Green Goddess Columns
Thursday, 3 May 2007


Recently I've had a spate of invitations to speak at various eco gatherings. Public speaking is an alarming prospect, but in the spirit that if it doesn't kill you it'll make you stronger, I've been saying yes to them all. Besides, nothing will ever be as terrifying as throwing myself off the top of a telegraph post strapped to a safety harness on a course with Tony Robbins, the uber life-coach. People think fire walking is scary, but that's just a question of running fast. Anyway I digress.

Often there is a panel of green "experts" at these eco dos, and every time I'm the only woman in a sea of men. I'm usually put up in a hotel the night before, which can be hit and miss. Like the princess and the organic pea, things have to be just right - a stain in the wrong place and I fret all night.

In one town, S and I stayed in a hotel where the only room left was the honeymoon suite. Here we were confronted by a pair of wilting fake red roses in grimy vases and a dusty balconette overlooking the ring road. And the stains! Ugh!I bet Al Gore doesn't have to put up with this kind of malarkey.

Things looked up in Newcastle. I'd been invited to take part in a discussion about the ecological merits of wood heat, and put up in the very comfortable Malmaison, part of a chain of small British hotels that are greening up their act with the introduction of menus focusing on regional food.

Strangely, the hotel décor is completely black; perfect for a femme d'un certain âge. But after the honeymoon suite I wasn't complaining.

Wood is a great unsung form of energy. Wood burning stoves are used extensively in Scandinavia yet despite the great swathes of forestry in this country, it is practically ignored as a form of fuel.

This is a shame when you consider that wood fuel is cheaper than oil and gas and offers the highest level of carbon saving of any renewable energy technology, as the carbon released through the burning of wood fuel is equal to the carbon the tree absorbed during growth.

Wood heat does not "de-forest" the region. Controlled forestry stimulates tree planting while managed woodland is excellent for bio-diversity and wildlife.

Modern wood heat boilers are classed as A grade efficient, meaning than over 90 per cent of all energy used is converted to heat.

I'm so impressed I've ordered my own. S has been busy cleaning the chimney in preparation. No good deed goes unpunished and indeed he has just been rewarded by 150 years of detritus falling on his head.

Every chimney has a silver lining and I console him that a pair of sooty "sides" are most becoming for the homme d'un certain âge and have wiped off 10 years overnight. Who needs Grecian 2000?

www.newheat.org - for information about wood heat

www.stovesareus.com - sell a wide range of wood burning stoves

www.naturalcollection.com - sell log makers.

www.malmaison.com - boutique hotel chain with regional and organic food menus



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