Glenuig Inn was renovated with sustainability at its heart and, as a multi award winning sustainable business, and Scotland’s exemplar green Inn, we always consider the environmental impact of everything we do.
In 2007, we wanted to demonstrate that it was possible to run a leisure and tourism business efficiently and profitably with minimal environmental footprint. In context, we open all year, we can sleep up to 35 people, plus up to 7 staff living in, and we have a restaurant and bar. About 8,000 people walk through the door every year, and we serve around 20,000 plates of food.
Being based in the relatively remote Sound of Arisaig, just off the Road to the Isles, north of Ardnamurchan point and on the route north south from Mull to Skye, the challenges were (and still are) far reaching but we set about designing and implementing a host of initiatives covering all aspects of environmental management for the business, with our eyes also firmly on the bigger picture of the environment around us; encouraging biodiversity and protecting the very thing that the area is renowned for . . . beautiful unspoilt countryside, coastline and waters.
In reality, it means that we use 100% renewable energy, we don’t have any single use plastics, we have virtually zero waste to landfill, no food waste leaves site nor is it composted . . .
100% Renewable Energy
Since February 2015, we’ve used 100% renewable energy which includes 100% green electricity sourced from local hydro schemes. All our heating and hot water is created using wood pellet in a biomass boiler, which has up to 10% by volume of dried & sterilised food waste incorporated into it.
No food waste leaves site, nor is it composted which has its own issues around rodents, methane and other noxious odours.
Instead, our food waste and food contaminated organic waste (paper napkins) from the kitchen, restaurant, rooms and staff accommodation is dried, sterilised, & co-mingled with wood pellet for use in the biomass boiler to provide heating and hot water.
It is dried in a specialist ‘food waste dryer’ which runs on an 8-hour cycle, the output is a dry crumb which looks a bit like garden compost and doesn’t smell. Our talented kitchen team exercise excellent portion control to reduce the leftovers and they buy ingredients specifically to match a menu which has minimal waste.
The circular economy plays out with the final piece of the food waste / renewable energy jigsaw . . . the ash from the biomass boiler which still contains the minerals and calcium from the dried food waste, is packaged into large plastic catering tubs from the kitchen which are unavoidable and would otherwise be recycled. This organic fertiliser is given to guests to use on their own gardens. We also obviously use it for ours too . . .
All our fridges and freezers are in our cool store and all of them generate heat which can be put to good use. We remove the heat from the cool store and put into the kitchen, to help cool that down, and then we distribute it passively throughout the public space via two ‘paddle pump’ doors. This significantly reduces the space heating demand for the public areas before being expelled into the outside air.
The kitchen is all electric and uses Induction hobs for efficiency and ease of cleaning; the absence of deep fat fryers has not only reduced the business’ insurance premiums by 40%, but also means the kitchen is a cleaner work environment, there are no unpleasant ‘cooking’ smells and we serve healthier food!
Waste to landfill
We’ve worked really hard since 2009, and from this baseline we’ve reduced our waste to landfill by over 97.5 % by continuously reducing the waste streams and making sure we re-use or re-cycle when we cannot avoid. Under half a standard domestic wheelie bin per week is now sent to landfill in peak season.
Packaging Take Back
As we’ve reduced the number and variety of waste streams, we have significantly reduced the volume of packaging arriving on site by choosing the right products from the right suppliers, who in turn share best practice with their other customers.
The Take Back scheme means that our suppliers have to remove and take back all outer packaging from their deliveries. Since this started in early 2018, behaviours have changed across our supply chain and we now scarcely have enough cardboard to light the fires in winter! Therefore cardboard is no longer a waste stream for us.
Any unavoidable polythene & packaging waste is collected and sent by the pallet every few months for specialist recycling. This journey makes use of an existing return journey from another delivery. Polystyrene fish boxes are washed and taken back by the fish merchants to be reused.
Sustainable supply chain management
We work with our suppliers to get deliveries in as large quantities as possible to reduce the carbon impact of transport. We look for suppliers with green credentials, and positively seek those whose supply ethos aligns with our drive to reduce reliance upon re-cycling.
We source products which are as local, natural and organic as possible and from small independent suppliers by choice. Over 40% of our food ingredients are sourced in Scotland.
One example is glass bottles, by changing suppliers of a range of soft drinks we can offer a product which is more natural (and has less sugar), and which comes in bottles 18% lighter in weight than the previous for the same quantity of drink. So when the palets of drink are delivered, the overall carbon footprint of transport is less, plus we have to take all of our glass 30 miles for recycling so that means we also contribute less by having fewer journeys during the year. For the same reason we don’t sell bottled beer . . .
LED lighting was installed nearly 10 years ago both internally and externally in the drive to become more energy efficient. In our accommodation building we have recently converted the bedrooms and bathrooms to LED and the bathrooms have PIR extraction fans installed with the aim of reducing energy consumption.
Single Use Plastic
During 2017, we removed plastic straws from the bar with no intention of replacing them with anything else. Furthermore, we stopped buying any other single use plastics such as individual milk cartons and milk pots for the guest rooms (you get a flask of fresh milk instead), plastic drinks bottles, yoghurt cartons and crisp bags. We also don’t use any black plastic refuse bags.
In late 2017, we installed an on-site laundry following the replacement of all our bedlinen and towels.
The available external commercial laundries didn’t fully share our environmental concerns, so to reduce our carbon emissions from both the washing operation and the transport for the twice weekly laundry collections in summer, we took the decision to bring the laundry in-house.
Not only does our laundry operation now run on 100% renewable energy, but we also use phosphate free powders and wash at lower temperatures meaning our laundry is better cared for and lasts longer – multiple wins!
We donated our old linen to the Highland Home Start charity in Fort William and gave our old towels away to guests who stay with their dogs – you can never have enough dog towels!
Wood fibre external insulation.
When the building was renovated, it was wrapped externally with insulation (like a duvet) meaning that everything within it contributes to the thermal mass thus creating a stable internal temperature, as well as making the building energy efficient.
The breathable wood fibre insulation also acts as a carbon sink.
Subsequently, our heating bills are less in winter than in summer which is quite an achievement for a building which was built pre 1745!