Frontline: Action for Sustainable Living

Mark Lupton

What it is: A not-for-profit company in Chorlton, Manchester, providing consultation in people's homes on sustainable, eco-friendly living

What it does: Offers tailor-made advice on everything from reducing energy use to reusable nappies

How it's funded: AFSL's founders pay the only member of staff, a part-time sustainability consultant. The Department for Food and Rural Affairs' Environmental Action Fund has just awarded it £150,000 for expansion over three years

Joy Winder has a few questions. And from the comfort of her own armchair, she's keen to ask them: "Is it true I can get my car to run on chip fat?

How do I find out more about water harvesting? And can I get energy-saving lightbulbs for the spotlights in my kitchen?"

The answers, and a bundle of further information on leading a greener life, are coming courtesy of Anne O'Sullivan, who is Action for Sustainable Living's sustainability consultant.

AFSL was set up by four friends who met through the Manchester Lets scheme (a non-cash trading outfit) in March 2003. They had noted the rise of ethical financial advisers, and hit upon the idea of providing sustainability advice to local residents - for free and in their own homes. It has since undertaken 150 consultations with residents in and around the Chorlton area.

The consultations are varied and tailored to the individual needs and interests of each client. Winder, for example, wants to know more about green electricity, better ways of insulating her home and how to reduce energy use.

AFSL also offers advice on recycling, composting, using 'real' nappies, finding an ethical bank, fair trade and where to find locally produced organic food.

Until now, the project has been restricted to the Chorlton area of the city, occasionally venturing into neighbouring suburbs. Now, with funding from Defra's Environmental Action fund, it hopes to offer the service to a wider area.

It also plans to set up community groups to help people find solutions to problems such as transport (by encouraging car sharing), recycling and the lack of 'fair trade' retailers.

"We aim to focus on local communities," said O'Sullivan, who is assisted by a group of seven volunteers. "It's about providing them with practical advice so they can make changes in their lives."

For Winder, the benefits are being reminded of what's important and being made aware of options.

"My first consultation has been a very positive experience," she says.

"It's provided me with a lot of useful information and ideas on where I can go to make changes."

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