Sunday, April 14

Green makeovers: three eco-friendly ways to make home improvements | Sustainable home improvement

In a 2021 study, 57% of UK residents said they wanted to be “more eco-friendly”, and for many people this quest has begun at home.

Interest in green home improvements has grown thanks to increased awareness of sustainability and because, having spent a long time in their homes during the pandemic, householders have become more creative with renovations.

Everyone has a part to play in helping the environment – ​​here’s how three people have done this at home …

‘We’re no longer wearing coats in our house’
“We could almost see the energy disappearing out of the house and we realized this was having a damaging impact on the environment,” says Matt Lowing.

When Lowing and his wife, Valéria, bought a 1930s semi in Tadworth, Surrey, they noticed it had drafts running through the downstairs. “We were shivering all the time and wasting lots of fuel,” he says.

“We had very high heating bills, which was a concern but so was the environmental impact. For a while we would have a coal fire running to warm us up but then we realized that it was bad for the environment too, so we decided to get some [more energy efficient] triple glazing installed.”


The 46-year-old is delighted with the results, which have made his home a more comfortable place to live. “We’re no longer wearing coats in the house, which is nice, and we’ve noticed a significant reduction in our bills,” says Lowing. “The heat isn’t escaping through gaps in doors and old windows.

“Also, since having our first child, Raphael, we’ve become more aware of how important sustainability is. We want to carry on making small changes that will hopefully make a difference to the home and the wider planet.”

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‘I can see the birds and bees enjoying the garden we’ve created for them’
Hanna Hammond lives with her husband, Mark, in the Wiltshire village of Great Somerford. Last year, they decided to transform their garden into an ethical, wildlife-friendly paradise. “There’s lots of wildlife around us and we wanted to make sure our garden was friendly to butterflies, bees, birds and hedgehogs,” she says.

She and Mark consulted a gardener, who helped them select plants such as foxgloves and astrantia, which would attract bees, butterflies and birds. “There are lots of geraniums and they’re so prolific and robust that they’re basically thugs, which is great because the bumble bees love them,” she says. “So last summer we had different types of bees and it sounded amazing out there – you could really hear the buzzing.”

The 50-year-old’s garden is on a hedgehog highway and she was keen to make it more safe and welcoming for the prickly visitors, particularly because she has six rescue dogs and they would sometimes “terrorise” the hedgehogs.

So she has fenced off a part, giving the hedgehogs a safe space. She has also installed hedgehog tunnels in the fencing and left part of the grass to grow wild, so hedgehogs can hide in it.

“We’ve also now got some hooligan sparrows that live in the hedging,” she smiles. “Itwas so lovely to look out of the office window and see all the birds and bees enjoying the garden we’ve created for them.”

For Hammond, the transformation of the garden was a philosophical, as well as physical, pursuit. “I believe that a garden can either take away from the environment and the animals or it can give to them,” she says. “We prefer to give. The countryside belongs to the animals and not us. We just live here with them.”

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Loft insulation is an easy – and cheap – solution. Photograph: Halfpoint/Getty Images/iStockphoto

‘Insulating the loft was quick and easy to get done’
When Saphia Fleury and her husband moved from London to Hull in 2020, they noticed that their winter heating bills at the new home were “colossal” because it was poorly insulated.

To address the issue, they decided to get insulation put in their loft, and were surprised how cheap this was – less than £200 – and how simple.

“I think people imagine it’s complex, akin to getting a new roof, but it’s really quick and easy to get it done,” she says. “It took an afternoon. They brought in these big rolls of insulation material and just unrolled them across the floor of the loft and then they were done.”

Fleury says she wanted to make her house as energy-efficient as she could – “for ourselves and the environment”. She says the simple improvement has made her house warmer and it now doesn’t take so long to heat up. “We find we don’t need to have the heating on at night, thanks to the insulation,” she says.

“It’s nice to know that you’re not just burning fuel unnecessarily and that you can save money,” adds Fleury, who also buys appliances that are as energy-efficient as possible and is replacing any spent light bulbs with LED versions.

With predictions that gas bills will soar, Fleury is even more delighted she got her loft insulated. “There’s been a very noticeable difference and I really recommend it,” she says.

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For anyone looking to make their home more environmentally friendly, roof windows from Velux may well hit the spot because the manufacturer has put sustainability at the core of its strategy. In keeping with goal 3 of the UN 2030 sustainable development goals, the Velux Group says it strives to bring “health and wellbeing” to a building’s users.

When it comes to sustainability, the durability of a product is key, which is why Velux roof windows are built to last for at least three decades. Additionally, Velux is working on deep emission cuts across its entire value chain.

Velux roof windows are made with wood from responsibly managed forests thanks to the company’s forest partners, with replacement trees being planted and biodiversity and wildlife habitats protected.

Learn more about Velux’s sustainability journey

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