This time last week Ireland was in the grip of a once-in-forty-years weather event. A cold front from Siberia called the ‘Beast from the East’ joined forces with storm Emma, bringing blustery winds, lots of snow, zero visibility and -15 degree wind chill. Fortunately no one died during the storm, primarily because of the advance warning given by the state.
It was such a strange phenomenon to be holed up indoors, or in your local, for 4 days. It was as if someone turned back time to when our main, and possibly only, priorities were heat, food and shelter. If you had those things you were able to kick back and enjoy the forced holiday. Then as people emerged after their 4 day sabbatical it was amusing to see impromptu assemblies of neighbours dotted throughout the local shop, swapping war stories and catching up on gossip. Maybe it’s my rose-tinted glasses but there was something so nostalgic about the whole experience.
During those 4 days of confinement I spent hours travelling the internet highways, clearing digital to-do’s and lining up future blog posts. Going by the amount of Whatsapp, Facebook and Instagram content generated I wasn’t the only one. Here is one such blog post born out of my days of respite thanks to the ‘Beast from the East’.
Sustainable Accommodation in Ireland
Birche Cottage (see above) in County Down was awarded Gold by Green Tourism. Electricity in the cottage is generated from solar and wind energy and water – including that used to run the underfloor heating – is heated by way of a solar panel. The owners state that the interior has been restored with local, chemical-free, reclaimed materials and that organic produce is available to buy from the owners during your stay.
Terryglass cottages help a family earn enough income to continue to work their third-generation family farm. They state that all labour and inputs are sourced locally as much as possible and that in 2016 they won a Gold Medal at the Irish Responsible Travel Awards for local sourcing. They state that the cottages have been painted with non-toxic paints and water based varnishes and restored with recycled materials. The owners also meter electricity used by guests, thereby rewarding low-energy consumers.
At the eco-campsite Pure Camping, in Querrin, Loop Head, Co Clare you can pitch your own tent or hire one of their generously sized bell-tents, some of which come with wood burning stoves. They compost all food waste and provide solar-heated showers and marine (water-efficient) showers heated by a log-burning stove. They only burn FSC certified logs, and use rain water harvesting systems and solar-powered lights as much as possible. This campsite is run by a friend of mine and we’ve stayed in it a couple of time. I love the laid-back atmosphere and meeting like-minded people there. You can read about our sustainable holiday in Clare in 2016 here.
Cliften Eco Campsite in Co Galway is a low density campsite on the shores of Streamstown Bay. The park co-exists alongside an organic farm, which was the first to be certified as this in Connemara. In 2014 they achieved a Gold standard eco tourism award from EcoTourism Ireland and in 2015 they achieved ‘climate neutral status’ from myclimate, making them the first ‘climate neutral’ accommodation in Ireland.
Based on an organic farm, Crag Og Eco Farm in Galway is a certified Gold standard Ecotourism provider focused on instilling conservation in its guests. They have a waste-minimisation strategy, which involves reducing waste as much as possible with whats left being recycled or composted. Many of the structures at the site are made from recycled pallets and other recycled materials and plenty of details on their sustainable practices and policies can be viewed on their website.
The Iveagh Garden hotel on Harcourt St, Dublin 2 is billed as ‘Europe’s First Sustainable Hotel’ and sources all of its energy from an underground river, running 50 metres below the hotel, via large turbines.
Obviously the most sustainable form of transport is walking, next cycling, next public transport, next car and finally flying. There is no two ways about it, flying is a very damaging form of transport environmentally and to minimise the damage you’re advised to 1) fly as little as possible, 2) pick the most efficient airline, 3) fly economy (it’s the most sustainable) and 4) offset your carbon emissions from flying (see below).
It’s also a good idea to get direct flights where possible and to pack as little as possible, both of which helps save on fuel. You could also consider bringing your own food in order to avoid the overly packaged offerings from the airlines.
A mentioned above one great way to make up for the carbon emissions created by your air travel is to invest in planet positive initiatives via a carbon offset program like Qantas Future Planet. If your airline doesn’t offer a program like this you can do it independently via a website like Atmosfair
Sustainable Accommodation Abroad
If you are thinking of heading abroad you can still have a positive impact on the world by staying in sustainable, ethical accommodation. Here are some stunning options for you to consider.
Fogo Island Inn (see image above) in Newfoundland is filled with of folk crafts made by a guild of local craftswomen and serves cuisine made with locally grown ingredients, some of which is foraged. According to the hotel’s website locally sourced, sustainable building materials were chosen for the hotel whenever possible. Harvesting of rainwater is used to serve the toilets, laundry, and kitchen appliances, and wood-fired boilers and solar panels are used for hot water and underfloor heating. The hotel is effectively owned by the community with all profits funding local micro-lending projects and the hotel’s Shorefast Foundation, which is dedicated to preserving the tradition of boat building in the area.
