Introducing the next step… why I’m setting up a marketplace for eco design

Nigel's Eco Marketplace

It’s our tenth anniversary here at Nigel’s Eco Store. We could kick back and celebrate (or I could head off to the beach for the summer), but instead I’ve decided to indulge in a particular passion of mine – design.

This summer at Nigel’s Eco Store, we’re launching a new marketplace to promote design-led eco products. Think bags made from recycled fire hose, smartphone speakers crafted from reclaimed wood, and wall decals made with eco-vinyl.

Elvis and Kresse make gorgeous bags from fire hoses
Elvis and Kresse make gorgeous bags from fire hoses

We haven’t gone public with the marketplace just yet, but it is open for business and I wanted to give our blog readers an early viewing.

Morph speakers amplify without power
Morph speakers amplify without power

Back in 2005, when I first launched Nigel’s Eco Store, I headed to 100% Design for inspiration. I found Re:design, a side exhibition in Brick Lane. There were products there that got me really excited, but most were not yet in production, and those that were just weren’t a good fit with the store.

Fast forward 10 years, and designers have really woken up to the potential of eco-design. Recycled and reclaimed materials are being turned into lust-worthy objects. Brands like Morph and Tense are bringing together carpenters, designers and technicians to use wood in ways that have never been thought of before. Clothing brands, such as Po-zu, are using natural materials like corn husk in place of plastics. It’s truly a great time for eco-design.

Po-zu use coco husk in their shoes
Po-zu use coco husk in their shoes

We’re starting small… with just a handful of hand-picked designers. Some of these are brands I’ve come across over the years. My Tense watch, for example, is as much a part of my ‘look’ as my glasses. Others have popped up in the news or on social media; Ashton Kutcher and Kylie have tweeted about the Hu2 wall decals. And others I’ve literally scoured design shows and the internet for.

Ashton Kutcher uses them, and Kylie tweeted about Hu2's stickers
Ashton Kutcher uses them, and Kylie tweeted about Hu2’s stickers

Once we’re really up and running, we’ll be adding a lot of new designers, brands and artisans to the mix. All the products will have some kind of eco-credentials, whether they’re Fairtrade, recycled, re-purposed, or just designed to make green living easier. But we’re equally as happy to collaborate with a work-at-home mum in Cornwall as we are a big(ish) Canadian brand. This isn’t about mass production, it’s about eco-items that are dare I say it, damn sexy.

Tense watches are made from sustainable sources and offcuts
Tense watches are made from sustainable sources and offcuts

So do take a look at marketplace.nigelsecostore.com, and if you know of any designers or makers we should invite on board, please leave us a comment below.
 
 

A Guide to an Energy Efficient Home

This is a handy infographic about Energy Efficiency

With thanks to Boiler Juice
With thanks to Boiler Juice

Kitchen
Eco Kettle: Consider replacing your standard kettle with an energy saving kettle. These handy gadgets use vacuum flask technology to keep water hot for longer.

Boiler: Around 55% of home energy costs are related to your boiler. Get yours serviced annually to make sure it is working efficiently and reduce the chance of expensive breakdowns or maintenance issues.

Microwave: Research has apparently shown that heating food up in a microwave rather than using the oven could save you money. Typical Saving: Uses about 50% less energy.

Living Room
Ecobutton: This handy USB device powers down your computer quickly when you want to take a break from your desk – a must-have if you’re working from home. Typical Saving: Approx. £50 per year

Chimney: Block your chimney or invest in a chimney balloon to reduce the amount of heat that is lost through your chimney. Typical Saving: Up to £153 a year.

Radiator: Look after your radiators! Bleed radiators regularly to make sure they are working as efficiently as possible.

Thermostat: Sometimes a small change can make a big difference. Dial your thermostat down by just 1°C to save on your heating bills. Typical Saving: Up to ?60 per year.

