Evening Times, Oct 23, 2007

Mrs Darcy - eco warrior!

Film star’s wife backs brother’s green dreams

I’m sitting opposite Livia Guiggioli as I chat to her and it’s fair to say I’m turning a delicate shade of green—and it’s not because we’re here to talk about eco interiors.

My unusual hue is being triggered by pure, unadulterated envy. It’s not just because she’s beautiful in that sultry way Italians have, clever and has a wicked sense of humour, but last and by no means least—she’s married to Mr Darcy, Colin Firth.

Surely she must realise that most of the UK’s female population (including me) would swap places with her in an instant to be with the man who emerged wet, dishevelled and so sexy  from a lake in TV’s Pride And Prejudice?

Livia affects to be rather mystified by the constant references to her husband’s 12-year-old TV role.

She merely gives an amused smile and a tiny shrug as she says: “Well, I always say he is the envy of most men in the UK because he is so lucky to be married to me!

“And, no, it doesn’t irritate me when people refer to him as ‘Mr Darcy’. He’s just Colin at home.”

Livia, 38, is giving  a rare interview because it turns out she’s ‘green’ too—not with jealousy, but with a passionate concern for the environment.

Both Colin, 47, and Livia feel so strongly about the issue that at the end of next month they’re opening a four-floor store and showroom called Eco, in London.

It claims to be the first one-stop destination where people can not only get expert advice on transforming a home or workplace into an eco have, but also choose from a comprehensive range of beautifully designed and environmentally-friendly products.

Livia, a film producer, explains the new venture is partly inspired by their love for their sons, Luca, 6 and Mateo, 4. “I wanted to do this for our boys as much as anything,” she says. “I can’t bear the thought there’s not going to be a planet when my children grow up and have a family, unless we start doing something about changing the way we live. It’s practically immoral not to care about that.

“Colin and I feel so strongly that so much damage has already been done to our environment that we have reached the point of no return. As individuals we can’t just sit back and rely on governments to change things. We have a responsibility to respoect what is left our environment and for most people the easiest way to start to do that is in their homes.”

The Firths, who have been married for 10 years, have spent considerable time and money adapting their own family home in London to practise what they preach.

She says: “We’ve been there three years and it’s as eco-friendly as we could get without ripping the whole house apart! We have under-floor heating, energy-saving light bulbs, only one television and a water butt in the garden. We also eat organically and drive a hybrid car.

“With our work it’s impossible to limit our flying as much as we’d like, but if a friend invites us to a weekend birthday party in Madrid or something, we’ll refuse because of the flying. That’s too wasteful.”

She adds: “We recycle compulsively. I think I have more recycling bins than anyone else I know, but I try to be clever and use attractive containers and avoid those ugly bins.”

All those efforts might have been the limit of the Firth’s eco ambitions, had it not been for the arrival from Italy of Livia younger brother, Nicola, 26.

She says affectionately: “He’s always been obsessed with the environment, perhaps inspired by our mother who was using low consumption llight bulbs about 50 years ago, long before the word ‘eco’ was even invented. After many nights over supper talking about the issue Nicola suddenly suggested we should do something.”

The idea for the shop was born and Livia says beaming: “Colin and I decided instantly to support Nicola in setting up the store as we were so naturally in sympathy with the whole idea.”

Nicola will be an eco consultant at the store, which aims to appeal to both homeowners looking for anything from solar-powered mobile phone chargers, to wind turbines, as well as interior designers, architects and property professionals seeking energy efficient and eco solutions.

Livia’s confident that Eco’s opening next month is perfect timing. “Until about a year ago I think eco-living was still regarded as a sort of hippy thing—filling your home with furniture made out of unattractive things like sludgy-brown, compressed cardboard.

“Now people are waking up to the fact you can live in an eco way and still have an elegant, sexy and beautiful home. The quality and design of homeware is improving all the time and we’ve got many cutting-edge young designers supplying us.”

Setting it up has involved two years’ research. Livia herself was responsible for sourcing the homeware and furnishings, and discovered how confusing it can be for people to turn their lives green.

She says: “You want your home to be eco-sustainable so you go on the internet to research. But it’s so overwhelming and difficult. There are so many products out there claiming to be green, eco-friendly or organic, but some are just not what they claim to be. They’ve simply jumped on the fashionable bandwagon. Believe me, we’ve picked out way through hundreds and tested their eco credentials to find the genuine ones.

“I know as a working mother of two how busy people haven’t time for fiddly, complicated or time-consuming gadgets. We want to inspire people by offering affordable, practical solutions to make it easy to have an eco home.”

The project has given her and Colin, currently starring in the film And When Did You Last See Your Father, another welcome opportunity to work together.

Their latest collaboration, documentary film In Prison My Whole Life, focuses on a controversial case of a political activist in America facing the death penalty, and has just opened at the London Film Festival.

It has the support of Amnesty International, which is campaigning to abolish the death penalty, and Livia beams proudly as she says: “I was the producer and Colin executive producer. We like working together.

“Even if we are not working on the same project we work together because we are husband and wife and we talk about everything. For us it is like ‘I have this script, what shall I do?’ or ‘I have this idea what should I do?’”

Soon they’re more likely to be busy answering other people’s questions about eco living, as they’ll both help out in the shop.

She roars with laughter as she says: “Colin? Well, we’ve told him he’ll have to start working on the till! And as this is Nicola’s baby, both Colin and I will be taking orders from him.”

Many thanks to Janet

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