Nkwichi Resort, on the shores of Lake Malawi is kilometers away from the nearest town and offers the beauty of a clear night sky. The resort owners state that they are committed to local conservation and low-impact tourism and participate in the pack with a purpose scheme, which matches travellers with needs in the locality.
Hulio Hulio in located in the middle of the Chilean Patagonian Rainforest, under the Andes Mountain range. Their website states that the hotel owners are committed to the conservation of nature and local culture but very little detail about this was given.
Kolarbyn is a hostel composed of charcoal huts made from natural materials in the middle of the spruce forest. This accommodation is really for those that don’t mind roughing it, as there is no electricity or running water. There ‘hostel’ includes twelve huts with two inflatable mattresses and sheepskin rugs to sleep on. All the huts have a fireplace that you chop your own wood for. There is a compost toilet, paper, water and soap but no shower so you’re invited to take a dip in the local river, the Skärsjön, or heat water in the floating sauna. The owners of this hostel avoid chemicals and toxins and use KRAV certified products as much as possible. Part of the proceeds from the hostel goes to the conservation of nature and culture in the locality. The owners are also members of the Swedish Ecotourism Society and the Swedish Society for Nature Conservation.
Pugdundee Safaris run a series of eco-lodges in National Parks in India. They state that they practise sustainable wildlife tourism in remote locations away from regular tourism hubs, which helps generate income for those living in remote areas. They choose sustainable, low-energy products, employee locals and procure from local businesses as much as possible. They also regularly train their staff on conservation related issues as they believe that to conserve our forests, we must look after the needs of local people. The company is a signatory of TOFT , an organisation that supports the protection, conservation and rewilding of natural wilderness and their wild inhabitants through responsible eco-tourism.
Treehotel in Sweden offers a range of treehouses, built using sustainable materials and methods by local contractors to make as little environmental impact as possible. The electricity to the treerooms is supplied locally from green hydroelectric power and the lighting comes by way of low-energy LED-systems. The treerooms have combustion toilets where everything is incinerated at 600 °C by electricity. Bathrooms have water-efficient sinks with running water sufficient for washing hands, face and brushing teeth with all wastewater collected in a container that is emptied daily. The company states that the treerooms are only ever cleaned eco-friendly products.
The Ion Adventure Hotel in Iceland is furnished with locally sourced recycled materials and was extended using pre-fabricated modules so as to minimise its impact on the site as much as possible. The bedlinen used in the hotel is organic and fairtrade as is the food served in the restaurant. A lot of the fittings in the hotel are made from natural or recycled materials including lights made from lava and reclaimed wood and sinks made from recycled tyres. The hotel is equipped with water-saving shower systems and uses geothermal energy for heating and hot water.
On the most recent post about a low waste holiday in Phuket by Gippsland Unwrapped, an Australian zero waste blogger, mentioned that the Accor Hotel group has a Planet 21 Programme, focused on local sourcing, diversity and water, energy and waste management. Tammy’s post also mentions the Green Hotelier where you can read a summary of the Planet 21 Programme. It’s also a great resource for information on sustainable ethical destinations.
Other Resources for Sustainable Accommodation Abroad
Although the website Green Hotelier is a treasure trove of information on sustainable hotels, it doesn’t have a user-friendly search facility. You can only list destination by continent, which gives you a series of articles, rather than just information on accommodation.
Responsible Travel is a much more user-friendly website for traveller and holiday makers, allowing you to search for sustainable holiday accommodation by country, date and type of holiday. The only downside is the extent of their database. I searched for accommodation in Ireland and only one place came up.
Pure Crete is an online portal for individually owned properties in Crete for rent. Most of their rental properties are locally owned by Cretan families and, according to their website, Pure Crete has helped to restore village houses in co-operation with local families using traditional building methods and assists in subsidising the installation of solar energy in the houses they rent. They have also been awarded Star Status for Responsible Tourism by AITO.
Boost your Sustainable Street Cred
It can be a real challenge to avoid waste on holidays, particularly when you don’t know a place but by being prepared you can make it a lot easier. Here are some things that we do and a new few new ones that will be trying on our next trip;
- If you’re travelling around it can be hard to find stores that suit a low-waste lifestyle but these store locators can make it easier.
- pack reusable bottles, cups, lunchboxes, cutlery
- pack your own toiletries and avoid those offered by hotels as they often get chucked once you’ve checked out
- bring your own clear plastic bag to put toiletries in going through airport security
- check if you can bring supplies to communities in need at your destination via pack with a purpose
- a good tip from Gippsland Unwrapped is to boil a kettle of water every evening to use this as your drinking water the following day. According to the World Health Organisation doing this allows you to sterlise tap water, killing all pathogens.
And above all enjoy your trip.