Greener home, greener world

20 August 2020 ... min read

The world has a unique chance to build back better after the coronavirus pandemic. But what about us average people? Do these unique circumstances give us some unique inspiration to make a few changes of our own?

Marnix van der Velden at home with his solar panels (and donkey).

Marnix van der Velden at home with his solar panels (and donkey).

This four-part series features colleagues who have made certain choices to live more sustainably. They’re not perfect, so they’re not here to make the rest of us feel bad. But every marathon starts with one small step. Maybe this can inspire you to take yours.

Marnix van der Velden, senior customer journey expert from ING in the Netherlands, tells in his own words how he’s improved the sustainability of his house.

“I live on an old farm, built in about 1930. We’d been living here for 10 years and all we’d done was change the single glazing on the windows to double glazing. It still wasn’t well insulated and in the winter it was hard to get it warm in the open kitchen and living room. So we had an extra gas heater, and needed it!

“But then in 2018, there was a tipping point for me where I started wanting to make changes. I heard a presentation from Reinier van den Berg, who’s a weatherman from Dutch TV channel RTL4 but also an expert in climate change. He had a speech about what we’re doing to our planet, and what will happen if we go on living this way. It was quite shocking.
“The first half of the presentation, you think ‘whoa, what are we doing’ and lose faith. But in the second part, he talked about how we have a chance to improve. That inspired me. So last year we made a lot of improvements to our home in a really short time.

“We first installed infrared panels in the living room to deal with the cold. You hang them on the wall or ceiling, and you can even put a print on it so it looks like a picture. It uses electricity to warm what’s in its path, it doesn’t heat the air itself. A few months later we insulated the walls and noticed the difference right away. We almost didn’t even need the infrared panels anymore.

“When you insulate it’s a bit of a shame in a way because you think, ok I’m investing 2,000 euros but what do I get? You don’t see it! But for me that was actually by far the most interesting way to green my house because we’d earn back the investment within just three years.

Saving more than you use
“We also installed 18 solar panels in May this year and can use an app to see how much electricity we generate. The first days you look at it all the time! I remember thinking, wow, I’ve saved more energy than I’ve used. In the Netherlands you can even ‘sell’ it back to the network for others to use.

“As a side note, I used to drive a Volvo v70 diesel but started leasing a Kia Nero this year. It’s an electric plug-in, and the solar panels actually generate the electricity that I charge my car with. It feels like I’m driving fuelled by sun. 😊

“I have three daughters. They sometimes say, ‘oh dad, not about sustainability again’ but they know why I do it. They’re vegetarians and two of them are into sustainable clothing. But when all three of them shower in one day, I really see the costs. The gas from heating your water is what’s so expensive, and also bad for the environment. I think I have to talk to them and shorten the time they shower. (Although I’m not too sure they’ll be interested in this way of saving energy!)

You can’t do everything right
“I’m also inspired by my religion. I believe it’s our task to take care of our planet and love one another. Not only friends and family, but also the children in the third world, who are working in the mining industry for example and getting the cobalt to make the batteries for electric cars. So when I got one I thought, are these kids working in the mines for me? It’s not always easy to do the good thing. You can’t do everything right. You can only do the best you can.

“I realise the changes I’ve made to my home aren’t possible for everyone. Not everybody can pay for solar panels or lease an electric car, but I really believe that everyone can do something. Look at your own situation and see where you can make the most impact, what’s most suitable. There is always a small step you can take.

“I want to do as much as I can. In my private life, my work for my church community, and of course at ING. Because if we don’t make a change, how will we explain that to our children when they ask us: when you saw all the stuff happening to the world, why didn’t you do anything?”

Wim Flikweert

“Marnix actually represents the typical customer that we’re trying to help when it comes to sustainable housing. Because the biggest gains, both in terms of CO2 reduction but also in terms of savings for homeowners, are with houses that have a poor energy label. The so called ‘no-regret’ measures such as insulating floors, walls and windows are usually very profitable as Marnix pointed out. We’re focusing on making homeowners and homebuyers more aware and motivated to upgrade. The ultimate goal is not the energy label, but reduction of Co2.”

– Wim Flikweert, manager Living at ING in the Netherlands, segment of Individual Customers

Marnix’s reading list:

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