Bedroom
Cavity Wall Insulation: Take advantage of free cavity wall insulation as part of government-backed schemes. Typical Saving: Up to 15% on fuel bills.

Light Bulbs: If you’re still using incandescent lightbulbs, it’s time to make the switch to LEDs. Typical Saving: Incandescent bulbs use up to 75% less energy.

Plug Sockets: Unplug devices when they aren’t in use. Even if your TV is on standby it’s still using power – it all adds up!

Windows: Natural light is free light! Take advantage of the sun during those summer months rather than automatically switching on lights.

Bathroom
Shower Pressure: One high-pressure shower could use more energy than a bath – turn down your water pressure to save on those bills.

Shower Timer: A shower timer can help you to reduce your bathroom time and save on your water bills. Typical Saving: Up to £150 per year for a family of four.

Ditch the Batteries: Using battery-powered devices in the bathroom uses more power than mains-operated devices. Ditch the batteries, or switch to a manual razor to save on your bills.

Dual Flush Toilet: If you’re refitting your bathroom, invest in a dual flush toilet to save on your water bills. Typical Saving: Up to 69,000 litres of water per year for a family of four.

Loft
Insulation: Invest in cavity wall insulation and loft insulation (a minimum of 270mm) to insulate your home and save on heating bills. Typical Saving: Up to £250 per year.

Let us know if you find this useful.

8 simple things you can do for the planet inspired by Earth Day

It was Earth Day on 22nd April. If you missed it among the UK election coverage, here’s 8 simple things you can do for the planet.

earth day 1970
Earth Day 1970

Earth Day came and went largely unnoticed in the UK this year. I did see a few pieces in the media on it: in the Guardian and the Independent.

The Uk election coverage has been all consuming, but around the world millions of people people took part in this year’s Earth Day – it’s 45th year – to support environmental campaigns and to act to secure a healthy future for themselves and their children.

They attended events about climate change, they planted trees, they cleaned up parks and streams; President Obama made a speech, and even the Pope spoke about it.

Since 2011 almost 1.5 billion pledges to protect the planet and live a more sustainable life have been made because of Earth Day – from washing laundry in cold water and riding a bike instead of driving, to planting a garden, to large-scale lightbulb changes and renewable energy retrofits.

Earth Day 2015
Earth Day 2015

Earth Day is a very positive initiative, and after it the pictures in the Guardian of what we’re doing to our planet make depressing viewing, but we need to see them. Especially in the UK, where the effects of a changing climate and human environmental destruction are harder to see.

If you’re moved by Earth Day or by those pictures to take some action in your own life, here are 8 simple things you can do that will make a positive difference to the lives of people, animals and nature all over the planet:

  • Eat less meat
    the meat industry generates nearly one-fifth of the man-made greenhouse gas emissions worldwide. Make a difference and eat less meat.
  • Reduce your energy consumption
    almost a third of the greenhouse gas emissions come from the energy we use to power our homes and our cars – reduce your consumption and cut bills too.
  • Compost waste food
    more than 7 million tonnes of food are thrown away every year in the UK, make a difference by turning waste food
    into good soil.
  • Turn down the temperature on your boiler
    the average boiler wastes energy heating water to temperatures that are too hot for our use – save energy and money by turning the temperature down.
  • Buy local produce
    Eat healthier and help reduce your carbon footprint by buying local produce
  • Avoid using plastic
    help end our obsession with plastic and protect the environment – carry your own bag and water bottle.
  • Use solar power
    Retrofitting your home or business with solar panels allows you to reduce your energy costs and help the environment.
  • Stop standby energy
    Every year millions of kilowatt hours of electricity are wasted by appliances that aren’t on, but still consuming energy. Help end this and switch appliances off when not in use.

At Nigel’s Eco Store, we’re a small part of a global movement trying to create a more sustainable world.

