Design Tips for an Eco-Friendly and Low – Carbon Home

Uma Campbell considers why we should build more eco-friendly homes and offers some tips on how to go about it.


Everyone dreams of owning their own home. They, of course, have a list of things that they want. However, in this day and age of environmentalism, many of us are also thinking environmentally. Whether it’s saving water, lowering our carbon footprint, becoming more eco-friendly, or other aspects, we are researching more about helping the planet in our own way. The following information will show you how you can take steps to become environmentally-friendly within your own home.




It’s no secret that discussions of global warming have increased. However, according to the New Zealand Herald, many of our greenhouse emissions come from buildings we live, and work, in. While we know that vehicle exhausts can negatively affect our environment, several people don’t realize the effect that rows of houses can have on carbon emissions.

Indeed, buildings use about one-third of the city’s energy, and they also emit as many greenhouse gases. At present demand, some estimate Auckland’s carbon emissions to increase by as much as 46 percent by the year 2025.

Increase Efficiency And Earn More Money

However, greenhouse proponents suggests that making new and existing buildings (e.g., residential and commercial) more energy efficient will help. However, we must convince developers and home builders that green is the new normal while still staying within the budget. The trick is to realize that – although the transition may be costly at first – the money you save in the long run will be even more.

Eco-Friendly House

 But, as Stuff tells us, it can be done.  Take, for example, Philip Ivanier. He was able to build his own eco-friendly house. The Glendowie property is New Zealand’s first passive house.

But, what, exactly, is a passive house? It is one that requires very little heating or cooling, and has great insulation, which moderates the temperature during the entire year. In addition, the energy use, and carbon footprint is very low.

Mr. Ivanier is from Canada. Since passive homes are not common in New Zealand, he had to get the building materials imported – something for which the Auckland Council never considered the consents. But, the materials included roof solar panels, and there is no mould or mildew. The best part is that he’ll be able to put some power back into the grid.



 As you’ve seen from Mr. Ivanier’s case, there are challenges that may need to be overcome. In fact, according to Sustainable Homes, the insulation in several of New Zealand’s buildings is quite poor. Additionally, while the energy in many homes comes from renewable energy, certain other materials, ecology, and water efficiency are not very sustainable.

In fact, only one-third of New Zealand’s homes were built after 1978, which is when mandatory insulation was enacted. So, it stands to reason that older housing may not be properly insulated. It should also be noted that only 56 homes had been accredited against the standard for other environmental issues such as water efficiency or waste. Due to recent issues such as the global financial crisis and the 2011 earthquake, it stands to reason why it has taken such a long time to fix the problems.  However, there is a solution.

Building Guide

 Despite the fact that New Zealand is not known for having eco-friendly, low-carbon, housing, you can still live sustainably. According to Building guide, there are several things you need to do. First, and foremost, consider the climate, and vegetation around you. You should use your available natural resources to the best of your ability. Using the sun for heat, and trees to cool off will reduce your need for energy usage within the home. You should also consider water-efficient, and energy-efficient, appliances.

If you’re going to use building materials, make sure they are environmentally friendly such as bamboo, reclaimed timber, and recycled metals. Doing so will allow you to recycle them as necessary.

In this modern age of being eco-friendly, and reducing your carbon footprint, necessary steps need to be taken in order to create a sustainable home. The information within this guide should help you understand its importance, and the steps you need to take in order to move forward. However, after a little time, and effort, you’ll see that the money you put into the transition will pay for itself, and eventually save you money, and reduce our impact on the Earth – our life support system.





Why I love the messy and the unexplored…

ECO intern and HECUA student Elena Meth is with ECO for a few weeks starting in October 2017.

Elena wrote about what inspires her love of nature, and why getting into and truly being with nature is central to our mental health and well being.

The following is an excerpt from an essay I wrote earlier in the year in response to Richard Louv’s book on child development and environmental psychology, Last Child in the Woods. Louv is best known for his discussion of “Nature-Deficit Disorder,” a phenomenon he describes as the behavioral problems, such as Attention Deficit Disorder, Oppositional Defiant Disorder, and childhood anxiety and depression, which arise from a lack of integration (not just standing around outside) with nature and natural spaces. A short summary and excerpt from the book can be found here:

In my fifth-grade year book, when asked what I wanted to do when I grew up, I responded very matter-of-factly that I would be an environmentalist in the Redwood National Forest. My teacher desperately tried to explain to me than environmentalism wasn’t a career, but I wasn’t convinced. From a young age, I had noticed rows of healthy trees being cut down in neighbors’ yards, or the way my classmates played during recess surrounded by the outdoors, but somehow not quite actually outside. At ten years old, I recognized the issue Richard Louv classifies as “Nature-Deficit Disorder” in Last Child in the Woods, and that it wasn’t just something out of which my friends would grow.

The problem was, and still is, much larger than my suburban classmates scratching bark off a tree and not understanding the ramifications; it is an issue of Louv’s described Third Frontier, that has somehow convinced adults and children alike that it’s alright to stay inside “where the outlets are” (10). One specific issue Louv raises in Last Child in the Woods that resonates with my childhood recollections, both positively and negatively, is the fostering of respect and understanding (or more often lack of) for nature during childhood years.
A major theme of the novel is the recent, and increasingly more severe, disconnect between people and nature. This problem is multi-faceted, but as Louv discusses, it can be rooted in a lack of respect for nature and natural environments.

