What kind of world are we leaving to our children – and their children?

It’s an issue that has long concerned one High Wycombe woman. It has led her to take a whole range of small actions that she insists will make a difference – and to urge the rest of us to join in with our own small contributions. Together, says Frances Alexander, we can change the world.

Climate change and the environment are not the only issue that motivates this former nurse, midwife and teacher. A desire to work for community change led to Frances becoming a Wycombe District Councillor in 1991, with stints as both Chairman of the Council and its first Lib Dem Mayor. “The theme of my year as chairman was Local Agenda 21 - think globally, act locally,” Frances recalls. “We were able to implement a number of environmental schemes, and our first Environment Centre opened that year.”

As she approaches her 80th year, Frances is as busy as ever, with a fresh incarnation of Wycombe Environment Centre opening in the Chiltern shopping centre. As before, the aim is to educate and inspire, with a range of exhibitions (birds, bees, home insulation), lots of information about eco organisations and actions, details of local walks, growing food, protecting biodiversity, and many aspects of sustainability lifestyle. Reduce, reuse, recycle is the mantra.

“The aim of the Centre is that some will take away something they didn’t know, that will get them to change their way of life to a more sustainable one,” she says.

“Our planet is under threat. We’re leaving a horrendous legacy. We can do something about it at the moment. But it must be done through the hearts and minds of everybody.”

This winter a team of volunteers will once again be out taking thermal imaging of older houses. After giving permission, each householder receives a picture showing where their house is losing heat, along with advice on measures to remedy it, free of charge. This could be as simple as a draught excluder at the top of a window, or extra insulation in walls.

Last year the reports were so impressive they won first prize in the national Climate Week Challenge.

The scheme, like all the work at the Environment Centre, relies on an enthusiastic band of volunteers – and more are invited to join them.

Frances was awarded an Honorary Doctorate at Buck New Uni in September in recognition of her environmental work, as well as another of her projects, which has brought pleasure to thousands of people around the world. She founded Women Welcome Women World Wide (5W) 30 years ago to facilitate international friendship by enabling women to visit one another in their own homes.

Thermal truths:

How well insulated is your home? If heat is leaking from windows, walls or roof, it means that:

- energy is lost, contributing to global warming

- energy bills are high, or the house is cold Is insulation expensive? While double glazing and cavity wall insulation can be ideal but costly, other simple solutions include:

- thicker curtains, or ones with thermal lining

- draught excluders

- fake double glazing (a special film for windows)

- if your fireplace is only decorative, use a chimney balloon to reduce heat loss

- add an extra brush barrier in your letter box