In last week’s Newsletter we discussed the potential for the Tesla ‘Powerwall’ to revolutionise the way we think about, produce, use and store energy. Since then there has been a flurry of media commentary about Tesla’s ‘big announcement’, much of it positive and some negative. The nay-sayers claim that there won’t be much of a market for it because it doesn’t compete in price with grid power and, as a backup system during power outages, it can’t supply enough energy to run the ‘average house’ in the usual way (i.e. using loads of energy). In all of the ‘expert’ opinions flying around the internet, one thing was glaringly missing…
Whatever Happened To Energy Conservation?
Not one of the articles I read last week about the Powerwall mentioned a single word about energy conservation. In all the blather about whether or not the Powerwall could meet the energy needs of the average home, no one gave a moment’s thought to how much energy an ‘average home’ actually needs. For me this is part of a bigger picture. I often read articles about how much renewable energy we will have to produce in order to supply all of our current and projected power needs going into the future but they almost never stop to suggest that, if we got serious about conserving energy, we actually wouldn’t need that much power after all.
REDUCE, Reuse, Recycle, Renew.
No doubt you’re familiar with the above saying (at least the first three) but did you know that this is written in order of importance? When considering anything relating to sustainability the first priority is to REDUCE what we need; after that, to reuse what we have because it uses much less energy to reuse something than to recycle it; and finally, when we have our energy requirements down to the absolute minimum, we can think about how we meet those requirements from renewable sources.
Unfortunately we are globally putting the proverbial cart before the horse. The majority of government programs focus on producing renewable energy and recycling waste with very little emphasis on reusing what we already have or reducing what we think we need. There are exceptions to this (Germany’s efforts to conserve energy in buildings is a notable example) but generally it’s “Recycle, Renew… and I forget the rest”.
Almost every discussion of global energy systems talks about how much energy we will require by such-and-such a date based on ‘current growth rates’ and how we will need to produce some massive amount of renewable energy in order to keep the global economy functioning.
It’s the same with any discussion of global population. How many times have you read that ‘by 2050 there will be 9 Billion people on the planet’? …SAYS WHO? It is simply assumed that the world’s population must continue to grow at its current rate of acceleration. It appears to be completely out of the question that we might consider efforts to actually reduce the number of people on the planet or how much we consume.
K.I.S.S. My House.
In my opinion the first rule of sustainability is to Keep It Small and Simple… (K.I.S.S)…. Building a small, simple house like the Greeny Flat immediately REDUCES everything when compared to a large and complex one. From the amount of materials, money and embodied energy required for construction to the amount of time, energy and money needed for operations and maintenance… the smaller the building the more it conserves.
This concept is inherently understood by the vast majority of people in the world who simply can’t afford to build anything big or complicated to shelter themselves. But it’s also gathering momentum in more privileged communities and manifesting itself in things like The Tiny House Movement and the Minimalist Movement which is about simplifying your life (not to be confused with the Minimalist Design Movement of the 60’s and 70’s).
Meanwhile the average new home in Australia is the largest in the world at 214 sq m and real estate here is becoming less and less affordable by the minute. I simply cannot understand why we Australian’s think we need bigger houses than anyone else, but the following articles give me hope that there are plenty of people around the planet who are embracing smaller homes and simpler living. We can certainly vouch for the benefits of a small, cozy home like the Greeny Flat that is cheap to run, easy to maintain and very quick to clean. But these guys are taking it to a whole other level and, while I’m not suggesting that everyone should live in a shoe-box, there is a lot of very smart thinking in some of these projects and clever ways to make the most of a small amount of space.
21 sq m German Micro Apartment makes ‘clever use of available vertical space and a multi-purpose central unit‘.
Owning Less to Live More … ‘Minimalism is a lifestyle that Australians are adopting as a reaction to the materialism that drains the earth’s finite resources. The basic premise of the movement is to live without excess possessions in order to have more meaningful and thoughtful experiences….We can’t save the world by buying stuff, we have to change the way we consume.’
US$33,000 Tiny House … ‘the Morrisons are clear that living in a tiny house is as much about lifestyle as space. They espouse an approach of minimizing belongings and clutter (without going short) and of simplicity.’
36 sq m New York Apartment … ‘living spaces are getting smaller and we need to find clever ways to make the most of the space we have. The 5:1 Apartment in New York is one such small space. It uses a sliding wall to transform itself from daytime to nighttime functionality’
38 sq m Family Home in Sydney … ‘two-bedroom unit in Potts Point the size of most living rooms highlights the importance of clever design in the worldwide trend towards small and micro apartments’
Life Edited … ‘shows how to design your life to include more money, health and happiness with less stuff, space and energy’
24 shirts in one … ‘one shirt that can be worn 24 different ways. The shirt seems perfect for those looking to both maintain a minimal wardrobe while having a semblance of variation in their look’
Better Bike Storage … ‘turn your bike into a lean, mean, small-home-friendly machine’ with FlipCrown
Forget Solar Power, Paris Hilton is Harnessing Star Power to Change the World … ‘Paris Hilton, once the poster girl of conspicuous consumption, has adopted a minimalist lifestyle and has given up a 12,000 sq ft Malibu mansion for a tiny house in Eugene, Oregon’
As the lovely Ms Hilton puts it ‘If people can see that someone like me can adopt this way of life, then they can see than anyone can. It’s like I say, every global change starts with a personal one.’
… can’t argue with that.