Archive for the ‘Eco Homes’ category

Create an Eco Home and impact the environment and the world we leave for our children

October 22nd, 2012

Eco furniture is getting more popular. But so is greenwashing

Eco furniture enthusiasts enjoyed a treat at this year’s 100% Design exhibition, the commercial cornerstone of London’s Design Festival. This year’s event welcomed the addition of the new Eco Design and Build category, which featured innovative ranges of eco furniture ranges that minimised waste and were made from 100% recyclable materials.

Eco Design and Build showcased all the latest developments in energy saving technology, materials and the build methods used to design eco workplaces and homes. What’s more, leading designers, inventors and architects from across the eco furniture industry held discussions and presentations on what’s in store for eco furniture design in the future.

The addition of the Eco Design and Build category to the 100% Design Expo reflects how sustainability and environmental issues are high on the agenda. Eco furniture is slowly evolving from a niche to a mass market trend, which can only be a good thing for our homes, the environment and the world we leave for our children.

However, as with any new trend, there are always those that seek to hijack the popular consciousness for their own gain. Greenwashing, where ‘eco friendly’ labels are slapped onto products that might not deserve it, is on the rise. Unfortunately there aren’t yet any strict regulations on what can be defined as eco furniture. So here’s a rundown of what to look out for when buying eco furniture to ensure you aren’t duped into buying something with a greenwashed tint:

Made from FSC certified wood – The FSC label gives you the reassurance knowing that the eco furniture has been made from wood sourced from sustainably managed forests, where trees are replaced and allowed time to regrow.

Made from other renewable materials – Any furniture made from plastic (unless it’s recycled polyethylene) is unlikely to be genuine eco furniture. Petroleum based plastic is very polluting to manufacture, whereas bamboo or cork can be regrown very quickly.

Decorated with VOC free paints and varnishes – Conventional paints and varnishes can contain toxic chemicals that can emit into the air for years after they are applied. VOC (volatile organic compound) free paints and varnishes, however, are water based and kind to the environment and our lungs.

Locally sourced and built – Buying furniture that is built by hand locally gives you the reassurance knowing it probably has a higher build quality and also hasn’t generated all the carbon emissions of being shipped in from abroad. It’s also a good idea to ask eco furniture makers whether they source their building materials locally for that extra green stamp of approval.

Speak to Eco Designer about creating the perfect Eco Home

September 19th, 2012

Eco Homes are Spreading all Over the UK

Have you seen petrol prices recently? With the cost of electricity and gas also continuing to rise, living in an eco home is becoming ever more appealing. In response, eco home developments are sprouting all over the country as the desire for a low carbon, low energy consumption style of living grows in popularity.

Would you like to pay only £33 in energy bills per month?

Earlier this month the Architectural Heritage Week in Dorset opened up seven eco homes to the public for an event entitled Greendar 2012. The aim was to enable people with an interest in eco living to see real life examples of eco homes and to speak to their owners to get ideas on eco improvements they could make to lower their energy bills.

The homes on show varied from an innovative modern eco home to houses built in the 1970s and even a historic listed building dating back to the 1700s. What they all had in common was that they used green building technology, like electricity monitors, solar panels and rainwater recycling, along with eco materials, like recycled plastics, mineral fibre and sheeps-wool, to reduce their carbon footprint. These changes enable the homes’ owners to vastly reduce their energy bills, with one resident paying only £33 per month in gas and electricity.

Greendar 2012 was a huge success, with 260 people visiting the seven eco homes over two days. The event demonstrated the enormous interest and appetite for a more environmentally way of living which can reduce our reliance on gas and electricity.

Dorset’s Olympic Village of eco homes goes on sale

Visitors to Greendar might have been interested to know that just down the road in Portland, south of Weymouth, a whole development of eco homes is now up for sale. What’s more, the eco homes’ previous residents were Olympic and Paralympic athletes competing in sailing events on Dorset’s coast.

