Ecotourism Policy

Environmental Policy 2023

At Gregans Castle Hotel we take the potential negative effects on the environment that the activities of our business can cause very seriously.

The United Nations World Tourism Organisation defines sustainable tourism as..."Tourism that takes full account of its current and future economic, social and environmental impacts, addressing the needs of visitors, the industry, the environment and host communities."

In line with this we will continually strive to improve our environmental practices in a range of areas including energy and water useage. We will also continue to develop a number of ecotourism experiences for our customers to enjoy.

We are members of Sustainable Travel Ireland an Irish developed environmental certification standard for the tourism sector.  This allows it’s members achieve good environmental performance and allow visitors to choose “Greener” hospitality businesses knowing that defined criteria are being implemented and monitored.

We are founding members of The Burren Ecotourism Network. Ecotourism is defined as "responsible travel to natural areas that conserves the environment and improves the well-being of local people” – The International Ecotourism Society (TIES).

It is B.E.N’s long-term vision that the Burren will be a premier, internationally-recognised ecotourism region, ensuring the future economic and social growth and sustainable development of its communities, environment and heritage. B.E.N. aims to become a recognisable network of enterprises in the Burren, all of whom have achieved independent accreditation, demonstrate ecotourism ‘best practice’, positively discriminate in each other’s favour, provide ‘one voice’ representation on issues impacting the Burren (where appropriate) and inspire conservation activism.

B.E.N. has three specific aims:

• The development of a self-sustaining ecotourism network of accredited Burren businesses with a Burren ecotourism brand

• The promotion of the Burren as an accredited ecotourism destination.

• The provision of continued training, mentoring and accreditation in ecotourism for businesses interested in joining the network.

Owner Simon Haden is a founding member of B.E.N. and is the holder of a Certificate in Ecotourism which was awarded by Sligo Institute of Technology.

In line with our Burren Ecotourism Network membership we are independently audited on an annual basis on our environmental practices. We record our energy, waste and water use and work to improve year on year. In April 2022 we were award the Emerald Award by B.E.N. which is the highest level possible in recognition of our achievements in environmental sustainability.

The following are actions have taken by us and continue to be taken to minimize our footprint on the environment:

• In January 2023 we installed a pv solar system which is generating 32% of our daytime electricity.

• In January 2020 we installed a heat pump system which services 3 of our bedrooms.

• Since May 2000 we have purchased all our electricity from Airtricity. This electricity is generated in Ireland from wind energy.

• In September 2018 we switched from LPG to naturally produced Bio-LPG as our primary fuel source.

• Some food and paper waste is composted on site and the remainder is collected for composting.

• All garden waste is composted and then reused in the hotel gardens.

• Cardboard packaging, newspapers, magazines, glass, cans, plastic bottles and used light bulbs and batteries are all returned to our suppliers or collected for recycling. We are committed to further reducing waste to landfill.

• All of our heating and hot water is generated by new and efficient combi condensing gas and oil boilers. We have replaced all radiator valves with thermostatic versions over the past 12 months.

• All heating, hot water, refrigeration and electrical equipment is serviced and maintained annually.

• When replacing electrical equipment only “A” rated appliances are purchased.

• We have an energy useage monitoring system. We are gradually replacing light bulbs used in the hotel with low energy led and halogen versions.

• We use timber trimmed from our own trees for firewood.

• We bottle our own water from our own private mountain spring for use in our bedrooms and restaurant. All glass bottles are reused. The same mountain spring supplies the hotel.

• We use an onsite natural reed and willow bed treatment system which purifies all the wastewater generated by the hotel.

• In 2019 we established a vegetable garden and since then it has been expanded and is now supplying most of our vegetable needs. The water supply for the vegetable garden is from an onsite well and pumped with a solar pump.

 • A number of times a year we carry out a cleanup of litter from The Corkscrew Hill. 

 • As much as possible of our food is sourced from local producers thereby reducing food miles (the distance that food must travel to get from farm to fork). Products such as meat, fresh fish, smoked fish, salads, eggs and cheeses are mostly from the locality. As much produce as possible is sourced from small artisan producers. Our kitchen team also forage in the immediate area.

