Jon Beavan – the name rhymes with heaven – is, appropriately enough, something of a miracle worker when it comes to sustainable tourism.
He has been running the Dalesbridge Centre at Austwick, near Settle, for almost 20 years. In that time he has turned what used to be a hospital for infectious diseases into a thriving business offering bed and breakfast, bunkhouse and campsite accommodation for visitors who love outdoor pursuits such as mountaineering, walking, potholing and mountain biking.
In 2007 he invited a representative of the Green Tourism Business Scheme to see what he had done and give advice about how he could qualify for the scheme.
After they had looked around the Victorian buildings, he was told he had no chance of qualifying for even a Bronze Award. Jon thought this was unfair.
"This has always been a 'green' business and, although the buildings are not ideal for achieving high energy efficiency, I thought we ought to and could qualify under the scheme," he says.
Jon introduced some changes and in 2008 he achieved his first miracle – a Bronze Award. Two years later came an even greater miracle, a Gold Award. In 2012 he qualified for Gold again.
Green action plans
How has he done it? "Through looking at absolutely everything we do from the top down. All the staff get involved in drawing up green policies and annual green action plans."
The staff also get their hands dirty – literally – by sorting through rubbish left by guests in bin bags and removing the glass, paper, cardboard and plastic bottles for recycling.
Green initiatives include a new toilet block with light sensors, low flush lavatories and paper towels made from 100 per cent recycled paper; sensors in the bunkhouses that detect movement and automatically turn up the heating; bathroom cleaners, environmentally friendly kitchen sanitisers and floor cleaning products; and replacing conventional light bulbs with energy saving ones.
Practically and commercially viable
"We always look at green alternatives when we can to replace things but they have to be practical and make commercial sense," he says.
Looking ahead, Jon is now considering installing a wood pellet boiler with a capacity to produce up to 200kw of heat to replace his oil boilers.
Sometimes ideas fail the practicality test. "We were keen to put an array of solar panels on a particular south-facing roof but a structural engineer told us the roof wasn't strong enough to take them."
But there have been many more successes than failures. Jon has made a great effort to encourage his guests to arrive by public transport (even offering a discount to those who do) or to leave their cars at the centre and explore the area by bike or on foot. He has produced leaflets on a series of walks that begin and end in Dalesbridge and in spring 2013 Dalesbridge became a centre for hiring electric bikes.
Encouragingly, it seems that his guests welcome his green approach. Feedback from a visitors' survey showed that 30 per cent felt it extremely important that, when choosing somewhere to stay, the place was environmentally friendly with good green credentials. Some 24 per cent said it was very important and 29 per cent, important.
If you believe in the green creed, you could say that miracle-working Jon is on the side of the angels. He would simply say that he's on the side of the local community, devoting up to 50 days a year to voluntary work. He chairs two advisory groups for the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority, is Vice Chairman of the Yorkshire Dales Society and is a Director of Bowland Experience, a not-for-profit company promoting sustainable tourism in the area. Contact Jon Beavan on 01524 2521021 or visitwww.dalesbridge.co.uk