Among the residents was Team GB’s Ben Ainslie, who won gold in the Finn Sailing Class, leading to a central area being named Ben Ainslie Square. At the time of writing, half of the 77 eco homes in Dorset’s Olympic Village have now been sold. Now doubt buyers were attracted by the developments’ Olympic links and their communal wood-pellet boilers, rainwater harvesting and low energy lighting.

Gary Neville’s ‘Teletubby’ eco home gets the green light 

Ex-Manchester United footballer and Sky Sports pundit Gary Neville has now received clearance to build his controversial eco home. After agreeing not to install a 100 foot wind turbine, his plans to construct the Northwest’s first carbon neutral home have been approved.

Harnessing the latest eco design technology, such as ground source heat pumps, sustainable rainwater harvesting and solar panels, Neville’s home will be a ‘Code 6’ eco home, which is the highest available score on the government’s energy rating system –  his dedication to environmentally friendly eco home design is to be applauded.

What Arsenal’s New Football Kit has in Common with an Eco Chair

August 24th, 2012

What Arsenal’s New Football Kit has in Common with an Eco Chair               

You won’t often read about football on this blog, but Arsenal’s new kit deserves a mention. Not for its eye catching design and garish colours but because it’s made from recycled materials and is their ‘most environmentally friendly to date’. The next time you see Arsenal’s players run onto the pitch each player will be wearing a kit made from 13 recycled plastic bottles – which we think deserves an extra round of applause. 

Arsenal has pots of cash to spend on the best, highest quality clothing materials around. So their decision to use eco textiles for their new football kit, which will be seen by millions of viewers around the world, reflects how far eco design has come. Rather than coarse and scratchy, Arsenal has chosen a material for their kit that’s just as breathable, comfortable to wear and durable as any artificial material – except it’s much kinder to our planet to produce.

Arsenal isn’t the only major brand to use eco textiles made from recycled materials. Safeways in the US is reported to be selling eco chairs made from recycled plastic bottles too (hence the title of this post). Recycled plastic is just one material that can be used to make eco chairs. So if Arsenal’s kit designers are reading this, here are some other materials that can be used to make eco chairs (and maybe even football kits): 

Eco leather – Stain and fire resistant, eco leather is made from recycled leather fibre and offcuts that would normally go from the tannery straight to landfill. As well as hard wearing, you can spill coffee, wine or fizzy drinks on it and then simply wipe it clean – making it the perfect material for a luxurious eco chair

Eco textiles – Eco chairs, cushions and curtains can be made from a wide variety of sustainably harvested textiles, such as wool, organic cotton and hemp. These materials can also be treated with vegetable inks which are less toxic and emit lower VOCs (volatile organic compound).

Wood – Sustainably harvested hardwood is one of the most common materials for eco chairs. When shopping around make sure to check for the FSC (Forestry Stewardship Council) stamp of approval. The FSC label gives you the reassurance knowing that any trees chopped down to make eco chair will be replaced with new trees.

Plastic – Along with plastic bags and plastic bottles, lightweight yet durable eco chairs can be made from recycled polypropylene, which is the most environmentally friendly form of recycled plastic

How to Decorate Your Eco Table for an Eco Summer Party

August 13th, 2012

Looking out of the window right now, it’s difficult to believe that summer will ever arrive. But with a few months left, it’s worth getting preparations in order if you want to have a planet friendly eco birthday party. After all, if the worst comes to the worst, you can still have it indoors by covering your eco tables with a tablecloth made from eco textiles, like hemp, organic cotton or linen.

 If you’ve ever held a children’s birthday party before you’ll know how they can create masses of waste to be slung in plastic bags and dumped in our overflowing landfill sites. Even worse the party bags, balloons and toys are often made from plastic, which doesn’t degrade and will pollute our soils forever.

 So if you’d like to have an environmentally friendly party this summer, here are some ideas for how you can do it without sacrificing your eco consciousness:

Eco party ware – Paper plates and plastic cups might be quick to clean up but they’re not very kind to the planet. So consider getting some organic tableware made from sustainably harvested bamboo, palm leaf, sugarcane or natural wheat fibre. Along with being longer lasting and luxurious, these materials are biodegradable. So should you ever need to throw them away they won’t cause long-term damage to the planet.

