoa.com
Concertina foil batts save energy by preventing heat loss from your house in winter and heat gain in summer.
They stop 97% of heat flow through ceilings and walls. This makes it easier and cheaper to control the temperature of your home.
The batts are lightweight and easy to staple between roof or wall studs. They don’t absorb moisture or provide nesting material for animal pests. This makes them ideal for underfloor areas as well.
Supplier: Solartex Australia
This tumbler is made from reconstituted bamboo and is entirely biodegradable.
Bambooware can be used just once or many times. It is a strong but light, stylish, sustainable alternative to conventional picnicware.
It’s affordable too, and microwave and dishwasher friendly.
Similar products made from oil-derived plastics use environmental toxins such as plasticisers, dioxins and synthetic materials in their production. No environmental pollutants are used in the manufacture of Bambooware.
Supplier: Eco at home
These handy bags are made from cornstarch and are fully biodegradable.
Regular polyethylene-based plastic bags can take over 100 years to degrade, and while some manufacturers use additives to help them break down faster, they still do not completely compost. These bags break down in just three weeks.
An estimated 100,000 marine animals and two million sea birds die each year from accidentally eating plastic waste.
Supplier: AUSASIA LINK Pty Ltd
This device lets you control how much water you flush away from your single-flush toilet.
If you hang the water saver in the flush mechanism, the toilet will only flush while the button is held down. It’s available at hardware stores and easy to install without hiring a plumber.
The cistern convertor can reduce the amount of water wasted by up to five litres per flush. That’s about 10,000 litres of water each year for every person in the home.
Supplier: Neco Hardware
Citrus Resources’ cleaning detergents contain no phosphates, petroleum solvents or benzene chemicals.
Anything that goes down the sink eventually ends up in a waterway.
Phosphates in detergents fertilise and boost the growth of weed and marine algae which can smother waterways.
Supplier: Citrus Resources Australia
Copper and steel
Copper, steel and other metals can be recycled many times. There is little reduction in quality and the amount of materials and energy used the second time around is reduced dramatically.
Copper is used for water pipes and electrical wiring. Most of the copper used today has already been recycled. Steel can be recycled using only 25% of the energy needed for the original product. When you add all the energy needed to mine the raw materials, it makes recycling even more efficient.
For more information: www.smorgonsteel.com.au/recycling
Tiles like this one can be made from recycled wine corks.
Australian company ACL Comcork crushes the used cork and turns it into granules. It is then made into a range of products, including floor tiles.
New cork is harvested from tree bark that takes 27 years to grow, so it would be a shame to send it into the waste stream after just one use.
Supplier: ACL Comcork
The components of this do-it-yourself water saving kit are quick and easy to install in most existing taps.
These valves and aerators maintain good pressure but dramatically reduce the amount of water used.
They can save around 16,000 litres of water and cut your energy and water bills by up to $250 each year.
Saving water at home leaves more water in our waterways to sustain native plants and animals. They are a vital part of natural ecosystems that support us all.
Supplier: Mania National
These chairs were made by Schamburg & Alvisse, a company that designs for long life and reuse.
The company recycles old furniture, uses recycled plastic in the structural shells, and recycled PET plastic in the textiles.
Envirofill packaging material is made from potato or wheat starch that is 100% biodegradable.
It makes great cushioning when sending things through the mail. Unlike aerated plastic-foam packaging, it is both reusable and compostable, and dissolves almost instantly in water.
Australia consumes more than one and a half million tonnes of plastic each year. About one-third of that is plastic used for packaging.
Supplier: Pro-Pac Packaging (Aust) Pty Ltd
This tea is made under a ‘fair trade’ agreement.
This ensures that the production of the tea is environmentally sustainable, there is no child labour used, and profits made go directly back into the community from which the tea has come.
Look for the Fairtrade label on products such as tea, coffee and chocolate.
By purchasing these goods, you will be helping support economic and environmental sustainability in developing countries.
Supplier: Universal Village
Australia’s sustainable seafood guide can help you make decisions about which fish to eat.
It lists fish that are should be avoided, those on the endangered list, and species that are in plentiful supply.
You can find an online version at www.marineconservation.com.au
These wall tiles are made from 100% recycled glass.
Glass bottles and other glass materials can be recycled into attractive tiles for homes and other buildings.
Producing glass from recycled material takes only 40% of the energy necessary to make new glass from sand.
Each year Australia manufactures more than one million tonnes of glass. Currently only one-third of this is recycled.
Supplier: Bisanna Tiles
Granitgard is a physical termite barrier.
It consists of natural stone particles too small for termites to squeeze past and too big for them to move.
It is used effectively in the building industry.
For more information: www.granitgard.com.au
Many native grasses can be used as lawns that require very little watering or mowing.
