In an industrial estate on the edge of Chepstow, a double decker bus sits on the tarmac. With its flaky yellow paint and faded adverts, it would be fairly unassuming to anyone who passes by.
But to one woman, the big old bus represents a completely new way of life.
“I bought the bus about two weeks ago. I was looking for one for a while, and there just happened to be one right on my doorstep,” said Stacey Lewis, from Rogiet. The 32-year-old is better known as ‘Stig’ to friends, named after children’s character Stig of the Dump due to her passion for finding recycled things and giving them a new lease of life. And that’s exactly what she is currently doing with her bus, which she aims to transform into an eco-friendly home for herself.
“I want to reduce my carbon footprint and the whole build is going to be made either out of recycled things or second-hand products,” said Stacey.
“I’m always trying to re-use everything.”
At the moment, Stacey is looking for somewhere to keep the bus while she works on converting it, a process she hopes to complete by the end of the summer.
After that comes the challenge of where to keep the bus long term. Although she has been desperately searching for a piece of land to buy, she hasn’t found anywhere that meets her needs yet.
“Realistically, a small piece of land is what I’m really after,” said Stacey.
She explained that, luckily, some individuals have come forward to offer up their land while she carries out the conversion. But once all of the necessary work has been completed on the bus, she will need to find a suitable green space in order to get her eco-house up and running.
“The bus is going to be solar panelled and it’s going to have a compostable toilet,” said Stacey.
“I’m hoping that on my land I’m going to be able to farm my own food.”
Now, she is keen to move out of the social housing she currently lives in as soon as possible so that someone else can benefit from it. And then, the bus will become her permanent home.
Once the bus is in place, it will be static and it won’t be moving around anywhere. So the idea is that, once she has found a suitable bit of land to buy for her new home, the majority of things Stacey will need to live off of will either be on the bus or right outside, keeping her carbon emissions to a minimum.
“It’s going to be zero-waste and I won’t be buying any plastic products or anything like that.”
And, as Stacey plans to live on the bus by herself, she plans to become almost entirely self-sufficient. More than that, she hopes that it could inspire others to embark on a similar way of living.
“I’m hoping that once I’ve got the land and I’m living on the land, I could potentially convert more [buses] and rent them out or sell them to people that also want to reduce their own carbon footprint and escape from society as we know it,” she said.
So, where did the inspiration come from?
“I’ve always been a little bit different,” said Stacey. “I’ve wanted to do this for a really long time, ever since I can remember really.”
However, Stacey knew she needed to act on her vision and make it a reality when she was travelling past a household waste centre one day.
“I drove past Avonmouth recycling centre, and just it hit me the extent of the things that are being thrown away,” said Stacey.
“Driving past that… It made me feel sick.”
After that, she began volunteering at Newport tip shop, where things that people throw away get recycled and given a new life. But the idea that a change in lifestyle was needed kept creeping back up on her.
“Just looking at the sheer amount of stuff that gets thrown away every time you go shopping, everything is just plastic and packaging. People need to start doing something, or what’s going to happen? It’s just all madness.”
She added: “It just hit me, and I need to do my bit.”
As a result, the first parts of her plan began to roll into action.
“I started saving about two years ago and I just went for it,” she said.
This isn’t the first time that Stacey has found herself in the middle of a project like this, having worked on fixing up camper vans in the past. However, she admitted that this will definitely be a much bigger undertaking.
“I’ve converted campervans before but not anything to this scale. And this is all going to be hand-built by myself as well, whereas with vans you can kind of buy the bits and just fit them.
“I’m autistic,” added Stacey. “One of the biggest reasons I’m doing this is that it’s an easier, slower way of living and it avoids sensory overload and things like that.”
She added: “Society, as it is, is a struggle. It’s hard when you’ve got autism, you know? Every time you go shopping, there’s people, sounds and noise everywhere. Every time I step outside of my front door it’s just… I find that when I’m outdoors or in nature, I’m just a lot calmer.”
Above all, added Stacey, it is important to try and do her bit to reduce carbon emissions now before it’s too late. As a mother of two, she is frightened about how her children’s future could look if nothing is done to address the climate crisis and drastically reassess the way people live their lives.
Earlier this week, an independent report criticised the UK and Welsh governments for their failure to seriously tackle carbon emissions. The report, published by the Climate Change Committee, said that “the UK has the capacity and the resources to respond effectively to these risks, yet it has not done so” and adds that “acting now will be cheaper than waiting to deal with the consequences.”
Examining what would happen in the possible scenario that the temperature in Wales rises by 4 degrees celsius if emissions are not reduced, the CCC also warned that we could face flooding in coastal communities, summer temperatures upwards of 40 degrees celsius, and an increasing amount of wildfires.
Although it will take serious commitments from governments to tackle climate change head on and to mitigate these risks, Stacey is hopeful that if individuals were to commit themselves to lowering their own carbon footprint, that it could make at least some difference.
“For future generations it’s absolutely terrifying,” she said. “Humans are, ultimately, destroying the planet.”