Saving Money, and Saving the Future

Handouts for a talk at Yarra Valley Expo
18th and 19th May, 2002
Dr Bob Rich
email me

      I could spend several hours giving you lists of recipes for saving money by saving the future. I'll save you such boredom with a handout.



1. You needn't be a purist. Small steps go a long way.

2. Convenience is the lubricant on the slippery slope towards extinction. Besides, often it's more apparent than real. For example, calculate how many extra hours you need to work in order to finance a takeaway food or freezer-to-microwave lifestyle compared to home cooking. And cooking can become a creative, joyful form of self-expression.

3. As a first approximation, the amount of money you spend is a measure of the environmental damage you cause.

4. Choosing to do without is liberation. Having it imposed is hardship.

5. Life is a journey, not a destination. Enjoy doing rather than having.

6. Contentment is living with your wants satisfied. Want less, and you'll be content.

7. The consumer society is based on dissatisfaction. Don't fall for it.

8. Humans were not made for doing the same thing all the time. It's more meaningful to do many activities, supplying your own needs directly.

9. Recycling is a poor second best to reusing, or doing without.


Car use

1. Can you change your life to eliminate the car?

2. Keep your car in perfect tune. Frequent tuning more than pays for itself, and reduces air pollution.

3. LP gas generates less harmful emissions, and pays for itself.

4. Don't leave the engine idling. Switch off whenever possible.

5. Use the phone and the internet to reduce the need to travel.

6. Make trips multi-purpose.

7. Share cars and do messages for each other.

8. Buy in bulk.

9. Keep windows closed when over 80 Km/h to reduce air turbulence.

10. Minimise air conditioner use (can save 10%).

11. Learn to listen to the engine. Keep revs in most economic range.


House design

1. Small is beautiful. Less air to heat/cool, less materials in structure, less maintenance and cleaning.

2. Best is solar efficient house design. See p 17, Earth Garden Building Book: Design and build your own house 4th ed, by Robert Rich and Keith Smith, Viking 1991.

3. Energy efficient house design:

      a) Small surface area to volume ratio.

      b) Maximise insulation in roof, under floor, in walls.

      c) Minimise air infiltration.

4. 'Winter windows' is a plastic film double glazing. Contact Victoria Grounds, PO Box 773, Jamison Centre, ACT 2614. ph: (02) 6251 3570

5. Attached greenhouse: see Earth Garden Building Book p 19.

6. Any house can be modified towards solar efficient or energy efficient design.

7. No properly designed and built home should need air conditioning in Melbourne's climate.

8. A properly designed home needs hardly any heating in Melbourne's winter. There is no justification for ducted heating or cooling in Melbourne -- except poor house design.

9. Wherever you live, adapt to the climate through regular vigorous exercise. People can adapt to almost any temperature this way.

10. 18 degrees C is a good winter temperature to adapt to.

11. If you're cold, put on another jumper, or skip rope for 5 minutes.

12. It may be cheaper to use a single bar radiator at your feet than to heat the whole room.


Household electric use

1. Avoid using electricity for producing heat (space heating, hot water, cooking). Over 75% of electric energy is lost in transmission.

2. Switch off 'ghosts': EVERY unused appliance should be turned off at the power point. You don't need ten digital clocks and little red lights around the house.

3. Automatic dishwashers don't save time. They use power, water and corrosive detergent. Use the biological version.

4. Tumble clothes dryers eat electricity. Use the solar powered version: a clothes line.

5. If an appliance is not in use, turn it off. A TV needs an audience.

6. Computers

      a) A notebook computer uses one-tenth the power of a desktop. I bought a second hand one, it does everything I need.

      b) The monitor of a desktop is the energy-hungry part. Turn it off if you leave it, even for a minute or two. A 'screen saver' doesn't save power, it's a toy.

      c) Turn off auxiliary equipment at the power point, except when in actual use.

7. Lighting:

      a) An empty room needs no light. This is true even for fluoros. (The starter uses as much energy as 5 minutes of being on. When you leave a room, almost always you'll be out of it for over 5 minutes).

      b) People are used to unnecessarily high levels of background illumination. You only need bright light for activities like reading. Use task lighting, with low level of background. What used to be considered 'restful absence of glare' is now 'too dark'.

      c) Make maximum use of daylight.

      d) White ceilings and walls, and lots of mirrors optimise the available light.

      e) Use high efficiency light bulbs: LEDs or fluoros.

8. Fridge:

      a) Check appliance ratings before buying. But a big, efficient fridge uses more than a small, slightly less efficient one. Buy the smallest that fits your needs.

      b) Keep air space behind fridge ventilated (min 100 mm). Position fridge away from heat sources.

      c) Ensure door seals are effective.

      d) Keep door open for the minimum time. Close even for a few seconds.

      e) Have the fridge full: fill empty space with anything that replaces air.

      f) Never put a warm object into the fridge.

9. Gas is about three times as efficient as electricity in terms of primary energy use.

10. A solar water heater soon pays for itself.



      Cremation is the use of irreplaceable fossil fuel to turn good fertiliser into air pollution.