Weeping grass (Microlanea stipoides) makes a good drought-resistant lawn on golf courses in eastern Australia.
For more information: nativeseeds.com.au
For more information: nativeseeds.com.au
This ultra-strong but lightweight Hebel block is a sustainable alternative for building walls.
It is made from aerated concrete and can insulate a dwelling up to three-and-a-half times more efficiently than other building products.
Hebel blocks use significantly less energy and raw materials in their manufacture compared to traditional bricks. They are easy to carry and use, and their light weight reduces fuel consumption during transport.
Supplier: Hebel Australia
The manufacturer of Interface carpet tiles takes responsibility for its products from ‘cradle to grave’ and is committed to minimising its impact on the environment.
The company leases, rather than sells, carpet to its customers. When the carpet needs replacing, Interface takes it back to be completely recycled into new carpet.
The additional benefit of carpet tiles is that it is easy to replace worn areas. Carpet can be kept looking new by changing just a few tiles.
Supplier: Interface Inc
This compact fluorescent light bulb consumes five times less energy and lasts for up to eight times longer than an old-fashioned incandescent light bulb.
Lighting is a major consumer of energy in the household. Installing just one of these bulbs can save you up to $50 on energy bills over its lifetime.
Because 90% of our electricity comes from burning coal, you’ll also prevent the release of half a tonne of greenhouse gas.
Supplier: Philips Electronics Australia
Linoleum, or Lino, is a floor covering made from natural ingredients such as cork flour, jute, limestone and linseed oil.
Similar floor-covering products made from PVC or vinyl emit toxic compounds throughout their lifetimes.
Lino is durable and provides many years of service but is completely biodegradable once it becomes waste.
It is non-allergenic, does not harbour dust mites, and has three times the life span of similar vinyl flooring products.
Supplier: Forbo Flooring
Marine stewardship logo
These frozen fish dinners have been certified by the Marine Stewardship Council so the box carries their blue-and-white logo.
The fish come from a well-managed and sustainable fishery, which helps to safeguard the world’s seafood supply.
The Marine Stewardship Council is an international organisation dedicated to the long-term management of marine fisheries and related habitats.
By making the right choices now, we can ensure there’ll be plenty of fish for the future.
Supplier: SeaLord New Zealand. For more information: www.msc.org
This milk bottle, like many other bottles and containers, is made from a plastic called PET (polyethylene terephthalate), which can be recycled many times without losing quality. You can recognise a PET bottle by the number 1 in a triangle on its base.
After it is shredded and melted, the plastic in this bottle may be remoulded into a container for detergents or chemical cleaners.
In the USA, the plastic is also spun into Polartec fabric for outdoor clothing.
Rectangular cardboard milk containers can be packed together, so they distribute milk more efficiently than cylindrical bottles can.
Fewer numbers of trucks are needed to deliver the same amount of milk.
Cartons can also be recycled and turned into office paper.
These Pilot BeGreen pens are made from 70-100% recycled materials.
They are manufactured in Japan from post-consumer waste such as recycled CDs and battery cases.
Every year over 10 billion plastic pens are thrown out worldwide and end up as landfill. In Australia alone this adds up to 700 tonnes of rubbish each year.
Supplier: Officeworks, For more information: www.pilotpen.co.uk/begreen
PET (polyethylene terephthalate) is the most widely recycled plastic in the world.
This strong, clear plastic is made from byproducts of the oil and gas industries. It is used to make milk, juice and soft-drink bottles.
When PET is recycled, it is first ground up or shredded into small chips and melted.
The molten plastic is then blown into new bottle moulds or spun into Polartec fabric.
For more information: www.benefits-of-recycling.com/petrecycling.html
Polartec fabric is manufactured from recycled PET bottles.
The fabric is made in the USA and used by a number of companies to produce quality outdoor clothing, such as jackets, gloves and beanies.
Plastic PET bottles are collected, chipped, melted down and spun into fibre, which is then made into lightweight, water-repellent clothing that retains heat extremely well.
It only takes five drink bottles to make one Polartec beanie.
For more information: www.polartec.com/technologies/eco-engineering-recycled/
Polyester insulation can be used in walls, ceilings and under the roof. It is non-allergenic, and very easy to install.
A thick layer of polyester fibres keeps your home snug in winter and cool in summer.
It also keeps your living space quiet because it’s an excellent acoustic insulator.
The fibre does not break down but is fully recyclable at the end of its useful lifetime.
Supplier: Solartex Australia
Recopol is a strong, tough material made from the ground-up plastic components of old telephones, televisions, whitegoods and cars.
It is used to make inner shells for upholstered chairs and furniture.
It more than halves the energy consumed and the greenhouse gases released when compared with making shells from timber plywood, which has traditionally been used for this purpose.
