Hotel Doolin has completely removed plastic bottles and single-use items — down to napkins and sauce sachets. It harvests rainwater, has switched from oil-based to air-to-water ambient heating, replaced its wedding marquee with an eco-barn and sources 75pc of food within 50km of the hotel.
Now, it has become the first Irish hotel to gain carbon-neutral status from The Green Hospitality Programme.
“I can’t believe bigger hotel chains aren’t making these changes,” Donal Minihane, its general manager, tells me. “More and more of our reviews are showing feedback from people saying they are delighted to see it.”
Ultimately, he says, the hotel’s ‘Green Team’ comes from a simple place: “We want to work in a hotel that aligns with our beliefs.”
Switching to sustainable practices can be expensive. But the Co Clare hotel’s business has grown 30pc since it began its transformation several years ago, weddings are booked out for 2020 and most of 2021 and, in an industry that often struggles to retain staff, it is actually turning away applications from quality people drawn to its ethic of environmental and corporate responsibility.
Its sustainability efforts were also a key reason we included the hotel on our Fab 50 list of the best places to stay in Ireland earlier this year.
Alas, Hotel Doolin is an outlier.
One Irish hotel room I stayed in recently had 12 plastic mini-toiletries by the sink. 12! Others had slippers wrapped in plastic, tiny cartons of UHT milk, plastic water bottles… you know the story.
By now, I travel with my own bath products — using single-use plastics is wasteful, and it makes me feel bad. As Hotel Doolin’s feedback suggests, more and more customers, from all age groups, are feeling this way.
Sustainability is not a niche issue; it’s mainstream.
But let’s not dwell on bad news. Last week, 22 Killarney hotels pledged to reduce their carbon emissions by 25pc and eliminate single-use plastics next year.
“Ireland is seen worldwide as a green destination, and it is important that we start to live up to that expectation,” says Marcus Treacy of The Killarney Park, who leads the Killarney Hotels Sustainability Group.
In Gorey, Co Wexford, the Amber Springs Hotel has just installed ‘hydration stations’, saving 100,000 plastic bottles a year in bedrooms.
“I haven’t had one iota of negativity from guests,” says general manager Eibhear Coyle. “Everybody just gets it.”
He’ll recoup the investment within a year, too.
It’s not easy to overhaul a hotel, particularly an older building.
But if not now, when?
Companies like fiftyshadesgreener.ie, ecotourismireland.ie and greenhospitality.ie are places to start. Take the next steps towards sustainability, and stop making customers feel guilty.
Going green: 10 ways to green your holiday without compromising on fun or quality