We have had the fortunate opportunity to live and work at Bonawe House in Taynuilt, and be an occupant of this 250 year old building. We see our responsibility to allow the next generations to enjoy this place and its surroundings as much as us. That responsibility means acting and making purchasing and marketing decisions taking the environment into account every step of the way.
Over thre past 5 years we have embarked on an ambitious scheme to completely refurbish our properties, 5 of our cottages have now been stripped back to bare walls insulated to a very high standard and double glazed where permitted. We have also installed a district wood chip boiler to enable us to install central heating in all our cottages and instant hot water. There are also PV panels on the roof to provide some of the electricity. We have invested in many energy saving schemes, such as installing loft insulation, draught proofing, energy efficient lightbulbs, energy efficient appliances and timeclocks for the heating.
We introduced showers into the properties, dual low flush toilets, etc. We defrost the fridges every week to ensure they run efficiently and clean the condensors at the end of every season to optimise their operation. The outside lights are all energy efficient lights, controlled by a daylight sensor, and most are additionally controlled on Passive Infra Red (PIR) or timeclocks. We minimise the light pollution by angling the light downwards where appropriate. We turn off all appliances, and leave nothing on standby when the properties are not occupied.
We minimise Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC) by using natural materials for cleaning, and steam cleaning for thorough cleaning, instead of using bleach. We use water based paints for our walls and also for our windows and doors to minimise VOCs.
Our purchasing has always included buying recycled paper for our printers and brochures, even when they were difficult to source; recycled cartridges; recycled toilet paper, recycled bin bags. We provide liquid hand soaps to minimise the waste of soap bars only used by 1 guest. We now buy Ecover products as a recognised standard for environmental cleaning products. We buy these in bulk and fill up the small containers. We fill up the dishwasher powder with German dishwash powder (lower phospates than Ecover), but use the Tesco containers as these have child lock caps on them.
We purchase FSC approved wooden furniture, and manage to do this without additional transport from the Central Belt by combining it with work Renate does for the Carbon Trust. But where ever possible we renovate furniture, using traditional techniques of French polishing, beeswax (from our own bees) and re-upholstering.
The Council picks up our general waste and paper, and we pay to uplift the glass for recycling. We also have 2 compost bins for fruit and vegetable peelings. During refurbishment we always look at what can be re-used, and have donated many pieces of furniture to Charity. Our sofa’s were donated to the Rose’s project on the Island of Mull. We donate microwaves, toasters and kettles that don’t look up to the standards we are after, to the local children going to university.
We garden organically as much as possible, although we do have to come clean about our drive. Pulling out the weeds by hand is a 9-5 job, and the flame thrower experiments were not effective either. But no other chemicals are used. We landscape our gardens according to the historical significance, maintaining the magnificent beech trees and rhododendron gardens. The area around the pond is left for wildlife, and we have some thriving bee hives here. The wildlife in our gardens is very diverse, including some rare species such as red squirrels, pine martens and several species of bats.
The walled garden is part of our private gardens and we have a small organic fruit orchard and vegetable plot here. All our garden waste is either composted or used to provide heating for our own house.
We are actively engaged in the local community, Damon is leader of the Oban Mountain Rescue, and chairman of the school board. Renate is energy advisor on a voluntary basis for Atlantis Leisure, and also sings in the local Gaelic Choir. We also support the local Community Council whenever needed, and have advised on local windfarms and the local transport plans to encourage walking and cycling. We love the outdoor activities, and encourage our children and their friends to take part in the outdoor life, such as walking in the mountains, swimming and kayaking in the loch, cycling, orienteering, etc.
We like to encourage our guests to minimise their carbon footprint, and therefore make it easy to stay with us without a car. We will pick up anyone from the station, supply towels for free, and of course you can hire a bike locally to be ready for you when you arrive. Our local grocers will drop off your grocery order, both before you come, and whenever you do a big shop while you are with us. Public transport timetables are in the folders.
Our carbon footprint for the business is 52 tCO2. For a week’s booking this is 0.21 tCO2. If you are travelling 300 miles by car for your holiday (36 miles per gallon) then you need to add 0.1 tCO2 to this for your holiday’s carbon impact.
The energy consumption per m2 is 103 kWh per annum, which compares to a typical house of 200 kWh p.a.