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I studied geography and environmental studies for my degree in the 1980s and have had a deep sense of the need to treat our environment with the utmost respect ever since. I followed my first degree with a post graduate diploma in land resource planning – all about the earth’s resources and the need to husband them carefully. That led me into town and country planning and I have been a planner for nearly 25 years. Half of my career has been spent within an environmental organisation that seeks to conserve and enhance a really special place.
I have tried to lessen my own footprint on the planet as much as possible. This has flowed into mind washing my immediate family with environmental messages to such an extent that we now get nagged by our two sons if we inadvertently forget to switch something off! Our lives are not dictated by environmental issues; we just take them all for granted and act accordingly. We have one car and use public transport whenever we can. We’ve had an allotment for two years and grow fruit and vegetables at home. I’ve been making my own beer for 30 years, the kids walk to school, we try and holiday in this country, haven’t flown in years and recycle and compost virtually all of our waste.
Essentially to try to tread as lightly as possible on the earth. The driver has been environmental. We were often asked about payback periods after we had installed the solar panels and had to say that we had no idea as we had done the work for environmental reasons. Our house is like millions of others throughout the UK and, if we can do what we have done, many others could follow suit; it doesn’t lead to the house being uncomfortable in any way and outward appearances have not really changed that much.
We moved into our house in October 2001. The house is joined to our next door neighbour’s garage on the north side. It’s brick built with a concrete tiled roof and has an area of tile hanging fixed to a block wall around the front and south side of the first floor. The walls are of cavity construction.
There is a separate sitting room, dining room and kitchen with a bathroom, shower room (which used to be a toilet) and a downstairs toilet (which used to be the outside meter cupboard). The garage is too narrow to fit even a modern car. A replacement car port means we can drive straight off on a winter morning without running the car to clear windows.
Knowing that our electricity and gas demands are less than they would have been. We have saved about 45% on our electricity bills and 30% on our gas bills. Add to that the comfort of a warmer house in the winter and this means that our gas demand is even less. We are saving money this way and will also make money (though not a lot) through the FITs. It was great in the early days to see our electricity meter run backwards!
The sun pipe over our stairs. It’s simple but has made an amazing difference to the feel of a part of the house that had always been gloomy and poorly lit. Not having to put the light on at most times of the day is great and it’s so efficient it brings light in from not only the street light but also the moon.
I am always looking to do something new. For example, I got an electric bike for my 11 mile commute to work in Chinnor. It wasn’t cheap but saved money when compared to the cost of running a car to work. As I now no longer work in Chinnor I don’t have the commute, though I still have (and use) the bike!
I have also been thinking about wood chip boilers but still cannot seem to sort out how to deal with that. A wood burning stove would be a good addition but would be difficult to fit in.
Following discussion with people at a recent SuperHomes open day I acquired some Red Mason Bees, which are excellent pollinators in the garden, and a solar irrigation system for the greenhouse at the allotment – without the engagement with others of a like mind I may not have thought of these things.
Updated on 28/04/2016