16th June 2010
A new breed of consultants – call them carbon advisors – want to change your carbon output without changing your lifestyle.
Going green is hardly a new trend, but why face a hodgepodge of remedies when there’s a one-stop solution for reducing your carbon footprint? Enter the carbon advisors. They’ll eco-renovate houses, create and care for organic gardens, retrofit diesel sports cars to use pure plant oil, and use solar and geo thermal power to heat (or cool in the Middle East) swimming pools. They won’t dramatically change a client’s lifestyle, but will change the effects of said lifestyle.
“People who want to make a significant change come to us,” says Joanna Yarrow, the co-founder of Beyond Green, a company that advises corporations, schools and towns on sustainable development and green design, and Bespoke Green, which caters to individual clients. “We aim to minimise environmental impact, but maximise quality of life.” Yarrow presents clients with a virtual computer model of their home that shows how much energy their house is using and losing. Daniel Morrell, founder of the Carbon Advisory Service (www.carbonadvisoryservice.com), assesses his clients’ overall carbon footprint, and recommends ways to lower emissions in all areas from energy use to transport to new builds.
Many of his clients are in the film and music industries, and produce thousands of carbon tons a year—a much higher output than the average EU citizen (10 to 12 tons of carbon)—because of their lifestyle, houses, travel and businesses. “The goal is a 30% reduction in emissions,” explains Morrell. After reducing as much as possible, he offers programs for carbon balance with renewable energy and forestry projects. While Morrell doesn’t like the term “offsets”, essentially that is the idea: if your “core” footprint is 3000 tons of CO2, you invest in a project that saves 3000 tons of carbon a year from being generated.
Both Morrell and Yarrow agree that this year has seen a rise for demand in energy efficiency. Yarrow says that clients are starting to understand what is good for them and the environment sometimes isn’t anything you can see. “People realise it’s not just bling like sticking a wind turbine on their roof, but boring stuff like cavity insulation to reduce energy costs,” she says. Currently, Yarrow and Bespoke Green are converting a 17th-century mill in Bath into a yoga retreat and residence. By harnessing the power of the mill race to create hydroelectric power, a modern generator not only keeps the lights on, but also exports energy back to the power grid, making money for the owners.
The wealthiest sector can afford to lead the way, but has the credit crunch affected the demand for low carbon lives? Morell says he has seen no fall in demand for services. “The environment is a priority for our clients,” he says. “Plus our carbon savings result in cost savings and these are always welcome.” Yarrow says she’s seeing the credit crunch play out in the fact that people aren’t moving house but are staying put, and figuring out what they can do to eco-renovate their existing home.
Achieving zero carbon emissions is impossible, but low carbon behaviour must become the norm. This will take both a “bottom up” and “trickle down” approach, as people see figures they admire push demand for low carbon technologies, and the behaviour becomes fashionable. Drive an Alfa Romeo and save the planet—who can argue with that?