Organic cutlery – Plastic knives and forks don’t have many positives: they’re difficult to eat with and aren’t biodegradable. They might save washing up time, but a more eco conscious option would be to set your eco table with eco friendly birch cutlery. You might need to spend an extra five minutes washing up, but they can be reused afterwards and are biodegradable, should you ever need to throw them away. 

Eco placemats – On your eco table, instead of plastic placemats, why not use placemats made from recycled materials like vinyl or palm leaf? You could also provide your guests with some spongy cork coasters to complete your eco table’s environmentally friendly credentials.

Eco party bags – Made from plastic and packed with plastic toys, traditional party bags must give environmentalists nightmares. Thankfully, there are greener materials that can be used for party bags, like luxurious cotton or paper. Instead of cheap plastic toys, which get thrown away after barely being played with, why not pack your bags with balsa wood toy planes, mini plywood jigsaws and other gifts made from sustainable harvested wood and painted with non-toxic natural dyes. 

Latex balloons – No party is complete without balloons. Thankfully you can still ensure your party goes off with a ‘bang’ by decorating the space around your eco table with brightly coloured balloons made from latex and tied with ribbons coloured with natural dyes.

Ikea Gives Away a Recyclable Camera to Promote its New Eco Furniture Range

May 18th, 2012

It seems you can make anything out of eco materials these days, with Swedish furniture chain Ikea is giving away a recyclable camera to promote the launch of its PS 2012 eco furniture collection.

The KNÃPPA flat-pack digital camera is made almost entirely from cardboard, and is being given to customers for free so they can take 40 photos of their eco furniture and then upload them to the Ikea website. Giving away a recyclable camera is a clever way for Ikea to gain column inches and to highlight the environmentally friendly PS 2012 range eco furniture range. Every item is made from sustainable and renewable materials, which include:

Wool – Synthetic textiles, like nylon and polyester, are made from petroleum and are very polluting to manufacture. Eco textiles made from wool, on the other hand, are far more environmentally friendly, and luxurious too. Other eco furniture textiles include hemp, organic cotton and silk.

Bamboo – This fast growing grass can be treated to create an elegant and light material for making eco furniture, like small tables and chairs, with a look that resembles hardwood.

Wood plastic – Plastic is combined with wood to create a hardwearing composite with the low environmental impact of sustainably harvested wood.

Flax – This is a bast fiber grown in cool climates. It’s a good conductor of heat and has antistatic qualities, making it perfect for creating attractive and cool fabrics for sofa cushions and eco furniture upholstery.

 

Eco furniture is also often made from water based glues and varnishes that don’t emit volatile organic compounds (VOCs) into the air. Along with being less polluting to manufacture, water based eco furniture treatment materials are better for your health and the environment too.

 

Along with its PS 2012 eco furniture range, Ikea recently bought a Scottish wind farm and plans to spend £4 million installing solar panels on the roofs of ten of its UK stores. Such a large investment can’t simply be dismissed as a marketing gimmick, and reflects how brands and businesses are becoming more eco conscious, both in the products they produce and their attitude towards environmental responsibility.

Samantha Towle, Executive Director of GoodWeave UK talks about the ethical GoodWeave label for rugs and why more people should demand it

May 18th, 2012

Some rug producers illegally use children in the production of rugs as a source of cheap labour. “Rug children” are often forced to work seven days a week, up to sixteen hours per day, receive no education or decent living conditions and therefore have a bleak future. Here in the UK, consumers unwittingly buy these rugs in the big chain stores and independent high street shops, and in so doing perpetuate the problem.

The news is much better when it comes to purchasing a luxury ‘designer’ rug in the UK.  GoodWeave labelled rugs are now widely available in this sector from the likes of The Rug Company, Deirdre Dyson, Bazaar Velvet, Jacaranda Carpets, Knots Rugs and WovenGround.  To make shopping for ethically produced rugs easier, GoodWeave UK launched its own online Rug Directory, which informs interior designers and consumers about the latest GoodWeave labelled rug designs and where to buy them.

