Would you pay £200 to give your home an eco audit?
Would you pay £200 to give your home an eco audit? They’re Britain’s first green queens who’ll make every corner of your house more planet-friendly. So what happened when CLAUDI A CONNELL invited them round?
- Lucy Johnson and Rosanna Peel are UK’s first sustainable lifestyle consultancy
- Lucy, 54, founded Green Salon while attempting to live a low-waste lifestyle
- Helps customers with everything from energy efficiency to reducing food waste
- Claudia Connell invited Lucy and Rosanna, 54, to her home in Brighton
Like most house-proud people, when visitors come to my home I run around tidying up before their arrival, loading mugs in the dishwasher and stuffing clothes and shoes into cupboards. But when Lucy Johnson and Rosanna Peel visit, my instinct is to dash around hiding my stash of bleach and antibacterial wipes and binning my non-organic milk and fast fashion T-shirts.
Why? Because they are the UK’s first sustainable lifestyle consultancy, offering eco makeovers to individuals rather than companies, and they are coming to my home in Brighton to see how planet friendly I am.
Prior to world leaders meeting in Glasgow this weekend for save-the-planet shindig Cop26, the UK Government announced its blueprint for making Britain carbon neutral by 2050.
The plans necessitate huge changes to the way we live from heating our homes to our methods of travel, meaning people like me can no longer bury our head in the sand.
Lucy Johnson (pictured left) and Rosanna Peel, both 54, who are the UK’s first sustainable lifestyle consultancy offering eco makeovers to individuals, visited Claudia Connell (pictured right) at her Brighton home
This is where I have to make a rather shameful confession. Living a greener life has never been a priority for me. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t drive around in my 4×4 chucking McDonald’s cartons out of the window, but neither do I go the extra mile. I recycle what I can, I try not to waste food and that’s about it.
I’ve always drawn the line at using scratchy recycled loo roll or making soups out of vegetable peelings. But if I don’t fancy scrubbing out a used strawberry jam jar, I’ll just toss it in with my regular rubbish.
But, despite my fears, Lucy the founder of Green Salon is not here to scold or ‘green shame’ me.
‘It’s not about achieving perfection, we want to help people make small and achievable tweaks. We don’t aim for zero waste or anything extreme like that because you’re instantly setting people up to fail. If our clients become greener by just ten per cent, then it’s still a win.
‘We’re here to be an ally and hold your hand as you start your journey to more sustainable living.’
Lucy, 54, a former TV journalist-turned-psychotherapist and mother-of-two, is Green Salon’s founder. It was while attempting to live a low- waste lifestyle herself that she realised people wanted to change but didn’t know where to start.
After studying sustainable business strategy at Harvard Business School, she reinvented herself as a sustainability coach and launched Green Salon last month.
She offers a bespoke service starting from £200, visiting people’s homes and helping customers with everything from making their houses more energy efficient to reducing their food waste.
Rosanna, meanwhile, is a 54-year-old sustainable stylist and offers a wardrobe edit service where the ultimate aim is to get more out of the clothes you already own.
Lucy helps customers with everything from making their houses more energy efficient to reducing their food waste. Pictured: Lucy and Rosanna
Up first, is Lucy. I serve her coffee from my ancient cafetiere and instantly score green points — it’s more environmentally friendly than coffee pod machines.
She asks me what my attitude to green living currently is. I answer honestly: I don’t care as much as I should and can’t face the hassle of making major changes.
‘I know from my work as a psychologist that it’s human nature to resist change and, therefore, I’m mindful of keeping the faff factor down when it comes to the things I suggest,’ says Lucy reassuringly.
We start with my home, which I’m surprised to find is far more energy efficient than I realised. One of the few benefits of being menopausal is that my body has its own inbuilt furnace to keep me warm and toasty day and night. I haven’t had my heating on at all yet this autumn and even in the coldest of winters the thermostat is set at 20c tops.
Having done a major refurbishment recently, my windows are double glazed and the majority of my light bulbs are LED which use 75 per cent less energy than standard ones. I’m starting to feel a bit smug. The biggest and easiest thing we can do to reduce our carbon footprint, apparently, is to switch to a renewable energy provider (from sources such as solar or wind). However, as the energy market is in a state of flux at the moment with smaller companies going under, Lucy recommends sitting tight until next spring.
