Environmental Impact Management Plan
The Environmental Policy document describes how the business has minimal if any impact on the environment, and should be read before this current Impact Management Plan.
The Environmental Policy explains how we focus our efforts on designing systems that prevent or minimise usage of energy rather than simply relying on reducing wastage.
Use of Energy:
The buildings have been specially designed to minimise the amount of energy required for heating and also for lighting.
The buildings are very high specification timber frame with additional levels of insulation. Outside the timber frame there is a cavity with further insulation and then an external block wall which is plastered.
The design also includes large amounts of passive solar heating which brings in natural heat from the sun, and also a large amount of natural daylight which minimises the need for artificial lighting.
However, as the building was completed in 1999, the heating system is an oil boiler, and we try to minimise the use of this where possible. We have installed timer thermostats in each room, so that we can individually set the temperature of each room for 6 time periods during the day. This has allowed us to keep certain parts of the buildings warm at particular times of the day, while not supplying heat to other parts that don’t need it at that time.
We have also installed an electricity meter in order to measure the real-time use of electricity. The monitor shows when we have high electricity usage, and by investigation we have used it in the past to identify certain appliances which have been using high amounts of electricity.
Electricity usage is monitored on a daily on going basis, and we have a real-time monitor installed so that we can view the usage at any time direct from the screen on our kitchen table.
We have used this information to replace all our outdoor lighting with low energy light bulbs, and also installed timers and movement sensors so that the light only come on at certain times during the evening, but will also come on if someone walks in front of one of the 5 sensors during the night time.
We also replaced all the light bulbs in the reading lights over each bed with low energy bulbs, as sometimes the guests can forget to switch these lights off.
Many of the lights in the main house are on dimmer switches so that we can alter the mood, and we have planned to replace these with dimming LED lights over the next 6 months.
The new building which will be completed in 2013 will use LED lighting throughout the whole building, with a few CFL (compact fluorescent lamps) bulbs used where light levels of illumination required.
We have also installed a gas drier which is much more efficient at drying the bed linen than the older electrical drier.
We chose A rated electrical appliances.
Creation of Waste
As a result of our Green Purchasing Policy we have negotiated with our supplier of vegetables to use re-usage plastic crates to deliver the vegetables. This was agreed in 2008, and these plastic crates are returned to the supplier who re-uses them.
By providing filtered water to our guests from our own well, this saves them from having to buy plastic bottled water.
We purchase a lot of our vegetables direct from the growers and all the crates are returned for reuse.
Our Green Purchasing Policy also states that when we can’t reuse packaging, that we try to minimise it.
All our raw food waste is composted and then used to fertilize the trees and shrubbery on the grounds.
In 2008, we spent time with our cook to explain the importance of reducing wastage of food, so Paddi has implemented this by
- carefully checking food stock before planning menus for the next retreat, in order to minimise the amount of food needed to be ordered, and also minimising wastage of food
- after the first meal served to the group on a retreat, to calculate how much food they tend to eat, in order to better estimates of amount to prepare for the next meal
- for certain meals, to lift the food onto the plates for the guests, rather than letting the guests help themselves in a buffet style. This allows for much better estimation of amount of food needed for each meal and reduced wastage
- by analysing food stock levels over the past year, Paddi was better able to predict how much ‘bulk items’ to order so that we reduce the amount we order and keep less bulk food in stock
- In 2009, Paddi also began to keep track of any food which went past it’s sell by date, or which vegetables went off before being able to use it. This heightened awareness of wastage of possible of food, and also helped reduce our expenses.
- Paddi also carefully rotates all the stock when it is delivered in order to prevent accidental use of newer stock rather than using the old stock first.
When people fill in their booking forms, we ask them how they will be travelling here, and we try to team people together to organize lifts coming to the centre. We have also setup a reduced fare taxi scheme when bringing people here from the airport or from Galway city, and there is 1 single nominated taxi company in each place that we recommend to our visitors, and these taxi companies then team-up people who are coming here so that they share the taxi between them.
We also have information on the website about getting here by public transport including bus, train, ferry & train.
We also car-share on our outings so that we take as few cars as possible.
Any glass bottles are recycled and we take these to the bottle bank in Gort.
Any recycleable plastic and tetra paks and paper is brought to Barna recycling.
When we upgrade mattresses, bed linen or other equipment, we donate the used items to a housing shelter in Galway.
We prevent waste by not using disposable cups, plates or cutlery.
During our welcome and orientation meeting, we let all our guests know about The Burren Code and also Leave No Trace so that in particular they are aware of the ethics that we have in our relationship with the environment and that we try to minimise any impact we might have.
This is particularly important for planning ahead for our activities outdoors, and while we are on our guided outings not to leave any litter (and if possible bring back any we find), and to try to leave the environment as we found it…. not leaving a trace and also to be considerate of others that we may meet while we are out and about. And in particular to respect landowners, their property and their livestock.
