Environmentally fashionable

One look at the catwalk at this spring’s round of fashion weeks is enough to remind you what an ever-changing beast fashion is. And there is absolutely no question about it, the most fashionable cause right now – disallowing adopting babies from developing countries – is that of the environment.

Which is all very well for the hip young thing buying clothes from People Tree, but, please, spare a thought for the parents! They have become some of the most unfashionable people on the whole planet: country house-owning, 4×4-driving, holiday-homing people. And as the present Government moves towards allowing only carbon neutral houses to be built by 2016 one can hardly be comforted by the hope that perhaps a new administration might take a different tack: Mr Cameron was extremely keen to show off the wind turbine placed on his house in Notting Hill, and who can forget his expedition to the arctic, as he dashed across the ice on a sled pulled by a pack of photogenic huskies?

So like it or lump it this new era must be embraced. The newest trend for owners of country piles seems is therefore jumping on the sledge of sustainability and joining in, possibly at the expense of the more traditional aspects of country living; Bertie Wooster may well have drawn the line at splashing around in a borehole.

However, needs must, so here is a list of the main ways the fashion-conscious can regain some shreds of credibility, by making some changes at home to help the environment, and help your credibility at the same time.

Out – Swimming pool In – Borehole

The heated outdoor pool is a perfect example of not hot to do it for any self-respecting green crusader. Not only does all the energy required to heat the pool constitute a criminal waste, but this mortification needs to be multiplied when you consider how little it’s used. Much more up-to-the-minute is to drill a hole into the earth in which you can find natural sources of water, or heat from which you can extract your own energy. Not much use for laps before breakfast though.

Out: Topiary In: wildflower meadows:

All the careful planning, and chopping and strimming required to achieve the outlandish plant/animal combination of topiary also must be the antithesis of the zeitgeist for aligning oneself with nature, rather than seeking to become its master. A wildflower field takes lots of time and encouragement but the rewards are many, and ongoing. Not only does it make for a very pretty piece of land, but these meadows also encourage birds and insects which make them wonderful for one of the key watchwords of the environmentally aware: biodiversity.

Out: Tennis court In: solar panels

Once upon a time an all-weather tennis court was the thing to have to entertain guests of a somewhat energetic nature who liked spending time outdoors, but now laying down the all-weather surface, and maintaining it year after year is seen as a selfish pursuit. Installing solar panels on the roof, using some of the energy and selling the rest back to the National Grid is much more fun, and could make you extra cash! Now what game of tennis ever turned a profit in England outside of SW19?

Out Folly In: Composting shed

Building a folly is the ultimate act of, well, folly. Aside from providing convenient places for murder victims to be discovered in Agatha Christie novels, and illicit unions, follies had little purpose than to exist as testament to an owner’s taste, or the size of their pockets. Surely a more modern use for these outdoor indoor spaces would be to create a composting shed, where manure and other organic matter can happily decompose, although admittedly this may well put an abrupt halt to the amorous liaisons, if not the murders.

Out: Architectural features In: Wind turbines

Many of the houses being built in this new age of environmental awareness are as energy efficient as possible, as opposed to the draughty, hard to heat traditional country house, and very different architecturally as a result. Solar water heaters, tip top insulation and an old-fashioned wood burning stove all play their part in energy saving. Style wise, the architectural flourishes of various styles from cornices to cornerstones are now trumped by the humble wind turbine for those lucky enough to build on a hill, and smooth clean lines.

However, either in the garden or atop the house, a wind turbine may not be the most aesthetically pleasing feature, but it will, driven by the forces of fashion, undoubtedly be the most admired.