While some new-build houses already come with integrated renewable energy features like solar panels or wind turbines, many do not and the motivation to add on these energy sources can be low. Sustainability presenter, writer and founding director of Beyond Green Joanna Yarrow doesn’t think this is laziness on the homeowners part. She believes people are reluctant to adapt to renewable energy technology in their homes because the government keep changing the goalposts.
The 38-year-old, who lives in Sussex, says: “Even for people who want to create renewable energy for and from their homes, the playing field is always changing and the policy is always shifting. The solar panels tariff is a clear example of this – a lot of people have lost enthusiasm or gone out of business because of the changes there. We are given initiatives encouraging us as individuals to save energy in our own home but they keep shifting. The government needs to have the same agenda as the people who want to adopt these technologies in their homes.”
Joanna splits her time between running Beyond Green, a sustainability consultancy she founded in 2001, running family business Wilderness Woods, a 62-acre sustainable woodland retreat, and a wide range of media work. She’s recently become the face of sustainability on ITV Daybreak, she’s also presented on ITV Tonight and 60 Minute Makeover. As if all that is not enough, she’s also the author of several books on sustainability, including the international hit ‘1,001 Ways You Can Save The Planet’, that aim to make green living easy.
Tell me about how you got into sustainability?
It all started with Wilderness Woods - the retreat where I grew up with my parents in the 1970s. It was an upbringing inspired by TV show the ‘The Good Life’ which is still going strong as a family-run woodland. I grew up with very direct access to nature and at school I set up an area group and sold newts at lunch time which was probably illegal. After university I worked at Friends of The Earth in Italy. I freelanced as a sustainability consultant but became
frustrated as I could only take a project so far so I set up Beyond Green in 2001. Over the last five years I’ve been writing books and presenting TV programs as sustainability has gathered mainstream attention.
Can you tell me about a few projects that Beyond Green have done?
We’ve been involved in a huge range of projects from helping to found the Earth Centre in Doncaster to doing a lot of regeneration work in housing areas of Newcastle and Manchester. One of those areas we helped regenerate was New East Manchester around the Walker Riverside area. We also helped with the Olympic legacy in East London and ran all the community consultations. We are currently working on projects at Earl’s Court and King’s Cross.
What do you think about the push for sustainability in newbuilds and does more need to be done?
Obviously it is really welcome and absolutely about time. If you look at other European countries like Scandanavia and Germany, they are years ahead and can’t believe where we are at in the UK. We’ve been behind but it’s good to see that we’re now making big steps forward.
How would you like to see the government develop sustainability policy over the next 10 years?
A carbon taxation system, individuals being taxed on the amount of carbon they use, would make a lot of decisions that people are struggling with at the moment much easier. Failing that, I think there should be carbon targets for cities and local authorities. We’ve worked with some really forward-thinking city leaders, for instance Manchester city Council to develop a carbon strategy for Manchester. If you are thinking city wide you can get creative and give people a common aim. I think what we need next is a lot more public engagement. We’ve had the small stuff – people know they need to switch their lights off. We need proper, deeper engagement.