When hearing or reading the term 'Eco', many thoughts spring to mind in the form of the modern hashtag. #Natural, #environmentallyfriendly, #green, #wood, #campaigners, #fuelefficient and many more come and go. But I can't help but feel that the word Eco has been diluted over the years with the mass use of the word to support campaigns against environmental damage, marketing literature for 'green' products or services claiming to be eco friendly. With the increase of this, it makes you wonder if all the claims are accurate to what the original ideology of eco actually is.
The official definition of eco is 'not harming the environment'. The way this is measured and who judges this is probably the reason why the word has lost its real meaning over time. There are accreditation schemes in most countries to measure and certify this, however some products are still marketed as being eco-friendly regardless. This makes me think that the word eco from a consumers point of view has developed more into a philosophy rather than a measurable impact on our surrounding environment. Different people will have different views on how eco their lifestyles are based on the products they wash their clothes with, what they wear and how they transport themselves around. With that in mind, I wanted to experience what I thought true eco was.
We found this Eco Pod in the Peak District and made it our home for a few nights. Its features included insulated walls with exterior timber cladding, solar panels with off grid electricity, compost toilet, no mains water supply, internal rocket fire heater and an external fire pit. All of these features provided a very back to basics experience of living. One real eye opener was the usage of water, whether it be for washing dishes or using the shower. When you rely on filling your own 40L water barrel up from a mains supply 50 meters away, it soon becomes clear how much water is consumed in our daily activities. Being in physical contact with the fuel needed to keep the pod warm meant our fingers were on the pulse of our consumable materials. Each stick fed into the fire sparked the thought that there was another tree standing out there somewhere that is destined to be fed into this furnace.
It was interesting to experience the absence of daily conveniences we take for granted in a modern house. However, the thought I was left with was that we had not reduced the impact we had on the environment, it was more the scale of what we were doing had reduced significantly. Our water consumption reduced, we burnt wood carefully ensuring we had enough to last through the night, we used electricity when the sun was strong and we appreciated the insulation of the building fabric for conserving the heat.
I struggled to come away and say I had a truly eco few days, but I felt assured that the philosophy and ideology of being eco is on most peoples minds, at least that is a start. Until eco innovation and manufacturing really pulls ahead, we will always be having some sort of negative impact on our environment. The first step is to acknowledge and accept our individual impacts, and look to reduce the impact where we can.