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Home improvements: How to keep your renovation project eco-friendly

PUBLISHED: 15:38 12 August 2014 | UPDATED: 15:42 12 August 2014

There are lots of ways to keep renovations green. Picture PA

There are lots of ways to keep renovations green. Picture PA

Archant

When renovating a property, it’s tempting to rip everything out and start from scratch - but it’s a temptation you should resist, not just for your wallet, but for the environment too.

Because new isn’t always best, especially in period properties, and with a bit of thought, there will always be things you could keep, restore and upcycle, and remember that o riginal features, even if they’re not in mint condition, will instantly add value and character. Filler, sandpaper and paint can transform all sorts of things that seem beyond repair.

If you do have to throw out things, be sure to recycle what you can (but don’t expect tradespeople to - on countless occasions, I’ve rescued recycling that tradesmen have binned in skips).

Local authority tips (and doorstep collections) take all sorts of things these days - some even accept paint, which should never be poured down the plughole to dispose of. Another option is Community RePaint, a Dulux-sponsored scheme that collects leftover paint for charities and voluntary and community groups to use - visit communityrepaint.org.uk to find out more.

It does, of course, help to buy DIY tools and materials that aren’t over-packaged. Look for packaging that’s easily recyclable, such as cardboard and metal, rather than plastic, and for packaging that contains recycled content. Did you know, for example, that there’s an alternative to plastic paint trays? Website eshop.ecoezeeshop.com sells trays (£1.50 each) made from recycled waste material, which can be reused without being washed out.

If you’re looking for environmentally friendly paints, there are plenty of specialist brands on the market, as well as mainstream options - try Crown Earth Balance Emulsion (£16 for 2.5ltr, B&Q, or three 2.5ltr tins for £30 on all Crown 2.5ltr emulsions). B&Q also sells NaturePaint (£19.98 for 1kg of powder, which makes 2.5ltr of emulsion), which is made in Cornwall using locally sourced ingredients.

For wood, metal and priming or undercoating, water-based paints contain fewer harmful VOCs (volatile organic compounds) than solvent-based ones and are nicer to use, too. As well as drying much quicker than solvent-based paints, enabling you to do several coats in a day, water-based paints give off fewer fumes and are easier to get off your skin, clothes and anything else you drop them on. Another big advantage of white water-based wood and metal paints is that they won’t yellow, but solvent-based ones will, sometimes in no time at all.

Just as you should consider food miles when doing your weekly shop, you should also consider where your DIY products come from. This obviously depends on your budget, as sourcing locally can be more expensive, but, for example, buying wooden worktops and flooring sourced from Britain is better for the planet than buying them from abroad, as long as the wood was responsibly grown. To ensure wood is sustainable, look for the FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) logo. All B&Q’s wood and paper products are traceable back to sources independently verified as well-managed and meeting legal, social and environmental standards - a fantastic achievement.

Never forget to use websites like eBay and Freecycle too, both full of pre-owned items with lots of life left in them, whether it’s radiators, fireplaces, floorboards, furniture or kitchen units and appliances. Buy and sell (or just give away for free) to your heart’s content.

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