Five easy ways to get started
Sustainability coach Lucy Johnson shares her top tips.
1 Save energy. Some 20 per cent of the carbon emissions come from heating homes. Turning your thermostat down one degree will save you £80 a year and 340kg of CO2.
2 Shop your wardrobe. £140 million of clothes are binned each year. The fashion industry is the world’s second biggest CO2 polluter. Restyle and upcycle what you already have.
3 Ease out plastic by joining the refill revolution. Eco brands such as Good Club deliver pantry staples in refillable pots.
4 Eat less meat. If we are to hit Net Zero by 2050, we will have to eat a third less meat so try swapping out meat for vegetarian pasta dishes a few times per week.
5 Buy less but buy better. Cheap goods don’t last and contribute to the 200 million tons of waste we produce every year. Companies such as Buy Me Once sell a wide range of durable products that cost more initially but don’t need to be endlessly replaced.
In the meantime, she says I should buy electric blinds for my Velux windows in the kitchen to trap heat inside and that I invest in Radflek radiator reflectors.
These are foil sheets that cut heat loss by 45 per cent. The reflectors are £20 each and with six radiators upstairs (I have underfloor heating downstairs), that’s a £120 outlay.
For me, one of the biggest turn-offs with turning green is the money. Lucy, who admits the majority of her clients are well-heeled middle-class professionals, says I need to focus on the bigger picture.
‘There may be some initial outlay, but the ultimate goal is to save money. Over time, the radiator reflectors will bring your energy bills down. And some of the cleaning product switches we recommend will end up being far more cost effective. We also want to reduce the £400 a year’s worth of food people on average throw out.’
It’s my food shopping habits we turn to next. After having a nose in my fridge-freezer and larder, Lucy is impressed I have a decent supply of tins and store cupboard staples.
But she notes that I don’t tend to buy organic and that I have farmed salmon in my freezer. I get a weekly delivery from Ocado and top up at my local supermarket when needed.
Lucy’s clients tell her that wanting to reduce their plastic consumption is one of their main aims. Of all the facts and figures she throws at me (and she’s like a walking encyclopaedia) telling me that we produce the world’s second largest amount of plastic waste per head (next to the U.S.) is the most jaw-dropping.
Supermarkets who wrap perishables in endless plastic are bad news for the planet, but when she suggests I swap to an organic grocer such as Abel & Cole I pull a face. Aren’t I just going to end up with a box full of wonky veg that I can’t identify and find myself munching through endless stewed marrow casseroles? She assures me not and guides me through the brand’s website which shows how things have changed and that you can now pick and choose what fruit and veg you want in your box, as well as buying regular groceries.
I mention I have a zero-waste store two streets from me, where you buy dried foods such as rice, pasta, nuts and cereal and take your own re-usable containers.
I’ve never been in because I find it more intimidating than going into Gucci on London’s Bond Street. I have nightmare visions of opening the cashew nut tube for them to shoot all over the floor. But I agree I must overcome my irrational fear and investigate.
Rosanna (pictured left, with Claudia) is a sustainable stylist and offers a wardrobe edit service where the ultimate aim is to get more out of the clothes you already own
Lucy’s very big on the ‘deep pantry’. It sounds a bit Fifty Shades Of Grey to me, but there’s nothing kinky about it, it’s just a place to store large amounts of food you use regularly.
After ascertaining the cupboard under my stairs would be perfect, Lucy identifies the non-perishable foods I get through the most: tinned tomatoes, tinned tuna and baked beans and suggests I buy them in bulk and store them.
She’s a big fan of meal planning to cut waste, too. If I open a jar of olives to make my favourite chicken with olives dish, then I should plan for a pizza or salad the next day to use more olives and avoid them going off. Going green takes a lot of planning!
When it comes to my cleaning products, my cupboard under the sink is as unethical as it gets. It’s rammed full of antibacterial wipes, bleach and every type of surface and glass cleaner you can think of. And I’m a little bit in love with it. I think I could give up wine and chocolate before I could give up my beloved bleach. I’m relieved when Lucy tells me I must use up my existing supplies and, if I really can’t quit my bleach habit, then I don’t have to.
