My Somerset home is not as beautiful as the National Trust house at Tintinhull, where my family lived for nearly 10 years between 1995 and 2004. However, it sits on a hill, has extensive views over the English countryside and we’ve loved it.
When I bought the property in 2004, there was a lot of work to do on a restricted budget, but I also wanted to minimise the environmental impact of my new home. What I discovered was that most of the major things like solar heating, wind power and rainwater harvesting were too expensive, but that there were quite a lot of smaller things I could do. These included energy efficient lighting throughout, using second hand and reclaimed fixtures and fitting and putting individual thermostats and reflector panels on radiators.
All the renovation work on the house had ceased by the beginning of 2006 when I started researching and writing The New Green Consumer Guide, which included lots of information on eco-renovation. This made me realise that there were many things I would have done differently if I started the process again. My biggest mistake was installing an aga – obviously not great because it’s on all the time. I turned it off for a couple of years, with the idea of replacing it. However, when I decided to move house, it didn’t make sense to start carrying out major works, so it’s still there!
Between 2005 and 2008 I sat on the board of the Ecos Trust, formerly known as the Somerset Trust for Sustainable Development. This charity promoted sustainable building projects and lobbying for stronger regional policies on this issue. They wound down in 2011 and Corina Reay, who worked with the organisation from the start is now working for me as Campaigns Manager at E For Good.