If you’d like to join in, here are just a few of the things we can help you with:
Help save bees
Choose organic school clothes
Get some solar lights and use a solar torch
Save energy at home
Save water

 

What actions will you take? Let us know…

 

7 ways to save energy in Spring

The daffodils are out and the bluebells and warmer weather are on the way. You may not have the heating on as much, but it’s still worth doing a few easy things to save energy and money at home this Spring.

save energy

You’re using the heating less, but there are still a few simple things you can do to improve energy efficiency of your home as the temperature warms up. Here’s our handy guide:

1. Switch to more energy efficiency light bulbs and save around £35 per year
You can now get energy efficient LED blubs that are bright enough to replace every kind of halogen and incandescent bulb. They’ll save more energy than the old style compact fluorescent lamps too, so now’s a good time to switch.

2. Stop using the tumble dryer
Tumble dryers are one of the most energy hungry household appliances. They use four times as much energy as a washing machine. Now that the weather is better, dry clothes on a washing line outside instead and save about £70 a year. If you’re worried about rain showers, get one of these washing line covers, they work just like an umbrella and will keep your clothes dry when it’s raining.

3. Save water in the shower
Heating water is the second largest energy use in the home (after heating). If you have a power shower, combi boiler, condensing boiler or a dedicated shower pump, a water saving shower head is guaranteed to save on water and heating bills.

radiator booster
the new Radiator Booster Turbo can save £70 to £140 a year

4. Stop leaving your appliances on standby
If you leave your TV, hifi, play station or computer on standby instead of turning them off completely, it could be costing you around £30 a year. Instead, plug them in to a standby saver, which will automatically switch off unused items, helping you to save money and energy.

5. Turn your thermostat down by one degree
Every degree you can turn your heating down saves about £60 to £70 a year. It’s an easy way to cut your energy bills especially at this time of year. Get a Radiator Booster for when the nights are a little chilly to avoid cranking the heating up too high.

energy saving kettle
an energy saving kettle is worth investing in

6. Use an Energy Saving Kettle
Every time you use a kettle, the chances are that you boil more water than you need. “Overfilling the kettle costs British households £68 million on energy bills a year” say the Energy Saving Trust, so try to only boil the water you need, or invest in an energy saving kettle.

7. Service your boiler
An inefficient boiler could cost you up to 30% of your gas bill (approx £300). You may not be using the heating as much, but you’re still using hot water, so now’s a good time to get it checked.


 

More experiments with making fire without matches

A couple of weeks ago, I went on a Fire Making Masterclass led by the brilliant Robert Fallon of Wild Nature. (there’s another one coming up here).

fire starting kit

Since then I’ve been experimenting with making fire without matches, using a fire making kit from Fox and Fire.

It’s been rather interesting.

Their Fire in a Tin fire starter kit contains several natural tinders that all take sparks differently. Some better than others, but all are materials that are found in nature.

Natural tinders in the Fox and Fire kit
Natural tinders in the Fox and Fire kit

The tin comes with a Light My Fire fire steel, which is one of the easiest tools for making sparks.

fire making kit

You just need to catch the spark on some tinder… these are the natural tinders in the tin:

Silver Birch Bark
This light, thin bark takes a spark well, even when wet. It helps your tinder catch fire – a small handful should be enough. If you need more, pull a few thin strips off a silver birch tree. But only take what the tree is offering (that’ll make sense when you’re in front of one.)

Reed Mace (Bulrush)
The fluffy down from a dried bulrush head is really great for catching sparks. Like cotton wool, Reed Mace catches fire and burns out very quickly, it works better if you mix some fluff with birch bark – the reed mace goes up easily, and is enough to get the bark going. If it’s windy though, the reed mace flies away really easily, so keep it out of the wind.

Cramp Balls
This is one of the best natural tinders. Cramp Balls are a black ball-shaped fungus found growing on dead Ash branches. Also called King Alfred Cakes and Coal Fungus, I found loads in the woods when I went for a walk last week. They need to be dried, and then cut open. If you drop a spark from a fire steel onto one, an ember starts really quickly. Once lit they will smoulder away for a really long time.

