Rebecca Tyrrel: Save the planet, or go to Harvey Nicks?

Where's the instant gratification in a new boiler? I feel justified in blowing the £5,000 on a banana-skin coat
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The Independent Online

I am green but I don't mean green in the environmentally friendly, buy a Toyota Prius and recycle egg boxes sense of the word. I mean green with envy for Samantha Cameron, wife of David, with her splendid green super-house nearing completion. It's nice for the Camerons that they can afford such a monument to eco-virtue and it is my envy of them that it is eating away at my desire to save the planet. How soul-destroying it is when one is reduced to tawdry micro-managing, when to save vital heat, one has to use Sellotape to block keyholes. I am exaggerating; we could afford a few medium-range flaps, but where's the incentive if at the same time you are unable to boast of the £1,595 wind turbine or the biodynamic champagne in your fridge that awaits the day you can celebrate the installation of your rain harvester.

I am afraid that despite my good intentions I am battling an overwhelming feeling of ennui when it comes to "greening" our house. We could afford the much-needed new boiler and radiator overhaul, which would cut energy use by 30 per cent, but that would involve having the gas turned off for two days, and where do you find a plumber you can trust who will only take two days and not re-install your radiators upside-down? So I feel justified in taking the £5,000 saved for the heating and blowing it in Harvey Nichols on a Marc Jacobs overcoat fashioned out of recycled banana skins.

Donnachadh McCarthy, author of Saving the Planet Without Costing the Earth, (£7.91 from Amazon, half the cost of a high- quality keyhole flap) tells me a new boiler could pay for itself within a decade, but where's the instant gratification in that?

It's not that I don't admire Donnachadh: his book is a gem. I am keen on his suggestion of inserting giant balloons into chimneys as insulation. If you light a fire on a chilly evening your furnishings will end up resembling the face of a small child smothered in burst bubble-gum.

Donnachadh asks after the age of my house and when I tell him it is Victorian he guesses correctly that my windows are rattling and possibly rotting. I should therefore invest in double glazing. "How much would that cost?" I ask. "Thousands," says Donnachadh, "but you could raise some of the money by selling your car." "I need a car. I have a child and dogs to transport."

"Ah well," says Donnachadh, "pets have an environmental footprint too." So, what should I do? Dump the dogs and the car, invest in some big balloons, forego fashion in favour of a boiler. What I want to know is, wealth aside, how come the Camerons manage to make it look so easy.

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