Have you seen the television show Green Make Over? If you haven’t, you should, as it will teach you all the simple, DIY ways to green your lifestyle, plus how to reduce your home’s negative emissions. You will see not only what you can do, but how you can do it. These days when everyone says they want to do something, but don’t know what to do or where to start, the show comes as the answer we all have been waiting for.
Created by independent filmmaker Gwen Jansen, Green Make Over airs weekly on channel SBS6 on Sunday afternoons, presented by Gwen herself. And thanks to her, I have had the amazing opportunity to come along on a filming day! How cool is that for someone who has herself been looking for ways to show people what they can do? I was beyond thrilled (still am, to be honest).
In the early morning in Amsterdam, the day started when the team went in: energy specialist, lighting specialist, landscaping specialist, insulation specialist, and sustainable finishing specialist. All of them find their places and start to work, while the director and the filming team, you guessed, film everything. Gwen stays on top of all the work, follows the script she has written herself, and does her job. So does Ruby, Gwen’s eldest daughter and the show’s teen vlogger, who always brings a handmade gift out of recycled materials for the homeowners. It is really amazing to see how everyone wears different hats and, like a well-oiled machine, make it all happen in one day.
Yes, I hear you say, they are a team of specialists and they know in advance what the given house needs to perform more sustainably. Do not let that be your excuse. This show demonstrates that you can give your home a green make over yourself, and based on what I’ve learned, here’s how you can go about it:
1) Look at your energy consumption and see what you want to improve. If you have a smart thermostat, or use your provider’s app, you should know exactly how much energy you spend and in what, for example, how much your washing machine spends, your shower, etc. You will also know how much you spend in comparison to your neighbors. Spending too much money is always a good motivation to act, but nowadays, getting completely rid of gas consumption is also a smart move and can actually bring up your house’s market value. Estimate how much you want to reduce in gas and electricity.
2) Go to your energy provider’s website. On your client area, explore the possibilities to reduce your overall energy consumption. The provider knows your house type, age, and overall condition with regards to insulation. Examples of the advice you can get are to add insulation, install solar panels or a solar powered heat pump. The website will even tell you about the governmental subsidies available for each measure. Finally, you will get all the calculations to help you decide, from annual savings to annual reduction in carbon emissions, to expected time for return on your investment. If the information from the provider is overwhelming and you still have questions, contact them personally, they will offer you advice on the telephone.
3) Another option would be to contact your Municipality. In large cities like Amsterdam, the Gemeente offers individual, free and customized advice for homeowners or tenants wishing to invest in energy savings. They will also provide you with information necessary to request subsidies that range from low cost loans to cash covering a high percentage of the whole project, depending on the savings that your project brings. The subsidies apply to renovations, replacement of lighting, insulation, new equipment, and much more, just like what is done on the show.
4) Learn about rainwater absorption, it is a very important sustainability topic in this country. If you have a garden, or a yard, does it have enough grass or non-tiled area to absorb rainwater? Investing in a larger planted area, without tiles, contributes to the maintenance of biodiversity of plants and insects, and also increases the water absorption area. Investments in green roofs, for example, are so valued that they can bring advantages in terms of our home insurance. Subsidies are available for planting trees and for green roofs, with the possibility of having the entire project subsidized, depending on your Municipalitiy and Province.
5) Get quotes from specialists according to the advice you got. Green Make Over’s website is, of course, a good source of information about professionals, but you can also check Milieu Centraal’s website for a complete list of professionals in your area. Additionally, get quotes for appliances you may need to replace, such as a refrigerator or a cooktop.
6) Check which jobs you can do yourself. There are stores specialized in DIY energy-saving gadgets, and you may be able to, for example, replace your lights with LED lighting, install a shower timer, install a kinetic doorbell, etc. You may also be able to bring new plants to your garden.
7) Plan financially and logistically, and start working! Because the Green Make Over team cannot help everyone at the same time, your project may last more than a day. So a good idea is to tackle your project one step at a time, according to your personal and financial possibilities. Starting from the small things and moving on to the bigger investments is a way to get acquainted with the project and transition more smoothly into the new reality.
I truly believe that the show is a great motivator because it demystifies “green”. So may people have the impression that a green lifestyle is complicated, including Gwen a few years ago, when she started her research. That is why she is on a mission to show you that simple, practical changes are possible and count a greater deal than you may think. With the right advice and, eventually, the right specialists, you can transform your home’s environmental performance and your mindset at the same time.
Now, because I am a positively minded behavioral specialist, I can’t help but make a few more reflexive remarks. During the filming, be it at the Mobile Inspiration House (solar-powered, super cool!) or at the house receiving the make over, I was surprised to see the scaling power of the show happening before my eyes.
The Green Make Over team has become a sort of a green family. Aside from Gwen and Ruby, who are actually family, and the permanent crew, the show has been attracting volunteers that come on filming day to help as runners and production assistants, at the house or with the surrounding community. Robinia’s house received the team in the early episodes, and now she comes, whenever she can, to help with the new episodes. Michel is the neighbor of a house that also received the make over; he found the show a brilliant initiative, and also came to help. They volunteer their time and energy on Saturdays, for over 12 hours at a time, to help a cause they believe in.
The homeowners I met that day, a sweet couple originally from Suriname, have been environmentally conscious for decades. They were the first on their street to adopt solar panels 15 years ago, when the technology was not widespread at all. Because they believed in the technology, and in our ability to adapt as humans, they didn’t care that the neighbors said their house looked ugly.
Gwen started her research because she was afraid to not have nature around her anymore. She took matter into her own hands, and so did her daughter, and the homeowners, and the volunteers… She has started a real movement, and it’s beautiful to see it unfold. Those examples are exactly what I call “the wave of consciousness”, and it’s a great deal of what keeps me positive about the future.
Now, go catch up on those episodes, learn, and do. Go use your hands!
My day at the Green Make Over was made possible by Gwen and by Thaira, to whom I leave my gratitude.