Cotton Wool Balls
I discovered that cotton wool balls catch fire really easily. The slightest spark from a fire steel will ignite them, but though they don’t burn for long. Fluff them up a little for best results.

How can we tackle the UK’s dirty beach problem?

Today there have been news reports about a big rise in litter, and wet wipes in particular, being found on UK beaches. We need to do more.

Many people flush wet wipes down the toilet instead of putting them in the bin, according to a report by the Marine Conservation Society.

Wet wipes don’t easily disintegrate, and our sewer systems can’t process them.

The Marine Conservation Society’s 2014 British Beach Clean found an alarming 2,457 pieces of litter on each kilometre of beach they cleaned and surveyed.

They discovered that the amount of rubbish on Britain’s coasts has risen by 6.4% from 2013 to 2014.
Beaches in Wales had the highest litter levels, followed by England, while rubbish on coastlines in Scotland and Northern Ireland fell, it said.

“We’ve got a massive amount of evidence that not enough is being done to tackle the litter in the seas and on our beaches,” the Society said.

They found 101 different types of litter – the image below shows how much of each.

Depressing stuff.

How can we tackle the UK litter problem?

Uk beach litter breakdown

A guide to… making fire with flint and steel

Even with modern day tools, making a fire in the woods or in the middle of a field, is an art that needs a little practice. It can be more rewarding though to make a fire without matches, in the way our ancestors did, using a flint and steel fire making kit instead. It’s easy when you know how.

fire

Ever wondered how our ancestors made fire for thousands of years before matches and lighters were invented?

While experts agree the origins of stone tools date back at least 2.5 million years, the origin of making and using fire is not totally clear. The earliest evidence of humans making and using fire ranges from 200,000 to 400,000 years ago.

Back then, people would have made fire by friction, by rubbing sticks together to create a glowing coal, or by striking things together to make sparks, that would then be transferred to a tinder bundle, which would burst into flame.

Our ancestors would have been experts in making fires in this way, and of knowing which materials would make the best tinder, or, like King Alfred’s Cakes, keep an ember glowing for long enough to use for several fires.

Last year, thanks to Ruby Taylor of Native Hands, I learned to make a fire using a flint and steel fire making kit. It’s strangely satisfying and feels a more natural, and appropriate way of making fire. It’s also a useful survival skill and great bushcraft.

I’ve been using a great flint and steel kit from Fox and Fire, which has some ignition extenders – silver birch bark and natural kapok – included with it.

fire making kit

So here’s my guide to making a fire using traditional methods.

There are 3 things you need to make fire:

  • oxygen
  • fuel
  • ignition

So before you start, you need:

  • A tinder bundle: a big handful of dry grass, dry leaves, or similar – made into a ‘nest’
  • To ensure your fire bed (or fire tepee) is ready and prepared with kindling / twigs / wood of various sizes, and ready to accept your burning tinder bundle

How to use a flint and steel fire kit to make fire

flint and steel kit

These instructions are for right-handers. Do the opposite for left-handers:

  • Hold the flint in your left hand so that one of its longer sharp edges is at a 45 degree angle, facing your right hand.
  • Lay a piece of char cloth the size of a postage-stamp on the top (flat) side of the flint, and hold it there with your left thumb.
  • Keep the char cloth close to the sharp edge of the flint, a little back from the edge
    Hold the striker vertically in your right hand
  • To make sparks, bring the striker down at a 30 degree angle across the edge of the flint. Following through with long strokes will help.
  • Keep striking down until the char cloth catches a spark – this usually happens at the edge of the char cloth and might take one or two goes.
  • When a spark catches on the char cloth, it’ll glow red, you can blow gently on it to help it spread.
  • Place the glowing ember in your tinder nest, then blow hard or waft the nest, it’ll make smoke first, then burst into flame.
  • Transfer the burning tinder into your fire bed and cover with kindling, and voila, your fire will get going!



