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Making your period home more energy efficient: a practical guide



At first it may seem like you can’t do anything to make your period home more efficient without damaging its character. But with a little thought anything is possible, says Alex Woodcraft.

You don’t want to be shoving a load of solar panels onto your beautiful thatched roof or covering up your Tudor walls with external insulation. There are, however, plenty of other options.

The most basic change you can make is draughtproofing. I worked on a four bedroom detached house in Hertfordshire and managed to reduce the energy bills significantly. I started by working around each room, checking the edges of the windows, doors and skirting boards for gaps. I sealed each gap with a combination of builders caulk and expanding foam for the bigger gaps. I also installed heavy curtains on the front door and draught stripped doors and windows.

Click here to read The Guide to Sustainable Homes 2013

Another big source of draughts is floorboards and on a project on a Georgian house in Stockwell I found a perfect solution. After testing a couple of different methods, I found that Draughtex floorboard seal works really well. You roll the sealant into the gaps in your floorboards with a special tool and it hides completely in the shadows. It is also completely flexible so doesn’t come out when your floorboards move a bit.

On a larger scale, the big problem with older houses is the lack of insulation, but again with a little thought you can add insulation to your home without affecting the appearance. Usually, the outside of the house has features that you want to keep but you can consider ways to improve the inside. I have seen a few different ways to do this.

A project that I am very proud of was for a wooden house built with cedar tiles on a timber frame. I was wary of using artificial insulation because of worries about condensation. The house was built with all natural materials and has its own way of ventilating that I didn’t want to interfere with. With this in mind, I decided to use wood fibre insulation in the cavities combined with a lime plaster to retain the breathable properties of the house.

First, I stripped out the laths and added wood fibre batts to the cavities. Then I covered these with more robust wood fibre boards. Finally, retaining the traditional materials used to build the house, I replastered with lime. The lime plaster is quite expensive to install as it is more complicated than normal plaster, but the breathable qualities are a real advantage in combatting condensation and on some listed buildings it may be a requirement for carrying out the work.

At the September Open House weekend, I went to see a Georgian house in Maida Vale which had insulation installed all over the house, yet still looked unchanged from when it was built. The front of the house had been insulated inside to preserve the front aspect of the house; all you could see was slightly bigger windowsills in the living room.

At the rear, they had insulated externally and then rendered in white so it looked exactly the same as before. Finally, they had insulated the flat roof and then put decking over it to make a roof terrace. So the house continued to look like all the others in the terrace but was far more comfortable and had lower energy bills.

You can also have some fun with your house, perhaps by creating a green roof on a flat area with sufficient strength or diverting down pipes to create a rain garden.

If you like gadgets, there is some really good smart technology appearing at the moment. I got myself an Owl heating control earlier in the year. It replaced my wall thermostat and gives me complete control of my heating from any PC or a smartphone so I can fine tune it to my requirements and turn the heating off and on remotely.

The next step on from this is a system like Lightwave which remotely controls all the lights and sockets in your house. This mean you can turn off all the lights from your bed or power everything down when you leave the house.

Alex Woodcraft is a green retrofitter working in London. He helps people improve their homes to be more energy and water efficient with style and in harmony with the natural environment. If you want his assistance, drop him a line at Find out more information at

Further reading:

Mythbusting on sustainable homes

Superhomes for a super future

Sustainable mortgages: designed as if people and the planet matter

Creating a low-carbon home of your own

The Guide to Sustainable Homes 2013


New Zealand to Switch to Fully Renewable Energy by 2035



renewable energy policy
Shutterstock Licensed Photo - By Eviart /

New Zealand’s prime minister-elect Jacinda Ardern is already taking steps towards reducing the country’s carbon footprint. She signed a coalition deal with NZ First in October, aiming to generate 100% of the country’s energy from renewable sources by 2035.

New Zealand is already one of the greenest countries in the world, sourcing over 80% of its energy for its 4.7 million people from renewable resources like hydroelectric, geothermal and wind. The majority of its electricity comes from hydro-power, which generated 60% of the country’s energy in 2016. Last winter, renewable generation peaked at 93%.

Now, Ardern is taking on the challenge of eliminating New Zealand’s remaining use of fossil fuels. One of the biggest obstacles will be filling in the gap left by hydropower sources during dry conditions. When lake levels drop, the country relies on gas and coal to provide energy. Eliminating fossil fuels will require finding an alternative source to avoid spikes in energy costs during droughts.

Business NZ’s executive director John Carnegie told Bloomberg he believes Ardern needs to balance her goals with affordability, stating, “It’s completely appropriate to have a focus on reducing carbon emissions, but there needs to be an open and transparent public conversation about the policies and how they are delivered.”

The coalition deal outlined a few steps towards achieving this, including investing more in solar, which currently only provides 0.1% of the country’s energy. Ardern’s plans also include switching the electricity grid to renewable energy, investing more funds into rail transport, and switching all government vehicles to green fuel within a decade.

