Retrofit as Witness for Peace

EarthQuaker Issue 97

It began with a passing comment from the architect: “Your house is leaky but should be good enough for a heat pump”. “Good enough” is never my favourite phrase, so the perfectionist in me went into high alert.
After a long night of soul searching, we decided to make our home a legacy for the future so that we – and future occupants – would be easy on the Earth.
That decision ignited a passion in me. Today I am writing, speaking, and instagramming, all to get the message out that making one’s home energy efficient is positive climate action.
The Peace Testimony
 As Quakers, we choose never to harm another. Yet, we have meeting houses - and maybe even homes - that are highly inefficient, increasing the carbon emissions that threaten the future of all our grandchildren.
21% of UK emissions comes from leaky homes. Every home built before 1990 needs retrofitting. So, our homes and meeting houses could easily be part of the problem.
What’s that got to do with the peace testimony? If we have the option to put in energy-saving measures, yet knowingly continue with the status quo, is that acceptable?
Quakers have always made difficult decisions. This is no different. Retrofit costs money and effort, whether at home or Meeting. It is easy to find reasons not to act: it’s too expensive; the Meeting has too much going on; there is no time.
Still, the fundamental question remains: can we live with knowing that we are damaging the Earth for future generations?
It’s a win / win
 This is not all about sacrifice. Retrofitting is not just good for the planet, it’s good for the bank balance and comfort levels, too.
At the start of our journey, we were just building an extension. It took a while to take in that an eco-build on the back of a leaky house was nonsense. It was a moment of epiphany and, once seen, we couldn’t ignore it.
For me, the moment was to be life-changing. Not only are we warm and cosy in a Victorian home that was once freezing cold and draughty, we are also saving 75% of our energy usage. And that is the least of it.
I was retiring gradually when COVID brought me to a stop. I enjoyed a few months of leisure before our house epiphany required me to get moving. Our chosen builders had no idea about retrofit, so it was time to educate myself. Before long, I had become the “Queen of Insulation” and was writing a book to save others doing all the same hard work. It was the “idiot’s guidebook” that I had so desperately wanted.
Where does that leave us? 
The question is familiar: if my behaviour or my choices will damage another living being, is it acceptable for me to continue?
If I can reduce my carbon emissions alongside all my other witness for the climate, should I make this a priority?
I know this isn’t easy – there are so many calls on finances and time – but at least, with this one, we will only be better off.
Author: Beginner's Guide to Eco Renovation 
TEDx: How you and your builder can save the planet

Judith Leary-Joyce