Lough Mardal Lodge is working with Sustainable Travel Ireland towards full eco certification as recognised internationally by the Global Sustainable Tourism Council.
Lough Mardal Lodge Sustainability Policy
- as of 15 April 2022 -
This document will be updated every 12 months
1. Company ethos:
At Lough Mardal Lodge our core values are providing a high-end, quality holiday experience as sustainably as possible respecting the natural environment, supporting our local community and in the process informing and demonstrating sustainable methods of building and living.
From the beginning we aimed to offer guests a beautiful and luxurious holiday destination which was thoughtfully, sustainably, and ethically designed and built from the ground up, in harmony with the natural surroundings. A place where shoulders drop on arrival and where guests can truly switch off and disconnect from the white noise of modern living. A relaxing retreat built using (as much as possible) natural materials and products, sourcing local suppliers and adhering to sustainable practices and principles. We hoped to offer an experience which maybe ignites a spark, a re-evaluation of where one is at on their own sustainability journey and perhaps go home feeling awakened and inspired and having something to talk about.
We believe in sustainable travel which informs our mission to provide a unique family-friendly holiday experience for the conscientious traveller who is increasingly looking for something a little bit different. Our 5 Yurts and Shepherd’s Hut are luxuriously furnished and individually styled to ensure 5 star hotel comfort in a wild and rustic natural setting. We seek out local suppliers and producers to enhance the guest experience – beautiful hand-woven blankets from Studio Donegal, Donegal tweed curtains from Magees and sheepskin rugs from Campbells of Ardara. A large round timber-frame strawbale ecobuilding with a grass roof houses all the guest amenities. We encourage both domestic and international holidaymakers to South Donegal, to visit a setting of outstanding natural beauty and promote all the vast and varied activities and sights the region has to offer. The region offers a fusion of nature and culture set against a backdrop of beautiful wild Donegal countryside. We hope our accommodation offers something for everyone; something original and unique, a sustainable alternative to a conventional getaway, a return to nature and the great outdoors. We seek to offer guests an other-worldly and immersive escape where little details make big impressions and provide an experience which promotes personal tranquillity and a sense of well-being. As individuals with a 'grá' (love) for nature we feel passionately about our natural environment. It is our hope that someday ecotourism will simply become standard tourism. We respect that everyone is at a different stage on their path towards becoming more eco-friendly and we try to inspire change and motivate guests to continue on their journey.
At Lough Mardal Lodge we are aware that our business activities impact upon the environment and we are committed to alleviating those negative impacts as set out below.
2. The United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) definition of Sustainable Tourism:
At Lough Mardal Lodge we believe that sustainable tourism is tourism that takes full account of its current and future economic, social, and environmental impacts while addressing the needs of visitors, the industry, the environment, and host communities (UNWTO, n.d.). We therefore aim to reduce our negative effects and increase our positive impacts.
3. Continuous improvement
As a tourism-provider we know our responsibilities. We do not claim to tick every sustainability box but little by little we pledge to keep improving and aim to increasingly be able to offer a more responsible holiday experience with as little impact to the environment as possible.
4. Measuring and reducing negative impacts
As a self-catering holiday destination there are limits as to how much we can control in terms of energy and water consumption as well as waste produced. But by strong and consistent communication and having clear systems in place that are easy to follow we try to encourage guests and staff to be as conscientious as possible when it comes to their own individual carbon footprints during their stay.
4a. Energy consumption
We commit to measuring our electricity consumption every 2 months and do the following to reduce consumption;
• All accommodation units (5 Yurts & 1 Shepherd’s Hut) are completely off-grid. Candles & rechargeable lanterns are provided – lanterns can be recharged kinetically as well as electrically.
• All guest amenities are housed in a communal building that we call the Lodge, this is an eco-building constructed with almost all natural materials and designed to be as sustainable as possible. Buildings, such as the Lodge, which are constructed with straw-bales & cob (earth, straw and water) offer exceptional energy efficiency thanks to the natural insulation capacity of the straw bales (plus the carbon trapped in them), the thermal mass of the cob and passive solar design. The windows in the Lodge are also all double glazed for further insulation. All our guests spend a lot of time using the Lodge and its facilities during their stay and it offers a unique opportunity to experience first-hand the beauty, energy efficiency and functionality of natural building methods which hopefully informs and inspires.
• Heating in the Yurts and Shepherd’s Hut is by wood-burning stove in which the only fuel permitted is firewood – never peat briquettes or coal which are not permitted.
• Use a renewable source of energy for hot water and heating via an air-to-water pump system which is currently the most energy efficient way to provide heating. The energy utilised is eco-friendly and contributes to a reduction of CO₂ emissions.
