From Greenhouse to Green House

The threats of climate change
CO2 emissions and savings


Gerry Wolff and Marianne Jones

On another web page we have described some some of the problems and some of the possibilities in trying make our household 'green'. This includes the way we travel around.

The main emphasis is on cutting emissions of 'greenhouse' gases (mainly CO2) because we regard this as the most serious environmental threat and because it means big adjustments in how things are done. We have also emphasised problems and possibilities in making changes to an existing house because it is unlikely that the UK will tear down its entire housing stock and replace it with purpose-built 'eco' houses.

Finding ways to cut CO2 emissions from an average household (zero-carbon eco-renovation) would make a fascinating subject for a TV series. If such a series were made and screened, it would help to raise awareness of what individual householders can do and, perhaps more important, it would help to highlight what the Government may need to do to help things along.

What we have in mind would be very different from the recently screened series "Its not easy being green". We would be happy to discuss our ideas with any film maker or TV company.

The remainder of these notes sketch out some ideas for the TV series.

  1. The main focus of the series would be doing an environmental 'make-over' of a suitably-deserving typical household (not us). This would be in the style of 'Changing Rooms' or 'Ground Force' although it might be best if the householders were involved in discussing the possibilities rather than making it all a big 'surprise'. Also, the whole exercise would take up several episodes (perhaps as many as 10) rather than being completed all in one episode.
  2. The overall aim would be to reduce CO2 emissions to zero. This should be possible using high levels of insulation (much higher than is currently done) and with heat exchangers to maintain fresh air without loss of heat.
  3. The series would start with a tour of the house in its original state - probably pretty poor from an environmental point of view but perhaps with a few 'fig leaf' features like keeping a compost heap for kitchen waste. The climax of the series would be the completion of all the changes needed to reduce CO2 emissions to zero, as far as that can be achieved.
  4. An important part of the series would be how members of the household travel around - in cars, buses, trains and planes as well as on foot or bicycle.
  5. Episodes between the first one and the last would look at different aspects of the problem:
    • What are the options for insulation (cavity insulation, internal or external insulation, problems of insulating roofs, floors and windows, the need for heat exchangers)?
    • What are the options for heating the house (biofuel, CHP, heat pumps, solar heating etc)?
    • What can the average householder do to cut CO2 emissions from cars (biodiesel, straight vegetable oil, electric cars)?
    • What are the options for buying or generating 'green' electricity?
    And so on.
  6. Looking at these different options can include visits to places (anywhere in the world) where new technologies are being developed or used. This could include a visit to the new plant in France where compressed air cars are being made, visits to houses that have had 'super' insulation added (not purpose-built 'eco' houses), visits to offshore wind farms, concentrating solar power plants, makers and distributors of biodiesel, designers of new kinds of car, makers and users of heat pumps, CHP, and so on.
  7. At stages throughout the series, choices would be made about what changes would be made to the 'focus' household and these changes would be implemented. A point of interest here is what these changes would mean in practical terms for the members of the household and what their reactions are.
  8. A theme running through the series would be the net costs of different options -- taking account of savings that may be made (eg less fuel needed after super insulation) -- and the cumulative cost of the changes that have been made. An assessment may also be made of how net costs may fall when markets for green technologies have grown to realistic size or when grants, tax breaks or tradable carbon rations have been introduced.
  9. Another theme running through the series would be changes in the law or in Government policies (including EU policies) that may be needed to smooth the path to zero carbon households.
  10. At the final stage of the make-over, and perhaps at other stages, some kind of assessment ('audit') may be made of the reductions in CO2 emissions that have been achieved. One of the many carbon calculators available on the web may be used here. Another idea is to show CO2 emission graphically with black 'balloons' coming out of the chimney, the car's exhaust pipe and the electricity supply.
  11. It is possible that suppliers of environmental products and services would provide these things for nothing in return for reasonable publicity. This seemed to be the rule in the Anika Rice 'Challenge' programmes.