Stef and Simon have implemented easy and simple lifestyle changes across Kilmartin Castle that have had big impacts on not only the environment, but their guests too.
The couple moved from the hustle and bustle of Dubai for a simpler life in Scotland back in 2013 and haven’t looked back since.
They had to renovate the whole castle from the ground up and made sure their own ethical values were installed into their new home from day one.
Simon explained that their “overarching approach is that where you’re faced with the decision of ‘Am I going to do this the cheapest way possible, or the most sustainable way possible?’ Always choosing the latter.”
This is something that they try to embed in everything they do; from where they source their breakfast items to where their meat comes from. They make sure it is all local and ethically grown.
They used artists and traditional craftsmen to help them in this journey from the eco-friendly ceramic pots by artist Claire Henry, used as refillable bathroom containers, to hand forged iron works by local blacksmith Darren Ainsworth.
They even scoured the country to find second-hand antiques and vintage items to help furnish the castle and even upcycled some bits themselves rather than buying brand new.
Where they are based in Scotland, there is a great source of wonderful local and organic produce, but some items can be difficult to come by.
“The bacon isn’t local to Kilmartin, which is one of the trickiest things that we’re finding,” said Simon,“but it is local to Scotland.”
Stef and Simon change their breakfast menu to reflect the seasons, featuring produce foraged from their own organic allotment within the castle grounds. This means nothing goes to waste as they use what is produced.
Guests eat more veggie and vegan meals and it is all environmentally friendly.
Stef said: “Generally we will get meat eaters choosing the vegetarian dishes so we don’t buy as much meat.”
One key point Stef and Simon raised is how they aren’t just making these ethical decisions to be part of the trend and to appeal to eco conscious travellers.
This is a way of life for them.
“We’re not doing it just because of the business. We’re doing it for personal peace of mind,” said Stef.
“When it comes to meat especially, we don’t eat anything that isn’t organic or free range, therefore we wouldn’t buy it in bulk to feed to other people because that would just feel awful.”
This is a great ethos that the couple live by. If you wouldn’t personally buy it, then don’t buy it for your guests.
Simon said: “If you want to do it then do it, don’t just flirt around the edges.”
The owners even go one step further and visit the farms where they buy their meat.
“We try to cut out the middleman as much as possible and source directly from the suppliers,” explained Simon.
Simon added “a lot of the time we actually visit the farm that we are going to get produce from. We check with our own eyes to see how the animals are being treated and how they are living.”
This is a great touch that any business can do, so that you are confident in the quality of what you provide your customers.
It shows their own commitment to being as sustainable as possible and is a great talking point for their guests.
However, Stef and Simon don’t just limit their sustainability efforts to their food. They also find other ways to be as sustainable as possible.
Stef said: “We don’t use plastic, so we have ceramic pottery that is refillable, so when people check in, we have refill trolleys.”
This means customers can top up their shampoo and other bathroom products as needed during their stay.
She added: “We put little notices, like cute little written notes in the rooms to tell our guests that in ancient times cotton was such a precious material and will be grateful if people would take off their mascara or fake tan at night so it doesn’t end up in landfill because so much bedding gets ruined.”
Since they started leaving these hand-written notes, Stef said “they noticed that people were being more wary” of their actions.
“I think there’s this idea of, if you go to a hotel, it just doesn’t matter about getting into bed with your fake tan or your makeup still on,” she said.
Waste management can be difficult as we are all used to a throw away culture, but Stef explained her way of working out how to minimise their waste.
“I would look at what you’re throwing away and ask yourself if you really need to be throwing that much away,” she said.
Stef explained even little changes help you to become more sustainable. She said: “Can you do your shopping in a supermarket where it’s not in a plastic bag?”
Maybe you can take cardboard boxes in the boot of your car and fill them with your shopping instead of buying plastic bags.
She added: “We get a lot of stuff delivered like our milk from the local dairy.”
Sourcing from local suppliers is a great way to become more sustainable. Not only does it support local businesses, but it’s better for the environment due to reducing the amount of food miles needed to get it from producer to consumer.
Simon said: “When you go directly to a supplier – let’s say a farm for instance – you can probably get a better quality product for similar prices that you would pay in a supermarket, but the supermarket offers a far worse product.”
“And it will taste better!” added Stef.
If you are unsure on how to reach out to local suppliers, Stef and Simon said it’s easier than you think.
“We normally like talking to the owner, the first point will be a telephone call about what we want to do and how they can get their product to us,” said Stef.
This is a great way to build a relationship with someone and explain your values to make sure they match up.
It can be a daunting experience moving from one way of life to another but even Stef says they are “learning on the job”.
For instance, Simon is already thinking about how he can be more environmentally friendly with the egg boxes they receive.
“I’m even considering saving up all of the egg cartons and giving them back to the farm to get refills but I am currently using them as outdoor fire starters for our fire pit,” he said.
‘Waste not, want not’, is a term these owners definitely live by.
“We try to encourage people to go out for dinner because we don’t do dinner here and it just helps support the local community if they go out,” said Stef.
If guests do want a light meal, Stef and Simon can provide cheese boards which are full of delicious local produce which is also the perfect opportunity to not just support local companies, but to also show off their amazing products.
“We make some cheese boards with great local cheeses. We have a local deli who sell the best olives and different little condiments, and a local charcuterie who do amazing venison salami,” said Stef.
She added: “So there’s all of these local products that we can help to bring attention to if we do the cheese boards.”
They have also noticed that as people aren’t travelling as far at the moment, it means that if people have liked any of the products they have tried during their stay, they can go and buy them. This all helps the local area and the guests have a lovely souvenir to take home too.
Stef and Simon have created a sustainable haven at Kilmartin Castle which they hope will last the test of time.
If you feel you would like to start looking at making your own property more sustainable or add to the ethical steps you have already taken, just start small and work your way up.
Ten top tips for running a sustainable property:
- Stay true to your own values, if you wouldn’t buy it personally then don’t buy it for your guests
- Speak to local suppliers directly to source your products
- Research into where you get your food from, even visit the places to see for your own eyes
- See what containers you provide your guests; plastic can easily be swapped for something more ethical.
- Some items may be hard to come by locally, don’t stress though just do the best you can
- Always think about minimising waste, minimising single use plastics and minimising meat consumption and waste of meat
- Be prepared that being sustainable can be more costly but its about doing the right thing.
- Always question what you are throwing away and how you can stop this waste
- Support your local community and local businesses
- Let your guests know your personal values and how they can support during their stay