Rug manufacturing takes place in some of the poorest regions of the world, and rural poverty and lack of access to education forces families to send their children to work, often hundreds of miles from where they live. It is important to understand the context here – these kids do not bring home any income to their families, they sit for hours on end, working in atrocious conditions in return for a meal and somewhere to sleep, if they are lucky.

If the West did not buy rugs from producers exploiting children, the practice would stop and that is what GoodWeave works towards, but in the UK, high street retailers are slow and reluctant to take on their share of the responsibility.

GoodWeave is active in India and Nepal with a pilot scheme in Afghanistan. It encourages rug producers to sign up to its labelling scheme, which funds random and independent inspections of the rug producers and educates and financially supports rescued children and those that are vulnerable. In return, these producers can apply the GoodWeave label on their rugs.  If UK Retailers bought only GoodWeave labelled rugs to sell in their shops, this would deny a market to producers using children and in so doing drastically reduce child exploitation – but many don’t. This lack of effort in the UK is in sharp contrast to the USA and Germany where major retail brands such as Macy’s and Otto make GoodWeave labelled rugs widely available.

All too often large fail to understand that the only way to prevent child labour in the informal manufacturing sector is to have local inspectors, out in the villages carrying out random, unannounced inspections on a regular basis.  It is easy for the large retailers to be duped into believing that their suppliers are not using child labour, as weaving is often subcontracted out to thousands of individual, village based weavers.  Visiting buyers and annual audit teams cannot possibly visit all these places and yet this is where children are often found by our inspectors, making rugs.

Some UK high street retailers make donations to charities in India and Nepal, provide clinics and schools and others make commitments on sustainability, and all these efforts are to be applauded, but to my knowledge none of them are really tackling child labour in the informal manufacturing sector.

So, next time you are in a shop about to buy a rug made in Nepal or India, check it is a GoodWeave labelled rug and buy with a clear conscience. If there is no label, then please do not buy and explain to the shop owner or manager why – only then do we have a chance of educating our high street stores and making a real difference.

Eco Lighting is Good for the World and Your Electricity Bills

March 29th, 2012

At the end of March, millions of eco homes, businesses and famous landmarks will simultaneously switch off their lights at 8.30pm. This is in recognition of the WWF sponsored Earth Hour – an event that has spread to 135 countries worldwide as a symbolic way of showing concern for the environment.

You can participate in Earth Hour by registering on the campaign website and then being ready to flick the light switch to join the global blackout on the 31st March. However, if you want to take proactive steps to protect the environment then you don’t have to wait until Earth Hour; you can help reduce carbon emissions all year round by investing in eco lighting in your eco home.

£1.9 billion is spent on lighting homes every year, accounting for up to 20% of electricity bills. With this in mind, investing in eco lighting can be a great way of saving money as well as reducing carbon emissions from your eco house. Lighting is also a major cost for commercial buildings, accounting for up to 60% of total electricity bills.

The government has set the bold target of reducing the emission of greenhouse gases 60% by 2050. In order to achieve this goal, schemes are available to provide financial assistance to commercial enterprises to become greener, such as the Enhanced Capital Allowance (ECA) and Carbon Trust 0% Interest Loans. This money can be spent on eco lighting systems, such as sensors and automated lighting controls that reduce or switch off lights when an area is vacant. These eco lighting methods could save businesses up to 80% on their electricity bills.

The different types of eco lighting to choose from

In 2011, 150 watt incandescent bulbs (which have barely changed in design since they were first invented by Thomas Edison in 1879) were phased out. These bulbs were highly inefficient as 90% of the energy produced was given off as heat and they lasted less than 1000 hours. In their place, there are now a range of eco lighting options for your eco home to choose from:

Halogen bulbs – These consume 25-30% less energy than incandescent bulbs. The name comes from the halogen gas contained within the bulb which slows its deterioration.

