Monday, December 31, 2012

Top 5 of 2012

As we say goodbye to 2012, let's look back at this year's most-viewed items here on Convenient Solutions:

5. In an Olympic year, I was certain to start comparing nations in the climate change arena. The Australia v Germany infographic showed that despite being famously sunny, Australia still has a long way to go in solar power.

4. My convenient solutions for Keeping Warm in Winter was a big hit back in June. It might be helpful for our northern hemisphere readers right now.

3. Good news is always welcome. So it proved with the news about the Lego company doing their bit for renewable energy.

2. More good news was a coal power station closing. More stations followed later, but this piece of news was popular with you.

1. The most read part of my blog this year was the ending of support for solar hot water. The incoming Queensland government decided to the end the $600 rebate ($1000 for pensioners) to help people upgrade to solar hot water. The same government has continued to cut energy efficiency and renewable energy programs, but the solar hot water episode was the most read.

Thank you for reading this past year. Thank you for being interested in positive stories, realising that we still have a fair way to go, and for doing all you can. Let's hope for an even better 2013.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

"Soft" plastics now recyclable

Recycling is great for plastic bottles and containers. But what about worn out green bags, bread bags - and other "soft plastics"? Now you can take them back to the supermarket.

Coles is expanding it's plastic shopping bag recycling program (in selected stores) to include the reusable 'green' bags, fruit and vegie bags, bread bags, biscuit packaging, confectionary packaging, rice and pasta packets and frozen food bags.

Check the map to see if your local Coles is involved. If not, maybe ask them why not.

Even if you prefer not to shop at Coles (and i can understand why) you can still use them to recycle your plastics for you.

PS. For recycling nerds, this is technically downcycling, as the used products aren't made into the same type of product again, but instead mostly into outdoor furniture (see examples). This is still good. It prevents the material from going to landfill, and conserves other resources that would have been used to construct those items.

UPDATE: Here is the illustrated guide to what plastics you can put in these bins.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Who's Naughty and Nice

cartoon - so the naughty children all combined their coal and made billions and that's why Santa now gives inhalers to all the nice boys and girls

Apart from being seasonal, i thought this was also relevant to the recent concern about uncovered coal trains travelling through the city on their way to port. And to the ongoing health concerns about coal as an energy source.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

What all the fuss is about

Here's the greenhouse issue in one simple graphic.

graphic of the amount of greenhouse emissions and our remaining carbon budget

First box is the greenhouse gases emitted in the 150 years up to the year 2000. The second green box is what we've added in just over a decade. That would be scary enough, but there's more.

The black box is what scientists estimate we can "safely" release - if we have a hope of staying under 2°C of global warming. And it's only slightly bigger than what we've done in the last decade or so.

So, unless we really expect the whole world to be zero-carbon in about a decade from now, we need to reduce our annual emissions now - to make that 500 last as long as possible.

[Full version of the graphic]

PS. The graphic numbers are in gigatonnes. If you divide the 500 gigatonnes by 7 billion people you get about 70 tonnes per person. For the average Australian/American that's not even 3 years worth.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Bad Decision, Referee

Sometimes being right is not enjoyable. 3 months ago i encouraged you to let the government know your thoughts on removing efficiency standards for hot water.

Now the government has announced that for both new homes and for replacement systems, the standards will fall. Ironically pitched as helping 'housing affordability' the tiny upfront saving is lost several times over - during the life of the system.

graphic of the running cost of different hot water systems

So who loses? Ordinary people who aren't aware of the running cost and are lured in to a cheap purchase price. Renters who have to pay the bills for whatever system the landlords install. The planet - as most of Queensland's electricity comes from coal, there will be millions of tonnes of emissions produced for no reason.

Who wins? Landlords who can save a few bucks, by forcing their tenants to pay significantly higher electricity bills.

PS. The 'housing minister' turns out to be former NRL referee Tim Mander. Despite many years of watching football, i've never disagreed with one of his decisions more than this one.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Different Reactions

Great cartoon from Andrew Wheldon. This is just some snippets of the larger, funnier full version.

Escpecially relevant considering last week's news.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Temperature Control

A classic energy saving tip is to set cooling at 24°C (or more) and heating at 20°C (or less). Every extra degree of heating or cooling uses around 10% more energy.

So what about heaters / coolers that don't have a temperature settings? Today I found out about plug-in thermostats.

They do just what they say. Sitting between the power point and the heater or cooler, they sense the temperature of the room and turn off the power when the room is at the right temperature. Automatic energy savings.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Christmas Tip #10

The good people at Planet Ark have put out The 12 Do's of Christmas - their planet-friendly guide to the festive season. Tip 10 is one i can vouch for.

My parents bought me a digital camera for Christmas 2005. My sister gave me a battery charger and 4 rechargeable batteries. In 2007, 4 more rechargeables - even though the first set were still going well.

Over time, they lose some of their capacity, but as we approach Christmas 2012, i still haven't needed to buy a single battery for that gift of 2005.

[See all 12 tips]

Friday, December 07, 2012

Looking the Other Way

Loved this cartoon - especially having witnessed the recent solar eclipse, and heard many safety warnings about not looking directly at it.

However, for the politician, looking away seems to be not so much to protect the eyes but to protect them from having to take action.

Thursday, December 06, 2012

Highs and Lows

Recently i've been talking about the heatwave high temperatures in Victoria and Queensland. You might be asking why this matters. Aren't records always broken?

In recent times the record highs having been much more frequent that the record lows, as demonstrated by this graph from the Catalyst special Taking Australia's Temperature.

Also, a lot of hot days that aren't quite the hottest ever are often the hottest in 40 years, or 100 years. That's still pretty hot-even if it's not the record.

With more heat records, and more days that are very close, perhaps it's a sign that instead of talking about a warming planet as something that might happen someday, and start talking (and doing something) about it as a problem that is already affecting our lives - and will do even more in years to come.

Wednesday, December 05, 2012

Brisbane's Scorcher

It fell just short of the predicted 39°C, but was still a hot one here in Brisbane yesterday. Just north of the city, it was the hottest December day on record in Tewantin. The 39.7°C broke the previous December record (from 1901) of 39.2°C.

Additionally, two thirds of the state was put on bushfire alert and i heard on the news that 35 fires were being fought. In light of the report the came out yesterday, I guess the is a glimpse of future summers.

[More info: ABC report]

Tuesday, December 04, 2012

Global Warming worse than we thought

A new report out today by the Global Carbon Project measures 2012's emissions at 58% higher than those of 1990. It says to forget about warming of 2°C; we're looking at 4-6°C of warming this century.

This comes at an interesting time for people here in Brisbane. Today is forecast to be a 'heatwave' of 39°C. You'd think that adding another 6°C to that would be something we'd want to avoid.

[ABC News report]
[SBS News report]

This amount of heat increase would see up to another 8600 deaths from heatwaves. There are also flow-on effects for Australia - including a possible 90% decrease in irrigated farming and complete loss of wheat production. $226 billion of infrastructure would be at risk to sea level rise.

[ABC 7.30 report]

Monday, December 03, 2012

Electricity Refunds Every Quarter

Friend of mine at work says to me "It's a good day for solar". That's a bit of clue that someone has recently installed solar panels at home. Non-solar people often just say 'a nice sunny day'. :)

His recent electricity "bill" had $220 of usage and $450 credit for the solar power he exported. He was quite excited in telling me this - as i would be if the electricity company was giving me a few hundred dollars each quarter.

He graphs his solar output on, but with no autologger - it's just the days he manually notes down the reading. It's looking good though - especially through spring.

PS. yes this is the same friend who picked up the bargain LEDs