Our Green Story

We did not start out to have a ‘green friendly’ B&B. It sort of just happened. I had never given much thought to carbon footprints, what energy I was using or how our waste & use of products might be impacting on the welfare of planet Earth. As a child I had been brought up to switch off lights & appliances when not using them to save the electric bill, & the heating was set to come on morning & evening during the winter & during the day we put on thicker woollies! This again was to save the heating bill. The only recycling I am aware of was my mum & our schools collecting milk bottle tops & tin foil! No one ever mentioned saving the environment!

However things have changed. Over the years, like most of us, I got used to hearing the words ‘Global Warming’ & ‘Climate Change’. The need to save energy, use ‘greener energy’, eco-friendly diesel cars (which then proved not to be it seems) – I have to admit most of what I heard made no impact. Yes, I fitted double glazing & thought I was doing well, but the wider reality never registered. I guess I am one of those people who need to experience something to really appreciate it.

So what was the ‘eureka’ moment to energise myself to think ‘green’ & save energy?

First, on a general level there is Orkney itself. Clean fresh air, versus the fumes of living south. The very dark nights where the lack of light pollution enables one to marvel at the stars & the galaxies around us, & the impact of the aurora borealis. Being here brings the senses to life & really makes one appreciate the planet, nature, the weather, & what we have got; and yes – there is a need for us to look after it!

Second, there is nothing like personal experience to make an impact. It came down to when we renovated the wing in which The Grainstore is situated. We needed to apply to building control for structural changes we were making, and they also brought up the matter of insulation for under concrete floors, insulation in walls & ceilings, approved double glazing, energy saving light bulbs, and so on and so forth. All these things had to be done for the work to be signed off & legal and as we had to pass inspection, all these things were put in place.

Then came the final ‘wake up’ call. The wing had been renovated to seriously conserve energy. The rest of Midhouse – 2 storeys – had not. And during the winter following completion, the wing with the radiators on’ low’ got hot, and then stayed warm for hours after the heating went off. The rest of Midhouse with the radiators on ‘ high’, got pleasantly warm – quickly & then when the heating went off, got cold – quickly! The standing joke was perhaps we ought to move into the wing in the winter! Yes: insulation worked, the amount of energy needed to heat the wing was considerably less, & lasted a lot longer. The light bulb moment had occurred. There was real practical sense in this ‘green’ thinking.

During all this we made friends with a couple who moved to the islands around 2013; the husband sold electric cars & thought Orkney a ‘made’ market. I was fascinated. It turns out with all the turbines & solar panels on the islands we make more electricity than can possibly be used. This meant that using an electric car on the island was using up the excess production of wind & solar energy, with zero running pollution. And for those with their own turbine or solar panels it was a financial no brainer. He has sold a considerable number of electric cars & my interest in ‘green’ energy & living has increased further.
So where does one go from here? Over the last 2 years I have put in place sensible easy ‘green’ procedures for me to implement & our guests are encouraged to follow them as well.

For me it includes:

Using as many chemical-free cleaning products & eco-products as possible for the cleaning & maintenance side of The Grainstore, laundry & dish-washing.

Using energy-saving light bulbs, thermostatic valve radiators, LED night light.

Shopping locally, buying island-based products & fair-trade products where possible.

Endeavouring to grow our own flowers for use indoors.

Having long term goals: solar panels, an electric car charger, an electric car.

For our guests:

Being encouraged to use the eco-products available during their stay.

Following in-house ‘green’ policies including water saving – towels / toilet procedures in place.

Recycling & composting what products they can – bin information available & compost procedure in place.

Using the Tourism info provided & replacing for the next guests. Being energy-aware re lighting, electric products, etc.

With recommendation from Visit Scotland in their 2017 report, I felt encouraged to look into & contact the organisation ‘Green Tourism’. They would be able to guide & encourage me in both my personal desire to promote ‘green’ in my life & also in my business. I did so this spring 2018 & we have been awarded Silver level for our efforts which is encouraging! However it is an ongoing process & I am certain we are on a learning curve on what else we can do for our ‘green’ initiative.

I would love solar panels & an electric car (we are not allowed a turbine due to our location), & they are on the longer-term ‘ to do’ list. But we are still working on basics such as secure roofs! However there are many things I can do in The Grainstore & our ‘home’ area: improve insulation, use heating sparingly & economically, burn wood fires with off-cuts & not coal, use LED/ low energy light bulbs, eco-friendly cleaning products including Enyo, recycling, plan washing loads for linen etc efficiently, etc etc. I would not call myself fanatical, but with my partner we try & do ‘our bit’, reduce our carbon footprint & love our environment. We welcome our guests & promote/encourage what they can do to help to support us with ‘going green’. However we do appreciate that our guests are on holiday, so they are kept simple & easy to do!