"We do not own the world, and its riches are not ours to dispose of at will."
- Quaker Advice
Sustainability is a complex concept to define properly (see this link). Our sustainability approach encompasses the Three R's of Reduce, Re-use, Recycle, the responsible use of energy and supporting the local economy through our purchasing (which also impacts on energy for transport and materials for packaging).
We also need to consider the 'sustenance' of this historic building, which means balancing energy-saving changes with respect for the history and original fabric of the house. Early on, we took advice from an architect specialising in environmental issues.
We have two 'dry recyling' wheelie bins and three 'garden waste' bins. Guests are encouraged to keep recylable items separate. Specific bins are provided in each apartment, and the B&B waste is sorted by us.
Non-meat food waste is collected and composted on-site along with much of the garden waste (but with two acres we also fill the council bins).
Bulk metal waste (occasionally unearthed during works in the garden) is taken for recycling at the tip, as is bulk cardboard from deliveries, similarly batteries, ink cartridges, etc.
Redundant stock is given for re-use. Bedding, towels and household items are given to a Women's Refuge charity. Saleable disused items are given to charity shops and less saleable items are given away via the local Freecycle website.
We provide B&B guests with both larger bottles of shower gel etc. as well as the environmentally costly but 'expected' individual bottles. We find most use the larger bottle.
The use of paper 'disposable' products is kept to an absolute minimum, and when used they are composted or recycled as appropriate.
When making capital purchases we consider the energy rating of white goods and will pay for quality where it's clear that the resulting lifetime of the product better justifies the energy and material expenditure used in creating it.
We are most of the way through a programme of converting all the lighting to LED lighting. This alone has reduced the lighting wattage by around 6KW. This also brings benefits for health and safety as the bulbs are barely warm to the touch.
There are four gas boilers; one for the main house and one for each apartment. We invested in replacing the main boiler with a dramatically more efficient one; halving our gas usage. The apartment boilers are being replaced when the older ones fail (which hasn't taken long: two have been replaced with more efficient condensing boilers).
We have installed individual radiator thermostats throughout.
As alternatives to gas, we considered a biomass (wood chip) boiler. This was rejected on the grounds of space and because of questions regarding the 'sustainability' of importing wood chip from European forests. Solar (PV) was considered and rejected because we were advised that our south-facing roof was too shaded by trees to make this economically or financially viable.
We have installed two log burners to supplement the heating in the winter. We cut and dry our own fuel from the woodland garden, making this heating carbon-neutral.
We have a rolling programme of insulating the windows. Some windows have been carefully restored and, while doing so, the panes replaced with double glazing. Some have had secondary glazing fitted where this does not impact visually. Many of the original sash windows have been draughtproofed during restoration. This, we were advised, was a greater benefit per cost than having them double-glazed (which would also have meant the loss of much of the original timber).
When restoring the roof we took the opportunity to insulate inaccessible sections not previously insulated.
Eggs, bacon, sausages, mushrooms, apple juice and soft fruit are sourced from small independent suppliers within 6 miles of Malvern. Flour is organic and sourced from Shipton Mill 30 miles away. All animal-derived products are free range. All food is locally sourced, organic or fairtrade.
All of our contractors, from cleaners, laundry, roofers, decorators, electricians, plumbers, to landscape gardeners (and thus a spend into the local economy of some tens of thousands of pounds) are within a radius of 6 miles.