The Fouries: unplugged

2011-12-10 11:13

For Carina and Fanus Fourie living green is about being sensible – and “cents-able”.

The family of four from Centurion, Pretoria, has adopted a lifestyle that allows them to do their bit to save the planet, and helps them save money too.

Carina is a social worker attached to Unitas hospital while Fanus is a hydrologist with the department of water affairs. They have two children Fanie (11) and Estmari (6).

The Fouries admit they’ve learned some of their green techniques from their children who “learn a lot of new things at school which we try to incorporate here at home”.

Like six-year-old Estmari’s sage advice: “People must pick up their trash and close the taps properly.”

Fanus says: “I don’t see us as a green family; we are just living sensibly.”

Carina adds: “It’s important for us to raise our children to live green. We are also Christians and we believe God said we need to respect other people and rule over the Earth. That means that we need to look after the Earth.’’

When the Fouries moved into their three-bedroom home five years ago, they made a conscious effort to make some green changes.

Among the things that attracted them to their house were two skylights in the kitchen that let in natural light, and the huge garden – for the children to play in and still have space for a vegetable patch and a compost heap.

When they renovated the kitchen, the couple opted for a gas stove and they replaced the conventional light bulbs throughout the house with energy savers.

The original garage was painted forest green, which made it necessary to put on a light on entering. So the Fouries painted it light cream and installed translucent panelling – and made another saving on the electricity bill.

They have a timer on the geyser which switches the appliance off twice a day so it does not constantly reheat water when not needed. They also turned down the temperature.

Bright yellow stickers on the wall plugs throughout the house remind the children to switch off the lights each time they leave a room. A sticker on the fridge reminds them to “make it a quick one” – not to leave the fridge door open too long and allow the cool air to escape.

Carina says: “When we leave the house or go to bed at night we switch everything off at the plug, from cellphone chargers to computer screens.”

At coffee time, the kettle is not filled to the brim, but with just enough water for one or two cups: another saving on the electricity bill.

While they have not calculated their savings in rands Fanus says they have compared their electricity consumption with that of a neighbour and the results are encouraging: “My neighbour uses 1 800 units per month for three people; we use 600 for the four of us.”

The family is also conscientious about using nature’s own free water. When it rains the family can be seen dashing about putting out buckets and other containers to catch the rain. “It looks very funny to see all the buckets outside.’’

Rainwater is used to irrigate the garden and the vegetable patch, which is also fed by a compost heap.

Carina and Fanus swapped baths for showers, and the children have been taught that their bath tub is “not a swimming pool’’.

The family is big on recycling but say city systems – or the lack thereof – don’t make it easy. Only paper is collected for recycling. For the rest – plastic, tins and glass – the family has to hunt down recycling bins.

“Sometimes we have to drive far to find a bin and when we get there it’s full.”

The Fouries say they would like to do more – like get a solar geyser, a tank for collecting rainwater and more skylights.

“We don’t have the money for the big things yet, but it’s the little things that will make a difference,” says Fanus. “You just have to change your attitude.’’

“I’d also like to start doing meatless Mondays,’’ Carina chips in.

“Um . . . That we’ll still have to discuss,’’ says her husband, doubtfully.

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