• Over the past 30 years our tree planting has created a new habitat for birds and other wildlife. Native Irish Red Squirrels and Long-eared Owls have moved into our garden as well as other wildlife. In 2022 we planted 650 native trees on the grounds. 600 of these were planted in December 2022 as part of the Burren Pine Project which seeks to restore the almost extinct native Burren Pine tree to various sites around the Burren. Our guests sponsored the planting of these trees and €15,000 was raised for the Burrenbeo Trust landscape charity.

• We do not use weed killers or other harmful chemicals in our gardens.

• When redecorating the hotel, we use when possible natural pigment paints and natural fabrics.

• We provide high quality, organic chemical free refillable natural bath products in our guest bathrooms.

• We are currently transitioning to chemical free cleaning products.

• We send e-invoices to reduce the amount of paper that we use and also re-use paper at the front desk and offices.

• All printed matter is printed with natural inks on recycled paper.

• We support environmentally sustainable tourism by encouraging guests to walk or cycle while staying at the hotel. We have free bicycles for guest's use, have walking maps available at reception and book a local walking guide for walks on The Burren. We host many small walking and cycling groups at the hotel and sell our own walking packages. In March 2022 we successfully lobbied to have a new Local Link bus service stop at the hotel gate 6 times per day.

• We have 3 electric car charging points (provided by the ESB and Tesla) for use by hotel guests.

• We are Gold Business Members of The Burrenbeo Trust. The trust engages with local and visiting communities, old and young, to generate a sense of informed pride in their heritage and landscape. They promote the Burren as the ultimate learning landscape as a means of future sustainable management of the region. They also develop and share knowledge of best practice in active community stewardship, place-based and community-based learning.

• We are business members of Leave No Trace and Birdwatch Ireland.

• We support local community fundraising events and help fundraising efforts for local charities.

• For many years we have lobbied local and central Government on planning and conservation matters which relate to The Burren.

Ethical Purchasing Policy

Gregans Castle Hotel recognises that there is a responsibility to work to ensure that products, goods, services and works that we procure are sourced ethically and sustainably when viable. Within our obligations to comply with Irish & EU legislation, we will endeavour to conduct our procurement processes in accordance with this policy.

Ethical and Sustainability Procurement Policy.

We are committed to ensuring that working conditions are safe and hygienic, child labour is not used, living wages are paid and working hours are not excessive.

We accept that our business has an impact on sustainability and recognisethat we have a responsibility to reduce our impact. Reflecting the commitments set out in our Environmental Policy, we endeavour to embed sustainable and ethical purchasing by:

• encourage our supply chain to comply with national and international standards on environmental and human rights matters.

• take into account the environmental, social and whole life impacts during the assessment of the goods or services.

• encourage our supply chain to consider the social and environmental impacts of their activities.

• manage our supply chain to support Gregans Castle Hotel in achieving it’s carbon reduction targets.

• ensure that any timber and timber products, including paper, are from certified sustainable sources such as FSC and PEFC.

• purchase goods and use services from the local area as much as possible.

Our future objectives are:

·           To further reduce our carbon energy useage and to be a certified carbon neutral hotel by 2024 by offsetting the remainder.

·           In 2024 we plan to install a heat pump system in our staff accommodation and an induction cooking system in our hotel kitchen.

·           To further reduce our waste generation particularly food waste.

·           To completely eliminate single use plastic products.

·           To plant more trees on our grounds and expand our vegetable garden.

·           Provide opportunities for guests to carbon neutral their visit.

You can play your part:

• Towels left hanging in the bathroom will be left for you to reuse, others will be changed.

• Please try not to run water unnecessarily and inform a member of staff if you notice any leaks.

• Please turn off all lights and electrical equipment when leaving your room.

• Please close the windows if the heat is on in your room. To regulate heating turn the radiator valve anti-clockwise for on and clockwise for off. Please contact reception if assistance required.

