EcoMatters Environment Trust
It takes a special person to be a sustainability advisor at EcoMatters Environment Trust. Meet Kirstie - helping Aucklanders become wiser with their water.
While many of us will go about our day unaware of how everyday tasks impact the environment, a sustainability advisor is hyper-aware of their footprint – they are an environmental ninja, if you will.
Kirstie MacDiarmid is part of the EcoMatters Environment Trust Homes Team, which educates and promotes ways to create a more eco-conscious Auckland.
As a sustainability advisor, Kirstie conducts in-home water checks. This initiative is fully funded by Watercare to help Aucklanders better manage their water use and save on their water bills.
“I’ve always been conscious of the way we live on the planet and how it impacts the environment,” says Kirstie. “After university I was looking for some hands-on experience in conservation, and that’s when I discovered EcoMatters.”
Kirstie’s first role in the organisation was as a festival assistant for EcoFest West, an annual Auckland environmental festival run by EcoMatters. The role offered her a first-hand glimpse into the sustainability sector. Recognising Kirstie’s passion for the environment, EcoMatters then asked her to come on board and train to be a sustainability advisor.
Now, Kirstie is part of a team of four who have helped more than 600 Aucklanders decrease their water wastage through a free water check initiative.
Helping Aucklanders reduce their water
EcoMatters originally set up a helpline where high water users could phone in for help in reducing their usage. However, things like flow rate assessment and fitting water-saving devices were often tricky for clients to do themselves. So, EcoMatters decided to trial in-home visits.
These visits proved very successful in helping people reduce their water use, and the programme was given approval and funding by Watercare to expand and replace the helpline. The free water check was born.
As part of the free water checks, Kirstie visits Auckland families who are experiencing higher-than-expected water bills. She checks for leaks, installs free water-saving devices, and helps makes a plan to reduce water use.
“The laundry and shower combined is approximately half the water usage in a household,” says Kirstie. “I like to emphasise that if people make changes in these areas, they’ll see the biggest savings.”
Room by room, she shares handy tips on how to reduce water use while measuring flow rates and installing water saving devices where possible.
“I’ve gotten really good at chatting while installing a kitchen tap aerator,” jokes Kirstie.
What satisfies Kirstie the most about her role is building a rapport with people who may feel uncertain about what changes they could make.
“Some of the people who come to us can be a bit frustrated about their water use,” she says. “People may be a little prickly initially, but as we go through their home, they will start warming to us and even get a bit excited about their water-saving gadgets. People are also pretty chuffed when we can pinpoint the very cause of excessive water use.”
Kirstie recalls one occasion where a man was particularly unenthusiastic at the beginning of his water check, unconvinced she would be able to make a real difference.
“As I took him through his home and installed flow restrictor and aerators, he started to brighten up and get excited about the idea of reducing his water wastage,” she says. “We then went to his water meter, and I was able to identify he had a massive leak on the property. Looking beneath his home, I found the leak under one of the pipes. Though it’s not a great thing to discover, he was stoked that we had identified the cause of his massive bills and that it could easily be fixed. We were best mates by the end of it – he even gave me some mandarins off his tree.”
Kirstie’s top water saving tips
Identifying and fixing leaks is one of the biggest factors in reducing water wastage at home. Even small leaks can have an impact on your water bill. According to Kirstie, the most common leaks she comes across occur down the backs of toilets, from hot water cylinders, or from the main incoming pipe or internal house pipes.
As well as fixing leaks and reducing flow rates, being mindful of your day-to-day water use goes a long way in reducing wastage.
During a water check, water sustainability advisers like Kirstie not only offer practical tools to help keep water bills down but also impart handy water-saving advice.
The EcoMatters team has done a commendable job helping Aucklanders reduce their water wastage, saving the city an average of 3,223,000 litres per year.
So far, Kirstie has helped Aucklanders save an average of $104 annually on their water bill. She’s looking forward to helping more people be more efficient with their water use in 2020.
“The biggest surprise people get is that this service is completely free, thanks to full funding from Watercare,” she says.