The prices of food, electricity and fuel are skyrocketing, but this has hardly any consequences for Melissa Weckert and her family.
Their backyard is full of trees and plants that grow their own fruits and vegetables.
They rarely go to the store to buy groceries, and when they do they drive their hybrid car.
“This leaves a small carbon footprint and less plastic use,” said Ms Weckert.
The family of three from Hope Valley in South Australia have developed a habit of eating seasonally, which means better nutrition and a healthier garden.
In winter, the dining table is full of broccoli, cauliflower and Brussels sprouts, while in summer tomatoes and cucumbers dominate.
All homegrown produce means the family barely feels the pinch of soaring prices.
“We are very grateful to have taken these steps as a family a while back,” said Ms. Weckert.
But these habits are not built overnight.
After purchasing a house in 2016, Mrs. Weckert and her husband Sam committed to living a sustainable life.
“We wanted to create a good environment for our small family.”
Their large backyard is now stocked with over 35 varieties of fruits and vegetables, as well as eight chickens producing eggs.
“We have a lot of herbs… pumpkin, cucumber, tomatoes, zucchini and also a cherry tree,” she said.
The family has rainwater tanks, while the house is powered by a solar battery and uses electricity instead of gas.
They have also invested in insulation such as double glazing and honeycomb blinds.
“What we’re doing for the house is trying to make it energy efficient,” said Ms. Weckert.
Ms. Weckert said building sustainability into their home and lifestyle cost at least $40,000 to begin with, but is now paying off.
“It’s hard to start with if you don’t have the willpower, but once you start it gets easier,” she said.
“Now we can save $10,000 to $12,000 a year with alternatives to spending on fuel, water, electricity, and fruits and vegetables.”
They also buy second-hand clothes, borrow toys from the toy library, and make furniture from recycled materials.
Like Mrs Weckert, Alice Wang of Reservoir in north Melbourne is an avid horticulturalist.
“For me, growing fruits and vegetables is my hobby. It’s also an effective way to combat the high price tags on fresh fruits and vegetables in supermarkets,” she said.
The retired teacher, originally from Shanghai, said all her vegetables were organic and tended with rainwater from her tank.
She said she had also rented space in a nearby community garden run by her municipality.
“At the municipal garden we exchange experiences and seeds so that we can try different varieties [of fruit and vegetables],” she said.
Questions about rising solar energy
The sustainable lifestyle is something that many other Australians are increasingly exploring.
The Clean Energy Council says its approved solar retailers have reported up to 50 percent more sales requests in recent weeks.
“Recent media stories of the rising cost of electricity and now the threat of power cuts appear to be driving this increased interest,” said CEO Kate Thornton.
According to PowerHousing, an organization that helps social housing providers develop and manage affordable housing, nearly 8 million homes in Australia are not energy efficient†
That means they don’t have any of the modern gadgets that are being installed in new homes by today’s energy efficiency standards.
These less efficient homes contribute significantly to Australia’s carbon emissions.
Henry Michael Pattie, who works as a power management consultant, said now is an ideal time to consider solar panels.
He said the decision to install solar panels and a battery at his home in Glen Osmond, South Australia, saved him at least $1,500 a year.
“Now that all the prices are going up, I can still save,” he said.
“This will also further reduce CO2 emissions for the energy I use.”
Despite the recent increased interest in solar energy, Emi Mingui Gui, a researcher at Monash University’s Climateworks Center, said the rising cost of living would make it difficult for those with “less purchasing power” to invest in clean energy.
†[This] may mean that the plan to move to EVs (electric vehicles) or invest in solar panels, batteries, energy efficient appliances, all those things should be shelved,” she said.
dr. Gui said that while inflation can force people to use less energy in the short term, governments need to do more to help people and businesses make long-term change.
The 2022 Massachusetts Institute of Technology Green Future Index ranked Australia 52 out of 76 countries and territories in terms of progress and commitment to building a low-carbon future.
“In terms of energy productivity, energy density and intensity per capita, we are still one of the highest in the world, so a lot still needs to be done,” said Dr Gui.
Additional reporting by Jason Fang
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