With an established holiday cottage business of two award-winning luxury four and five star cottages in West Burton, Wensleydale, Diane Howarth knew, because of her marketing background, that green credentials would help to promote her cottages.
What she didn't appreciate, was that in aiming for a Bronze Award in the Green Tourism Business Scheme, she would achieve gold in July 2009 – then again in 2012 – and that it cost very little.
"Business people tend to think that a Green Tourism Award is a luxury they just cannot afford, especially in the current economic climate. Our experience shows that it is not true," she says.
"It takes time and effort, certainly, to organise the various actions and then complete the forms to comply with the scheme's standard but not much money. The most expensive thing we had to do was buy energy saving light bulbs for our cottages in West Burton. It's more a case of doing a lot of little things, many of which the majority of businesses could well be doing already."
Halving the cost of waste disposal
The other thing that Diane didn't quite realise was how much the cost of her business would be reduced by going green.
"For example, we introduced recycling bins for plastics, glass, cardboard etc and we take the contents to the recycling centre ourselves as the local council service do not provide this service for businesses. This prevented the equivalent of 25 wheelie bins of waste automatically going to landfill last year. It also cuts the cost of removing the rest of the waste by £150 a year, half what it was before," she says.
Cutting down electricity consumption has been another area of focus. Open fires that have back boilers heat the water, 'green' hairdryers use only 10 per cent of the electricity of conventional models, and guests are invited to set the washing machine at 30 degrees, not 40 degrees.
Going greener than ever
Learning from her experience with her first two cottages, Diane and her husband Andrew went on to convert a former byre at nearby Newbiggin in Bishopdale into a five star luxury one bedroom cottage that opened in March 2013 and is now the greenest of them all.
It has a log burning stove, LED lighting and argon-filled double glazing that bounces heat back inside the building and keeps cold air out. The cottage is so green that it secured a £6,000 grant from CO2 Sense, a not-for-profit consultancy helping Yorkshire businesses to cut their greenhouse gas emissions and their energy costs by at least 10 per cent.
The three cottages have such green credentials that Cottage in the Dales has been shortlisted as a national finalist in the self-catering category of the Green Tourism Business Scheme GOLDSTAR Awards 2013.
Andrea Nicholas, Managing Director of the scheme, said: "Cottage in the Dales are one of our leading green businesses. They are true ambassadors for green tourism and a great example for others to follow."
Diane comments: "Our philosophy is very simple. We aim to improve the quality of the accommodation and service we offer, whilst aiming to be increasingly economically sustainable and reduce costs."
Diane has produced a leaflet "Thirty ways to reduce energy wastage and preserve the Yorkshire Dales whilst enjoying your holiday." It underlines a key element of her philosophy that going green is enjoyable for visitors, especially those with children, and that it makes business sense, something she describes as a win-win outcome.
Diane highlights two good examples of this philosophy. First, the incentive Cottage in the Dales offers to potential returning visitors in late autumn encourages them to book early for the following year or enjoy a last minute autumn/pre-Christmas break. This is normally a quiet time for reservations. In return they have a tree planted in the National Park with a personal dedication by the Yorkshire Dales Millennium Trust, thereby leaving their own green mark on this beautiful area. Second, as Diane comments, "A National Park is in itself a guarantee of a quality location. With the new National Park locator logo, we are able to reinforce the provenance and quality of all aspects of our business, and show the strength of our local pride."Contact Diane Howarth on 01969 662766 or visitwww.cottageinthedales.co.uk