Joanna Yarrow, green-lifestyle specialist and founder of sustainability company Beyond Green, shares a four-bedroom Victorian house in north London with her family, dog - and lots of worms.
It used to be difficult to buy nice things with a good eco-philosophy but now there is so much to choose from; cushions of organic alpaca, coasters made from recycled yoghurt pots, all with good credentials and genuinely beautiful.
Although we don't generate our own energy supply yet, our home has a low environmental footprint. All our kitchen appliances were chosen on the basis of their energy efficiency and, although the house doesn't have double glazing, we have both curtains and blinds on the windows which together cut down on the heat exchange to almost the same degree.
We have used reclaimed building materials wherever possible and all our furniture has been passed on to us by friends or bought second-hand. My favourite eBay purchase is a Dutch "love seat". Including the reupholstering in organic hemp, it still cost no more than a similar piece from Ikea and will last much longer. All our beds have been made by my father using wood from trees that he has grown himself in his wood in Sussex and the bed linen is all organic. Favourite of all, though, is our dining table, passed down from my great-great grandparents. I love the idea of recycling furniture. Well built from good quality materials, furniture should last for generations, as it used to.
Here in Hackney, recycling is very simple. When we replaced our sofa, with another eBay bargain, the old one was left on the pavement until I could arrange its removal the following day. But by the time I came home, it was gone, snapped up for a new home.
We moved here two-and-a-half years ago. We wanted a house that would be big enough to use as an office as well as a home. At that time, there were three of us working together and the largest bedroom was big enough to accommodate us all. Gradually, though, the office spread into the spare room, then into the living room and, eventually, into the kitchen too. So we moved the business to a separate location.
We chose to live in Stoke Newington in order to be near my partner's children but the area is perfect for us in a multitude of other ways, too. There is the most fantastic farmers' market. Absolutely all their produce is organic and all grown within 70 miles - which is quite something for a London market. There's also Fresh and Wild, the beautiful organic deli, and a huge range of other organic and ethical shops and organisations. Stoke Newington comes second only to Brighton for its population of Green voters and it's great to be surrounded by like-minded people.
The previous owners had bought the house as a wreck and spent six years restoring it completely. The colour scheme was quite livid though and we redecorated using organic paints, mainly in shades of white. The chalky texture of organic paint is really beautiful and combined with natural fabrics and plenty of light, it looks lovely.
Our kitchen floor is marmoleum, an all-natural product made from linseed oil and clay. When the time comes to replace it, I will go for organically produced rubber which has an even lower eco-footprint.
Cutting down on waste is extremely important. Our shower is a standard appliance, though I would have fitted with a low-flow head. Instead, though, I took an easier option and got a digital shower timer, set to just under three minutes. One of our lavatory cisterns is a huge old Victorian thing, potentially very wasteful. To prevent this, we have installed a thing called an "inter-flush" which only releases water while you are pulling on the chain. Our other loo has a thing called a Hippo installed in the cistern. This saves four litres of water with every flush.
My big hobby is composting. We have three composting systems running together to cut down on waste. In the front garden we have a big compost bin provided by the local council which takes most garden clippings and some of the kitchen waste. Outside the back door is the wormery. This takes most things from the kitchen except citrus fruits, meat, fish, onions and garlic (not a favourite of worms). The worms consume half their body weight in waste every day, producing, in the process, the very best-quality compost and also a nutrient-rich liquid "tea". Our garden has gone absolutely wild for it. Inside, in the kitchen, I use a Japanese composting system called "Bokashi". Consisting of two buckets with lids, which producesan incredibly-rich soil primer.
I am working towards installing a wind turbine on the roof so that we can produce our own energy. In the meantime though, we have switched our energy supplier to Good Energy, a company that produces electricity only from renewable sources. Although they're marginally more expensive than the bigger companies, it's a small price to pay for a clear conscience.
Small adaptations to your lifestyle can make such a huge difference. Although it is becoming easier to make these alterations, we are setting up a service to assist people with a green agenda, providing audits, guidance and suppliers' contacts. The service, "Bespoke Green", will be available in the New Year, via our website ( www.beyondgreen.co.uk, 020 7549 2184).Reuse content