Like most house-proud folks, I clean up my home before visitors arrive. I load mugs into the dishwasher and stuff clothes and shoes into cabinets. Rosanna Peel and Lucy Johnson come to my home, so I run around hiding my bleach and antibacterial wipes. I also pin my non-organic milk bottles 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.
Before world leaders gathered in Glasgow this weekend to save-the-planet, Cop26, the UK Government revealed its blueprint for making Britain carbon-neutral by 2050.
These plans will require significant changes in how we live, from heating our homes and travel methods. This means that people like me won’t be able to just bury their heads in sand.
Rosanna Peel (pictured left) visited Claudia Connell (pictured right), her Brighton home, to offer eco makeovers.
Here is where I have a rather embarrassing confession to make. I have never made it a priority to live a greener lifestyle. 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 strategies at Harvard Business School, she reimagined herself and launched Green Salon last year.
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, a 54 year-old sustainable stylist, offers a wardrobe editor service. The ultimate goal is to get more from the clothes you already have.
Lucy assists customers in reducing food waste and energy efficiency. Pictured with Rosanna and Lucy
Lucy is the first. 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 my current attitude towards green living. 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 benefits of being menopausal and having my own furnace to keep me warm all day is one. 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.
After a major renovation, my windows have been double-glazed. The majority of my light bulbs are now LED which consume 75% less energy than standard bulbs. I’m starting to feel a bit smug. Switching to renewable energy providers (from sources like solar and wind) is the best and easiest way to reduce our carbon footprint. Lucy recommends that you wait until next spring, because the energy market is currently in flux and smaller companies are going under.
In the meantime, she recommends that I purchase electric blinds to cover my Velux windows in my kitchen to trap heat in and that Radflek radiators reflectors be purchased.
These foil sheets cut heat loss by 45 percent The reflectors are £20 each and with six radiators upstairs (I have underfloor heating downstairs), that’s a £120 outlay.
The money is what I see as the biggest obstacle to turning green. Lucy, who says that the majority of her clients come from middle-class families, believes it is important to look at the bigger picture.
‘There may be some initial outlay, but the ultimate goal is to save money. Radiator reflectors will reduce your energy bills over time. Some of the cleaning products we recommend will be far more affordable. 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. Lucy was impressed to see how many tins and staples I have in my refrigerator-freezer and larder.
But she notes that I don’t tend to buy organic and that I have farmed salmon in my freezer. I get a weekly Ocado order and then top up at my local supermarket if 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 also mentioned that there is a zero-waste shop two streets from my house. You can buy dried foods like pasta, nuts, and cereals and bring your own reusable containers.
I’ve never been in because I find it more intimidating than going into Gucci on London’s Bond Street. I have nightmare images of opening the cashewnut tube for them all to shoot on the floor. I agree that I must overcome my irrational fear to investigate.
Rosanna (pictured left with Claudia) is a sustainable stylist who offers a wardrobe editor service. The ultimate goal is to get the most out of your clothes.
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.
Lucy determines that the cupboard under my stairs is perfect. She then identifies the non perishable foods that I use most often: tinned tomatoes and tinned tuna. She suggests I buy them in bulk to store them.
She’s a big fan of meal planning to cut waste, too. I can open a jar to make my favorite chicken with olives recipe, but I should plan to make a pizza or salad for the next day to use up more olives to avoid them going bad. It takes a lot planning to go green!
My under-sink cupboard is the worst place to find cleaning products. 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 have wine and chocolate without having to give up my bleach love. 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 Delphis Eco, which produces high-performance zero-toxin products in fully recyclable packaging. Bower Collective offers a subscription service that sells products packaged in reusable containers. The packaging is stylish and chic as you can see from the quick glance at the website.
Green products are no longer substandard, ineffective, or ugly to look at. Today’s middle-class families want things that work and look good on their work surfaces.
Claudia (pictured center) stated that she was overwhelmed by information after two-and-a half hours, but it was not overwhelming and it was easy to understand.
‘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 it once. After that, you can feed it mineral pellets that will last for two more 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 compiles all her tips and recommendations 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. She is stylishly dressed in a boldly-patterned dress she found in a vintage shop and goes through my closet in great 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.
We sort through our stuff and build a pile to donate to a charity shop. It’s a lot of stuff that doesn’t fit me anymore due to lockdown weight gain or other mistakes. I also have labels that I haven’t returned.
We suddenly find a pair of striped trousers that I wore once, but never again after a friend suggested they looked like pyjamas.
Claudia (pictured right) was told by Rosanna (pictured left), that she has fewer clothes then the average woman. She also advised Claudia to invest in key items
Rosanna asks me if I would like to try them on. She insists that they look great. We pair them with black ankle boots and a navy cashmere sweatshirt. ‘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.
Rosanna actually says that I have fewer clothes than average women, despite them having 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 believe you would benefit from a few tailored jackets and one pair of jazzy night boots, as well as a thin scarf. You could then use those pieces to go with lots of skirts, jeans and dresses you already have and create whole new looks.’
Rosanna suggests that I hire a local dressmaker to take the collars and sleeves off one of my shirts and make it into a sweater. This will create a faux shirt underneath a jumper.
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.
Rosanna sends me a glossy report containing all the advice she gave me a day later. 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.