• Use electrical supplier Energia whose energy is 100% renewable produced from windfarms.
• Encourage the use of electric cars by our guests in providing an E-car recharging point at the Lodge car park for guests to use
• Influence guests through welcome emails, Guest Info webpage and signage to implement energy saving methods (turning off lights, ensuring dishwasher and washing machines have full loads or consider hand washing, etc) Staff are also continually reminded to do the same.
• Use energy efficient lighting and appliances. Most of the lighting in the Lodge is operated by motion sensor to avoid lights being left on unnecessarily except in areas where this is not possible as guests/staff may be stationary for longer periods of time eg. the Reciprocal Room and office. Guests and staff are asked to turn off appliances/lights when not in use.
• In office in the Lodge computers and printer are put to sleep when idle and always turned off fully at night or when not in use.
• The Lodge was designed and built with a large number of big windows and a huge skylight which allows plenty of natural daylight in, thereby reducing energy consumption on lighting. Windows are also kept as clean as possible to maximise the daylight.
• Late night walk-throughs are done to check that lights in the Lodge haven’t been left on after everyone has gone to bed
With the above measures in place our current energy consumption is as follows:
Oil: Zero consumption
Electricity: 2,443 kWh average every 2 months - when measured against occupancy rates this equates to 3.13 kWh per bednight
Gas: To date we estimate that we have used 4 gas bottles per year (used for cooking only). However, we have not measured this - going forward we will start to monitor gas consumption.
Timber: We burn approx. 15 cubic metres of timber a year in our 7 stoves. This is all locally sourced hardwoods from managed woodlands. In the future we aim to be self-sufficient for firewood through thinning of the native woodlands we have planted here.
We undertake to continue reducing energy consumption and aim for a 7% energy use reduction across 12 month by implementing the below:
• We are in the process of installing solar panels to reduce our reliance on grid electricity and be more self-reliant for heating and hot water.
• Improving communication with guests and staff to encourage them to make more efforts to try to reduce energy consumption
• Over 9,000 broadleaf trees have been planted on site to enable us to harvest our own firewood for wood-burning stoves in the medium to long term and to act as a carbon store.
• Buying a large energy efficient washing machine and tumble dryer to wash the bed linen so we do not have to drive into Donegal Town 2 or 3 times a week to get the laundry done, as we currently do. This will increase our water and energy use onsite but reduce our carbon footprint through the reduction in travel and reduce energy and water usage on our behalf elsewhere. The fact that we will be producing electricity with solar panels will also contribute to the overall reduction in energy consumption caused by the new washing machine.
4b. Water consumption
We harvest our own pure well water, free from chlorine, fluoride or any nasty added chemicals, which runs from all the kitchen taps in the Lodge and is tested annually in line with Health & Safety regulations. All the water used throughout the business is harvested from this well. To date we have not had a water meter in order to monitor consumption however we are in the process of installing one so that going forward we will be able to measure and monitor the water use on a monthly basis.
A natural reed-bed and wetland system was created for processing all the grey/waste water from the Lodge. This is an eco-friendly alternative for harnessing bacteria and natural ecological processes for the breakdown of the organic matter in wastewater – ensuring that no polluting waters enter the natural environment around us. No bleach, chlorine or any harsh detergents or cleaning products are ever used.
As a self-catering destination there is only so much control we have over water consumption but below are some of the measures we currently take to try to reduce consumption:
• Water-saving tap fittings are installed on all the sinks
• There are water-saving dual flush mechanisms on all toilets.
• Recommending guests and staff by way of signage and on our Guest Information page to adopt more water conscious behaviour, (e.g. re-boiling the same water for hot water bottles every night, using less water when cooking, not filling the kettle for just one cup of tea, not filling the sink for just a small amount of washing-up, not letting tap run while brushing teeth, etc.)
• Asking guests and staff to ensure the dishwasher is full before turning on - alternatively hand-washing if its just a few things.
• Asking guests to run the dishwasher only when full and on the Eco cycle (lower temperature and shorter cycle)
4c. Waste production
We have a Minimal Waste policy at Lough Mardal Lodge. We measure our waste production every month. Calculations are made based on monthly occupancy rates (bednights). As we move from quieter months to busy peak summer months the rate of waste produced obviously increases however as waste is always calculated based on bednight occupancy it enables a true representation of waste generation regardless of the time of year and number of guests staying.
