Wednesday, May 26, 2010 - 11:50

Families from around the country will be staying in the Eden Project’s Mediterranean Biome on the night of Saturday May 29 to celebrate the conclusion of a unique study into greener living.

The invited families took part in the 21st Century Living Project, a unique year-long study by the Eden Project and Homebase to investigate the energy and lifestyle habits of the nation. This will be the first family sleepover at the renowned environmental attraction.

More than 120 adults and children will meet at Eden for a day of fun, nature-based activities where they can share their experiences, followed by an evening party including locally sourced food and entertainment, before settling in to the Mediterranean Biome to sleep under the stars.

Mike Harris, the project manager who has organised this event, said: “The families who took part in the 21st Century Living Project provided stacks of valuable data and insights into the opportunities and barriers to adopting a more sustainable lifestyle.

“We wanted to say a huge thank you by doing something very special, and I’m sure those who come along will never forget their Mediterranean experience in the heart of the clay country in Cornwall.”

The 21st Century Living Project was set up to provide a unique insight into sustainable living in the UK. The eagerly anticipated final report called Home Front was published on March 25th and is publicly available via the 21st Century Living Project website (

The Eden Project wanted to gain further insights into the challenges facing households as they strive to become greener, as well as understanding the key motivators that drive behaviour changes. The findings are already informing multiple projects that the Eden Project is involved with, and contributing to the communications on site and their continuing work with their staff and local communities.

The key findings of the project were:

This is a mass market opportunity; you don’t have to be green to act green. But we do need radical innovation to extend the palette of options and to maintain interest amongst the ever increasing high tech members of society.
Simple interventions work; thermal imaging and energy saving monitors changed attitudes and drove behaviours.
Money and savings are strong motivators of action; for every pound given to the homes another pound was spent.
Personal advice is very important; the homes requested more tailored information specific to their home and lifestyle.
Utility bills need radical reform; households found it immensely frustrating that they couldn’t get hold of simple energy data from their utility providers to show if they were successfully cutting their consumption.

Tim Smit, the Eden Project's Chief Executive, said: “We are delighted to find that this research supports our experience: you don't have to be a hippy to go green, it's easier to make changes than you think, and given the right information, plenty of encouragement and some cash, people are generally inclined to do the right thing.”

Homebase, part of Home Retail Group, wanted to gain in depth knowledge of customers’ needs for green projects. Rosi Watson, head of corporate responsibility for Home Retail Group, said: “It has shown us that given the right information and incentives, everyone will invest in greener homes regardless of their background and values.

“It has given us a better understanding of what customers want and need when it comes to saving energy and reducing their waste, and we are now developing products and services to meet these needs.”

The 21st Century Living Project was the first environmental project of its kind, focussing on four areas: energy, waste, water and other environmental behaviours like travel. 100 households were selected to represent the nation – including all demographics, social groups and house types. They were challenged to do what they could to reduce their environmental footprint.

Each household was given £500 grant to spend on making their home more efficient and a selection of eco products and equipment. A home audit was conducted at the beginning, and end, of the project and they were supported with a project manager and on line advice and information. 61 households received a thermal image survey of their property.

Energy use was the top priority for everybody.

· overall, 81% of households took at least one energy-saving measure, with an average saving of 10%
· 58% increased their use of low-energy light bulbs
· 23% replaced white goods with more efficient models

There were some improvements in waste reduction

· Average recycling rates rose from 58% at the start of the project to 63% by the end
· 14% installed compost bins or wormeries

There was one significant action on water conservation reported by the group.

· 21% installed a water butt

Travel was the area embraced by our participants with least enthusiasm. The majority of our households did not claim a change to their travel arrangements.

Interestingly, the most enjoyable activity was ‘Grow Your Own’, it was generally felt to be one of the most fun and satisfying changes by those who made it, connecting the family to nature.