Its Environmental My Dear Watson!
(Thank you Sherlock)
Sustainability is more than just a buzzword, it can and should be your business ethos. After the current coronavirus crisis has passed the way people travel will have changed and the climate crisis will be back in the forefront. There are lots of small changes you can make to your business which can help make it more sustainable both in the green sense and more generally. These changes don't need to be massive or expensive, but you can provide sustainable stays without going full eco-lodge.
The eco-friendly world has come along way since the days of BBC's The Good Life. Having an environmentally friendly holiday cottage no longer entails concessions in home comforts. These days, with so many of your potential guests likely to pursue environmentally-friendly lifestyles, you are more likely to be losing business if you don't update your environmental game.
A straightforward, easy change is to switch your energy supplier to a green one such as Bulb or Octopus. These suppliers only invest in renewable energy which reduces the carbon footprint of your holiday cottage and also they are often cheaper than the 'big six'.
If you provide miniature toiletries swap to refillable dispensers, this cuts down massively on the use of single-use plastics and can save you money. Before we switched over we were throwing away a lot of half-used mini shampoos, but now we provide better quality products, from the Scottish Fine Soaps Company, which our guests love and don't produce so much waste.
A large proportion of the carbon footprint created in holidays happens before the guests even arrive, in how they travel to your cottage. You can help encourage more eco-friendly travel such as discounts for car-free guests where location permits or install an electric vehicle charging point so the growing number of hybrid and electric cars can access your cottage. Some websites even have this as a clickable filter now!
Whatever outdoor space you have, whether it be a large garden, yard or a balcony, there is definitely something you can do to encourage local biodiversity, which will, of course, vary across the country.
Could you install a bird feeding station? A bee box? Even re-wild part of your outside space or use fewer pesticides in your gardening? Any small action to encourage natural wildlife and support ecosystems which are generally under threat is undoubtedly a good thing.
We have installed bee boxes at our cottages, they cost only about £15 and help support the approximately 200 species of solitaire bee in the UK, which are essential pollinators and face numerous threats.
Encouraging biodiversity isn't only altruistic it's good for business and guest satisfaction, it's often mentioned in the reviews and reasons to rebook, about how much guests enjoy the garden and specifically bird watching.
There are likely many good causes in your local area that could do with your help, especially after coronavirus has disrupted usual means to fundraise. Why not commit to donating a set amount from every stay to a local good cause? It could support mountain rescue or lifeguards, donating to a fund to repair a historic building or landmark or assisting a breeding program for endangered wildlife.
Supporting these organisations is not only a great thing to do, but it is also a great selling point, showing that you give back to the local community but also on many occasions these add value and maintain the location you are selling.
If you would like to do more than donate money, why not offer stays at your property to a charity for a raffle or have a look into the organisation Something to Look Forward To. This organisation offers gift stays to families affected by cancer hardship who would otherwise not be able to get away, it is a great way to fill vacant time in the off-peak season and support a great cause. At Coley Cottages we have hosted four families so far this year and had very heartwarming notes from them.
Everyone should benefit from tourism, especially the local communities and businesses which host guests. As a local expert, you are in an ideal position to make recommendations and signpost your guests to the best local businesses during their stay.
This is especially relevant for those on short breaks as they may not have as much time to explore as those staying for longer, so your recommendations are key! By encouraging guests to use local businesses, tourism can be more sustainable. The example I always give is that we recommend our favourite independent coffee shops in Ambleside, so guests know there are better alternatives to the Costa.
We have found that one of the best ways to communicate this with guests is through our digital guide, provided by Touch Stay, as it creates a custom map of the area with all our recommendations which are clickable to the businesses location and website.
These are just a few areas where you can make your business more sustainable, there are many more things you can do (please leave any other suggestions in the comments). Importantly it is about taking a broad view of sustainability, making it work for your cottage and communicating this to your guests in your sales and property guide material for maximum impact.
We'd welcome all tips and advice on making holiday cottages more sustainable. Click here to email them to us. We'll add all relevant recommendations to this article.
Recommended Places to Stay
We'd like to thank Will Coley from Coley Cottages in Cumbria for investing his time, expertise and experience in writing this article and contributing the photos. Cumbria Cottages have two beautiful properties (and a third on the way) in the The Lake District all managed on sustainable principles - and generating many a 5-star review from contented guests. We are happy to recommend them too. You can view them here:
Mountain Cottage near Coniston Water in Cumbria. Sleeps 5
Pepper Cottage Near Ambleside in The Lake District Sleeps 4