Just like anything else, respect and understanding comes from interaction. If kids aren’t willing or able to immerse themselves in forests and fields, how are they to know what they are? The idea that kids are no longer playing outside – that they no longer want to go outside – is baffling to me. Some of my earliest memories are from walks through the park with my mother and dog, and my father taking me to programs sponsored by our local nature reserve. I don’t remember learning to respect nature because it was never an explicit lesson at my house. I grew up touching and smelling things I couldn’t understand, not jumping away in disgust.

I do not have a single experience to explain why respecting nature is so meaningful to me, rather I have a cycle of experiences. When I was five years old, my mother drove me to a place called Beechwood Farms Nature Reserve, a 134-acre reserve owned and maintained by the Audubon Society of Western Pennsylvania (an organization similar to Forest and Bird), only five minutes from our new house. Beechwood instantly became a magical place for me. I remember school trips and after school walks around the property where I was always allowed to explore in every way in which my juvenile self needed.

At Beechwood, no one ever told me not to touch something or to stay back because it “wasn’t safe” (except for a few poison ivy vines). Instead of saying no, and leaving me discouraged and unwilling to further explore, my parents and the educational directors at Beechwood cultivated that curiosity and explained the unknown. As we walked down hot, muddy trails in summer my camp counselors would point out interesting things along the way to enhance our natural knowledge and to keep us pokey campers moving along.

My experiences with Beechwood Farms as a child were so formative, they motivated me to go back as a high school, and now college, student and return the favor for a new generation. As an education volunteer and intern, I led the hikes I remember loving so when I was little. Being on the other side of things, I had the chance to see exactly how psychologically calculative the whole endeavor of environmental education really is.

What seemed like basic hikes when I was eight were actually carefully planned, stimulating and engaging experiences with goals to not only encourage environmental curiosity, respect and understanding, but also general curiosity for the world. Beechwood Farms is a unique place in that it is specifically maintained for educational purposes. The staff have been working for over forty years to maintain trails so toddlers can easily hike them, to provide activities to challenge young minds, and finally to establish relationships that keep kids like me coming back for years to come.

Unlike other, more wild, outdoor places, Beechwood has been so psychologically significant in my life because of the interactions between the environment and people. Sure, I have my favorite tree and path, but it’s the people who have ensured my love for the messy and unexplored that keep me coming back.

The Environmental Impact Of Cigarette Litter

Daisy Poe from Quitza draws our attention to the immense threat to our marine environment and air quality caused by smoking and discarded butts.

Quitza is a non profit where users from all over the world support each other while quitting smoking using Quitza’s custom made social support network. Quitza combines the social support with real time progress tracking technologies where users earn awards when they reach milestones throughout their quit. These are then shared with the community for further support.


According to the WHO there are currently over 1 billion smokers globally.

Six million of those smokers will die each year from a smoking related illness.

The negative consequences of smoking range far from just the health effects on the individual. The environmental impact caused by improper disposal of cigarette butts is as large as it is concerning.

Each year 4.5 trillion cigarette butts are discarded improperly around the world. They are the single most littered item in existence, ever.

It is in our towns and cities that the vast majority of cigarette ends are discarded improperly. With the help of wind and rain they are often blown or washed into our waterways. They then either remain in our lakes and rivers, make their way to the ocean, or get washed up in our natural spaces.

While in our waterways cigarette butts can often be mistaken for food by aquatic life. If a human adult ingests a cigarette butt they are likely to have some mild health consequences such as vomiting and a upset stomach. Imagine the pain and suffering ingesting a cigarette butt would cause to an animal the size of a fish. (Symptoms include vomiting, respiratory failure, and often death.)

If the cigarette butt gets washed out of our waterways onto a riverbank or onto the beach, non marine life faces the same issue. Land animals will also mistake it for food, ingest it, and receive the same potentially lethal consequences as aquatic life.

To make matters worse, (contrary to popular belief) cigarette butts are not biodegradable. They can take up to 25 years to fully degrade. While they do so they are releasing over 4000 toxins into the soil or water that surrounds them

It would be tempting to discount this issue due to the small size of a cigarette butt. However a study conducted by SDSU found that a single cigarette butt placed in a 1 litre tank of water killed half the fish in the tank.

When we remember our initial statistic of 4.3 trillion improperly discarded cigarettes butts each year, the cause for concern arising from these toxic chemicals entering our ecosystem becomes apparent.

So what can we do to reduce the amount of harm caused to our environment by cigarette litter?


Various research organizations and public health bodies around the world have proposed a variety of solutions to this issue. However one main common solution to the issue is commonly agreed upon.


Many people are simply unaware of just how large the problem of improperly disposed cigarette litter is. They are unaware of how harmful it is to the environment.


Through education and awareness campaigns it is possible to reduce the amount of cigarette litter that is improperly disposed of, reducing the scale of the problem.


It’s time to start treating cigarette butts like the toxic waste they actually are.