Thursday, 12 July 2007

A GREEN SUMMER? With All This Rain, It's Totally Possible!


So much has happened since I blogged you last!! Finished the play and visited Grand Designs Live. Did a photo shoot for Tesco Magazine. A yoga retreat to Santorini. Then I went straight into an Enviro Entrepreneur School at The Imperial College. Live Earth and Saving Planet Earth on the telly…. and I met an Eco Plumber called Tobie! It never ends this green stuff…oh, and I’ve decided to start writing a book about all the eco design and lifestyle things I’m learning about. I expect that to keep me busy over the summer months – I use the term loosely, of course. What happened to our [new] hot English summers? So much for Global Warming!!

Are we getting a bit burnt out with all the media coverage and bombardment of info about how we are abusing the environment? I worry that my less passionate readers may fall off the low carbon emissions wagon if they aren’t told more about what’s out there to help them be greener!!

I had a very swift go around the GRAND DESIGNS LIVE show in June. ExCel London is a long way to go out in the Docklands but is a spectacular venue with no expense spared. So sad not to see Kevin McCloud, my TV Architect Hero, in person. Although his face was everywhere on posters and video as you entered the venue!! I had the play to do that night, so I dashed around, picking up flyers and talking to all the new innovators of green products. It’s wonderful to observe the amount of stylish and practical design solutions coming onto the market all the time. I can hardly keep up!
One of my favourite exhibitions was a Carbon Positive House which actually stores 50 tonnes more CO2 than it emits during its lifecycle. Built by a German firm called Baufritz, it was built with sustainable sourced timber and non-chemically treated products. I found a great article about them that I have listed on my links to the left.
Very inspiring! The next Grand Designs Live is in Birmingham in October

One of the most exciting things I did in June was a photo shoot for TESCO MAGAZINE. Yes, only one of the exciting things. I live a full life, ya know!!
They had gathered together a wide-ranging group of ‘Greenies’ to be featured in their September issue. Hair and make up had their work cut out keeping our hair out of our faces in a beautiful but windy field in Kent but I saw the results and we all looked stunning!!

Midge Ure will be included as well as an organic apple farmer, a mother who has written a book on green parenting, a teacher who makes a point of teaching green issues and the environment to her pupils, a student who had invented a refrigerator that does not need plugging in (I want one of those for my next tailgate party!!) and a lady who had invented an amazing device that wirelessly connects to your electric meter and counts the pounds and pennies as you use them – if that doesn’t get you running around the house turning the lights off, I don’t know what will!!

I spent a precarious 20 minutes up a ladder for the photo, as I was there to represent the interior design side of things. I had a great day. Any time spent talking to like-minded environmentalists, sharing ideas, learning new ones, is time well spent and in September we are going to be able to share those things with 5 million Tesco’s shoppers!

If you go to the Tesco website you can read Sir Terry’s Leahy's speech that he gave in January this year. He says some pretty inspiring things about food miles, fair trade, taking steps to half the price of energy efficient light bulbs and Tesco’s commitment to providing affordable organic food etc.

These big corporations [especially the supermarkets] have been getting a bad rep recently on the size of their carbon footprint. If Sir Terry is serious about the big issues he's talking about for Tesco’s future, things can only get better for them – and us. There is a great deal of perceived pressure on the individual to change their ways for the environment but if the goods we need are not available at an affordable price, the whole process is stuck.

As I keep emphasizing; when people see that they can save money because they are saving energy, the by product will be saving the planet. The very same goes for the large corporate organizations who are providing those products and services….

Which brings me to the ENVIRO ENTREPRENEUR SCHOOL that I attended last week.
One of the things I’m working towards is eco property development. I want to buy and/or build new dwellings that will be renovated with the most eco friendly, sustainable and recycled - and stylish of course – products on the market. The result will be a beautifully finished house with a very low carbon footprint, little to no energy bills and that is healthier for the inhabitants because I will have used carpets and paints with low VOC’s [Volatile Organic Compounds].

I’m still looking for the right place to start – don’t know if it will be a Victorian terrace or a leaky farmhouse that needs a huge refurb, or a piece of land where I can build a dwelling from the ground up – my favorite choice - but I have to find the right location…

The school was exhausting. There was a lot of ‘businessy’ information for a girl who only scraped by her O-Level maths!! Getting the bottom line right was emphasised over and over. You can have the best eco idea in the world, but if you don’t market it right, have the right skilled people around you and don’t balance your numbers, the whole thing will be a waste of time!! The end of the four days culminated in a friendly Dragon’s Den where we all got to pitch our eco ideas.

I’ve been sworn to secrecy on the new business ideas I heard about but have invited the other entrepreneurs to email me links to their websites as they are up and running. I will share them with you over the next few months!
Tom Palmer already has a business selling environmentally friendly products and services. He sells everything from the washing ball that cleans your washing in the washing machine without detergent (it eliminates the need for a rinse cycle and saves water too) a portable solar-powered charger for your mobile phone and an eco kettle that only boils the amount of water you need for one cup of tea. Tom will also collect your hazardous and non-hazardous recyclable materials. If you live in or around Surrey/South West London, he will conveniently collect and dispose of all your recyclable stuff at a time that suits you at very competitve rates. See link on the left for his website and contact details.

Again, it was great to swap eco ideas and frustrations regarding government apathy and such. The school was in conjunction with London Remade which, according to their website; is in the business of recycling, creating environmental solutions for a sustainable capital.
A couple of new green things I heard about at the school were GREEN DRINKS. A group of like minded environmentalists meet once a month to chat and swap green ideas. There’s one in your city. They are all over the world. Check the website – link in the usual place. I plan to go to the next London one in SoHo on August 7th.
And FREECYCLE is an email list/network for your local area where people ask for or give away there free stuff. Baby gear, furniture and old cassette tapes are some of the things I have seen offered just this week. I got lucky; I’m going to the Royal Court on Friday with some tickets someone can’t use. PS: you can do this through Craig’s List too.


