I can still picture him today, the man appointed to assess Mazzard Farm for the UK’s main Green Tourism grading scheme, now some 5 years ago: twenty-something, a tad introvert, probably an environmental science degree, and clipboard in hand.
Of course he had a clipboard in hand. On it a set of forms, each with endless rows of questions and obligatory check boxes. Questions about the number of light bulbs, shower head flow rates, our recycling habits, whether we grew our own veg, and many more. Main purpose in the man’s life was to try and tick as many boxes as he possibly could. Had he ticked a sufficient number, he would tell us we had achieved ‘Gold status’, and everyone was happy.
We’ve had him back here once more, but having realised he was still ticking the same old boxes behind the same old questions, we decided not to bother again. Some risk I should add, because without an ‘official green grading’, we could run the risk of losing out on awards, specific green (promotional) listings, and dare I say it, bookings. But thankfully that concern could be laid to rest when bookings kept coming in just as before, and we were crowned most sustainable Devon tourism business two years in a row, leaving behind us quite a number of businesses who could (still) show their official gold status in green tourism.
So what do we think is wrong with a set of questions and tick boxes when it comes to striving to be ‘as green as possible’ you may ask? Not a lot, especially if ‘being green’ is your key objective. But it is 2015 now, and what we aspire to is not just being as environmentally sound as we can be; we want to be as sustainable as possible. And being a sustainable tourism business takes a lot more than a recycling policy, LED lighting, a compost heap, and a few on-site Renewables.
For us, key to being sustainable is that we are firmly rooted in our local community. And that we work hard to try and make our guests appreciate, support, and engage with this same community too. We do this by informing them we ‘buy local’, why we do so, and why we think they may have a much richer holiday experience if they do so too. We spend a lot of time promoting local things to do, and enthusiastically telling our guests about all the beauty they can find (almost literally) on their temporary doorstep. Doing this hits two birds with one stone: they help support our local community, and they significantly cut down on car miles whilst here at Mazzard Farm. Oh and by the way, they tend to have a much more enjoyable holiday too.
In addition, we try and involve our community in what we do. We invite local groups to enjoy our orchard and woodlands, we build fires with Brownies, juice apples with school children, and we get actively involved with schools and in local initiatives.
But there is more: we believe that a sustainable business is a completely transparent business, and for us that includes total transparency, and dare I use the word, fairness, when it comes to our pricing policy. For us this means no late booking discounts, no negotiating for a better price, but awarding loyalty, direct referrals, and early booking. We know this sometimes ‘costs’ us a booking, but we accept this, knowing that in the end everyone can be assured that the price they have paid for a stay at Mazzard Farm has been a fair price, and that the people staying in an identical cottage next door have paid this price too (or less because they booked early!).
And I could continue for a bit, but to keep this article a ‘sustainable’ length, I probably better leave it at this. What I will do though is invite anyone who wants to know more, see what we have done, tell us about their experiences, or for whatever reason wants to chat with us, to contact us, and we’d be delighted to engage. Because sharing is also sustainability, as is learning. A very big part of it in fact!
It is from now on possible to book The Mazzart Farm cottages at BookDifferent.com. Do you want to know more? Follow this link: http://www.bookdifferent.com/en/hotels/gb/city/-2604806/russet-cottage(1171588).html
Ruud Jansen Venneboer & Jacqueline Parker
Mazzard Farm holiday cottages, Devon, UK
01404 – 815492