Karen Wells-West of the award winning Eco Bed and Breakfast, The Sanctuary Cornwall explains their approach to sustainable tourism and some of the simple things they put in place to help walkers visiting them do their bit to help the planet.
Recent research has shown that 83% of travellers think that sustainable travel is vital, that 49% think there aren’t enough sustainable travel options available and that 53% get annoyed if places they stay stop them being sustainable. So the appetite for looking after the planet is growing and it’s something we know that walkers are often passionate about too.
There’s so many definitions of ‘sustainable tourism’ but we define it as ”the use of natural products and energy in a way that does not harm the environment, along with the ability to continue for a long time.” We firmly believe that it has to start from the inside outwards .In other words if we don’t live the life, walk the talk etc, this approach will eventually fall apart as it’s just surface decoration or ‘green-washing’. We don’t always get everything right and there’s always something new to learn along the way!
Creating an eco B&B
We didn’t exactly set out to create an eco B& B. We had bought 12 acres of land complete with a disused barn from our neighbour in 2015 and wanted to enjoy growing things, and relaxing. After selling our kayaking business in 2019, the idea to provide inclusive, communal accommodation that would bring guests together in nature and showcase all the sustainable ideas we were putting in place was hatched. A few years later, we were over the moon to win Ethical, Responsible & Sustainable tourism awards in both Cornwall and the South West Tourism Awards, and a special award for water conservation.
The location of the Sanctuary lends itself to off-grid living. We use solar panels and battery storage, solar thermal tubes and a huge, insulated log boiler to heat a 1000 litre water tank. This means we (and our guests) have to be careful in the winter and all our appliances are low wattage.
Our water is via a borehole, tested and treated with ultra violet light. We can adjust the flow so we are not using it too quickly, and we have dual flushing toilets. The best way to save water is not to use it in the first place –our most popular idea is to challenge guests to take a 3min shower by leaving a 3 min egg timer in the bathroom! Our sewage waste is via a septic tank and all water is returned back to the land via the soakaways, rainbutts for plants, old baths for the veg garden, and ponds around the land.
The Five Rs – a sustainable approach
The approach we take which means guests can join us in being as sustainable as possible is based around five simple Rs: .. .
- Refuse – The best way of saving overproduction is to not buy it in the first place. Eg – we chose not to have a dishwasher – one more ‘thing’ to buy that uses electricity – we wash up by hand using a small bowl of water that then goes onto the plants. I have a total war on single use plastic bottles – we offer a free,metal reusable bottle to try and persuade guests to give up the habit too.
- Repair – can we get things mended, repainted? A large proportion of our linen eventually gets marked, sometimes only a tiny spot, and I’m not going to waste fair trade, certified expensive bedding! So I cut flowers and leaves from the same fabric and embroider over the mark – and leave a note explaining what I’ve done.
- Reuse – we try to look at how we can use things again or in a different way. For instance, all of the barn that was originally on site was taken down and reused outside and inside. Even our paper breakfast forms are turned into notepads. I’ve provided tiny metal tins for guests to take their half used soap and shampoo bars home with them. All cardboard goes onto my ‘no dig’ veg beds as a mulch.
- Recycle – most people are familiar with this one: We have blankets and rugs that are woven entirely from recycled plastic bottles, place mats that are made from cork and ocean plastic waste. We use recycled paper and bamboo for loo rolls, biodegradable sponge cloths and biodegradable dog bowls, poo bags & bin bags. Refill schemes are a great way to save on packaging and I’m also trying to go back to making my own yoghurt to save on the hundreds of plastic tubs from the dairy.
- Rot ( or rubbish) By using as many natural fibres as possible they can be added to the compost heap or even buried at the end of their life along with our fruit and veg.
In addition, we also make our own cleaning products using white vinegar, lemon juice, bicarbonate of soda, hydrogen peroxide and essential oils and use a steam cleaner.
We love to buy local and support the amazing food and products that Cornwall produces whilst saving on transportation costs. It’s not the cheapest option but it makes a difference. 80% of our breakfast is locally sourced within a few miles.
Inspiring others to choose sustainable
It is undeniably more expensive to make some of the choices which we make to operate in a sustainable way, but we’ve made a conscious decision to spend more and make less profit in order to showcase this way of doing things and inspire guests and other businesses.
Most guests who are walking the SWCP are already aware of and keen about many of these issues – being situated right next to the Path means as a Way Maker business we often welcome them. We love it that just through the sheer fact of walking the Path they are supporting sustainable tourism and leaving just footprints behind. As a Way Maker, we’re also able to support the SWCPA in their work as a charity to keep the amazing environmental asset safe for the future and to add another element to our commitment to support sustainable tourism.
The Sanctuary Cornwall is an offgrid eco lodge, set in 12 acres of wood & pasture overlooking the Fowey Estuary. Footpaths connect to the SWCP and Saints Way.
Walks in the local area include:
St Catherines Castle – A short walk around a strategically important headland on the River Fowey, used to defend the estuary and harbour for over two thousands years.
Gribbin Head and the Saints Way – A fascinating walk with historical and literary associations as well as spectacular views.
Wind in the Wyllows – A walk through medieval history on both sides of the River Fowey, entailing two ferry trips and some delightful woodland paths high above the creek.
Written by Sanctuary Cornwall
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If you’re a business based on or near the Path, you’re an essential part of the South West Coast Path experience for the 9 million visitors who spend time on the National Trail each year.
Whether you are a food and drink provider, accommodation provider or run a visitor attraction, experience or activity – you help to make the SWCP one of the most popular hiking trails in the world. You make the Way.
Thanks to this unique trail, over £500 million is generated for the local economy every year, supporting thousands of jobs and livelihoods like yours. By coming together we can protect and improve the Coast Path for generations to come.