‘We want to keep things realistic, but you could easily make switches when it comes to your bathroom, floor and glass cleaners.’
She recommends a company called Delphis Eco which makes high-performance zero toxin products in fully recyclable packaging. Or another company called Bower Collective which offers a subscription service selling products in reusable containers. A quick look at the website shows how chic and stylish the packaging is.
The days of green products being substandard, ineffective and plain ugly to look at are long gone. Today’s middle-class families want things that work and look good on their work surfaces.
Claudia (pictured centre) said after two-and-a-half hours she was overwhelmed with information, but none of it was daunting and much of it was pretty painless to introduce
‘It’s cool and fashionable to be green now. And it means companies have raised their game with the quality they offer,’ says Lucy.
I’ve already ordered an Eco Egg (£9.99, lakeland.co.uk) to replace the washing detergent and fabric conditioner I buy in huge plastic containers. The Eco Egg is plastic but you only need to buy it once and then feed it with mineral pellets that last for two months.
After two-and-a-half hours I’ve been overwhelmed with information and advice, none of it daunting and much of it pretty painless to introduce.
Lucy then puts all her recommendations, plus other tips in a detailed report. Her coaching packages range from £200 to £650 and include follow-ups on Zoom and ongoing email support.
With my home green makeover complete, it’s time for Rosanna to work her magic on my wardrobe. Stylishly kitted out in a boldly patterned dress she picked up in a vintage shop, she goes through everything in my closet in painstaking detail.
She’s impressed my wardrobe is super tidy with everything on matching velvet hangers (I’m a bit Joan Crawford about wire coat hangers), but she wants to keep my main wardrobe seasonal and pack away my summer clothes.
‘You can clearly see everything and mix and style clothes much more easily,’ says Rosanna who worked for 15 years as a personal shopper and stylist, including a stint at Chanel.
While sorting through my stuff, we build a pile of items I am going to give to a charity shop. It amounts to quite a haul of things that no longer fit me after lockdown weight gain or mistakes that still have the label attached that I never got around to returning.
Suddenly, we stumble upon a pair of striped trousers I wore once and never again after a friend said they looked like pyjamas.
Rosanna (pictured right) told Claudia (pictured left) that she has fewer clothes than the average woman, while also advising her to invest in key items
Rosanna asks me to try them on and insists they look great. We team them with black ankle boots and a navy cashmere sweater. ‘They don’t look like pyjamas at all!’ says Rosanna. ‘They’re really chic and flattering and they’d look great with some funky evening boots.’ Unfortunately, I don’t own any funky evening boots. I’m missing the chip that makes women crave endless shoes and bags.
In fact, Rosanna says I have fewer clothes than the average woman, despite them filling two wardrobes. As part of her service (she offers three different packages starting from £350), she also recommends key items she thinks I need to invest in. It sounds a bit mad to suggest shopping when we’re trying to make my wardrobe more planet-friendly.
‘Our mantra at Green Salon is to buy less, but to buy better and use it for longer. I think you would benefit from a couple of tailored jackets, one pair of jazzy evening boots and a skinny scarf. You could then use those pieces to go with lots of skirts, jeans and dresses you already have and create whole new looks.’
As I seem to have an abundance of cashmere jumpers and white shirts, Rosanna suggests I get a local dressmaker to remove the collars and cuffs of one of my shirts and have them sewn into a sweater to create a faux shirt under a jumper look.
I’ve also been told to patch up the hole in a pair of denim culottes I love and to get the leather handles on a summer basket repaired, so I can get another few years use.
Our session lasts three hours and, by the end, my wardrobe looks minimalist and I’ve rediscovered clothes I had forgotten.
A day later ,Rosanna sends my glossy report, packed full of the advice she has given me. After nearly six hours with Lucy and Rosanna, I feel like I’ve had a crash course in eco-living and I’ve realised trying to be kinder to the planet doesn’t have to be the giant pain I always imagined.
I doubt I’ll ever be the midlife version of Greta Thunberg but after, my coaching, you can certainly consider me keener to be greener.
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