Our Green Story
When we bought Stein Inn and moved to the Isle of Skye in the early 1990s we had a huge job to bring the Inn back from its very sad, deteriorated state. By the turn of the millennium we had a young family and we had begun to understand the importance of looking after the environment for our family’s future, the future of our business and for future generations.
It was at this point that we were undergoing some significant developments within the Inn and consequently were introduced to Green Tourism Business Scheme. Of course it was in the very early days of thinking about ‘sustainability’ and concerns for the environment were primarily in the research sector. Since then knowledge and research has developed, and concerns about the environment and waste are now a permanent part of the news and government.
I think it would be fair to say that I embraced Green Tourism from the outset. Angus was a bit more sceptical. However I have gradually won him over and he sees that apart from the ethical aspect, it does actually make good business sense.
Over the years our green policy and behaviour has grown and developed, with the growth of our knowledge and the resources to assist us in the endeavour. As an example think about light bulbs and lighting. When we began we were using incandescent bulbs. Then we changed to low energy and fluorescent lighting. Then we moved on to LED (early days were not very good) which today give off an amazing amount of light for the energy use.
Basically our mantra is ‘reduce, re-use, recycle’.
About five years ago we undertook an energy efficiency assessment of the building, bearing in mind that the Inn is a listed building, situated in a conservation area. Following this, we updated our heating system and introduced an instant hot water system. As a consequence we have reduced our electricity usage (which benefits our finances) with little or no impact on our lpg gas consumption, given that we replaced our boilers with new , much more efficient ones. In light of this Green Tourism awarded us a Highly Commended in the pub/inn category in their Gold Star Awards in 2103 – 2014. We are absolutely delighted with this especially as it is a national award.
In spite of the limitations already mentioned we continue to look at improvements to the building. Given we are a small business this is a gradual process when finances allow. We used to have an open fire which was a constant problem as it was inefficient and flooded the room with smoke if the wind did not behave. We replaced it with a double sided stove, which gives us the aesthetic quality and is so much more efficient. We also have another stove in the breakfast room – they throw out a huge amount of heat! There is still so much more to do as things wear out or new things are introduced. It is now ingrained in us to replace with the most energy efficient we can. But it is not always the case that legislation or regulations fit in with green thinking.
We have also looked at our menu, in that we believed that we could reduce waste. I am sad to say that we Brits are not good at eating our vegetables. So we changed to salads and vegetables being side orders rather than being part of the meal. consequently we dramatically reduced our wastage.
Over the years we have developed systems and relationships in this section. Clothing, bedding and towels are passed on to charities for both two and four legged recipients. Furniture being replaced is offered to groups on the island supporting people setting up a new home. It is part of Angus’ psyche not to move anything on – ‘just in case it might come in useful’! Heaven knows what is going to happen when we eventually sell the business! Anyway he does use things and indeed built a small shed using old roof sarking.
We are very pleased that the local authority is finally having to catch up with re-cycling, although very slowly. No doubt they are hampered by where we live and what is economically viable. Gradually our ‘blue’ bins have increased what they take. However our greatest problem in the tourism business is having to contend with visitors who are used to their recycling arrangements visiting a place where the system is different. Until recently plastic containers could not be recycled and the fact they are now is a god send. However we still have to fish out glass bottles from the bins! This though is a national problem with the lack of consistency.
Glass is a real issue for us. When we first started here just about all glass bottles were sent back to suppliers. Over time this system has disappeared such that all bottles are new bottles. Consequently we must recycle the bottles as frequently as possible ,usually daily to avoid drowning in them. Thankfully we daily go via the bottle banks at Fairy Bridge where you will see us feeding the containers. The local authority does not make it easy for us! As we use our electric car for this (to be commented on in the next section) our carbon footprint is greatly reduced.
Ultimately our hope is to limit the impact we have on our environment and reduce our carbon footprint, although I do not think it it possible for us to have zero impact, because of where we live. We believe strongly in highlighting the food larder of Skye, the Highlands and Scotland, which has the added benefit of reducing our food miles. We encourage our guests to get out of their cars and walk by providing guides, maps and of course our own knowledge of the island. We have also a couple of cycles for hire if you can cope with the hills!
When we needed to change our vehicle recently we assessed that the majority of our journeys were under 20 miles, i.e. return journeys to Dunvegan. We therefore decided on a Mitsubishi PHEV which allows us to do short journeys using electrical charge and still use fuel for longer journeys around the Highlands where there are limited (although increasing number) of charge points. While we can charge our vehicle using a standard 13 amp point we installed a fast charge point for the use of our guests, so that if you are staying with us or having meal, you can plug in! I am delighted to say that there is a super fast one in a car park in Portree – an excuse to go for a coffee!