Colin Firth's new eco shop

Actor Colin Firth, his wife and friends hope to convert wasteful London with the opening of the first eco shop, discovers Alison Jane Reid
The partners in Eco, Chiswick High Road
Ivo Coulson, Colin Firth, Livia Giuggioli and Nicola Giuggioli are partners in new shop Eco
Colin Firth, the actor best known for playing the Mr Darcys in the BBC's adaptation of Pride and Prejudice and the Bridget Jones films, is a passionate environmentalist. He shares that passion with his Italian film-maker wife, Livia, and her brother, Nicola Giuggioli, an expert in sustainability, whom she describes as an "eco-freak". Their obsession has now been turned into a new product-based shop in Chiswick High Road, W4, called Eco. The fourth founder member of the team, Ivo Coulson, is a financier and entrepreneur.

Livia, dark-haired, slim and elegant, dressed in a Ciel alpaca glitter cardigan, arrived for the interview straight from her Pilates class and plunges straight into the story of her childhood conversion to all things green with a glamorous but thrifty mother bringing up a large family in Rome on a small budget.

Livia says that her mother never threw anything away and food was only bought and eaten seasonally. "I even wear my mother's Pucci Sixties clothes. They are beautiful, and I still have a pair of shoes I bought when I was 19. I am now 38. They have stopped being fashionable but it is amazing how things come round again.
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"My mum used low-energy light bulbs. So we would come home and switch the lights on in the evening and it would take ages for them to come on. Mum and Dad were careful with money; you could call them accidental environmentalists.

"They were raising four children and they only had my dad's salary to provide for us all. It was natural to be frugal, and recycle." She has been married to Colin, 47, the son of two academics, for 10 years and they have two sons, Luca, six, and Mateo, three.

"Three years ago, we bought an old house in London with the biggest mortgage in the world," says Livia.

"We couldn't afford to do any serious alterations at the beginning so we went around putting silicone along the window frames to insulate against the drafts, foil behind the radiators to throw out the heat and low-energy light bulbs everywhere."

"Now I recycle to the point of madness. I have bins for everything. Colin is just as green as me."

Lampshade by Lucy Renshaw (price on application)
Lampshade by Lucy Renshaw (price on application)
"We are not a very consumerist family, and he is a committed environmentalist," she says.

When Livia's brother, Nicola, came to work in London they discussed making a film about climate change. "But a documentary would not provide any solutions," says Livia.

Nicola studied economics at university and wrote his dissertation on alternative energy sources. He began converting his own home but was frustrated by the lack of good advice and information on the internet. "It was a real mess, and there was nowhere I could discuss things such as solar panels or wind turbines," he says.

This experience formed the basis for their idea to launch a shop where visitors could learn about, as well as buy, environmentally friendly products.

"The point is to make shopping with a conscience exciting and sexy," Nicola suggests.

"There is no shop like this one, where you can buy a well-designed chair or handmade wallpaper printed on recycled paper that is beautiful to look at and ecologically sound. Colin and Livia also thought it was a great business idea, so two years later, here we are," he adds.

The shop is arranged over four floors. On the ground floor are small items, including stationery that can be personalised using a wind-powered printer, energy-saving gadgets and a reading corner, with "healthy" amounts of propaganda on the walls, such as the carbon footprint of a flight to New York.

Mohair throws from BabyMo Europe, £162
Handmade kid mohair throws from BabyMo Europe (£162)
The basement is where customers can get advice on a whole host of things, such as how to get planning permission for a wind turbine, and a consultancy service.

On the same floor, there are must-have throws and cushions made by hand on a loom in Estonia, designer textiles, wallpaper and a working example of an eco kitchen and a "grey-water" loo.

The first floor has an exciting display of crafted furniture, such as Jason Heap's flowing Infinity table made from certified black walnut, and accessories such as Ian McIntyre's shimmering ceramic bowls made from recycled pewter.

There is even the greenest computer and printer, and the roof terrace displays Chiswick's first vertical garden, with solar panels, water pumps and small devices, for eco gardeners.

Says Livia: "It is a really exciting time to go green because, at last, the big design and manufacturing companies are starting to invest in young designers and green technology, and there has been a big effort in the past two years to make things look beautiful as well as ethical and functional."

Eco, 213 Chiswick High Road, W4 (020 8133 4252, www.eco-age.com).

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