Lough Mardal Lodge is working towards full eco certification with Green Hospitality.ie as recognised internationally by the Global Sustainable Tourism Council.
Lough Mardal Lodge Sustainability Policy
- as of 21 February 2024 -
This document is 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.
We feel passionate about sustainable travel which inspires our mission to provide a unique holiday experience for the conscientious traveller who is increasingly looking for accommodation providers who reflect that conscientiousness. Set on 90 acres of unspoilt lakeside bogland our 5 Yurts and Shepherd’s Hut are furnished and individually styled to offer a 5 star hotel comfort in a responsible and ethical way. We seek out local suppliers and producers to enrich the guest experience; beautiful hand-woven blankets from Studio Donegal, tweed curtains from world-famous Magees in Donegal and sheepskin rugs from 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 we promote all the vast and varied activities and sights the region has to offer. We hope our accommodation offers something for everyone; 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' 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 and monitoring our electricity consumption every 2 months and below are ways that we reduce consumption;
• The Lodge is powered by 100% green energy from our own solar panels plus electricity from Airtricty which is 100% green energy produced from windfarms.
• 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. 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.
• 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.
• We have installed an energy efficient washing machine and tumble dryer for our laundry - replacing the need to drive into Donegal Town 2/3 times a week to the laundrette. Although this increases our water and energy use onsite it reduces our carbon footprint overall through the reduction in travel and the fact that the machines get powered with renewable energy from solar panels. (It also means we are able to now use eco-friendly washing powders, rather than the harsher products used at commercial laundrettes.)
• 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 encouraged and 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 the 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:
Solar: Aprox 60% of our electricity needs are generated by solar panels
Oil: Zero consumption
Electricity: 13,607kWh consumed in 2023 - when measured against occupancy rates this equates to 2.77 kWh per bednight which is conistant with the previous year.
Gas: We use aprox 4 gas bottle cylinders per year, for cooking only
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.
The next 12 months:
From the off-set we have put in place the best measures to keep energy useage as low as possible and we have achieved our initial targets. But this is continually being looked at to see if there are further tools/strategies/intiatives that an be implemented. As Lough Mardal Lodge is a self-catering business it difficult to set further reduction targets in the areas of energy consumption as our base rate is already very efficient and guest useage is, up to a point, beyond our control. Our priority going forward is improving communication with guests and staff to encourage and incentivise whatever further reductions in energy consumption is possible.
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.
In the En Suite toilets harvested rainwater is used in all the hand wash basins and compost toilets have been installed which do not require any water.
Below are some of the other 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 in the Lodge
• Encouraging guests and staff by way of signage and on our Guest Information page/Pre-Arrival emails to adopt more water conscious behaviour, (e.g. reducing shower times, 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 to run the dishwasher only when full and on the Eco cycle (lower temperature and shorter cycle) - alternatively hand-washing if it's just a few things.
The next 12 months:
Similar to the energy use, from the off-set we have put in place the best measures to keep water useage as low as possible. But this is continually being looked at to see if there are further tools/strategies/intiatives that an be implemented. As Lough Mardal Lodge is a self-catering business it difficult to set further reduction targets in the areas of water consumption as our base rate is already very efficient and guest useage is, up to a point, beyond our control. Our priority going forward is improving communication with guests and staff to encourage and incentivise whatever further reductions in water consumption is possible.
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 – in 2023 each guest created 0.174kg per bednight on average, down from 0.210kg in 2022
• Recyclable waste – in 2023 each guest created 0.108kg per bednight on average, down from 0.119kg in 2022
• 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 family of 4 plus a member of staff who lives on the property
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, as well as signage on-site, 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 who was giving it away, we installed it here and it is still going strong!
- we made the drawers in our office desk from old wine crates
- old wooden pallets were upcycled to build log boxes for storing firewood in the Yurts and Shepherd’s Hut
- old wooden pallets were also used for making wooden shower mats in the shower rooms
- when creating our vegetable garden we collected a trailer-load of 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 (apart from our luxurious beds!)
• Encouraging guests not to bring too much food (which can lead to waste) but instead to shop locally for supplies that are actually 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.
• Providing a battery recycyling bin in the Lodge
• Providing multiple bins for separating waste in their Yurts/Shepherd’s Hut (as well as the Lodge)
Over the next 12 months
We undertake to continue keeping our landfill waste to a minimum and to encourage guests and staff to recycle everything possible over the next 12 months by implementing the below;
• Increase and improve 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 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
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! There is very little that beats white vinegar and bicarbonate of soda as 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
• Minimising use of laminated signs and instead framing the signs in wooden picture frames.
• Providing staff with 100% organic cotton t-shirts/uniforms
• Using multi-use card labels with cotton ties instead of adhesive stickers (for changeover bags for accommodation units)
• All bed linen, bedspreads, blankets and towels are 100% cotton - never polyester/synthetic materials
• Purchasing dustpans made of steel rather than plastic and wooden sweeping brushes with natural bristles, rather that synthetic.
• Providing glass bottles instead of plastic ones and stainless steel flasks rather than plastic ones for guests' use
• Providing stainless steel kettle in Lodge, rather than a plastic one
• 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 as were many of the cushion covers in the Lodge. 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 breakfast packs are all locally sourced from Donegal Town artisan butchers Eddie Walsh & Sons. Our beef-burgers are from our own rare breed organic Dexter herd.
• 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.
• Providing all-natural & compostable bamboo scrubbing brushes & natural sea sponges for washing up in the Lodge kitchen instead plastic/synthetic ones.
• Where possible 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)
• Providing Rainforest Alliance certified biodegradable teabags in the Lodge for guests and coffee that is Rainforest Alliance certified. Cooking oil provided is Irish Rapeseed.
• Purchasing toilet rolls made from recycled paper where possible and wrapped in compostable/biodegradeable packing
• Providing complimentary eco sanitary products in toilets
• Biodegradable/compostable bin bags are used in all the bins throughout the property (kitchen, 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 construction of the Lodge from local Donegal forestry
• When purchasing hens sourcing rescue hens from battery farms
In the next 12 months we wil be focusing on the following improvements;
• 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)
• Try to source Fair Trade sugar
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 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 all our own organic 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 4 plus 1 member of staf who lives on property
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.
Our Carbon Offset Certificate:
We will continue trying to reduce our carbon footprint even further over the next 12 months.
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:
• Prompting guests to donate to local charity as part of their online booking process when booking accommodation. In 2023 the chosen charity has been Liquid Therapy - a volunteer based organisation making watersports accessible to all.
• 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 have been certified Organic by the The Organic Trust. No chemical fertilisers, nitrates, weed-killers or pesticides are ever used in the fields or in 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.