You can buy a fire making kit at Fox and Fire, and also find out more about workshops and classes based around making fire in the wild, here.

How do you make fire?
 
 

How to save up to £60 a month: use these innovative food savers to throw out less food

There’s something about all the over-indulging of food and drink during the festive period that makes January feel like a welcome relief – despite the cold weather. But it’s not just the amount we consume that feels a bit over the top, it’s also what we don’t use…

A recent Daily Mail article said that as a country we wasted about £64 million of food this Christmas.

That’s just crazy.

And we throw a lot of unused food out throughout the rest of the year too: about 24 meals worth ?60 a month, according to a recent report.

Like everyone, I end up reluctantly binning food occasionally but I’ve found some great inventions that make food last longer, and we’ve added them to Nigel’s Eco Store.

food save

For example, the breathable Banana Store keeps bananas fresh for about twice as long as normal – no more overripe brown ones.

This useful Onion Keeper solves the problem of the half-used onion slowly going off in the fridge.

And these stylish, stainless steel food containers make leftovers definitely worth eating.

Since using some of these food savers (there’s more here), I’ve really noticed how much less I throw out. And I’m not spending as much on replacing what I was wasting.

It’s surprisingly easy to do.

So how do you save food?
 
 

How to install a Loft Store Floor on stilts, to protect your loft insulation

Watch this video to see how to install an easy, safe DIY storage deck in your loft that sits on stilts and protects your loft insulation.

(You can buy StoreFloor from us here.)

Most of us know it is important to insulate the loft, because if you don’t, up to 25% of your heating bills disappear through the roof.

It’s cheap and relatively easy to install loft insulation for this: it pays for itself quickly, and it’ll help you to feel warmer in the winter and cooler at night in the summer.

The recommended depth for loft insulation is 270mm.

But as ceiling joists tend to be only 75mm or 100mm high, 270mm of loft insulation makes it impossible to see them, making it difficult to move around safely.

And if you do insulate your loft to 270mm, and then flatten it with boxes or other household belongings, the insulation then won’t work very well.

StoreFloor solves this by using modular metal rails to make an easy DIY raised deck in your loft, on stilts, that you can use for storage space, that fully protects the insulation underneath.

Let us know how you get on with it.
 
 

Read this if you’re having problems with your Vektra Vacuum Kettle

From time to time, electrical products do go wrong, but sometimes there’s an easy way to fix them. So if you’re having trouble with your Vektra Vacuum Kettle, and it doesn’t seem to be working, please try these simple tips first:

1. The water inside is still hot
Vektra kettles have an internal thermostat, and if the water in the kettle is still boiling hot, it won’t reboil. Once it’s cooled down, it should boil again (though we recommend using the hot water inside it first!)

2. The kettle has been boiled dry
If you boiled the kettle dry at some, the safety cut-out will have kicked in. This will stop it boiling. If this is the case, it’ll need re-setting, by unplugging and leaving for an hour or two. It should work fine after that.

3. If you live in a hard water area
If you live in a hard water area, there may be a build up of scale which affects performance of the thermostat, you could try descaling it. It will work better after descaling.

If none of these work, it may be faulty, in which case, if you bought it from us and it’s within warranty, we can of course replace it quickly.

Please try the above and let us know how you get on?

How to add EndoTherm to your central heating

EndoTherm is a central heating additive that could save you up to 15% on your heating bills. Here’s how to install it…

I’ve used EndoTherm myself, it was a little fiddly, but it takes only about 10-15 minutes to install it once you’ve got the hang of switching off the radiator, and as long as you have the right tools on hand.

Here’s a video that shows you how to do it:

How many bottles to use?

For homes and domestic situations:
Less than 12 radiators: 1 bottle
12 to 25 Radiators: 2 bottles
More than 25 radiators: 3 bottles

For commercial situations, please contact me.

Endotherm is safe to use with Fernox and is also okay to use with plastic, copper and steel pipes.