Based on our occupancy* over the last year and the creation of waste we have calculated the following waste per person (including children);
• Non-Recyclable waste – each guest creates 0.174kg per day on average
• Recyclable waste – each guest creates 0.112kg per day on average
• Food waste - we compost all food waste. As it is put to good use on our vegetable garden, we do not consider it ‘waste’ and therefore do not measure it
*includes our own family of 5
We are committed to reducing waste in the following ways:
• Making all efforts to be as low waste as possible and adhering to the 3 R’s; Reduce, Re-Use and Recycle
• Educating and informing guests prior to visiting via welcome email and Guest Info web page on methods to reduce waste during their stay.
•Requesting that guests do not bring any single-use plastics onto the site.
• Requesting that guests adopt a ‘Leave No Trace’ approach to their stay
• Banning disposable BBQ’s – permanent outdoor BBQs are available for use instead
• Asking guests and staff to separate all waste in the bins provided in the kitchen for recycling and making it easy for guests to do the right thing – items recycled are paper, card, plastics, aluminium, glass and food waste.
• Guests are asked not to bring plastic bottles of water on site and are instead provided with a large 1ltr glass bottle for the duration of their stay to refill with our well water which runs from the taps.
• Providing a compost bin for all guest food waste which is added to our own compost bays and eventually used on our organic vegetable garden.
• Growing much of our own vegetables and baking our own bread thereby reducing packaging and carbon emissions
• Repurposing and upcycling whenever possible eg, all the yurt platforms were built using recycled tyres as foundations, the wooden flooring in each yurt as well as a desk in the Lodge office is all made from upcycled old wedding marquee flooring (danced upon many times in its previous life!), the curtain poles in the yurts were made from old hay rake handles, empty wine bottles were used to create art features in the Lodge, all the window sills in the Lodge were made with wind fell trees, the back-of-house mop sink was first bought by Marcus’s aunt in 1973 and still going strong! We made drawers in our office desk from old wine crates. And upcycled old pallets to build log boxes for storing firewood in the Yurts and Shepherd’s Hut as well as for making wooden shower mats in the shower rooms. When creating our vegetable garden, we sourced oyster shells which were being discarded in Killybegs and used them to create paths between the vegetable beds - good for drainage and a slug deterrent Almost all of the furniture in the Lodge and Yurts is second-hand, purchased on Done Deal.
• Encouraging guests not to bring too much food (which can lead to waste) but instead to shop locally for supplies when needed
• Reusing cardboard boxes and packaging on the vegetable garden – providing compostable material, killing weeds, and creating an environment for lots of earthworms.
• Using paper responsibly in the Lodge office by recycling paper when printing and double-sided printing as well as upcycling old lever arch folders
We undertake to continue increasing our recycling rates by 20% over the next 12 months by implementing the below;
• Increase communication efforts with guests prior to and during their stay to remind them to be as low waste as possible
• Trying to solve the conundrum of how to prevent the use of single-use plastics entirely when so much of the supermarket staple foods guests bring are unavoidably packaged in this way (eg. bags of pasta, rice, potatoes, rashers, sausages, cheese, etc..)
• Checking www.mywaste.ie to see how to sustainably dispose of any items that don’t fall into the more typical categories
• Providing a battery recycling bin in the Lodge
• Offering guests to the option to separate waste in their Yurts/Shepherd’s Hut
5. Ethical purchasing
Sustainability is at the forefront of every purchase at Lough Mardal Lodge. In this regard we have committed to:
• Purchasing all eco-friendly cleaning products for use throughout the business and home
• Cleaning the old fashioned way a lot of the time with simply vinegar and bicarb of soda which are universal cleaning agents for pretty much anything!
• All promotional printing as well as gift cards, company letterheads and complimentary slips are all printed on recycled paper
• Encouraging guests to use eco-friendly products duing their stay
• When sourcing products prioritising those that are, where possible, locally produced (within 50km) or at least Irish produced
• Providing firewood for guests which is sourced locally from a sustainably managed woodland - never peat briquettes or coal which are not permitted.
• Providing lumpwood charcoal for BBQ’s that is from a sustainably managed source
• Providing all-natural eco-friendly firelighters made with wood-chippings and recycled wax instead of conventional firelighters in all the stoves
• Providing staff with 100% organic cotton t-shirts/uniforms
• All bed linen, bedspreads and throws are cotton - never polyester/synthetic materials
• Purchasing dustpans made of steel rather than plastic and wooden sweeping brushes with natural bristles, rather that synthetic.
