Quality of life is a major reason why people live in Mallorca and visit the island so we all have an excellent reason to preserve our beautiful environment. A good way to start is with an eco-friendly home.
It’s a sobering fact that, according to the Ultima Hora newspaper, Mallorca is actually more dependent on construction for revenue and employment than it is tourism. Anyone who lives in Mallorca or visits with their eyes open can’t fail but see the effect construction has had on the environment of this beautiful island. So what can we do to play our part in protecting our island environment and how can we actually build an eco-friendly home in Mallorca?
Looking for answers
I asked Christer Söderberg. Christer has been practicing personal sustainability on the island since 2013. He acts as a consultant to people who own property in Mallorca, or who are looking to buy, on how to live a more sustainable, self-sufficient life style. This includes building an eco-friendly home.
Christer advises on subjects such as using eco-friendly building materials to minimise toxicity in the home, using sun and wind energy to power homes. He also champions biochar, a soil enrichment made from agricultural waste that helps remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and is perfect for growing organic fruit and veg.
The original stone architecture of Mallorca is actually very eco-friendly to begin with. Problems start when we use modern construction materials and treatments. So, for example, we should work with hydraulic or hydrated lime mortar instead of cement, natural cork panels for insulating material instead of polystyrene and untreated solid wood instead of PVC and aluminium for window and doors.
It’s also important to think about what you bring into a home. I’ve been told that 70% of the toxicity of a house comes from the way furniture and textiles are treated. That’s things like flame retardants and synthetic paints.
If you mix natural pigments with linseed, for instance, it doesn’t just make for a much more beautiful painted surface patina. It also protects wood for far longer, saving money in the long run.
What about renovating a house to become a more eco-friendly home?
If it’s an old house and you’re lucky you can start by going down to the original finishing and then do the things I’ve suggested.
Where would I find eco-friendly building materials on the island?
I’d talk to Francisco Lanza of NaturLlar in Manacor. NaturLlar offers classic terracotta floor and roof tiles fired in Felanitx as well as other materials. He’s incredibly knowledgeable and can help you with all aspects of building in an environmentally sound, healthy and cost-effective way. Francisco can also advise on removing possible health hazards in your home.
When it comes to eco-friendly energy, Som Energia is an amazing renewable energy cooperative – Catalunya’s first!
Do you think the impact construction has on the environment is more serious in Mallorca than other parts of the world?
The island is of course small and receives an enormous number of visitors, which puts a huge strain on its resources. It’s also a ‘quality of life’ location so demand for property is always going to stay pretty constant. Home construction is responsible for a particularly large percentage of carbon emissions worldwide and Mallorca’s no different in this respect.
All of this means that anyone building or renovating in Mallorca should really be as sensitive to the environment as they possibly can. Especially when you think that it’s the beauty of the place itself, along with the possibility to enjoy a wonderful outdoor way of life, that attracts us all.
Apart from building or renovating responsibly, what can people like me do to help in protecting Mallorca’s environment?
Luckily, there’s a great community of people – islanders and people who’ve come to live here from all over the world – actively protecting Mallorca’s environment.
For example, there’s a farmer’s market at Plaza Patines in Palma on Saturday and Tuesday mornings. There are plenty of places on the island selling organic produce and products. In Palma, Santa Catalina market and the barrio around it are well worth checking out. The number of annual events and festivals that have an ecological dimension to them – Festival Posidania in Deia, for instance – seems to be on the increase. My own CineConCiencia is an initiative organizing community based screening events, documentary films and dialogues on the themes of social-environmental and economical issues, there is always a mingle before the screening and a dialogue afterwards with the directors of the film or a local authority on the subject.
If you’re not ready to grow organic vegetables in your home there’s Biogranja La Real – a fully stocked organic country store with veggie plots for rent to grow your own – or YerbaBuena in Palma, close to the Saturday Organic Farmers Market (Mercat Ecológic). Biogranja La Real also holds events.
There are plenty of opportunities to live an eco-friendly lifestyle on the island and meet like-minded people.
Thanks, Christer. Inspiring stuff.
If you – and me – are serious about protecting Mallorca’s environment there’s really nothing to stop us.