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. They also have a quirki off-grid horse box to stay in too.
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 Wild Campsite in Kilkenny allows you to camp in the Riverhollow Nature Reserve. The approach is to leave nothing but footprints and campers are expected to bring their own rubbish home.
Rock Farm Slane Glamping is a billed as a luxury eco campsite based on an organic farm and ecotourism project on the Slane Castle estate. The campsite is situated in a secret grove of parkland trees overlooking meadows and the demesne woodlands on the North bank of the River Boyne. The parkland surrounding the boutique campsite is a designated Natural Heritage Area and Special Area of Conservation and includes an interesting bird population (herons, cormorants, egrets) and a thriving population of Irish hares. On the farm itself, they harvest their own rainwater and process their waste water through natural systems which feed into a landscaped wetland. Some of the accommodation have composting toilets.
Blackstairs Eco Trails offer accommodation in these really cute Shepherds huts to compliment the eco workshops, walks and foraging days that they run. They provide organic and wild food, keep their own hens and have their own wood.
Inch Hideaway is billed as a sustainable camp site situated walking distance from Inch Beach, Co Cork, although no specific information how it is sustainable was available on their website. The accommodation on offer includes 4 luxury yurts and the Wanderly Wagon that sleep up to 27 people. Each yurt sits on raised platforms and is heated with a wood fired stove and furnished with beds. There is a communal kitchen, banquet dining area, BBQs, wood fired pizza oven and camp fire pit.
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. Unfortunately the hotel isn’t listed as a ‘Fair Hotel’, which is a hotel that agrees to pay fair wages to it’s staff. It doesn’t mean it doesn’t pay fair wages, it just isn’t listed as doing so. For a list of Fair Hotels in Ireland that publicly declare their commitment to fair wages for their staff check out fairhotels.ie.
Preserving what is existing is a large component of sustainable living, which is why i’m including properties run by the non-profit Irish Landmark Trust in this list. They give new life to interesting and unusual properties that are in need of conservation by turning them into unique self-catering holiday accommodation. Their properties range from lighthouses and schoolhouses, to castles and gate lodges.
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 in the UK
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.
The Shepherds Hut is located in three acres of flower meadows and orchards on the Welsh border with stunning (according to the website) views across the valley. The main focus of this location is the proximity to nature with red kites and buzzards in the skies, clear starry nights, hooting tawny owls, roaming badgers, and in summer dragon flies scooting over the pond and a wildflower meadows. It comes with a double mattress with inflatables for up to 2 children, a fully equipped kitchen with gas hob, grill and fridge and an outdoor fire pit. Running water, a flushing toilet and a gas powered shower is provided too and electricity is generated via solar panels. The property also offers a 3 bed cottage onsite, which can sleep up to 7 people.
Old-Lands is a stunning old family estate in Monmouthshire, Wales run on green principles by a long line of ecologists and naturalists who installed solar water-heating in the 70’s, planted a walled garden to keep the household self-sufficient in vegetables and fruit, kept bees to pollinate the orchard and make honey, and had chickens to recycle leftovers and lay eggs. Some of the estate has been taken on by the Gwent Wildlife Trust and is being managed so that it reverts to flower-rich meadow. They offer forest school sessions for children, nature walks and you can order homemade food during your stay or buy chemical free produce grown in the walled garden.
Elmley is a family-run farm set in the middle of the 3,200 acre estate in England that is a SSSI, Special Protected Area for birds and Ramsar site (wetland of world importance). The owners of the farm, Philip and Corinne Merricks, have farmed on the grazing marsh for over 40 years and have the unique status of being the only family farmers who own and manage a National Nature Reserve. The farm is off-grid and is powered by a very efficient solar array and generator with big batteries. The huts are handcrafted using natural materials and eco-friendly insulation and fod is locally sourced.
The Scarlet Hotel in Cornwall, England claim to source responsibly, reduce the amount of waste they send to landfill, create rather than consume. They also monitor their energy usage and aim to reduce their carbon footprint year-on-year.
Log House Holiday in the Cotswold, England set in a forest landscape, which was planted by the owners, and includes wild flowers and reed beds. Their log houses are constructed from sustainable Finnish woodlands and are designed to be cosy in the winter and cool in the summer. All of their holiday cabins have ground source heat pumps which extract heat from the lake, supplying all of the hot water, underfloor heating and the traditional Finnish hot tubs. In 2011, they installed a large solar tracking system which sits hidden in one of the large reed beds; this provides nearly all of the electricity that is used on site. Sustainable firewood for the wood burners in each cabin is harvested on-site from their coppiced tree plantations and water in all of the cabins comes from their on-site spring. There’s even an Organic Farm Shop nearby so you can get locally sourced organic food.
Quirky Campers (see top photo) are a collective of camper van owners based across the UK offering an opportunity for holidaymakers to experience their campervan digs, many of which are decked-out with natural and reclaimed materials, come stocked with eco-friendly cleaning products and some even have solar panels and run on biodiesel. They have vans available to hire and pick-up in Bristol, Cornwall, Devon, London, Wales, West Midlands, Somerset and Liverpool. The family-run business also donate 10% of their profits to charity. (Extract from Life and Soul Magazine)
The Dome Garden in the UK is a purpose built glamping village with 11 insulated geodesic domes, just North of Bristol, in the spectacular Forest of Dean. Each dome has an en-suites with flushing loos & wood fired showers or baths, proper beds, luxury linen & wood burning stoves.
Cerenety Eco Campsite in Cornwall uses solar panels to hear their showers and has composting toilets based on the Lovable Loo design. They also have a reed bed as a filtration system for waste water. The cafe that they run during busy periods is run on wood burning power and they make breakfast crepes from eggs laid by their own chickens. Guests are invited to forage their veg patch in return for a donation and items made from recycled materials are available to buy onsite.
Jessie Mac’s in Scotland aims to be the greenest small hostel in Scotland. The owners employ local staff, contractors and suppliers wherever possible and pay a living wage to their employees. They also sponsor the local highland games, donate free bed nights to local charities and work really hard to buy everything locally. They have halved the amount of energy that they use per guest and recycle 90% of our/your waste. They are also a Fairtrade business, buying only fairly traded tea, coffee, sugar and bananas for breakfasts and rooms. The owners won a Gold level in the Green Tourism Business Scheme.
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.
Pebble Magazine wrote a blog post on how to have an Eco-friendly day in Brighton
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.
During my research i came across the Green Tourism website where you can search for businesses that have won a Green Award by location. Green Tourism is a not-for-profit organisation established in 1997 with a mission to encourage and enable companies in the hospitality / tourism industry to make sustainable choices that reduce their impact on the planet. They have 2000 member in the UK and abroad. They claim to be one of the most rigorous certification programmes of its kind, stating that it is the only one independently validated by the International Centre for Responsible Tourism (ICRT). I have searched for eco-accomodation in Ireland using it’s website and i was surpised at the results. None of the destinations I listed in previous posts appeared, in fact the main result was for a Jury’s Inn, which wouldn’t strike me as a particularly ‘green’ hotel. I’m listing the website here but i personally won’t be using it to source green accommodation.
One Planet Rating appears to be a green version of Trip Advisor, where you can view hotels, restaurants and attractions based on their eco-rating. It seems to depend on the rating of the public and could be great if it works like Tripadvisor but so far the only hotel in Dublin that received a rating was the Radisson Blu, which i’d hardly rate as a particularly green hotel.
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.