Five tips for an eco renovation
1. When renovating, it's tempting to rip everything out and start again, but there may be things you can keep, upcycle or get a professional to restore.
In period properties especially, original features - even if they’re not in perfect condition - usually add value and character. Filler, sandpaper and paint can transform all sorts of things that seem beyond repair - it’s often simply a case of putting in the time and making the effort.
2. When you have to buy things for your home, how about something someone else no longer wants? Websites like eBay and Freecycle are full of pre-owned items that have lots of life left in them, whether you’re looking for fireplaces, floorboards, baths, basins, or kitchen units and appliances - the list is endless.
3. Many of us consider food miles when doing our weekly shop, but perhaps not where the products we use to renovate our homes come from. This may depend on your budget - for example, slate or stone from Brazil or India might be cheaper than British versions, but it’s come a lot further and may have other ethical and environmental negatives associated with its production.
4. If you’re doing major building work, you’ll need a skip, but it’s easy for recyclables to get chucked in with the rubbish. In my experience, tradespeople rarely separate recyclables from non-recyclables, so if you want to make your build more environmentally friendly, you’ll need to police the skip (and any rubbish bags) and extract anything that should be in the recycling bin.
Local authority tips (and doorstep collections) take all sorts of things now - some even accept paint, which should never be poured down the plughole to dispose of. Another option is Community RePaint, which takes leftover paint for charities and voluntary and community groups to use - visit www.communityrepaint.org.uk to find out more.
5. If you’re looking for eco emulsion paint, there are plenty of specialist brands. For example, Naturepaint (from £3.98 for a tester, B&Q) is a powdered paint (made in Cornwall using locally sourced ingredients) that you mix with water before use.
For wood and metal, water-based paints contain fewer harmful VOCs (volatile organic compounds) than solvent-based ones. The former have disadvantages - they’re rarely as hard wearing as solvent-based alternatives and you have to do several coats of white to get even coverage - but they also have big advantages. They dry quickly, are easier to remove from your skin and fabrics than solvent-based paints, and whites don’t yellow, whereas most solvent-based ones do.