Eco hostels, Eco surf resorts, surf shorts made from 10% recycled plastic, energy efficient washing machines, carbon offsetting. We’ve all bought something on this premise of helping save the environment. Good on you, everybody should want to do the right thing. Our planet is in dire peril. The freak global weather events of the last few years and the summer of 2018 in particular, should leave no one in any doubt about that.
We won’t open the debate on global warming here, primarily because its a topic all of its own and secondly because it would take too long. However, what we are going to look at, is whether or not some of these so called Eco products, are what the say they are. More specifically we are going to look at environmentally friendly resorts and holidays.
Furthermore we are going to have a delve into what a business can really do, in order to not have a negative impact on the environment
I occasionally write product review articles for Surfbunker online magazine. The main ethos behind the magazine is to help surfers make better informed choices when purchasing surf hardware and accessories. The surf industry along with the fashion industry are very good at selling products with very marginal eco credentials.
As a consequence we really look more closely at the environmental aspects of products, to see if they really meet the claims made. Finally are they worth the extra cash that we are inevitably asked to pay for anything with an eco label.
We often find the claims made to be a load of a old Balloni.
Are eco surf resorts and holidays, just as guilty of making these dubious claims?
In the course of writing this article it became apparent that making a decision on this was quite easy. From the point of view of someone who already owns a holiday accommodation business. I know what changes are easy and affordable to implement and which ones not, or certainly not financially viable. Some options are simple common sense.
Let’s start off simple, lighting. Energy efficient lighting and light bulbs are a must. They are no longer expensive, good ones last forever and they use tiny amounts of electricity.
Similarly outdoor solar lights are another must have. I’m not talking about the cheap chinese made, boxes of 10 plastic lights that you can buy in tour local B&Q. The technology and options have really moved now. We have solar lighting all around our site and really love the way they look. Kids love them.
Any eco surf resort not getting their outside light from the sun…isn’t eco at all.
Here at Epic Zen Peniche, we decided to install solar hot water systems for all of our apartments. Due purely to the fact that it was the only logical choice. Portugal has lots of sun, electricity and gas are expensive here and we are lucky enough to have a south facing roof.
These systems are so cheap nowadays that for us, it was a no brainer. Even in the cooler, cloudy winter months, our systems produce nearly 50% of our hot water needs. In the summer they produce so much that we have to run off the excess into the jacuzzi and swimming pool.
Any eco surf resort not heating their hot water from the sun…isn’t eco at all.
Similarly, photovoltaic solar panels for electricity are now becoming very popular and coming down in price rapidly. This issue is a bit more complex and can be very much dependent on the particular orientation and location of your property. These type of panels are improving in efficiency all the time and have now reached the point where, if you can afford the capital outlay, they make perfect sense. As a result we have committed to installing a system in spring 2019.
If your building or location is a hindrance to this type of installation. A simple solution is to change your electricity supplier or tariff, for one offering power from 100% renewable sources. You might pay a little bit more, maybe 3-4%. For us that seems like a small price to pay for doing the right thing.
Therefore, as with the hot water. Any Eco surf resort or yoga retreat not using panels or an eco tariff….isn’t eco at all.
Above I have discussed things, that in my opinion are essential for any Eco surf resort or retreat. The following, are steps that are still fairly easy to accomplish and not particularly costly. Probably most of them will in fact help any environmentally friendly surf resort, actually save money.
Dead trees are carbon neutral and a great source of heat. We heat all of our apartments with wood or pellet burners. It’s a bit more time and labour intensive than just turning on the gas central heating. However it is much better for the environment. As an added bonus we also think that they look very nice.
This option isn’t for everybody, particularly in places where wood is scarce or expensive. Luckily for us Portugal has a lot of forest and woodland, a great deal of which is poorly maintained. We have found that by talking to local farmers and landowners, a lot of them are actually very happy for you to cut up and remove their fallen trees. Its free, good exercise and also good fun. I haven’t paid for firewood here in Peniche for nearly 10 years.
Rain water is one of life’s few remaining free resources. With a little bit of thought and planning it is very easy to collect. The initial cost, when set against the long term savings and the environmental benefit is also minimal. Watering the garden may take a bit longer than with a hose pipe, but your plants will certainly love you for not covering them with the chemicals added to our tap water.
Prefer group based, supervised tuition? Then surf lessons are certainly the path to take. Why not sign up for a week at one of Peniche or Baleal’s numerous surf camps of hostels. There are choices in this segment to suit every taste and budget. Many host all inclusive packages, some are just B&B. If you want to socialise, make new friends and let your hair down, a surf camp is a great choice.
If you fancy trying another activity as well as surfing? Why not get in touch with the good folks at Surf and Climb Portugal. These guys not only provide high quality surf lessons in small groups, they also host climbing and coasteering courses, something different but certainly good fun. Surfing and Yoga is another great combination of activities that is very popular right now. Epic Zen Peniche offer Yoga and Surf retreats with the added bonus of fantastic, healthy, locally sourced meals.
Another choice worth considering, is to book accommodation separately and once you arrive, to check out the many local surf schools. This way you can get a feel for the area, maybe chat to 1 or 2 like minded travellers and make a more educated choice about which surf school feels right for you.
As you can, there are a lot of things that a business can do, to improve its environmental credentials. For somewhere to sell itself as an eco surf resort, eco retreat, eco hostel. Personally I think that most of the above are essential. Yes, some do require investment, however almost all will pay back over time and most will actually save money after a few years. Most importantly, it is the right thing to do. Most environmentally friendly resorts or retreats charge a premium for the option to stay with them. Which in turn means the customer has the right to expect the things discussed today.
Some businesses go even further, we recycle all of our old wetsuits with a company that cuts them up and turns them into bags and laptop cases. When we replaced the decking around our pool after 10 years, we used the old wood to make storage boxes for outside cushions and lanterns. These little touches are the ones that show that ”eco surf resort” isnt just a label, but that they really care.