Eco tips for a green spring clean
Sprucing up your home this spring? TV presenter and interior designer Julia Kendell explains how to make a house look good and still reduce its environmental impact
Household energy consumption has increased by 34% since 1970, with gadgets that are “energy saving” adding to the burden of fuel consumption. On average we also expect our homes to be 17.3C for a comfortable temperature, up from 12C in 1970. So max out on insulation and draught-proofing windows and doors. The government’s “green deal” is available to assist homeowners with the upfront costs of installing energy-saving measures. Install efficient under-floor heating to provide an effective ambient temperature throughout and create additional floorspace and clean lines. Choose AA-rated appliances and buy for longevity. Don’t be tempted by cheaper appliances that might end up in landfill long before better-made alternatives.
Lighting is fundamentally important to creating a home with texture and life rather than a flat and dull atmosphere, and is key to a successful design scheme. Investigate the new-generation LED lighting that offers a good quality of light more akin to low-voltage light than earlier LED lamps. Install several circuits that provide flexibility for different moods and lowers the amount of energy consumed on a daily basis.
Invest in quality pieces that will last decades. Ask questions about the manufacturing process, and about whether timber used is from an FSC source, and where possible buy British. Reducing the air miles of products in your home will go a long way to reducing your carbon footprint. Look out for vintage pieces that can be recovered or upcycled. In a contemporary home these can be very effective and become statement pieces in their own right, adding character and soul.
The embodied energy in manufacturing a kitchen is huge, and sadly many are discarded before they reach the end of their useful life, particularly at the top end of the market – mostly due to new homeowners wishing to change the aesthetic. Look out for bargains at kitchensynch.co.uk, which supplies ex-display and secondhand designer kitchens at a fraction of the new cost. Bamboo and recycled glass worktops are both very suited to a stylish modern kitchen and their eco credentials are impressive.
Textile production is one of the most polluting industries in the world. Polyester is produced using oil-derived plastic and manufactured using antimony, which is highly carcinogenic. Cotton, while a natural product, is grown using a multitude of chemicals and an enormous amount of water. Choose textiles in your home that will not only benefit the environment but your health too. Organic cotton is becoming increasingly available as upholstery cloth, and new kid on the block Milkofil, made from casein (milk fibre), produces a gorgeous silk-like weave and is a fantastic eco alternative. Felt has long been a designers’ favourite and its architectural qualities are particularly suited to the contemporary home. Add in pure wool textures for a softened scheme.
Air quality in the home is of enormous importance, particularly with the move towards homes being airtight. Thankfully levels of VOC (volatile organic compounds) have been reduced in paints, to zero by some manufacturers, who have shifted instead to aqueous solvents. Try natural organic paints such as Earthborn for a healthy atmosphere. For those suffering from asthma and susceptible to allergies, Ecos atmosphere-purifying paint is a fabulous product that absorbs and neutralises chemicals and pollutants, solvents and VOCs from the atmosphere in your home, taking them down to approximately one part per million.