Energy saving CFL (compact fluorescent light) bulbs – Using only 9 watts, these bulbs can last 10,000 hours, which is 10 times longer than  incandescent bulbs. They warm up quickly, have a superior light quality and are not prone to flicker. They can also reduce carbon emissions by 70%, saving eco homes £7 per year per bulb.

LED (light emitting diodes) – These are seen as the future of eco lighting in eco homes. They can last 100,000 hours (literally a lifetime) and use a mere 2 watts. They use 75% less energy and produce 80% less heat. Without containing toxic elements like mercury or lead, they are also 100% recyclable. Although they are more expensive upfront (costing around £25), you can expect to recoup the cost of LED lights in a couple of years.

Read more about Sustainable Lighting via the 50 Q & A’s kindly supplied by Clearvision, who are leading experts in this field.

How Energy Efficient Eco Appliances Save You Money and the Planet at the Same Time

March 13th, 2012

If you want to make your eco home as environmentally friendly as possible then (along with eco furniture) buying energy efficient eco appliances is a no brainer. Thankfully, you don’t have to spend hours doing complex sums to work out which eco appliances consume the least energy because it’s all been done for you.

Energy efficiency ratings for white goods have been mandatory since 1995. The brightly coloured energy efficiency certificates seen on the front of dish washers, washing machines, fridges and other appliances are now widely recognised and respected by consumers and manufacturers alike.

Graded from A to G, these tell you how much electricity eco appliances use. The higher the grade the more efficient they are, thus simplifying the process when buying eco appliances for your eco home:

Eco Electric Ovens – It might sound like an urban myth, but the test for eco ovens is to bake a brick and see how much energy is used. Improved door insulation is one of the key features of an energy efficient eco oven.

Eco Washing Machines – These are monitored for water consumption, energy use, the cleanliness of the wash and the dryness of spin results. To minimise your energy consumption, use a longer cycle rather than a quick wash because quick washes force the heating element to work harder overall. Turning down the dial from 60ºC to 40ºC can also cut your running costs in half. When buying an eco washing machine check the drum size because a larger drum can halve the number of loads you need to wash in a week. The latest hi-tech models can even weigh your laundry and adjust the cycle time and energy usage accordingly. Unfortunately, they have yet to design a machine that irons and folds your clothes as well

Eco Tumble Dryers – You’d think there is nothing eco friendly about tumble dryers, which drain electricity at a frightening rate. However, ‘A’ rated condenser models are available for your eco home which use heat pump technology and consume nearly 50% less than conventional ‘C’ rated models.

Eco Dishwashers – Running dishwashers at a lower temperature can vastly reduce running costs. Quick washes use 15-20% less energy, while an eco wash can save 50% on your dishwasher energy bills.

Eco Fridges and freezers – So much progress has been made in the cooling technology of modern eco fridges that they’ve expanded the energy efficiency ratings to A+++ to make a distinction between the latest eco models. One tip is to keep your fridge as full as possible to reduce the amount of electricity used to keep it cool. And when going on holiday, when the fridge is bare, turn the temperature up to save some extra cash.

Induction Hobs – Electrically powered hobs are the greener alternative to gas and ceramic hobs. Only the base of the pan is heated, thus saving energy otherwise wasted heating the sides.

Eco appliances with high energy efficiency ratings are the sensible choice for your eco house. They are more energy efficient, create less carbon emissions and they cost less to run, which means more money in your pocket and a greener home.

Eco Homes Can Be Luxurious As Well As Green

January 30th, 2012

Eco homes can be luxurious as well as green

Creating an eco home can seem at odds with luxury. For too long, the eco movement has been associated with the anti-consumerist ‘woolly jumper brigade’, and eco homes seen as ugly prefabricated buildings which put function ahead of aesthetics.

But the perception of the eco home is changing.

