At SEAI, we encounter many inspiring individuals, teams, communities and businesses striving to create a cleaner energy future. One such business is Hotel Doolin, Ireland’s only carbon neutral certified hotel, located in west Clare’s Doolin.
In a bid to do better for its guests, community and local environment, the hotel staff founded a Green Team in 2012. The team established three main aims:
1.To reduce the hotel's carbon footprint
2.To review and improve its involvement with the community
3.To increase the hotel’s social responsibility
“Community and people are a key part of our culture here in Hotel Doolin and protecting the stunning environment where we’re so lucky to work and live in is a key part of our ethos. The guests really feel that from the moment they make a telephone call to book in, to arriving and then right up until they leave the hotel”, explains Áine Martin, the Green Team Leader and the hotel’s HR and Purchasing Manager.
The hotel staff divided their Green Team by the four areas they wanted to focus on, which were energy, water, waste and social responsibility and green purchasing. Their energy saving initiatives included switching the hotel to 100% green electricity; investing in insulation and LED lighting; significant staff training; installing an EV charger; and fitting sensor lighting where suitable.
Changing the hotel’s heating system from oil to an air-to-water heat pump allowed for a 40% reduction in the use of oil within the first year. Installing a heat pump has benefits for the customer too as the system allows rooms and hallways to be maintained at a constant, comfortable temperature.
Carbon neutral certified
Four years ago, the hotel decided to increase its efforts and set themselves a new target to become carbon neutral. To achieve this standard, they worked with Green Hospitality Programme, which is the Hospitality, Travel & Tourism Resource for Sustainable and Responsible Tourism in Ireland.
The hotel used a workbook to track all its energy outputs as well as the number of people who dine and stay. This allowed them to understand and calculate the hotel’s carbon footprint, including KwH per guest, and set targets for reducing it. Following this, they were certified by with Green Hospitality Programme as the first carbon neutral hotel in Ireland. A massive achievement for both the hotel and its staff.
The Green Team continue to meet once every two months to review its progress and decide on new initiatives. They calculate year on year what the achievements are and set tough targets to achieve to reduce the carbon footprint further.
Hotel Doolin’s weddings service is probably the best example of its green programme in action. In 2018, they completed the Eco Barn (pictured), a venue that can host weddings for up to 300 people. The barn has three ducted indoor Daikin units connected to three outdoor units, which heat and cool the barn to maintain a comfortable and consistent temperature. It is now an A-rated building, 100% soundproof and uses 100% LED lighting, all of which have considerable positive effects on the environment.
For every wedding they host, Hotel Doolin will plant ten native trees locally in conjunction with a charity Home Tree. Considering they hosted 170 weddings across 2018 and 2019, that is a lot of trees. Each tree offsets one tonne of carbon during its lifetime, therefore they offset 1,700 tonnes during those two years. Some of the staff and the wedding couples have been involved in the tree planting. “Sometimes we have wedding couples who actually want to plant more than 10 trees, so they have donated to Home Tree, which has just been really positive.” says Áine.
Keeping it local
Hotel Doolin is very much a local business and its activities impact the community around them.
The hotel purchases about 75% of food produce from within a 30-mile radius of the hotel. Not only does this cut down on food miles, but also it supports local growers and producers.
Because the hotel has just 17 rooms, other local accommodation providers benefit whenever a wedding is on, as well as ferry operators, shops, restaurants and tourism attractions.
Áine believes most of the 90 staff are from the local community and you’d be hard pressed to find someone in Doolin without a relative or friend working at the hotel. The hotel is member of the Burren EcoTourism Network. Along with other local businesses, they aim to keep visitors within the Burren area as long as possible and encourage them to leave no trace while enjoying the UNESCO-designated Burren and Cliffs of Moher Geopark.
Áine is keen to have staff invested in the green programme from day one and includes it in inductions for any new joiners. Eight years ago, she was the one driving this programme but now she notices that the staff are coming to her with new ideas and initiatives. Ongoing training and engagement are key, she says. The hotel has reduced employee turnover significantly because “the team love to be part of a business with sustainability at its core,” she says.
The hotel has won several awards for its sustainability programme and was a finalist at the 2019 SEAI Energy Awards. Guests are quick to comment that they have noticed and appreciate Hotel Doolin’s green initiatives too.
For businesses starting to improve their sustainability, Áine suggests keeping a ‘green folder’ for all your utility, waste and energy bills so that it’s much easier to track your carbon footprint and set targets. As a starting point, her advice to other hoteliers includes cutting out single use plastics, switching to green electricity and employing local people – all of which will make an immediate impact on a business’s carbon footprint.
To hear Hotel Doolin’s story in full, tune into Episode One of 180 Degrees – a podcast brought to you by the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland and the Government of Ireland.