I grew up amongst a group of green advocates. I was made aware of the horrors of fossil fuel use, water wastage, recycling errors and the like at an early and impressionable age, and monitoring, say, my toilet-flushing habits or light switch usage has (at times somewhat sadly) become second nature.
It was therefore a total no-brainer that any house I would one day perhaps acquire would need to be - or become - an ecohouse. The trouble started when we fell in love with a 17th century cottage that was well beyond its sell-by date. Trying to combine the need to conserve the old building fabric with energy efficiency was a long journey, mainly because it turned out that almost nobody had done it before and that nobody could help us do it. We also found out along the way that we had every well-known problem, and then some. All we could do was to become our own experts and, to the deep regret of the DIY-hating husband, our own builders (a good work-out). I was nevertheless convinced that the outcome would be fantastic. And it was. The cottage is now green, sustainable, energy-efficient, warm, beautiful, damp-free, renovated to proper conservation standards and with all mod cons. And, no, we're not rich and it didn't cost us more then it would have cost doing a standard renovation. It did need a bit of thinking, but that doesn't seem a big investment if it means we can both look after the environment and our own comfort and happiness. When I look around the village and see how many people live in cold, uncomfortable houses and are unhappy with their oil-heating and environmental performance I dearly wish more would follow suit with just a small improvement or two.
(click photos to enlarge)