Donnachadh McCarthy: The Home Ecologist

'It seems that boats for the boys are more important than preserving the planet'

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The figure £3.2bn has been in my head recently. No, it's not the royalties from my eco-books, but rather the amount of money that our government announced it was going to spend on two new aircraft carriers. It will cost a staggering additional £50bn to equip and crew them for 20 years. By coincidence, it would also cost £3.2bn to insulate the 11 million non-insulated cavity-walled UK homes, which would save 12 million tonnes of CO2 and lift millions out of fuel poverty. It seems boats for the boys are more important than preserving the planet.

More constructively, we ourselves can cut CO2 emissions by not buying wood that contributes to rainforest destruction. The felling of rainforests now emits almost 20 per cent of all climate-crisis gases. Sadly the UK is the largest EU importer of illegal rainforest timber, importing a frightening £2bn last year alone. One way we buy wood without knowing it is when we buy a sofa. I only realised this when I moved home, and hauling the sofa down three flights of steps was a nightmare due to its timber frame.

So, how do we ensure our lovely new sofas don't contain criminally felled timber? Bizarrely, it is not illegal to sell furniture containing illegal timber, so we are dependent on the ethics of the retailer. Ideally, we would get a sofa whose wood is certified as being sustainably harvested. I contacted some sofa outlets: Selfridges, DFS, Ikea and Habitat. None was able to confirm that the wood in its sofas was certified rainforest free. Impressively, Asda did say that the wood in its sofas was certified sustainable.

If you want to go for green gold and buy a UK handmade leather sofa made from FSC certified wood, and using toxin-free dyes, try www.greenwoodsfurniture.co.uk.

Of course, the most eco-friendly new sofa is not new at all but either a refurbished or reused one. I'm proud that, at 49, I've never bought a new sofa, so a rainforest tribe's livelihood was never decimated to keep me comfy.

Nowadays, finding an eco-sofa is easy. If your wallet is bulging, there are antique markets. Or if you prefer your eco-bargains, you can get sofas at rock-bottom prices in places ranging from eBay to your local house-clearance store, or even free from www.Freecycle.org. As usual, going green can save you serious money. If you don't like the colour or fabric, you can have it reupholstered, or, like me, simply get some lovely coloured throws. While it won't save you £3.2bn, if we all did it, we could save millions of rainforest trees, which themselves are worth billions, and the livelihoods of those who live off them.

It is by just such choices that the next generation will, rightly, judge us.

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

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