Supplier: Wharington International
This ‘Earth Greetings’ card is made from 100% post-consumer waste paper and are printed with vegetable inks that contain no mineral oils.
Traditional printing methods that use mineral oils release volatile organic compounds and hazardous heavy metals into the atmosphere.
Vegetable-based inks are manufactured from a renewable source and minimise harm to the environment.
Supplier: Eco at home, www.earthgreetings.com.au
Old car tyres can be cleaned, shredded and combined with new and post-consumer material to produce rubber sheets and moulded forms.
Regupol flooring is used in supermarkets, running tracks, children’s play areas and gyms. It creates a safe surface around swimming pools and pavers make comfortable footpaths and ramps.
Regupol underlay is used under carpet, vinyl, timber or linoleum, it helps to reduce the noise of footsteps in home units.
Supplier: Regupol Australia
This water-efficient shower head delivers a firm steady stream but uses a maximum of nine litres of water per minute compared with an older-style shower head which uses around 20 litres per minute.
If you shower for six minutes, a water-efficient shower head saves up to 50 litres of water per shower, which is around 20,000 litres per person per year.
Supplier: Cass Brothers
This waterproof timer has a digital clock and timer.
Stick it to your bathroom wall and set the alarm when you get into the shower.
Then turn the water off when the alarm goes off.
It’s that simple!
Every minute you save in the shower reduces your water usage (nine litres per minute with water-efficient shower heads and 20 litres per minute with older-style ones).
Supplier: Ripple Products Pty Ltd
This sisal floorcovering is made almost completely from cactus – an amazing renewable resource that uses very little water or energy to produce.
It’s more durable than other natural floor coverings such as hemp, and is perfect for asthmatics and allergy sufferers as it repels dust mites.
Cactus plants are naturally drought tolerant, using very little water to grow to maturity.
Supplier: Natural Floorcovering Centre
This solar (photovoltaic) panel converts solar energy into electrical energy.
The panel is made of silicon, which absorbs energy from sunlight.
The energy knocks electrons free to move about, then a magnetic field in the panel makes the electrons flow in one direction. This flow of electrons is called a current or electricity.
In Australia the use of solar power is growing by about 30% every year.
Supplier: BP Solar
Tea and tea infuser
Use a tea infuser with loose leaf tea to minimise packaging.
Tea bags are very convenient but they do use extra fabric, staples and paper.
This long-lasting marine-grade steel mesh is used to guard buildings against termites.
When installed below cement slabs, Termimesh forms a physical barrier that the insects can’t eat, penetrate or destroy.
In Australia organochlorine chemicals were used to kill termites for 50 years to 1995. They were banned worldwide in 2001.
Even with Termimesh it is important to have your home checked by a pest-control expert annually.
Supplier: Termi-mesh Australia Pty Ltd
Polished Terrazzo tiles are made from marble chips set into cement.
Second -grade marble that can’t be cut into slabs is broken into chips and used to create an attractive floor covering.
Supplier: Terrazzo Australian Marble
This toilet paper is made from 100% recycled office paper. Both types of paper are made from trees, so it makes good sense to use the same wood fibres twice before flushing them down the loo.
It’s even better if the office paper is made from recycled paper too. That way the same wood fibre can be used three times before being sent to the waste stream.
In Australia office paper is made from recycled milk and juice cartons.
For more information: www.planetark.org
Torch with light emitting diodes
Powered by two AA batteries, this LED (light emitting diode) torch uses a fraction of the power of a regular torch.
LEDs turn almost 100% of available energy into light.
A normal incandescent light bulb converts only 5% of electrical energy into light. The rest is given off as heat.
For more information: www.torchworld.com.au
Varta Battery charger
This device restores power to rechargeable batteries.
Each battery can be recharged up to 1000 times, saving money and preventing enormous amounts of pollution.
Batteries contain toxic chemicals and heavy metals that eventually leak from their casing to pollute soil and water in landfill.
In Australia around 350 million non-rechargable batteries are discarded annually. This amounts to around 10,000 tonnes of rubbish.
Supplier: Remington Products Australia Pty Ltd
This wind-up radio converts human mechanical energy into stored electricity.
Thirty seconds of winding gives you 30 minutes of radio play time. Or you can sit the radio in the sun and let its solar panel do all the work instead.
The radio needs no mains electricity or conventional batteries.
Each year 15 billion non-rechargeable batteries are made worldwide and the majority of them end up in landfill, polluting both earth and water.
Supplier: Multi Powered Products
Woollen fibre can be used as insulation to reduce the rate of heat flow through walls and ceilings in the home.
It prevents warm air escaping in the winter and unwanted heat gain in summer.
Installing wall and ceiling insulation can save hundreds of dollars in heating and cooling costs over 12 months and reduce greenhouse emissions by up to 10 tonnes per year.
Supplier: Higgins Insulation