• Place glass and plastic bottles, used batteries, newspapers and magazines in the bedroom dustbin. These will be collected by Housekeeping for recycling. Please use the bathroom dustbin for other waste.

• We have provided you with some information on The Burren. Please read this and inform yourself about the Burren and why it's so important to protect and respect it.

• We welcome any questions or suggestions. Please do not hesitate to contact us at Reception.

Environmentally Sustainable Practices

Gregans Castle Hotel is committed to reducing its environmental impact through better efficiencies in the use of energy and the minimisation of waste, packaging and water useage.

Natural Area Focus

Gregans Castle Hotel sells packages/experiences to its guests that encourage interaction with the natural environment of the Burren through walking, birdwatching, botany and education.

We encourage our guests to leave the car behind and explore the area.

Interpretation and Education

Gregans Castle Hotel provides its guests with literature (books, leaflets etc.) and maps on the local area. We are always happy to give further information and make recommendations based on sound local knowledge.

Contributing to Conservation

We are members of the following organisations: The Burren Ecotourism NetworkThe Burrenbeo TrustBirdwatch Ireland and Leave no Trace.

Each year we organise a litter clean-up of The Corkscrew Hill which is a very popular tourist viewing point.

Hotel guests are provided with information on The Burren which assists them in helping to protect and respect the landscape including the limestone pavement, plants and built heritage of this irreplaceable ‘fertile rock’.

Benefiting Local Communities

We work actively with other local business whether through informal referrals or through formal partnerships (such as through The Burren Ecotourism Network). We employ as many local personnel as possible and purchase as many quality local products and services as is possible. We also contribute to local fundraising activities, for example the Ballyvaughan Tidy Towns Committee, The Galway Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, Clare Haven, The Peter McVerry Trust, Domestic Violence Response, The Irish Blue Cross and Second Chance Animal Rescue, 

Visitor Feedback

Visitor feedback is important in helping us maintain and improve our products and services, including our environmental practices. All guests are given a Customer Feedback Form and are encouraged to complete it.

Responsible Marketing

We use web-based marketing activities as much as possible and have a strict policy of not using mailshots. We keep in contact with regular customers through the use of e-zines. Recycled paper and card and natural inks are used in the printing of brochures and leaflets.

Cultural Respect and Awareness

Staff at the hotel are encouraged to be respectful of the culture of visiting guests. Equally, guests are encouraged to be respectful and aware of local culture and sensitivities. Guests are encouraged to interact locally in pubs, or through traditional music and dancing or local events such as sporting activities.

Leave No Trace

Leave No Trace Ireland is a network of organisations and individuals with an interest in promoting the responsible recreational use of the outdoors. As increasing numbers of people seek the beauty and exhilaration of outdoor recreation, our collective mark on the environment and its natural processes, increases. Litter, disturbance to vegetation, water pollution, wildlife, livestock and other people are all indicators of the need to develop a national ethic that protects both natural and cultural heritage. Techniques designed to minimise the social and environmental impacts to these areas are incorporated into the Leave No Trace Outdoor Ethics Education Programme.

The Seven Principles of Leave No Trace:

At the heart of Leave No Trace are seven principles for reducing the damage caused by outdoor activities. These are:

1. Plan Ahead and Prepare

2. Be Considerate of Others

3. Respect Farm Animals and Wildlife

4. Travel and Camp on Durable Ground

5. Leave What You Find

6. Dispose of Waste Properly

7. Minimise the Effects of Fire

Leave No Trace Ireland promotes and inspires responsible outdoor recreation through education, research and partnerships. The programme strives to build awareness, appreciation and respect for Ireland's natural and cultural heritage and is dedicated to creating a nationally recognised and accepted outdoor ethic that promotes personal responsibility.

It encourages all outdoor enthusiasts (e.g. walkers, mountain bikers, canoeists, orienteerers, horse riders) to do their part to maintain those lands used by the public for the benefit of the environment and for future generations.

Practicing a Leave No Trace ethic is simple. Make it hard for others to see or hear you and LEAVE NO TRACE of your visit.