Property: The ethical ideal home

Consumer pressure has forced suppliers to offer environmentally- sound house products. Gareth Lloyd tells you where to find them

The chance to help save the planet is literally on your doorstep. Making your home more energy efficient and choosing the materials you use in it with care can protect the environment and save you a packet in the process. Furthermore, green ideas can actually make your home a more comfortable and attractive place ...

Reclaimed materials

Re-using materials such as bricks and tiles means that no energy has been expended on producing new ones. The older products, which are often manufactured to higher standards, will blend better with existing features and actually cost less than new ones.

Architectural Salvage (tel: 01483 203 221) carries information on salvage yards around the country. For a small fee you can make use of its comprehensive database of items and suppliers.

Underfloor heating

Radiators tend to produce concentrated "heat zones", whereas underfloor heating emits a more even heat. Apart from using less energy to heat a room to a comfortable temperature, the absence of radiators means greater flexibility in furniture arrangement.

For information contact Radiant (tel: 0117 975 5377) and IPPEC (tel: 0121 622 5768).

Gas condensing boilers

If you are replacing your boiler, consider a gas condensing model. They use up to a third less energy than new conventional counterparts. Although popular models are pounds 200-pounds 400 more expensive, you will recoup the extra within two to three years in smaller energy bills.

As an added incentive, the Energy Saving Trust is offering pounds 200 cashback to people who replace their old boilers with new condensing models.

The Energy Saving Trust (tel: 0345 023 005), Yorkpark 01494 764 031.

Recycled newspaper insulation

Another great idea is insulation made from recycled newspaper. One brand to look out for is Warmcel, by Filcrete. Treated with inorganic salts, it is fire retardant and deeply unattractive to vermin. The beauty of this insulation is that once it has outlived its purpose in your loft, it can be recycled again.

Although Warmcel does have to be fitted by specialists, on price it still compares favourably with the traditional types of glass fibre insulation.

For more information contact Tim Folkes on 01482 223 405.

Low emissivity glazing

If you're thinking of double glazing your home you should take a close look at "low emissivity" (Low E) glass. Due to its special metallic coating, Low E is at least 30 per cent more energy efficient than normal double glazing and only about 10 per cent more expensive. It's great for conservatories - just open the doors and let the warm air into the rest of the house.

To find out your nearest stockist and installer of Low E, call Pilkington, whose brand name is Low K (tel: 0800 556 000) or speak to your local glazier.

Organic paints

Most organic gloss paints are linseed oil based, so they don't give off the harmful toxic fumes that can be emitted from some chemical paints. This makes them more attractive to allergy sufferers. Organic coatings are more expensive but the manufacturing process uses renewable resources and produces little harmful waste by-products.

Suppliers of organic coatings include Auro (tel: 01799 584 888) and Nutshell (tel: 01364 642 892). For technical advice and information on manufacturers of "green paint", try contacting the British Coatings Federation (tel: 01372 360 660).

Natural floor coverings

Buying natural floor coverings can help support the economies of the poorer countries from which many of them come. Coverings made from sisal, cotton and sea grass are an attractive, practical and environmentally sustainable natural alternative to carpets containing synthetic fibres.

One of the most popular coverings is coir, produced from the husks of coconuts, which costs just pounds 9.50 per square metre. It is available from Crucial Trading (tel: 0171-221 9000 or 01562 825 656), a company which operates an ethical and fair trading policy.

Sustainable woods

It is important to check the type and source of wood that you use in your home. For example, tropical hardwoods have become a definite no-go area, both in terms of fashion and environmental ethics.

A good place for advice is the Soil Association (tel: 0117 929 0661). Through its "Woodmark" scheme, it offers information on types and sustainable sources of wood from all over the world. B&Q, the DIY superstore chain, is one of its recommendations - the chain has begun to phase out tropical hardwoods and certify that all its wood and wood products derive from maintained and renewable sources.

B&Q's action testifies to the power of the buyer, and is one of several instances where suppliers and manufacturers have had to reconsider their market approaches in response to public demand.

Without the support of consumers, these and other green ideas will never achieve widespread support and acceptance, and the opportunity to preserve, or even improve, our environment will be missed.

For further information contact:

q Association of Environment-Conscious Building (tel: 01559 370 908) for details and advice on environmentally-sound products and construction techniques and practices.

q Ecological Design Association (tel: 01453 765 575) promotes environmentally friendly design and can supply the names of local "environmentally aware" architects.

q Building Research Energy Conservation Support Unit (tel: 01923 664 000) for promotion and advice on energy efficiency in buildings.

For further reading:

q "Eco-interiors - A Guide To Environmentally Conscious Interior Design" by G Pilatowicz (John Wiley, pounds 19.50).

q "Eco-Renovation - The Ecological Home Improvement Guide" by Edward Harland (Green Books, pounds 9.95).

q "The Natural House Book" by D Pearson (Conran Octopus, pounds 12.99).

q "The Greener Homes Guide" is produced by ACTAC, Greenpeace and the Ecological Building Society. For a free copy call ACTAC on 0151-708 7607.

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