Dreaming of a green Christmas?

solar powered christmas lights

I am certainly dreaming of one, I enjoy Christmas as much as anyone but I do worry about the waste that goes on at this time of year. Presents are great but sometimes there are rather more than anyone needs, especially in a big family. Like many families we have instituted a one present per adult rule and this has certainly cut down on unnecessary pairs of slippers etc. However cute little nieces still need a present each and we still need to get a few presents for those close to us.

So now we have reduced what can we do to re-use and recycle the presents, along with getting some nice eco friendly presents for everyone. I have tried to find a few things that can help with this.

Eco friendly Christmas paraphenalia

Recycled Christmas crackersAs well as recycling your Christmas wrapping paper make sure yours is made from recycled paper, while your at it get some recycled crackers too. You can make your own Christmas decorations quite easily or buy ones made from recycled materials and all good lights these days use LEDs, saving you energy and reducing fire risk. I have listed a selection in the products section of the website that you can buy online.

Green toys for kids

To be honest kids toys are pretty amazing these days and you aren’t going to distract them entirely from computer games and plastic Kids rocket ship toyfun but there are lots of interesting alternatives out there that you can at least supplement them with. Every kid loves to climb in boxes and a cardboard rocket ship could be even better, a wooden racing car is a much healthier alternative to a plastic one for a small child, and with fewer chemicals. Kids also love creatures and creepy crawlies so a pond dipping kit or a bug jar could make them happy. More details of these eco friendly toys here. Thinking further ahead you could get a bat box and an id book and see what bats you can attract when they come out of hibernation.

Gadgets for grown ups

Home energy monitor and heating control
Owl Intuition E energy monitor

Everyone likes a gadget at any time of the year and Christmas usually brings lots along so why not get a few that help reduce energy use rather than increase it. I have been going on for a while about my Owl monitor and heating control and I still really love it. You can impress people by showing them your houses energy use on your phone and impress yourself by turning the heating on when you are on the bus home.

I recently started looking at products in B&Q as well as NHBS and Nigel’s Eco Store and they have just started to stock Lightwave products. These link up not just to the heating and electricity but also all the sockets and light switches in the house so you can create a real smart home and control the lights and all the appliances from a remote, your pc or your home. They sound great, if you buy some let me know how you get on.

How about saving water? A water pebble makes a cool little gift, put it in your shower and it helps you reduce water usage as well as looking funky. If too much water is a problem for you at times, why not get a green roof to soak some of it up?

If you have a wood burning stove you really must get an eco fan to go with it. These sit on top of the stove and circulate warm air around the house. They are made of two types of metal so it rotates when it gets hot.

I hope these gifts have wetted your appetite for a green Christmas, I have my eye open for some more and will add them in when I find some good ones.

Updates

Eco friendly gifts for her

Some choices for the women in your life, mum, sister, wife or partner. I have tried to pick a range of items that any woman would be pleased to receive. Love the rainbow turbine t shirt stylish with with an eco message as well.organic eco friendly t shirt

Eco friendly gifts for him

Some choices for the men in your life, dad, brother, husband or partner. I have tried to pick a range of items that any man would be pleased to receive. Cufflinks and skin care may seem a bit dull but these are a cut above your average and the skin care is certainly not a generic body shop I don’t know what to buy you box.

Alex

Green roof on a bike shed

I recently finished the first green roof I have built for a while and thought you might like to see a few pictures. This one was on top of a bike shed  in Stockwell and it’s looking pretty good. Took a bit more work than I expected, although small it has just as many corners as a bigger one so had as many fiddly bits to do. I worked it out after a while though and it looks really good.

The clients had a good supply of soil so we didn’t need to get any elsewhere, they also had a good idea of what they wanted to plant. We used a combination of herbs, grasses and other plants. They wanted to try as many plants as possible to see which ones would take to the roof, should be a good plan and I hope the roof will evolve over the next few years, it will be interesting to see which plants are most suited to the roof conditions.

The only disappointment so far is the photos I took with my new phone which are all washed out and bluey. It’s just down the road so I will see if I can get some better ones but here are a few for now. If you want one for your shed or extension get in touch.

Green roof on bike shedAnother close upClose up of the roof

 

The smart green home Part 1

After seeing Oliver Heath at the Real Home Improvement Show in London in September I have been looking about for new ways to make your home smarter in an eco friendly way. We have all seen promises made about the home of the future controlled at the press of a button but largely filed these away along with the hover car in to things we won’t see any time soon.

Screen grab of energy monitor controlThese dreams are slowly becoming reality though and I have managed to find a few devices that are available now which can help you control your home and the energy used much more effectively. I installed an Owl energy monitor and heating control on our new boiler when we had it installed back in March. We hadn’t used it much because it has been pretty warm in London until a few weeks ago but now we have programmed it so the heating isn’t on when we are out at yoga but ready for us to get home. The best bit is turning on the heating on the bus home and getting in to a lovely warm house.

This is the first of many systems controlled by your computer and from a smartphone app. B&Q are now stocking Lightwave products, these have a link attached to your wifi router which then controls light switches, sockets, radiators and the room thermostat throughout the house. This means you can turn off all the lights when you are in bed, control the heat in individual rooms and even press one code to turn everything off when you leave the house a simple but brilliant idea. You can also dim the lights to change the atmosphere in a room, something that the Philips Hue has taken even further, this allows you to change the colours as well, not widely available in the UK yet but I will feature it when it is.

water monitoring pebble

I am sure there will be a flood of smart devices over the next year, connected to the internet of things and I will try and feature the ones that are actually available to buy now and let you know how they can save you energy or water as well as making your home a better place. Even little things that make a small difference and look cool like the water pebble.

Update 24/11/2013, found this cool smoke and carbon monoxide detector to add to the smart devices for your house.