A GOOD CHOICE FOR YOU
& THE PLANET
n Australia, the ‘triple threat’ of solar passive design, PV systems and rainwater harvesting underpin how we think about energy-efﬁcient, sustainable housing. These strategies work together to reduce reliance on mains power and water and improve year-round comfort. But for a home to be truly sustainable, we need to take a few steps back and look at the bigger picture – the building blocks of the home: bricks, concrete, ﬂoor and wall coverings, rooﬁng and furniture. Consider the provenance of the raw materials, emissions or pollution caused during their manufacture, and the end-of-life impacts around their disposal and recyclability. Thanks to the sheer volume of houses that are being built today and into the future (HIA projections suggest we’ll be building up to 180,000 new residences per year just to keep up with national population growth), the environmental credentials of the materials we use to build our homes matter more than ever. ‘When we think of how to reduce our environmental impact, we tend to think about how we can reduce the energy we use while occupying our home. But the energy that goes into making our buildings, as well as the chemicals used in modern building materials and resources used, all these can have a huge impact on the environment,’ explains Dr Shaila Divakarla – architect, sustainability advisor and Standards and Technical Manager at Good Environmental Choice Australia (GECA). ‘These are important issues because they happen on such a big scale.’ GECA is a not-for proﬁt eco-labelling organisation that develops standards to ensure products – everything from personal care items to insulation – meet a range of benchmarks, including environmental, social and ethical, ﬁtness for purpose and quality. Participation in the scheme is voluntary, and when a company applies for GECA certiﬁcation, its products are assessed by an independent auditor. If the standards are met, the product can then be marketed with GECA’s distinctive ‘tick’ eco-label. ‘There is so much information overload these days, who has the time to assess which product is the best choice?’ Shaila says. ‘For example, people wonder if bamboo ﬂooring is more sustainable, or which brand of paint. Without
The GECA eco-labelling scheme makes it easier to choose earth-friendly products when building or renovating.
story > Gabrielle Chariton