As I mentioned in my last blog, I was going to go on a yoga retreat with my friend Kay, to Santorini in Greece. It was beautiful but sooo hot!! 40 degrees! Even the Greeks were gasping in the heat and then we had to do yoga too!! Unfortunately we had to taste a lot of the local wine too, we were that thirsty all the time. It was for the throat, Sweetie, the throat!! That's Kay and me at one of our lunches over looking the Caldera. Can you see the donkeys on the path behind us? There are no cars in Oia where we were staying :-) Unfortunately, all our flights were delayed going and coming back. [NEVER fly Olympic Airways!] We felt like we needed another holiday to recover from all the traveling ….or maybe the Eco Goddess watching over me is trying to tell me something about flying!!?? Oops!!

LIVE EARTH Did Madonna cycle to the gig?

And then there was LIVE EARTH!!
What did you think about that pretty display? A lot of shouting and carrying on and a bloody lot of carbon spent! Blimey!! Did you learn anything new? I thought we all already knew to not leave the water running when you brush your teeth and to set the air conditioning at 78 degrees – especially if you not even home!
Are you listening, Palm Springs?
I thought the most interesting comments in the Sunday papers were about the amount of energy issued for the event was equivalent to the yearly carbon emissions of 3,000 Britons! And I don’t need to be called a ‘M…F….’ to be goaded into changing my behaviour for the planet. Maybe it’s me, but it all seemed a little misplaced. We had just had the Diana Memorial concert the week before at the very same Wembley venue so I was a little burnt out with do-gooding celebs!

The words to Keane’s anthem, Somewhere Only We Know, seemed to speak volumes: “Oh simple thing, where have you gone…? I'm getting older I need something to rely on....”
Simple solutions you can rely on are the best. And you can find them RIGHT HERE!! Keep reading dear friends!!

One TV series that seemed to slip through the net of eco shows was Saving Planet Earth on the BBC. Individual celebrities were asked to highlight the plight of endangered species around the world. I was particularly moved by Nick Knowles' report on the orang-utans in Borneo who's habit is being destroyed to plant palm oil trees. He visited The Borneo Orang-Utan Survival Foundation, an orphanage there where baby orang-utans are taught how to survive when they are released again into the wild. Unfortunately they can't help them all and the scene where they could not save a pregnant mum just had me in pieces... I do believe that another key to saving our planet and ourselves is saving the habit of all these precious and endangered creatures so that we do not lose them. Among the other animals featured were the tiger, elephant, turtle and gorilla. Uch, I feel so helpless sometimes.....

What did YOU do this week to behave in a ‘greener’ way? Me? I chatted to the owners of the new corner shop that just opened near me. I go there mostly when I've run out of milk and these places never have organic. I asked why not. “Isn’t it more expensive?” was the reply. I said we expect to pay more at the convenience shop anyway, but if I can get organic milk from him, I would. He has a lot of competition around the Fulham Road, so I would go to him first if he stocked some more organic things and I know others would too. I also mentioned Ecover cleaning products, but that may be a longer battle. Note to self: Need to check in on the dry cleaner and see if he is getting his customers to bring back their hangers…

My favourite story of the week was from my friend Lucinda who is in charge of changing the burnt out light bulbs in her office. She told me that as they are on five floors and she is a little obsessive about this aspect of her job, she tends to change the bulbs as soon as they go and is, therefore, kept very busy. SO: She has started to replace the new bulbs with energy efficient ones! Yes, because they save energy blah, blah, blah...but mainly because they last so much longer than the old ones and it makes her job easier because she doesn’t have to keep climbing up and down that bloody ladder quite so often! Ha!

See. I don’t mind how it comes about, but there always extra benefits to going green!! Whatever the reason.

If you need a plumber, my new best friend, Tobie, is your man! He is up on all the latest ways to save heat, water and energy in your home. One of the main challenges in the green designer world is finding the craftsmen who are able and willing to install all these fabulous new eco technologies we are using. Designers need guys who understand and care about what and why we are doing all of this!! I cannot wait to recommend Tobie to anyone who would like a plumber to make their heating and water consumption more efficient. I will pass on his email if/when you need. I'm now looking for a like-minded carpenter.... or electrician...or builder to join forces with...... Anyone know one?...anyone?....anyone?.....please?....

Please email me with any tips and ideas that you have come up with the save money, save energy and save the planet and I will post them here!
I love sharing!!

Till next time, as Mr Ghandi once said: You must be the change you wish to see in the world.

Eco Warrioress


CT said...

I'm contemplating fitting solar panels to my house in London but I wonder whether is really an eco-friendly thing to do. The cost in energy of manufacturing the panels might take years to offset, ie I would use less energy over a number of years by using conventionally generated panels than I would using solar panels.

Also how cost effective is it? You might say we can't afford not to be eco-minded so the cost is not a consideration, but, actually for most of us, cost does come into it and we have to take some notice of the depth of our pockets.

I want to be green, but need some help to see my way through conflicting pressures and arguments.

Alexandra Boyd said...

Dear CT
Here is what I know regarding Solar Voltaic Panels: Return of investment timing will depend on many factors [size of your house and level of consumption etc], but about 2-7 years is what I'm reading.
You have to look at it as buying your energy in advance...
I think we have to offset [in our minds] the cost of manufacturing something like a solar panel as negligable at this point, because EVERYTHING takes energy to produce. We have to decide that a solar panel is being made ultimately for a good/ energy saving end and is worth the BTU's. The reality is that even on a grey day in England, 70% of your home's energy could come from those panels on your roof.