Doing up your home needn’t be costly for you or the environment, here’s our guide to the eco-options
There is almost nothing we like talking about more than our house renovations. And, as the housing market remains sluggish, more of us are improving rather than moving.
Slick seconds: An ex-display model from the Used Kitchen Company
But as anyone who has chucked a perfectly serviceable, but not-to-their-taste, bathroom suite into a skip knows, there is a huge amount of waste involved.
Luckily, there are innovative companies springing up to ease our eco-consciences. Even better, being green can have a considerably favourable impact on your wallet.
These days the (open-plan) kitchen is the most important room in the house. A good renovation can add 4.6 per cent to the value of your home, according to figures from Nationwide.
Looeeze Grossman, of The Used Kitchen Company, (theusedkitchencompany.com) came up with an innovative solution to stop perfectly good kitchens going to waste. When she discovered, in 2005, that top-end kitchen companies often sent ex-display models from their showrooms to landfill, she saw a business opportunity to resell them at a fraction of their retail price.
She now stocks more than 200 kitchens from more than 40 different manufacturers, with prices starting at £1,250. If all you need is a new worktop, companies such as UrbnRok (urbnrok.co.uk) and Designfinger (designfinger.co.uk) create bespoke luxurious surfaces and splashbacks from recycled materials.
Eco Friendly Tiles, the UK’s first carbon neutral tile and stone company, manufacture porcelain tiles made from recycled television screens and car windscreens, while The Natural Tile Company (naturaltilecompany.co.uk), stocks glass tiles made from 100 per cent recycled crushed glass tile and raw waste glass.
Brush up on your eco-credentials: Paint companies like Farrow & Ball produce water-based low-VOC (volatile organic compounds) paints
We’re awash with eco-friendly paints, including Farrow & Ball that uses water-based, low-VOC (volatile organic compounds) paints which are better for the environment, as well as recycling their tins. But that doesn’t deal with the fact that an estimated 50 million litres of the 320 million litres of paint sold in the UK each year goes to waste — either thrown away or left to solidify in the shed.
To tackle the mountain of unused paint, the Community RePaint Network collects leftover tins and sells them on at a reduced price (communityrepaint.org.uk).
Building materials are costly in terms of energy consumption.
‘For a large project, the energy in building materials might be the same as the energy you use to heat and light it for 20 years or more,’ says architect Ed Burgess. ‘So, for example, where you can use a timber structure in place of a steel structure, you will be making a real difference.
‘End of life is another big factor — we have all learned to turn down plastic bags at the shops, but think nothing of wrapping our homes in oil-based blown foam insulation, which cannot be recycled and will last for hundreds of years as landfill.
‘Consider wood-fibre products instead, which do have to be thicker, but come from a renewable resource and are easily recycled.’
FIXTURES AND FITTINGS
There are many reasons to buy your furniture second-hand, from the knowledge that you’ll usually get better quality than a brand new flat-pack item, to the fact that it’s kinder to the environment.
Pendants from the pantry: Lights, £48 each, from the reclamation yard English Salvage
‘From an ecological perspective, you can’t beat re-using or repurposing an existing product, be it a door, wooden flooring or bricks. In many cases, you are also preventing something being sent to landfill,’ says Rupert Woods, co-founder of English Salvage, known for being the UK’s best stocked reclamation yard (englishsalvage.co.uk)
If you try to cheat by adding a reproduction detail into an old house, Woods says it often backfires.
‘Reproduction pieces, usually made in Asia, never have the same feel as a true antique,’ he says. ‘They scream fake.’
Innovative product designers are turning their talents to environmentally conscious creations.
Final straw: Rugs by Fab Hab fashioned from recycled plastic straws and available at Cuckooland
Swedish studio Malmo Upcycling Service is a design collective that works with waste materials including brick, glass, acrylic, stone, and sheet metal to create new items ranging from coffee tables to mirrors (malmoupcyclingservice.com).
Fab Hab turns recycled plastic straws into hard-wearing weatherproof rugs (from £39.95, cuckooland.com).
Habitat stocks the brand Cohen, which takes multi-coloured recycled magazines and transforms the scraps into an open slat wastepaper bin (£10, habitat.co.uk) while John Lewis has a duvet made from 100 per cent polyester produced from recycled plastic bottles (from £45, johnlewis.co.uk).