Eco Stuff: Walking the walk...

Towards an eco house

In 2007, two amazing things happened. First I married Claire and then we bought a house together (my first).

Earlier that year, I did a bit of maths. We all know that to actively DO something about all of the environmental problems we face, we have to 1) cut our carbon footprint and 2) cut our consumption of natural resources. But how best to do it?

Be eco-smart, not eco-feel-good

To make any real eco-difference, you have to be a bit smart about it. Its no good unplugging your phone charger at night, or thinking you're off the hook by offsetting the carbon from your aircraft flight (rather than not flying) - these are just tinkering at the edges to make us feel better. If you want to make a difference, first you have to understand where in your life you actually produce the carbon and by how much. Only then can you make good choices to produce less.

Set goals

The average UK citizen is responsible for producing about 9 tonnes of CO2 per year. International climate experts agree that we need to get this down to less than 2 tonnes per person worldwide if we are to achieve a stable climate AND allow those in poor countries to have a better standard of living.

Before we moved, I did a carbon footprint audit on how we were living in our old flat and worked out we were causing around 7.5 tonnes of CO2 each. Most of that was caused by simple and changeable things: we lived in a buiding that leaked heat massively; we needed two cars to get to work; and we used aircraft to go on holiday. I worked out that if we could live where we only needed one car, do an eco refurb on the building and try not to fly, we could cut our footprint down to about 3 tonnes each, all without a hair shirt in sight.

So how are we doing?

Travel. For the past five years, I have either worked from home or within walking/cycling distance, meaning we have one family car that is used very little. 

The house... now that is a story and a half and deserves its own page. We are over half way there on this front. We have taken one very dilapidated old  terraced house and refurbished the entire exterior skin to be fully insulated up to modern standards and yet still looking like a Victorian house. And all with a low carbon, low impact method.

Its nearly time to re-do all of the calculations properly and find out whether theory and practice actually meet up and if we have achieved our aims. Just a bit more to do on the interior insulation and then we can start measuring. But at a guess, I would say that we've made a pretty big cut in the carbon output.