1. An electric induction cooktop is the most efficient (but needs iron pots). However, gas cooking is far more efficient than electric heat elements. A gas oven uses about the same amount of primary energy as a microwave.

2. Boil only the amount of water you need. You want three cups? Boil three cups plus a tiny bit for safety. Turn the kettle/jug off 3 seconds before it boils. Swirl it around, and the hot sides will bring the water to boiling point.

3. Put a lid on it. You can reduce energy use to half or less.

4. Use a solar oven in the summer.

5. Bring rice to the boil, then heavily insulate the pot. It'll cook to perfection over time.

6. Steam or pressure cook vegetables.

7. If you have heated up an oven, make multiple use of it.

8. Wait with washing dishes until there is a fair amount.

9. Throw away the electric dishwasher.



1. Grow edible plants in every place possible. Many look beautiful too.

2. Espaliered fruit trees take little space and have good yields.

3. Cover ground with something other than grass (rockery, native plants in bark mulch, pumpkins, pennyroyal...).

4. Even a city flat can grow some food.

5. BUYING organically grown costs more. But GROWING organically costs less.

6. Use roof water and household 'grey water' for the garden. Every roof should have a tank.

7. Almost any garden has room for a couple of chooks.

8. Worm farms eat household waste, grow fertiliser.


Paper use

1. A computer CAN (but usually doesn't) save its cost in stationery.

2. Newspapers are terrible paper eaters. Look it up on the web instead.

3. Electronic books don't eat trees. An old notebook is a convenient portable reader, and you might find one for free, or nearly free. Look at, a transcript of my speech on this topic.

4. A computer can be (but again, sometimes isn't) a better filing system than paper in drawers. Just make sure you back it up.

5. Every house is full of partly used paper. Never scribble on a new sheet or a note pad, but use the back of what would otherwise be rubbish.

6. Use a second hand envelope where possible.

7. Most people use 4 or 5 times as much toilet paper as necessary. Anyway, human wastes are water soluble.

8. Avoid single-use paper items.



1. Creative activities are more satisfying than anything you buy. Learn a useful craft, e.g. cooking, making your own clothes, furniture, greeting cards.

2. If your life is full and satisfying enough, you don't need a holiday.

3. Do things with family and friends: board games, cards, charades, music...

4. Rediscover the joys of conversation.

5. Write stories or poetry, for self-expression, not necessarily for others.

6. Take up a sport: swimming, dancing, chess, bushwalking, bowls.

7. Challenge your mind. Education is fun if chosen rather than imposed.

8. Become a volunteer. Or advance a cause.

9. Join clubs: Rotary, Lions, Toastmasters... any organisation where you can combine with others to improve yourself and the world around you.



Cats are the major threat to Australian wildlife. If you must have one:

      a) Have it neutered.

      b) Keep it indoors at night.

      c) Put a bell around its neck.

Roaming dogs are a threat to animals and even people. Even tame family pets can become dangerous when in a pack.

      Dogs should be neutered.

      Australia's dogs and cats eat more food than all the people in certain countries.

      Small breeds of dog eat less.

Alternative pets:

1. Chooks (not roosters) can be hand tamed, are great pets for kids, and give eggs.

2. Ducks (both genders) are even better pets, but are dirty and need water.

3. Geese are loyal, will never harm family, but are fierce watch animals. A pack of geese will defeat a dog, though not a pack of dogs.

4. Pigeons and doves are great pets.

5. In Europe, people have raptors (hunting birds). Hawking is a sport. Australian raptors must not be kept, but importing them may be possible. There is a great business for someone, training raptors to keep birds off vineyards and orchards.

6. Green tree snakes and carpet snakes are harmless, great pets, will keep car thieves at bay, keep the mice and rats down in your house.

7. Kids enjoy ant farms, snails, goldfish. Goldfish don't need the bubbler on all the time.

8. Rabbits are clean, make great house pets.



1. There are ecological, financial and personal advantages to a child-free lifestyle. A child is the most expensive pet you can have.

2. Aim for 'zero population growth' or less: no more than two children per woman.

3. Keep kids away from TV, or very strictly control content. I raised my kids without TV since 1975, and they are not culturally disadvantaged.

4. Children learn from those around them. Live an ecologically and socially sane life while they are little, and they will be able to resist the culture of their peer group (possibly including drugs, sex, violence, insisting on brand name goods and other consumer idiocies). If you resist social pressures, they will learn to do so too.

5. Encourage your kids to engage in sports and creative activities of various kinds including music, theatre and crafts.

6. Teach them to be self-reliant.

7. Teach responsibility by having them share in the family's work.

8. Never use put-down statements when disciplining a child.

9. Remember: parents are people too.



1. Make your own fashions.

2. Make, repair and alter at least some of your own clothes.

3. Clothes do not make the man. Beauty comes from within: serenity and confidence.

4. There is nothing wrong with being different, in this and other areas of life.

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