Recently, the ‘Apple Hayes’ eco house was nominated in both the Best Eco Build and Best Luxury New Build categories at the Northern Design Awards. While at the high end of the scale, ‘Barnsley Hill Farm‘, with a £4m valuation, features a 25 seater home cinema, indoor pool and steam room but with the carbon footprint of an average two-bed flat.

These eco homes show that luxury and being environmentally friendly can go together. And the rise of an educated eco-conscious generation is leading to developers creating luxurious eco house developments all over Europe.

In the UK, ‘The Lakes’ features 160 luxury villas (starting at £870k) built with eco materials (e.g. sustainable timber) and with energy saving features, such as rainwater harvesting, wind turbines and solar panels.

In Switzerland one developer is pouring £1b into transforming the village of Andermatt into a car free community with 500 luxury apartments, which are to receive 50 percent of their energy from geothermal heating.

Eco furniture can be aesthetically pleasing, comfortable and green

As these examples show, eco homes can be aesthetically pleasing and luxurious. This extends to the eco furniture, eco appliances and other environmentally friendly features you furnish your eco house with.

Eco furniture is made from sustainably sourced materials, including textiles as well as timber, which are produced with the minimum environmental impact. The range of eco products available also includes eco wallpaper and non-toxic eco paints.

The growth of an eco conscious generation means there is a growing market for luxurious eco homes, along with eco beds, eco chairs and other items of eco furniture which are attractive, comfortable and environmentally friendly.

How You Can Give Your Eco Living Room A Glowing Shade Of Green

December 7th, 2011

Christmas is approaching and people will be looking forward to spending time in their living room with their families, watching movies, playing board games and passing around the mince pies. As with any room in your eco house, there are many ways you can make your living room more eco friendly. Whether it’s using eco furniture or eco appliances, you can make greener choices that will both reduce your energy bills and be kinder to the environment.

Eco appliances

LED TVs – These have backlit screens which are much greener than conventional LCD or plasmas screens. For example, a 42” plasma TV uses 277 watts when it’s on, whilst a similar sized LED TV uses less than half that amount. LED TVs also have a long lifespan, saving you even more money in the long run.

Eco friendly mains adapter – Thanks to TV ad campaigns, it’s now well known that leaving electrical appliances on standby still consumes a significant amount of electricity. In fact, it’s estimated that £900 million is wasted leaving appliances with the red light on. One option is to simply switch TVs, DVD players and set top boxes off at the mains. Or you could buy a mains socket adapter, for your eco living room, that learns how much standby power connected devices use and then overrides them by reducing the electricity supply by that amount.

Eco lighting – Lighting accounts for 15% of your eco home’s electricity bills. So switching to eco friendly bulbs is a simple way of making your eco living room greener. The Energy Saving Trust estimates that one CFL (compact fluorescent lamp) bulb consumes 80% less electricity and lasts up to 10 times longer than standard bulbs. This can translate into savings of up to £6/year in electricity for regularly used lights. When you consider how many bulbs there are in your eco home, this can mount up to a significant saving.

Eco fireplace – Bio-ethanol fireplaces are clean burning, which means they produce no dirty pollutants and can be used in any eco living room. Bio-ethanol (a.k.a. methylated spirits) can be produced from a wide variety of renewable crops, such as sugarcane, potatoes, rice and beetroot, adding to its green credentials. When the bio-ethanol is burnt it creates a beautiful dancing flame but without the dirty smoke to go with it, which means you don’t need a chimney or need to install pipes.

Eco furniture

Eco wallpaper – You could use FSC approved eco wallpaper, made from ethically sourced wood pulp, or another option is eco paint, which uses the minimal volatile organic compounds (VOCs) to protect your family from exposure to pollutants.

Eco sofas – These are made from FSC approved wood and eco upholstery that’s made from ethically sourced materials, such as bamboo, organic cotton and hemp, which are all plant based and can be harvested sustainably.

Eco accessories – It’s often the little touches that can make the most impact in your eco home. Fairly traded bamboo coasters, seagrass picture frames, linen plant pots and natural recycled leather photo frames are just a few examples of eco accessories that will give your eco living room an environmentally friendly green glow.