EndoTherm will last for a minimum of 4 years, and then needs re-applying.

You can buy EndoTherm here.

Let me know how you get on with it?
 
 

How to check if your Radiator Booster is working, or not

Just received a radiator booster and can’t seem to get it to work? It may be something very simple… here we explain what to do

A Radiator Booster is an innovative energy saving gadget that improves the efficiency of radiators, to make your home warmer, and cut your bills. Here’s a short video that shows it in action.
(NB the booster will also work fine if it sits ontop of the radiator, as far back to the wall as it can go.)

As with many new products though, there can be a learning curve to get them working, and the Radiator Booster is no different. In case you’re overlooking some basics, here’s some things to check:

1. Check the radiator is turned on and is hot at the top
Radiator boosters only come on when the radiator is hot enough. As a rough guide you should not be able to hold onto the top of the radiator for more than 5 to 10 seconds with your hand. (this ensures that the radiator is not full of air and the heating system is switched on and up to temperature).

2. Make sure it’s the right way up
Check the Radiator Booster is placed on top of the radiator with the hole facing down (we’ve had calls to ask which way up to fit it).

3. Check it’s plugged in and the power is on
Check the Radiator Booster adapter is plugged in to a mains socket and that the mains socket is switched on (common mistake – forgetting to switch on).

4. Do the lights come on?
Does the red light on the front of booster come on when power is turned on? It should. And when the booster is plugged in and put on top of a hot radiator, the green light should come on to show that it’s at the right temperature, and working.

5. Give it time to work
Allow 10 minutes or so for the heat to reach the thermostat sensor (in practice it will be quicker than this).

6. Check that the fan has come on
The fan can be hard to see and hear, as the fan is quiet and the blades are not visible when the fan is turning. (This is another common mistake – the fan sits behind the X-shaped, fan-like fixed piece of plastic that you see when you look through the end, so it’s easy to be fooled into thinking that the fan’s not moving, when in fact it is.) If in doubt, a slither of paper poked into the fan will quickly show if the fan is moving or not.

7. Allow a couple of hours for the Radiator Booster to do its thing
Allow a couple of hours for the booster to do its thing, it’s worth noting that the effect is not instant, and the air movement is designed to be slow and gentle. If you’re in any doubt as to whether it works, have a look at the reviews (they’re on the reviews tab half way down the page).

To get a more accurate idea of the effect of Radiator Booster, make sure the door(s) to the room is closed – this will make the benefits of Radiator Booster more noticeable in a shorter period of time.

If all the above are checked and the unit is working, it will definitely improve the heat mix in a room, and allow you to turn your thermostat down, to save you money!

If anything is awry, please get in touch and we can work out how to fix it.

Let us know how you get on?

 

 

How to fit Floorboard Gap Seal to stop draughts coming through your floorboards

Wondering how to fit Floorboard Gap Seal? Watch this handy video, which shows you how to do it.

Wooden floorboards look great, but they can be draughty: in a typical home, 15% of the heat is lost through the floor.

In a room with around 25 floorboards, there’s an average gap area of almost 4 feet, that’s equivalent to leaving a small window open!

Rather than cranking up the heating, stop the draughts by filling the gaps with this easy-to-use, flexible sealant.

Let us know how you get on?

 

 

How to fit an Ecoflap letterbox draught excluder

Want to stop letterbox draughts but not sure how to fit an Ecoflap letterbox draught excluder? We’ve got together this handy video, which shows you how to do it.

An Ecoflap draught excluder fits onto the inside of your front door, and is designed to stop draughts and bad weather from getting through your letterbox.

It’s quick and easy to install.

The clever thing about an Ecoflap is that the way it’s hinged means that it uses the wind to blow it shut, so it is totally draught proof, and adjusts automatically to any size of delivery – up to A4 and including thickish newspapers and magazines.

If you’re wondering whether it’ll fit your door, there’s a size and dimensions guide here.

Let us know how you get on?