Chris Stewart’s Top Green Tips

Chris Stewart’s Top Green Tips

LAST UPDATED: 9 November, 2014 @ 3:15 pm
Ana and Chris Stewart
BANTER: Chris Stewart jokes with wife Ana, while cuddling one of his rescue dogs

Ana and Chris Stewart
Ana and Chris Stewart at their Alpujarran hill farm

By Jon Clarke

BONE dry and with little vegetation, desertification had come knocking at its door, and its owners faced a constant uphill battle.

Now, the property which straddles a hillside beside the Trevelez river, has been brought back from the brink of decay.

Through clever use of planting and irrigation and the right amount of animal and plant husbandry, its 70 hectares are a harmonious mix of vegetable gardens, woodland and upland pasture for their flock of sheep.

Speaking modestly of the incredible turnaround, the author of best-selling book Driving over Lemons, tells the Green Guide: “We are just seeking to have the lightest possible ecological footprint.

“To be honest we have not used the term carbon neutral because we don´t really understand the concept. It is very complex and baffling. We only need to go 100kms in our car and we have given off 70 kilos of carbon and that messes things up.”

To get around this they only use one car and every time they go out they fill it with recycling material and produce, which they sell to friends in the village.

“We sell some potatoes, eggs, lettuces and broad beans and deliver it to people on the way to town.

“But it would be very hard to make a living off it.”

They have also worked hard to make the property as cool and insulated as possible to cut down on any need for air conditioning.

“We have created our own microclimate like the Arabs did when they lived here,” explains Chris.

“The key is creating shade and using water cleverly and carefully.

“We make sure we use all our grey water in the garden, which is why it is so green around the house.

“All the vegetation ensures that it is so cool around the house we never have to consider air conditioning. We don´t even need to have fans, not even for my afternoon nap.”

It is a constant battle to make sure things get done: that grey water gets properly used, that everything is well composted and as much as possible is recycled.

“We don´t weigh our rubbish and get depressed if it is more than last week. In fact we have fun doing the recycling.”

As for the garden, Chris – who has just finished a new book about sailing called Three Ways to Capsize a Boat – describes it as his retirement plan.

“It is our garden of Eden and pension, because I have no pension plan as I have not done a decent days work in my life.

“In our old age we´ll be stumbling around here on our zimmer frames plucking fruit from the trees and stooping down for veg.

“And eventually, of course, we both want to be buried under one of the old olive trees.”

Chris Stewart’s Top Tips For Going Green

  • Grow green roofs, which work particularly well on flat roofs. Plants such as carpo brotus, portatakia and sedum work well. “And they have spectacular flowerings in the Spring.”
  • Erect a pergola on top of the roof to keep the sun off
  • Plant ivy and other creepers to keep direct sun off the walls
  • Use drought-resistant plants and grey water to irrigate them
  • Get a gas fridge, to save electricity
  • Save on water by drinking from your own tap and if you insist on bottled water buy from local companies
  • Have more than one compost heap. They take about five years to be ready so start a new one every few months. “We have at least 20 of them.” To speed up the compost heap, don´t add in soil, but use comfrey leaves and even a bucket of urine every once in a while. “My wife is so keen to make it work she bought me a bucket for Valentines Day.”
  • Get an eco ball for the washing machines
  • Make your own jam out of apricots, strawberries and raspberries, and syrup from pomegranates (“take seeds out, then reduce, reduce, reduce”).
  • Make your own tea out of orange blossom
  • Save on toilet paper by using your hand (and remember to wash your hands after meeting Chris)

[message_box title=”” color=”red”]Chris Stewart’s new book Three Ways To Capsize A Boat: An Optimist Afloat is out now.[/message_box]


  1. Great common sense tips.

    Chris' compost seems a good deal slower than mine … must be trying to compost whole trees.

    Interesting that he uses the eco washing balls – always sounded too good to be true to me, I think I'll try them now.