Zero net emissions by 2050

Beyond powering the country’s electricity grid with 100% green energy, Ardern also wants to reach zero net emissions by 2050. This ambitious goal is very much in line with her focus on climate change throughout the course of her campaign. Environmental issues were one of her top priorities from the start, which increased her appeal with young voters and helped her become one of the youngest world leaders at only 37.

Reaching zero net emissions would require overcoming challenging issues like eliminating fossil fuels in vehicles. Ardern hasn’t outlined a plan for reaching this goal, but has suggested creating an independent commission to aid in the transition to a lower carbon economy.

She also set a goal of doubling the number of trees the country plants per year to 100 million, a goal she says is “absolutely achievable” using land that is marginal for farming animals.

Greenpeace New Zealand climate and energy campaigner Amanda Larsson believes that phasing out fossil fuels should be a priority for the new prime minister. She says that in order to reach zero net emissions, Ardern “must prioritize closing down coal, putting a moratorium on new fossil fuel plants, building more wind infrastructure, and opening the playing field for household and community solar.”

A worldwide shift to renewable energy

Addressing climate change is becoming more of a priority around the world and many governments are assessing how they can reduce their reliance on fossil fuels and switch to environmentally-friendly energy sources. Sustainable energy is becoming an increasingly profitable industry, giving companies more of an incentive to invest.

Ardern isn’t alone in her climate concerns, as other prominent world leaders like Justin Trudeau and Emmanuel Macron have made renewable energy a focus of their campaigns. She isn’t the first to set ambitious goals, either. Sweden and Norway share New Zealand’s goal of net zero emissions by 2045 and 2030, respectively.

Scotland already sources more than half of its electricity from renewable sources and aims to fully transition by 2020, while France announced plans in September to stop fossil fuel production by 2040. This would make it the first country to do so, and the first to end the sale of gasoline and diesel vehicles.

Many parts of the world still rely heavily on coal, but if these countries are successful in phasing out fossil fuels and transitioning to renewable resources, it could serve as a turning point. As other world leaders see that switching to sustainable energy is possible – and profitable – it could be the start of a worldwide shift towards environmentally-friendly energy.


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How Going Green Can Save A Company Money



going green can save company money
Shutterstock Licensed Photot - By GOLFX

What is going green?

Going green means to live life in a way that is environmentally friendly for an entire population. It is the conservation of energy, water, and air. Going green means using products and resources that will not contaminate or pollute the air. It means being educated and well informed about the surroundings, and how to best protect them. It means recycling products that may not be biodegradable. Companies, as well as people, that adhere to going green can help to ensure a safer life for humanity.

The first step in going green

There are actually no step by step instructions for going green. The only requirement needed is making the decision to become environmentally conscious. It takes a caring attitude, and a willingness to make the change. It has been found that companies have improved their profit margins by going green. They have saved money on many of the frivolous things they they thought were a necessity. Besides saving money, companies are operating more efficiently than before going green. Companies have become aware of their ecological responsibility by pursuing the knowledge needed to make decisions that would change lifestyles and help sustain the earth’s natural resources for present and future generations.

Making needed changes within the company

After making the decision to go green, there are several things that can be changed in the workplace. A good place to start would be conserving energy used by electrical appliances. First, turning off the computer will save over the long run. Just letting it sleep still uses energy overnight. Turn off all other appliances like coffee maker, or anything that plugs in. Pull the socket from the outlet to stop unnecessary energy loss. Appliances continue to use electricity although they are switched off, and not unplugged. Get in the habit of turning off the lights whenever you leave a room. Change to fluorescent light bulbs, and lighting throughout the building. Have any leaks sealed on the premises to avoid the escape of heat or air.

Reducing the common paper waste

paper waste

Shutterstock Licensed Photo – By Yury Zap

Modern technologies and state of the art equipment, and tools have almost eliminated the use of paper in the office. Instead of sending out newsletters, brochures, written memos and reminders, you can now do all of these and more by technology while saving on the use of paper. Send out digital documents and emails to communicate with staff and other employees. By using this virtual bookkeeping technique, you will save a bundle on paper. When it is necessary to use paper for printing purposes or other services, choose the already recycled paper. It is smartly labeled and easy to find in any office supply store. It is called the Post Consumer Waste paper, or PCW paper. This will show that your company is dedicated to the preservation of natural resources. By using PCW paper, everyone helps to save the trees which provides and emits many important nutrients into the atmosphere.

Make money by spreading the word

Companies realize that consumers like to buy, or invest in whatever the latest trend may be. They also cater to companies that are doing great things for the quality of life of all people. People want to know that the companies that they cater to are doing their part for the environment and ecology. By going green, you can tell consumers of your experiences with helping them and communities be eco-friendly. This is a sound public relations technique to bring revenue to your brand. Boost the impact that your company makes on the environment. Go green, save and make money while essentially preserving what is normally taken for granted. The benefits of having a green company are enormous for consumers as well as the companies that engage in the process.

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