• Supporting local crafts, handmade artisan products that are made with natural materials, e.g. the woollen tweed blankets in all the yurts were handwoven locally by Studio Donegal. The curtains in the Yurts and Shepherd’s Hut are made with tweed from Donegal’s Magees. All the wooden candle holders used throughout the property were made from upcycled wood from The Leap craft shop in Ballyshannon. Guest toiletries are by Ireland’s The Handmade Soap Co. The meat in our BBQ and breakfast packs is all locally sourced from Donegal Town artisan butchers Eddie Walsh & Sons and all their beef comes from with 5km of here. (We will be able to offer burgers made from our own Dexter herd from next year when we attain full organic certification.)
• Purchasing all our eco cleaning products in bulk size refillable containers and which are all purchased locally at health shop Simple Simon in Donegal Town.
• Not providing any plastic scrubbing brushes in the kitchen of the Lodge. Bamboo brushes are provided instead along with all-natural and compostable sea sponges and cloths.
• Selecting condiments for the Lodge’s self-catering kitchen that come in glass rather than plastic bottles (e.g. cooking oils) and are refillable (salt, pepper)
• Purchasing Fair Trade teabags in the Lodge for guests that are organic with biodegradable teabags and the coffee is Fair Trade and rainforest alliance certified, and purchasing sugar that is Fair Trade
• Purchasing toilet rolls for guest use that is recycled where possible or at very least FSC certified
• Biodegradable/compostable bin bags are used in all the small bins throughout the property (lobby, toilets, showers, yurts & shepherd's hut)
• Always giving consideration prior to purchasing as to how the packaging can be disposed of and whether the product can be reused, recycled, or repaired after use.
• Adhering to a responsible office purchasing policy, e.g. not over-ordering, minimal printing - printing double-sided pages to reduce paper use, printing on recycled and/or FSC approved paper, recycling ink cartridges, etc
• Providing matches for lighting stoves instead of plastic lighters.
• Sourcing all the roundwood timber for the Lodge construction from Donegal forestry
Ways in which we are focused on improving:
• When new laundry bags are next required trying to source ethical hard-wearing cotton canvas ones instead of the polyester ones which we bought initially due to their waterproof qualities (important when transporting outdoors between yurts)
• Sourcing biodegradable/compostable large bin bags for the kitchen bin (we currently recycle black bin bags that our laundered linen returns in however we are moving to washing our linen in-house very soon so will be moving to biodegradable bags for the large kitchen bin then also)
• Sourcing bulk toilet paper supplied in paper packaging instead of plastic packaging
6. Carbon Management
We prioritise reducing our carbon footprint as much as possible across all areas of the business in the following ways:
• By implementing all the energy, water and waste saving measures as already outlined above in this policy
• By installing solar panels to reduce our reliance on grid electricity
• By banning peat briquettes and coal in all the stoves – only firewood from a sustainably managed source is permitted
• Charcoal provided for BBQ’s is lumpwood from a sustainable source
• By encouraging the use of electric vehicles by providing an E-Car recharging point in the car park for guests
• By offering an on-site bike-rental service for guests to explore the local area by bike
• By creating and promoting walking routes on our 90 acre site for guests to pass the time as an alternative to jumping in the car to go somewhere
• By planting over 9,000 native broadleaf trees here since 2018 permitting us to reduce our carbon footprint and at the same time enabling us to be self-sufficient for our firewood in the future
• By growing much of our own vegetables, keeping free range hens for eggs and baking our own bread
• Providing public transport information to guests on our website
We have calculated that the carbon footprint per guest is approx. 2.55kg per bednight (this calculation does not include their travel here however). This amount equates to .93 tonnes per bednight per year. This includes the whole carbon footprint of Lough Mardal Lodge*, e.g. electricity, diesel consumption, firewood burnt, etc.
*incl our family of 5
Based on the above our estimated total footprint within the last 12 months is 11.91 tonnes. We have offset our emissions with South Pole to offset our emissions who are Icroa and Gold Standard certified. Carbon Offset Certificate:
Ways in which we plan to reduce our carbon footprint even further are as follows:
• Within the next 6 months we are purchasing our own commercial-scale energy efficient washing machines for in-house washing of our bed linen instead of commuting 3 times a week to the local laundrette.
