Julia Stephenson: The Green Goddess

I now own a drawerful of dazzling underwear that would be the envy of Elle Macpherson
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The Independent Online

This week I have been busy preparing for my eco audit with Donnachadh McCarthy. I have studied his book Saving the Planet Without Costing the Earth and made a start greening up so as not to shock him.

This week I have been busy preparing for my eco audit with Donnachadh McCarthy. I have studied his book Saving the Planet Without Costing the Earth and made a start greening up so as not to shock him.

The book contains helpful tips and disturbing facts. I learnt that cotton is the world's most toxic crop, using more than a quarter of all pesticides and poisoning millions of workers every year. It's responsible for poisoning all the fish in the Aral Sea and is the largest killer of migratory birds in the US.

While organic food is easily available, organic clothes are still almost impossible to find. So it makes sense to conserve your existing clothes - dye them, don't dump them! One afternoon, I seized a cache of greying bras and knickers, shoved them in the washing machine with a packet of Dylon and a pound of salt, and set the machine at 60C. I now own a drawerful of dazzling emerald-green underwear that would be the envy of Elle Macpherson (below). Dying clothes isn't hugely eco-friendly but balanced against the destructive environmental cost of textile production, it was the greener option.

When eco-audit day dawned, I was well prepared. I had cleaned all my south-facing windows to "maximise free solar heating from the sun" and placed the mysterious mud-encrusted contents (tiny swedes or enormous turnips?) of that morning's farm-box delivery on display.

To my relief, Donnachadh was full of praise for my lite green efforts, awarding me top marks for my zero-waste strategy. I refuse all excess packaging and recycle what I can, while all vegetable matter and cardboard is deposited in my worm compost bin, which within months is transformed into gorgeous crumbly compost that houseplants adore.

But he blanched when confronted by my Bang & Olufsen stereo system, which cannot be turned off at the mains without the entire system having to be reset. B&O's idea of solar energy is my CD player, which is activated by heat generated by wafting ones hand at it, but I have poor circulation so the only way I can open it now is to use my hairdryer at full blast.

My light bulbs failed the eco audit but they were easily dealt with. We ordered replacements from www.ebulbshop.com. I reduced my lighting CO 2 emissions by 80 per cent in a stroke. They imitate daylight, last 12 times longer than standard bulbs and will shave 50 per cent off my bill.

Simple actions such as turning off lights, replacing bulbs, switching off at the mains, and putting on a jersey rather than switching on the gas firehave an enormous impact. But I still feel guilty about my groovy hi-tech appliances. More than £150m in electricity is wasted each year in the UK by people who keep their televisions and VCRs on standby.

But I also like a bit of eco razzamatazz and have just applied for planning permission for a windmill on my roof. Meanwhile, Cath from Construction Resources is coming next week to advise me on rainwater tanks and composting toilets. Ah the glamorous life of the eco-socialite!

Donnachadh McCarthy provides eco audits from £150 in London and the South-east ( Dmcarthy@cix.co.uk); worm-composting bins are available at www.wigglywigglers.co.uk (0800 216990)

j.stephenson@independent.co.uk

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