Sean Cooper is the owner of Catch at The Old Fish Market, a Dorset restaurant that specialises in sustainable seafood and local produce.
But Sean’s eco awareness doesn’t stop there – his home has just been equipped with a hydro-mill which saves money and energy, and can be controlled via a phone app.
He also grows his own fruit and vegetables, keeps bees and rears lamb – and still finds time to run his restaurant.
What kind of home do you live in?
Meadows is a Georgian villa with a 16th-century watermill and miller’s cottage on the same property. It’s set in Radipole, a small village outside of Weymouth, which was once a Roman port.
It’s quite a striking property with amazing vistas of the surrounding countryside. We’re lucky enough to have land to grow fruit and vegetables, keep bees and rear lamb. All these ingredients feed into our restaurant, under the watchful eye of our executive head chef Mike Naidoo.
How do you make your home green?
I’ve installed a hydro-mill on the property to produce hydropower, enabling the heat pump system to run off-grid. In addition to the hydro scheme and ground source heat pump we took time to upgrade the building fabric of the old Georgian villa. This meant lining all external walls with modern rigid board insulation and installing modern conservation slimline double glazing into existing sash window boxes.
How tricky was it to get a hydro mill installed – and how much energy does that save?
The hydro scheme took four years to obtain the planning and regulatory permissions required – this was very complex and bureaucratic and quite costly so not easy.
However, it’s definitely been worth it in terms of the power generated. As part of this project we were mandated to install a fish pass. The design, fabrication and installation of this was really specialised and unique and therefore expensive.
But, again, we’re happy to have been able to utilise this natural power source, creating minimal impact on the immediate ecosystem. The hydro scheme generates around 28,000 kwh of energy per year and is an annual fuel saving of £1,624.
Have you always been eco minded, or has it changed over the years?
I was very fortunate to attend The Prince of Wales’s Business And Sustainability Programme course. It changed my entire outlook on how we live our lives. My key learning was that if we want to save our planet, we need to all play a part. We all need to change the way we live within our own sphere of influence. Whether this is changing how we recycle at home to decisions we might take at work, if there is a sustainable choice, we should positively elect to do this.
How important is food at home to saving the planet – and what is the first step people should take?
Your food at home is very important, but as I’ve said before, it’s about doing what you can. Wherever possible I really recommend growing food at home, the impact is important but it’s also fun to do. We are very fortunate and have space, so we have bees and chickens, we grow fruit and vegetables and rear lambs. Not everyone has such space but even herbs and chillies grown in a plant pot can be very rewarding. Recycling food waste for composting is also very important.
What is your favourite eco gadget?
I’m not sure it’s my favourite, but it’s certainly the one I use the most: I have an app on my phone that allows me to control my hydro scheme. When it rains I check that app more than my kids look at Instagram! It’s very important as I can access the hydro scheme to adapt to the rapid change in river levels when it rains.
What eco food fad, gadget or trend is overrated and why?
Stocks can be dredged or trawled on a huge industrial scale and still receive a fisheries accreditation, in spite of the devastation caused to the seabed. It’s very misleading.
How do you see eco homes of the future and how will we be living?
I see us moving to constructing net-zero carbon homes, using recycled and new eco building methods and materials, combining high insulation values with energy generation such as solar and air source heat pumps. All of this exists today we just don’t see enough use adopted – yet.
What’s next for your home to save energy or be more eco?
I plan to install a carport with a roof that is made of solar panels. I hope to use the power to charge my car with any excess being stored in a battery for use in our home.
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