There are more green tourism businesses on Mull and Iona than any other island destination in Scotland which, I think, is something to shout about. We have been members since 1999 and have held a Gold Award for 12 years. We had our bi-annual Green Tourism Business Scheme inspection a couple of weeks ago. Before the visit I checked back over the last Green Tourism inspection Audit (2012) to make sure I had all the information close at hand that I needed or wanted to show the inspector.
A Green Tourism inspection sounds daunting but is usually a positive experience – not least because it is a good chance for us to review what we have been doing, whilst preparing for the visit. Being eco-conscious has been part of our way of life for so long now, I cannot imagine ever changing but there is always something new to learn. GTBS inspectors are a good source of sound advice and well researched information, and Stuart, visiting us for the second time, was no exception. During the visit, Stuart asked a lot of questions about what we have been doing – in the cottages, with our management processes, and what local things we might have been involved in. That bit is always difficult to answer because it is easier to get on with things than talk about them. We also have to submit, at each green tourism inspection, a record of our energy types and consumptions, which is used to measure our carbon footprint. In 2011 the GTBS held the inaugural Green Tourism Awards at a reception in London. We were shortlisted for the first GoldStar awards (in addition to holding the Gold Award since 2002). It was a grand surprise – and honour – to win the Goldstar and the Carbon Footprint Award (in recognition of the reduction in our carbon footprint)!
We do not for a minute regret installing our wind turbines or the solar PV. For nearly 10 years now we have been looking for a solution to becoming energy neutral. Our location is not suitable for a massive wind turbine and unfortunately we don’t have any hydro opportunities either, so we have concentrated on domestic scale renewables that are more in keeping with the low impact nature of Treshnish.
On average we are producing between 85% and 90% of our electricity consumption over the year. The ‘easy’ solution to make that 100% or more would be to install another turbine or more PV panels, but at the moment we would rather look at narrowing the gap by consuming less. It is too soon to tell what savings we will make from the additional insulation and better windows and doors installed over the last 2 winters in Shian, Duill and Studio, but the monitoring we do of energy consumption should show what difference it has made over the next year or so.
We need to reduce our energy consumption by 10-15% in order to balance our generation and consumption. I have always been reluctant to replace items like low energy light bulbs which are still working fine with LEDs as I worried about the embodied energy in the low energy bulbs that are not at the end of their working life – not just from the waste of materials within the bulbs themselves but also about the cost! They have to be correctly disposed of too. Some of the cottages already have LEDs in their kitchens and bathrooms, but most of them are the slow to warm up low energy ones. Stuart suggested we phased in LEDs starting in areas where they were used most, so this is one thing we are looking at beginning over the coming winter.
We have never really worried too much about saving water. As our water supplies overflow for most of the year, with the unused water flowing down to the sea, there has never seemed much point in saving water. Certainly we don’t need water butts in the veg garden, we are better off with larger storage tanks on the hill (which we already have)! Stuart, however, pointed out something which I should have thought about before, that if we used tap ‘aerators’ to reduce the flow of water used, we would also save energy – on heating the hot water! I can’t believe I hadn’t thought of that before. Another job for the winter.
Our 2014 Audit arrived the other day – Stuart’s report on his recent visit. The Audit gives the green tourism business a score as well pointers as to what tweaks and improvements could be looked at. Our score was 90% which was our highest yet I think, and with lots of suggestions to keep our feet firmly planted on the ground.