Surrey's green revolution: reduce, reuse, recycle

In a bid to help us all reduce our carbon footprint, Surrey County Council has teamed up with design guru Oliver Heath to highlight the benefits of adopting a greener lifestyle at home and at work. MATTHEW WILLIAMS spoke to the eco-chic expert

Originally published in Surrey Life magazine June 2008In a bid to help us all reduce our carbon footprint, Surrey County Council has teamed up with design guru Oliver Heath to highlight the many benefits of adopting a greener lifestyle at home and at work. MATTHEW WILLIAMS spoke to the eco-chic expert to find out moreHe shot to fame through TV shows such as Home front and Changing Rooms, is well-known as a passionate supporter of environmental issues and has even launched his own range of eco-friendly products. Now, home style guru Oliver Heath has set his sights firmly on Surrey after teaming up with Surrey County Council to support their new campaign - 'There are 3Rs in Surrey: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle'. The idea is simple: to encourage all Surrey residents and businesses to do their bit to reduce the amount of waste we produce, reuse whatever we can and recycle as much as possible of what's left. "Environmental awareness has gone from being 'that weird thing that hippy, sandal-wearing types bang on about' to something that people genuinely want to get involved with," says Oliver. "In the past, global warming meant Hurricane Katrina and the melting of the ice caps etc and so people tended to distance them-selves slightly from it. But recent years have seen natural disasters occurring on our own shores and people are starting to pay a little bit more attention."

Reducing our footprint What Surrey County Council hopes to do is to bring this thinking into our own homes by highlighting how even the smallest changes can make a difference.

"One of the reasons I got involved in this campaign is because it's so thorough and comprehensive," continues Oliver. "The website ( gives the people of Surrey everything they need to know about what they can recycle and where they can do it. It's great to have everything in one place. People are keen to become more environmentally aware and schemes like this make it easier to understand and put it into action." As part of the 3Rs campaign, the council has also introduced further initiatives that could see Surrey returning to an old-fashioned bartering system of sorts, where skills and unwanted items can be offered instead of actual money. "People tend to throw things away when they are finished with, forgetting that someone else may well still have a use for them," says Oliver. "But the council's popular new scheme, Swap It Surrey (, means that people can put unwanted items online and possibly find them a new home. You can ask for items in return or swap them for a service, such as help in your garden or fixing a leak." The public can be notoriously resistant to change, and I wonder how easy it can really be for people to make these sorts of alterations without disrupting the patterns they are used to in their day-to-day lives. "It's pretty simple," Oliver insists. "People can easily reduce the resources coming into the home - not only gas, water, electricity and so on but also by buying loose fruit and veg. In fact, buying anything loose rather than pre-packaged is beneficial. "Composting waste is a great idea too; it not only reduces waste but also has potential benefits in the garden. We only have a certain amount of landfill left and one day that will be used up. Not only is the methane created from these sites unhealthy but they aren't a sustainable solution. So any way we can help people to stop sending so much to them is a good thing." Why eco-chic rules However, he is keen to remind people that being environmentally friendly doesn't mean that our homes and offices can't be aesthetically pleasing; far from it.

"At the end of the day, I'm a designer," he says. "I want my home, as most people do, to have a beautiful aesthetic. People want friends to walk into their home and say 'this looks beautiful' - that's one of the reasons I got so interested in eco-chic." This isn't the first time that Oliver has brought his eco-chic ideas to Surrey. Back in 2006, he was chosen as the designer for a show home at the BedZED eco-village development in Wallington."It was really exciting to be involved in the project because at the time it hadn't really been done before," he says. "All the materials we used had been chosen for their environmental benefits. We had kitchen cupboards made from recycled vending machine coffee cups; natural flooring; and low toxicity eco-paints to reduce allergies." By most accounts, environmental awareness is only going to increase, but one of the main factors that has put many people off is the perceived time and cost being green entails. "Well, hopefully with this project, we've given people enough information to prove that it isn't going to be that time intensive," concludes Oliver. "There are so many easy, quick things that can make all the difference. Also, I am hoping to show people that it really doesn't have to be expensive - in fact the opposite, it can save money in the long run." I guess, in the end, what it comes down to is that we can all do our little bit to help - and it needn't cost us the earth.

For more information on the '3Rs in Surrey campaign', visit the website: To keep track of what Oliver is up to, visit his website,, or see his online store for more ideas:

Handy hints for a green home makeover

Use charity shops, Swap It furniture schemes ( or eBay to find old items that can be transformed into beautiful features for your home Reduce or reuse the amount of furniture and DIY goods you throw away - can the item be fixed or be made good as new with a makeover? Recycle wherever possible - and take unwanted items to a charity shop or boot fair Go green around the home - look into eco-friendly, sustainable furniture and paint Check out markets where you can often pick up great furniture and repaint it to fit your needs When buying that new sofa, get something that is durable with removable covers. If the covers are removable you can always dye them later to freshen things up Buying old lights is a good way to add character to your home. Chandeliers and retro lights fitted up with low energy bulbs, give you the perfect mix of looks and efficiency

Visit an eco-chic Surrey show homeIn 2006, Oliver Heath teamed up with environmental charity Bioregional to add his designer touch to the Beddington Zero Energy Development (BedZED) in Wallington. BedZED is the UK's largest carbon-neutral eco-community and was the first of its kind in this country. Oliver was responsible for creating the site's eco-chic show home, where you will find a whole host of ideas for green living, which is open Monday to Friday, 9.30am to 5pm.

BedZED Centre, 24 Helios Road, Wallington SM6 7BZ. Tel: 020 8404 4880 

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