We have been told that by us adopting the practice of picking up litter while on our outings has in fact changed the behaviour of some of our guests after the course, and this is now something they do and encourage their own friends to do.
Use of water
All our water comes from our own well and we filter all the water to ensure no microbes could be in it.
We provide this filtered water to our guests so they don’t need to buy bottled water.
We have installed water flow restrictors on all the showers in order to help wastage of water (and also wastage of energy for hot water).
We are also aware of wastage of energy in terms of the electricity used for the pump in the well, and also try to minimise the wastage of water itself.
We spend time with Paddi discussing the importance of conservation of water, and taps are only turned on when needed and not left running at any time.
All the water we use comes from our own well, and the waste water goes to the septic tank and then through our own water treatment system before it is returned to the ground after being purified. So instead of measuring the amount of water we use, and then returning the same amount of purified water to the ground, we measure the electricity usage of the water pump and the UV (ultra violet) water filtration system as this is a more meaningful measurement in terms of energy usage for us.
Use of detergents/disinfectants
All our cleaning products are environmentally friendly and we use Ecover for hand soap, washing up liquid, dishwasher tablets, washing powder tablets and also have taken time with our staff (cleaner and cook) to explain the importance of minimising the amount of these cleaners to be used.
Our healthy food policy states that we don’t use deep fat frying and this means we can use fewer detergents for cleaning.
The very Nature of our business is Green
We use very little resources other than our time and local food produce and local labour
We do not produce environmental pollution, noise or disruption to our neighbours
We do not use any chemicals or toxic materials
We produces little or no waste materials
Impact on Wildlife/Biodiversity
We let all our visitors know about Leave No Trace and also the Burren Code and we follow these principles when we go on our guided outings each day.
Dave the owner is the guide on the outings on all our courses, and he ensures that these codes are followed, and are explained in context when any potential sensitive aspect of the environment is present.
We don’t use weed killers or an y other chemicals at the centre or in the grounds.
As a result we don’t have any negative impact on wildlife or on biodiversity.
Sewage/grey water effective treatment
Our rain water is channelled into a soakaway and kept away from the septic tank system.
Our waste water goes to the septic tank, and we have our own water treatment system which purifies the water which flows from the septic tank, before it is returned back to the ground.
The treatment system uses holding beds where microbes break down the bacteria in order to make the water safe. We have been careful to follow all legislation guidelines using this system, and in general we do more work than is usually recommended.
So for example, it is recommended to empty the septic tank every 2 years, and we have it emptied by an authorized company every year. Again this is following the principle that preventing problems is far better than having to deal with them if we allow a problem to arise.
Pollution from noise, light, runoff, ozone-depleting compounds, and air and soil contaminants
The very Nature of our business is green and we do not produce any pollution or contaminants.
Reporting any Environmental Impacts
All the staff who work at the Burren Yoga and Meditation Centre have been made aware of the importance of conservation and protecting the environment, and know to report any impacts on the environment to Dave the owner.
During the welcome meeting, all our guests are made aware to report any impacts on the environment to Dave the owner.
These impacts are not likely but would include such things as
- a water leak
- someone on the course
- picking flowers
- disturbing wildlife or farm animals
- moving rocks
- disturbance to any other users of the environment
- any other disturbance
- cars not being parked is designated areas
As Dave is the person looking after the running of all courses, and is also the guide on all courses, it is most likely that if any impact occurred he would be the person in charge who would witness it. However, all staff have been informed that if an impact to the environment arises to inform Dave directly.
Dave will maintain a record of any impacts reported.
Statement not to impinge on basic services to neighbouring communities
We do not impinge nor will we in the future impinge on any basic services, including water, energy, or sanitation to neighbouring communities.
Measurement of our own Carbon Footprint
We use the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) online calculation tool to measure our carbon footprint which indicated a footprint of 6.21 tonnes/year which is extremely low for any business.
The graph showing the results are as follows;
Many people eat meat which is not measured by the EPA Calculator, and the meat industry creates a large amount of methane which is contributing to the depletion of the ozone layer.
All our meals are vegetarian and Paddi our chef has written her own Vegetarian cookbook which often inspires our guests to ‘go vegetarian’ or at least adopt more of it into their everyday lives.
This is one way that we feel we are helping to offset our carbon footprint.
We have also planted many native trees on the grounds of the centre, and look after these trees to ensure they nurture and grow.
We have examined the ‘tips’ section of the EPA to tackle our areas of highest usage, in order to decide on how best to reduce our carbon footprint in time.
Use of Energy:
Our main actions are to
- continually monitor to identify any high usage that may creep in
- replace older technology appliances (incandescent lights, oil boiler) with newer more efficient ones as we can afford it
- implement renewable heating technology in new building
- install large amount of metering in new building which will allow us monitor and ‘tweak’ energy systems in the future to become even more efficient