Our big, green, B&B machine
We’re not eco-warriors, but we try. There are some bare facts about living in the Scottish Highlands that can challenge your ambitions for sustainable living. We have been known to drive for almost two hours just to buy school shoes- this is not good for the planet. Nonetheless, we do try to redress the balance.
So let’s get back to basic bricks and mortar. If you’re not living in an architect-designed ecohouse built from scratch you have some problems to contend with. Forget grand designs, we’re talking eco-damage limitation. One of the first things we knew we had to fix about our vintage 1970s abode was the fact that it leaked a humongous amount of heat. Last year I found some lovely wild cowslips growing outside our back door. In December. This suggests that we may have been making our own contribution to global warming by heating the garden instead of our home. It’s amazing how many ways heat can escape. We quickly found the most obvious by looking in our loft; it was as well-insulated as a garden shed. Now, it’s so full of shredded recycled paper it looks like a hamster cage.
Next, we took a good hard look at the Otter Lodge heating. All of that lovely warmth that was disappearing came from an entirely electric heating system; and we’re not talking storage heaters, either. Things came to a head when our utilities company made their standard courtesy call when electricity usage rises above £100.00… per day. Jings, we’re not Gleneagles – something needed to be done. We had an empty garage next to the house which provided the answer to our search for sustainability: wood. To be specific; wood pellets stored in a 5 tonne hopper that automatically feed into a state-of-the-art Austrian boiler system. If it’s good enough for the local school and the big posh hotel down the road, it’s good enough for us.
One of the first things we draw your attention to on arrival are our breakfast menu slips, which we collect each evening. We admit it may feel a bit odd to be thinking about eggs and bacon when you’ve just had a three-course evening meal at one of our fantastic local eateries, but it has two advantages: you have to wait less time for your breakfast and we don’t chuck out piles of uneaten food. And let’s face it; if Martin has to throw away even one of his lovingly made tattie scones it makes him sad.
On the subject of tears and heartbreak, let’s talk laundry. We like to line dry our laundry every day, come rain or shine. No-one can argue with the pure green-ness of wind power and let’s face it we have it in abundance. And, of course, rain. We’ve been known to hang sheets on the line when it’s chucking it down and, strangely, they dry. I’ve also been known to hang sheets out with mittens and full waterproofs on and, less strangely, they don’t; but overall, we’ve been staggered with how few days we’ve had to resort to the drier (an eco-grade condenser, of course). We can wash as many as 140 pillowcases and over 100 sheets and duvet covers in one week during the busy season. Do re-use your towels, folks. Doing our own laundry is labour intensive; but ecologically, it works. And who has such a fabulous view to look at when they’re pegging out the pillow cases?
Overall, we do our best; on the green scale we’re kind of pale olive colour. Life is all about compromise. Here are a few other measures we take to keep ourselves on the ecological straight and narrow:
- The funny black bin you can just about see through our French windows is compost. All our kitchen waste is put in there; which is why our flower beds are decorated with egg shells and bits of old tea bag.
- We recycle bottles and cans; especially the full ones that are accidentally left in the back of our guests’ fridge.
- We really try to keep our waste to a minimum. The entire business pretty much survives with only one domestic size refuse bin and one recycled waste bin, emptied every two weeks.
- If we have to use a plastic bag, we reuse it when we can.
- We prefer the kind of mood lighting you can only really get from low energy light bulbs.
- Like Gleneagles we have sweeping lawns that we like to keep au natural. That is to say we avoid mowing where at all possible.
- We love walking and cycling… and we love guests who arrive under their own steam.