Donnachadh McCarthy: The Home Ecologist

'Building millions of holiday homes for rich Europeans is criminally wasteful'

A A A

Soon after I began eco-auditing, I was asked to assess a businessman's apartment in the East End of London. He already had a low carbon footprint for his home, and I congratulated him on this when sending him his report.

He emailed me back to confess he had not told me about the holiday home in the South of France and his air travel; he took about eight flights to France every year to this holiday home. His flights added up to about 7.3 tons of CO2 emissions, or about seven times the annual emissions from his flat. As we can afford at most about one ton of CO2 per person, his holiday home flights alone exceeded his total annual quota. For a family of four, these numbers accelerate alarmingly. For example, if a family of four in Britain has a holiday home in Miami and takes eight trips a year, their flight emissions would be nearly 11 tons, or twice what the average UK home emits every year.

And that is just the carbon footprint for getting there. Bill Dunster of ZEDfactory estimates that about 15 years of CO2 emissions are used in building a home. This could represent an astonishing 90 tons of CO2 emitted building a holiday home – and we have yet to factor in the energy used for driving, heating, cooling and lighting used while holidaying there. A generous estimate would put this at only one ton. Thus a rough estimate of the CO2 emissions involved in building a new holiday home in Miami, and travelling to and staying there in the first year, would be a planet-destroying 102 tons.

No matter how eco-friendly the development, no matter how many solar panels or energy-efficient light bulbs it has, there is no way that a holiday home in Miami – or for that matter anywhere one has to fly to – could remotely be described as an eco-holiday home. To be blunt, just as the most eco-friendly car is the one you don't have, the only eco-holiday home is the one you do not own!

However, if you really must have a holiday home, three simple rules will help. First, buy an eco-refurbished existing home, which will slash the CO2 emitted in building and running it. Second, buy a holiday home that's reachable by train or public transport. This will cut the emissions produced getting there. Eurostar means that large parts of Europe now qualify for this.

Finally, ensure that the home is rented out when you aren't there. Building millions of holiday homes for rich Europeans that lie empty most of the year is one of the most criminally wasteful actions we could possibly take.

So the next time you are tempted to buy a holiday home, don't think twice about it, think three times. Alternatively, become a green hedonist and book yourself a first-class train journey to Europe and stay in a luxury yoga or spa centre. You'll not only have eco-peace of mind but will save loads of money and hassle into the bargain.



Donnachadh McCarthy works as an eco-auditor and is the author of 'Easy Eco-auditing' ( www.3acorns.co.uk)

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
fashionHealth concerns and 'pornified' perceptions have made women more conscious at the beach
Arts and Entertainment
tv
Sport
Ojo Onaolapo celebrates winning the bronze medal
commonwealth games
Arts and Entertainment
Rock band Led Zeppelin in the early 1970s
musicLed Zeppelin to release alternative Stairway To Heaven after 43 years
Arts and Entertainment
High-flyer: Chris Pratt in 'Guardians of the Galaxy'
filmHe was homeless in Hawaii when he got his big break. Now the comic actor Chris Pratt is Hollywood's new favourite action star
Sport
Van Gaal said that his challenge in taking over Bobby Robson's Barcelona team in 1993 has been easier than the task of resurrecting the current United side
footballA colourful discussion on tactics, the merits of the English footballer and rebuilding Manchester United
Life and Style
Sainsbury's could roll the lorries out across its whole fleet if they are successful
tech
Travel
The shipping news: a typical Snoozebox construction
travelSpending the night in a shipping container doesn't sound appealing, but mobile crash pads are popping up at the summer's biggest events
Arts and Entertainment
'Old Fashioned' will be a different kind of love story to '50 Shades'
film
Arts and Entertainment
Tracey Emin's 'My Bed' is returning to the Tate more than 15 years after it first caused shockwaves at the gallery
artTracey Emin's bed returns to the Tate after record sale
Arts and Entertainment
Smart mover: Peter Bazalgette
filmHow live cinema screenings can boost arts audiences
Environment
Neil Young performing at Hyde Park, London, earlier this month
environment
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Project Coordinator

Competitive: The Green Recruitment Company: The Organisation: The Green Recrui...

Project Manager (HR)- Bristol - Upto £400 p/day

£350 - £400 per annum + competitive: Orgtel: Project Manager (specializing in ...

Embedded Linux Engineer

£40000 - £50000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: Embedded Sof...

Senior Hardware Design Engineer - Broadcast

£50000 - £65000 per annum + Benefits: Progressive Recruitment: Working for a m...

Day In a Page

Save the tiger: The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The big cats kept in captivity to perform for paying audiences and then, when dead, their bodies used to fortify wine
A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery all included in top 50 hidden spots in the UK

A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery

Introducing the top 50 hidden spots in Britain
Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

How a disease that has claimed fewer than 2,000 victims in its history has earned a place in the darkest corner of the public's imagination
Chris Pratt: From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

He was homeless in Hawaii when he got his big break. Now the comic actor Chris Pratt is Hollywood's new favourite action star
How live cinema screenings can boost arts audiences

How live cinema screenings can boost arts audiences

Broadcasting plays and exhibitions to cinemas is a sure-fire box office smash
Shipping container hotels: Pop-up hotels filling a niche

Pop-up hotels filling a niche

Spending the night in a shipping container doesn't sound appealing, but these mobile crash pads are popping up at the summer's biggest events
Native American headdresses are not fashion accessories

Feather dust-up

A Canadian festival has banned Native American headwear. Haven't we been here before?
Boris Johnson's war on diesel

Boris Johnson's war on diesel

11m cars here run on diesel. It's seen as a greener alternative to unleaded petrol. So why is London's mayor on a crusade against the black pump?
5 best waterproof cameras

Splash and flash: 5 best waterproof cameras

Don't let water stop you taking snaps with one of these machines that will take you from the sand to meters deep
Louis van Gaal interview: Manchester United manager discusses tactics and rebuilding after the David Moyes era

Louis van Gaal interview

Manchester United manager discusses tactics and rebuilding after the David Moyes era
Will Gore: The goodwill shown by fans towards Alastair Cook will evaporate rapidly if India win the series

Will Gore: Outside Edge

The goodwill shown by fans towards Alastair Cook will evaporate rapidly if India win the series
The children were playing in the street with toy guns. The air strikes were tragically real

The air strikes were tragically real

The children were playing in the street with toy guns
Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite – The British, as others see us

Britain as others see us

Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite
How did our legends really begin?

How did our legends really begin?

Applying the theory of evolution to the world's many mythologies
Watch out: Lambrusco is back on the menu

Lambrusco is back on the menu

Naff Seventies corner-shop staple is this year's Aperol Spritz