Meet Mrs Firth: eco warrior

Film producer Livia Firth and her actor husband Colin enjoy family life in Chiswick. Livia tells Katie Law how eco-living just makes sense
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Livia Firth
Livia Firth sits on an "electric chair" - made from discarded spools used to transport electric cables, in Chiswick-based shop Eco
You might think it's all very well for eco-warrior Livia Firth, the Italian beauty married to Mr Darcy star Colin Firth, mother of their two sons and a successful documentary film-maker in her own right, to preach the green message to the rest of us.

But talking to her as creative director of Chiswick-based Eco - a solar panel-powered temple to sustainable living encompassing homewares, lighting and now fashion - you realise that her message applies to every Londoner, rich or poor.

'Londoners are evolving. The average woman shopper has changed in the past year; she is extremely powerful'

Being green, says the 41-year-old, who grew up with her family in the Italian countryside eating locally-produced food, and lived in Rome before meeting Firth in 1995, isn't about buying lots of expensive organic food and luxurious cashmere sweaters.

Eco is a solar-panel powered temple to sustainable living selling homeware, lighting and fashion
Livia says: "For me, it's about trying to be a responsible consumer. It's about not being wasteful; it's about buying less, but better quality, and not being too earnest about it. I have favourite shops which aren't eco and my clothes are a mix."

Dressed in jeans and a slim-fitting tweed jacket, she points to the elegant tan boots she has had for 20 years, and says the home she shares with Firth and their sons, round the corner from the shop, is filled with the furniture she inherited from her mother and grandmother. These will be handed down to the children.

"You should keep good clothes, too. If you pay £10 for something, how much are you going to love it? No. You know you're going to chuck it. It's the same as food and furniture, there should be no fast fashion. Londoners are lazy. They could be green but they get bombarded with so much information that it can confuse and paralyse them," she says.

Colin Firth
Like his wife, Colin is fully signed up to the green message
But together with Colin and her brothers, twins Nicola and Alessandro Giuggioli, with whom she founded the Eco Age shopping concept two-and-a-half years ago, she is seeing a shift in the way Londoners are thinking and shopping.

"Londoners are evolving. You don't change overnight, but the average woman shopper has changed in the past year; she is extremely powerful. When Sainsbury's launched the first Fairtrade product it was so popular they went huge on Fairtrade. First bananas, then coffee. Now there's a whole section. We should use spending as a way of voting." It seems Eco is getting the vote - its monthly sales are £25,000 and rising.

Packaging is also an issue. "I'm appalled at the amounts I accumulate at supermarkets and I go to the greengrocers as often as I can," says Livia. "You don't need to shop daily or eat meat. We have chicken twice a week, meat once a week, then pulses, vegetables and lots of pasta."

Nicola, the brother who concentrates on the eco-consultancies - advising and sourcing on every aspect of eco-building, from where to get the carpet to project managing entire buildings - says healthy homes and eating healthily go hand in hand. He says: "If you don't want to put all those chemicals into your body, why would you want them in your home? It's no longer more expensive to use ethically sourced materials and an energy-efficient home is cheaper.

"The big rise on this side of the business has happened since the new legislation has come in, with people wanting to invest in properties again. I love living in London. It has given me everything. I love the people, inspiration and culture."

His first home consultation is free, and depending on what clients choose, he will charge an hourly rate or a 10 per cent project management fee. Brother Alessandro is based in Italy and is head buyer for Eco Age.

The Firths have just finished building an eco-home in Umbria, all sustainably built of course, for which Livia has bought some of Emeco's new 111 Navy chairs (left). Each is made from 111 recycled Coca-Cola bottles. "This sums up my philosophy exactly," she exclaims. "A company behaving responsibly, taking an iconic design and using up Coke bottles; the chairs are comfortable and light and beautifully designed, plus they are not too expensive."

Recycled bottles have also inspired some of the best designs in the shop, including a collaborative rug design with Michelle Mason. Her new Rosetta rug (above), which has just launched at 100% Design, is made entirely from bottles, and comes in brilliant pink. "I want eco-homeware to be sexy," says Livia.

Livia Firth
Eco's wares include the glass-domed Andrea air purifier (£129); and a lamp Livia designed (above right, £220)
Eco has also launched its first own-brand home collection using waste-only materials, made in a factory in Essex. It includes a lamp Livia designed herself, made from sections of plastic bottles (right); bowls and platters made from shattered car glass - collected from the local Ford car dealer - brightly painted chairs and tables created from cardboard tubing offcuts, and smart black-and-white bedside tables made from discarded cabinets covered in vintage buttons.

With plans to open a new store in Milan next year, and more in the next decade, their Eco Age has arrived.

Eco is at 213 Chiswick High Road, W4 (020 899 57611;

Pictures by Graham Hussey

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