Honorary Great Grand Daddy Green Gorilla: Aiming For a Zero Carbon Footprint.

Updated: Oct 4, 2021

by Dorus

Just wanted to share this newspaper article featuring my old man. I guess although Mallorca is as far as you can get from Te Aroha, New Zealand, the apple has not fallen far from the tree. Anyway I'm proud of him and I hope you enjoy the article (transcribed below).

Aiming For a Zero Carbon Footprint.

A carbon footprint is the total greenhouse gas emissions caused by an individual, event, organisation, service or product, expressed as carbon dioxide equivalent. Wikipedia

Global warming, carbon footprint, single-use, toxic waste, non-recyclable, terms used now in everyday conversation that until fairly recently would have sounded like some alien language. We say it but do we really understand it and more importantly are we doing anything about it?

One man in Te Aroha is totally committed to all positive aspects of doing what he can to save the planet; not for himself, or his neighbours or even his children, who are adults anyway, but for his grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

Those who will grow up in quite a different world to ours but will do so under a cloud, perhaps quite literally, of emissions, fumes, rising sea levels, deforestation, and mountains of unrecyclable rubbish left by us as their legacy.

Petrus Rijkers suggests that we can all play our part, but how many of us do? And if we don’t what are our excuses? “My neighbour doesn’t recycle so what’s the point in me doing it?“What I can do is a drop in the ocean so why bother, no-one will notice.” “I’ll do something when manufacturers start doing something.” Petrus had a very wise mother who told him “the environment is going to crash if we don't take care of it.”

Is it not the responsibility of all of us to do what we can?

There is a joke from yesteryear with the punch line “many hands make light work,” isn’t this environmental issue like that? If we all did what we could reasonably manage the total result would be amazing. It depends on the focus of our motivation, is it the environment or the dollar?

But are these excuses just cop-outs because we can’t be bothered or is it really too difficult, too expensive, too time consuming? Petrus undertook an interesting analytical exercise when he first decided that “if it’s going to be, it’s up to me.” He had some savings and used this to install some solar panels on the roof of his house and one large battery to store unused power.

Solar panels on the roof

The battery and the panels work like this. The panels create the power from sunlight and store it in the battery and the house uses the power from the battery. However, when it is very sunny and hot, they make a lot of power but not much is used, no heating etc, so the power fills up the battery. When the battery is full it starts sending (selling) the power back to the national power grid. The house isn’t using power from the grid, so there is nothing to pay, the power is coming from the sun and is free. In addition, when there is too much power it is sold.

So, income minus no expense equals profit. In that first year Petrus made twice as much from his solar panels as what he would have got from interest. Of course, he had to use his savings to buy the panels but if you look on it as an investment rather than a cost, in other words the money is still there, on you roof working rather than in the bank doing nothing, than you still have it.

In addition, you no longer have a power bill so there is more money in your pocket and the panels add value to your house.

What is another big household expense? Petrol for your car. Petrus believes that solar panels and electric cars should work together so he bought an electric car which he plugs in at home overnight. Because he has so much power it costs nothing to fill his car and he doesn’t have a conventional petrol engine to break down.

One of the batteries of the solar panels

The car runs clean so no pollution. But he had to buy the car; yes, but again if you look on it as an investment for the health of future generations then it’s a wise choice and you have a beautiful car that is costing you nothing to use. Alternatively you can do as Petrus does and walk or ride a bike.

There has been a lot of talk in the news recently about the carbon footprint being left by the actual making of the car. The industry is very new and those establishing it believe in the new clean machine so if there is a footprint no doubt research and experimentation will overcome the problem. As the cheese ads say, good things take time.

There has also been discussion around the quality of the batteries in electric cars, but again, as with the manufacture of the cars, there are teething troubles and like everything as time goes by the problems are ironed out and the quality of the product improves.

The same can be said for the solar panels that are being constantly improved and getting less expensive. Petrus said that nowadays a new solar panel has the output of 15 old style panels. He has now added another bank of panels and another battery to his energy system.

But saving the environment doesn’t stop with the mode of power used. New houses must meet building codes, but most old houses are not insulated. The government subsidy scheme is making a huge difference and insulating an old bungalow can cost the homeowner as little as $500.

So there are a number of big things we can do to reduce that stubborn carbon footprint and admittedly those costs may well be out of the reach of a low-income family, but we can do so much more.

Matamate-Piako is currently at level 3 water restrictions. We could save huge amounts of water by just turning off the shower while we soap and shampoo. We can shop in bulk bin stores or those that suggest you bring your own containers. An extension of this is to lobby manufacturers to minimise packaging. We can compost our kitchen waste. Petrus does this with two bins and he also has a worm farm.

Compost bins

Don’t visualise 100 hectares of worms, rather it’s a neat container in the back garden where worms eat your fresh vegetable waste and turn it into a nutritious supplement for your garden beds. Petrus has utilised space well by stepping the beds, the watering is on a timer and netting keeps the birds out, paper, cans, glass and #1 and #2 plastics are recycled.

Garden veggie beds

His household has gone from a big rubbish bag each week to a small one about every two or three weeks.

Mahatma Ghandi was famous for inspiring others to change, but he also said: “If you want to change the world, start with you…” Petrus Rijkers must have been listening.

Te Aroha News, 18 March 2021

Story by Eileen Joyce

The Green Gorillas run workshops in tiny house building and sustainable living. Find out more at www.greengorillas.eco

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