Carbon Footprint Calculations

At Elterwater, we have always been mindful of our place in the environment and our duty to protect and preserve the environment around us. We’ve always supported local conservation initiatives, such as Fix the Fells, but we’ve also been putting a lot of thought and effort in behind the scenes to reduce our carbon footprint too.

Surrounded by nature,  and within the Lake District National Park which is so conspicuously targeting net zero, the importance of our efforts to go green are constantly at the forefront of our work. This, alongside the effects of climate change being felt increasingly close to home, with severe weather events occurring more and more frequently, our location serves as a constant reminder on our doorstep of just how much is at stake and how all of us have a role to play.

It was seven years ago in 2014, continuing the work started by Manager Nick under the YHA, that our efforts were recognised with a Green Tourism Silver Award. Three years later we were awarded the prestigious Gold Award and we have continued along our green journey ever since.

The goal posts, methods of calculating carbon emissions and accepted standard requirements for best practice have all shifted dramatically since we first started calculating our output, using the now defunct Green Tourism Carbon Calculator. Back in 2014 we calculated that that our net CO2 Emissions were just over 56 tonnes for the year or 9.10Kg per bed night. By the end of 2018 using the same method of calculation, our output was down to just over 38 tonnes despite increased occupancy, with the figure per bed-night down to 5.66Kg.

We know now that three years ago when we were congratulating ourselves on our efforts, they weren’t even scratching the surface. The Calculator we now use to monitor our progress is the one provided by Cumbria Action for Sustainability. This updated calculator is much broader than the previous one and includes the CO2 on purchases such as banking, insurance and telephone calls as well as greater detail on food and drink products purchased and any associated waste. As a result, our calculations for 2020 – when we were closed for a large part of the year – show that our total emissions remained around 38 tonnes, even though our consumption of the main carbon contributors (electricity and oil) were dramatically reduced to about 40% of previous levels.

Calculating and publishing our stats in this way is no small feat and involved several hours on the phone to our laundry and waste companies, asking difficult questions and learning about washing loads and Refuse Derived Fuel (a technology that diverts waste from landfill). This process is integral however in producing a more accurate representation of our carbon output and showing us how much further we have to go. Importantly, it also allows us to benchmark, track our progress and remain accountable, confident that our efforts are making a difference.

Our commitment to continue to reduce our footprint remains strong with plans to:

  • Replace curtains with new thermal efficient alternatives and recycle or dispose of old fabric waste responsibly
  • Further monitor food miles in our catering
  • Compost food scraps
  • Further reduce waste
  • Replace appliances with more energy efficient versions as needed
  • Investigate alternative sources of energy – solar and air source
  • Continue transparency and open dialogue re our carbon footprint and efforts to reduce it

We have also considered carbon offsetting but are hesitant due to current discussions around its usefulness, its propensity to shift the burden of action to other nations and its potential to allow a ‘business as usual’ mindset precedent.

How can you help

We are genuinely open to each and every suggestion regarding how we can reduce our footprint. It’s wonderful when our guests are as passionate and interested in this as we are, so please keep your ideas coming.

One of the lightbulb moments of completing the calculator this year was the effect of the many visits from the directors, which we are ashamed to say amounted to not much short of a tonne. So perhaps the biggest impact is from our visitors themselves and their travel to get here.

We would like your thoughts on whether the following would influence your stay and the impact on the environment:

  • Discounts for longer stays
  • Subsidies for arriving on public transport or by foot
  • A link to a website where you could calculate and offset the carbon generated by your journey Cumbria Action for Sustainability Calculator

Thank you for being part of this journey with us. Here’s to continued learning and minimising our impact so we can continue to enjoy our corner of the world’s beauty and contribute as much as we can to a liveable future.

Christine and the Elterwater Hostel team