• Providing an honesty box for essential supplies to minimise commutes to local shop, e.g. sanitary products, eggs, etc
• Installing a bank of 22 pv solar panels and a 10 kW battery back up
7. Responsible sustainability marketing
We know that it is important to communicate our efforts in an honest way. We are aware of the risk of green-washing and we therefore commit to:
• Pledging honesty and transparency in all communications to guests and staff as well as across all marketing platforms
• Admitting that our efforts in sustainability are a work in progress and adhering to global ethical marketing guidelines by outlining our achievements and goals which can be measured with timelines
• Ethical digital marketing, e.g. respecting data privacy laws
• Not engaging in any product placements that are not in line with our own policies
8. Social responsibility
We support our local community by:
• Welcoming local walking groups (eg the Rosnowlagh Ramblers) onto our property for walks and providing refreshments
• Giving (free) guided tours of the Lodge to individuals learning about natural building methods and free consultations and advice to those who are involved in eco building projects
• Donating Gift Vouchers for fundraising events organised by local groups including our local national school
• Taking part in local road clean-ups
• Donating old linen & towels to local charities
• By creating employment within the local community
• Promoting all the local area has to offer to our guests including other neighbouring businesses, eg local pubs, restaurants, surfing at Finn McCool's surf school in Rossnowlagh and horse-riding with Donegal Equestrian Centre – generating revenue and supporting employment in the local economy
9. Supporting Biodiversity
As big lovers of nature and the great outdoors we believe passionately in the importance of protecting our natural environment. Simply taking a stroll anywhere around Lough Mardal is a reminder of the beauty of nature that surrounds us and how precious it is. Watching the life cycles of nature, the synchronicity and interdependencies instils a sense of wonder and the recognition that we ourselves are inseparable from it.
We endeavour to protect and conserve our local biodiversity in the following ways:
• We are a small working farm with rare breed Dexter cows and are currently in the second year of conversion with the The Organic Trust for official organic certification. No chemical fertilisers, nitrates, weed-killers or pesticides are ever used on the land or our vegetable garden.
• Over 9,000 native broadleaf trees have been planted here since 2018 to create a new native woodland, increasing local biodiversity and providing wildlife corridors. Red deer are already spending time in them as well as Red Squirrels and a variety of migratory birds. The new woodlands will also, in time, permit us to reduce our carbon footprint by harvesting our own timber for burning in the stoves.
• As all our waste/grey water goes through a reed bed which is a natural filtration system, and ultimately, once fully filtered, flows back out onto the land, no bleach or any toxic detergents are ever used – only eco-friendly cleaning products.
• We have planted a small orchard of native apple and pear trees
• Creating and promoting walking routes on our 90-acre site to encourage time spent in nature
• We engage in minimal and essential-only hedge-cutting and it is always done responsibly at a time of year when it has the least interference with wildlife. We have started to lay the hedges on our land, and this will be the main method of hedge management going forward
• We help the pollinators by adopting the 'Don't Mow, Let it Grow' approach. Apart from some winter grazing by livestock and light strimming of public walkways the meadows surrounding the Lodge are all left to fully grow and blossom during the summer and are never mowed. Wildflower heaven between May-September!
• We are signed-up members of the All-Ireland Pollinator Plan with National Biodiversity Data Centre.
• The Lodge eco building also has a 'living' grass roof alive with all the grasses and wildflowers that were excavated from the earth around it when building the Lodge.
• We grow our own vegetables in an organic garden, no weed-killer or pesticides are ever used and only organic compost and manure is used to fertilise the soil. Our additional food needs are, as much as possible, locally sourced, and organic.
• In the vegetable garden we allow our over-wintering vegetables to go to flower in the early spring (eg. kale, broccoli) instead of digging them up so that the pollinators can feed on them when there are still few other sources of nectar available at that time of year. Similarly, vegetables are also left to go to seed in order to benefit hungry birds.
• We promote environmental awareness to our guests and share the wonders of our precious bogland on our website and social media. We also keep an online Nature Diary which is updated with sightings of various wildlife and the numerous plants and wildflowers that grab our attention throughout the seasons.
• We provide informative and educational books in the Lodge on native wildlife, butterflies, and plants as well as natural and sustainable building methods
• Rhododendron grows wild at Lough Mardal. Although beautiful when flowering in May it is an invasive species and unfortunately thrives at the expense of native plant species here, e.g. the heather and mosses. It also attracts many important pollinating insects away from the less showy native plants. As such it has a devastating effect on the local biodiversity. Rhododendron spreads with such voracity we need all the help we can get in managing it. While we continue to develop a plan to manage this problem, we ask guests in the meantime when out for a walk to pull up any sapling they pass ...as every little bit helps!
• Ways in which we foster an interest in nature is by encouraging stargazing and a large telescope is provided in the Lodge. Sitting around the campfire on a starry night searching for constellations provokes reflection and conversation on the wonders of the natural world and where we, as humans, stand in it and our role in protecting it.
• We currently have a family membership with the Irish Wildlife Trust and will look at changing this to a corporate membership when the time comes to renew
10. Supporting our cultural heritage by:
Restoring an old ruined traditional Irish old stone cottage on the land, which is now converted into a workshop, thereby preserving our cultural heritage.