There’s no Planet B: Doing our bit for beautiful Exmoor and beyond
By Lucy Green, July 2019, Exmoor Character Cottages
With four luxury self-catering holiday cottages catering for up to 28 guests a week throughout the year, waste is a big issue. It’s easy to think once you’ve put an item in the recycling bin it goes somewhere to be magically turned into something useful. But as we now know, thanks to programmes like the BBC’s ‘War on Plastic’, much of it in fact ends life not decomposing in landfill. And so, we like everyone else, are beginning to wonder if the concept of recycling is part of the problem.
So, we’re trying to create less waste to start with, to reduce the use of plastic where we can and encourage our guests to join in! Last year, we invested in large refillable glass water bottles that we leave in the fridge. Upon arrival guests have nice cold Exmoor water, fresh out of a tap. As they refill these bottles during their stay, it’s bye-bye single-use plastic bottles.
At the start of this summer season we introduced a lovely roomy jute shopping bag. Every new party of guests gets one at the start of their stay and we encourage them to use it instead of a plastic bag when stocking up on provisions. It’s also perfect for trip to the beach!
We’re currently trialling refillable milk bottles in our cottage in Dunster with a view to rolling this out across our three other cottages in Minehead this September. We estimate that if we remove four plastic milk bottles a week from our Welcome Tray, that’s a minimum of 208 a year. If even 10% of our guests refilled their bottle at the farm shop, that could eliminate another 100+ bottles annually. There’s something really satisfying about pouring the milk into the bottle yourself, so we think more of our customers than that will want to join the milky movement.
Being green means that we are also doing our bit outside too. One of the attractions of Exmoor Character Cottages for our guests is that we have lovely gardens. We garden organically, we reuse and share plastic pots, we divide and split local plants and use them across our plots. We have put up bird, bat and insect boxes, have log and wood piles, a pond, frog and toad houses, specially designed holes in walls for slow worms, tiny sand lizards and toads, and compost bins where we recycle garden and food waste. We grow native trees plus lavender, verbena, and buddleia (the ‘butterfly bush’) amongst other plants to encourage birds, bees and butterflies.
We have plans for the near future too. For months now we’ve been researching a source to replace individual guest toiletries with minimum packaging, chemicals and airmiles. We’ve not found anything that ticks all our boxes, so we’ve made the decision as a team that the only way to reduce the plastic is not to replace them when the stock has run out. And a radical change for us as confirmed BMW owners – we’re buying our first ever hybrid vehicle for the business!
We are sure our guests will come with us on this journey. Repeat visitors will appreciate why we no longer supply individual toiletries. Some guests will travel to the farm shop to refill with delicious milk from a local dairy. Whether they are ready to see the luxury toilet paper swapped for the recycled paper product we use in our own house – well that’s another matter!