Otter Adventures is aware of many threats to the climate and planet as well as our local community. By producing an ethical and environmental statement, we hope to guide our future. We acknowledge that current research points towards human activities being a significant contributor to these threats. Personally, and as a business, we wish to do what we can to minimise, and even reverse, our impact upon both the local environments we operate in and the global eco-system.
Whilst starting Otter Adventures in 2017, we looked to make decisions for the business in terms of how we operate and who we buy from that would have minimal impact upon the environment. This wasn’t always possible at the time; there needed to be a balance between expenditure and ethical beliefs. We acknowledge that there will always be more we could do to reduce our impact. We commit to addressing these as part of our ongoing business planning and as funds allow.
In 2018 we switched provider to Bulb so that all of our electricity comes from 100% renewable electricity from solar, wind and hydro. They buy most of their energy from independent renewable generators located across the UK. We estimate this saves around 1100 kg of CO2 being emitted each year from our property (which includes Otterburn B&B and our home).
In order to reduce our consumption, we are changing lightbulbs from existing fluorescent or incandescent sources to low energy LEDs where practicable. We have two fluorescent strips left to change but will not do this until they fail so as not to waste resources.
We monitor our consumption of electricity (and oil for heating and water) and endeavour to reduce our consumption as much as possible.
With the short distances we generally drive, electric vehicles are an obvious resource to consider. Zero polluting emissions, lower running costs, and the ability to recharge ‘at home’ are all attractive. While we would love to have electric vehicles they are significantly more expensive than traditional vehicles and not widely available second hand. Very few are approved for towing; even less have seven (or more) seats. We are also not yet convinced that the total environmental impact of electric vehicles is significantly better than a traditional combustion engine vehicle. This is an area we will monitor and, should economic circumstances change sufficiently, will look to address.
In the meantime, we will look to offset our carbon emissions through ecological means.
During 2019, Otter Adventures drove 4070 miles in a 2-litre diesel car at an average of between 28 and 55 mpg (averaging around 40 mpg over the year). This varies widely as we are often towing a heavy trailer on narrow roads where frequent changes in speed are the norm. We have also done a number of longer runs to training events in 2019.
According to the Climate Care calculator, this equates to 1.18 tonnes of CO2. It is estimated that four mature trees are required to offset one tonne of carbon dioxide.
In autumn 2019, we planted 34 copper beech trees on our site that will be allowed to grow into a hedge. These will not become fully grown trees, but the estimate is that they will offset more CO2 – enough to offset our carbon emissions from travel and general operations since starting the company in 2017.
Within the next three years, we hope to be able to undertake another tree planting scheme in the local area. This will offset more carbon and, we hope, also bring benefit to the local community.
Otter Adventures does not have any heated areas that are exclusive to the business. The majority of the building is Otterburn Bed & Breakfast or our home.
We are aware that the boiler that heats hot water and the radiators is oil-fired and not the most economical or environmentally sustainable option. We have explored replacing it (as it is old) with Home Energy Scotland, but the initial costs, even with subsidies, are beyond our means at this time (January 2021). We are keeping the old boiler going but, as it is on its last legs, it will probably be replaced with a more efficient and environmentally friendly oil fired combi-boiler in the future.
We use little in the way of stationary each year and do not feel there are any changes we could make that are beneficial.
One area that does impact us in the printing of invoices. When our last printer died (2019) we considered repair or replacement. We decided that a much newer printer using the latest ‘ink tank’ technology was the best option. This Epson Ecotank ET-2750 reduces the number of plastic cartridges recycled as there are none. The ink comes in quite large bottles that are more easily recycled than cartridges.
We generally print in draft and monotone in order to reduce consumption whenever possible. Only invoices for customers are printed in colour. The paper we use every day is made from part-recycled materials.
All incoming shipping materials that are reusable are stored for later us. Some materials such as bubble wrap or box packing are donated to another local business who post fragile items to customers. Those that are not reused are recycled where possible.
Wherever possible we will look to local suppliers (e.g. on our own peninsulas). If these are not available then we will look across Scotland and the UK. Only if there is no suitable UK based supplier or manufacturer will we look overseas.
We also look at the environmental and ethical policies of any providers we anticipate making long term relationship with (e.g for kayaks and canoes, clothing, etc.). We look to reduce the miles the product travels by distance.
While some companies may be UK based, many manufacture overseas where pay, working conditions and miles travelled are harder to assess. We look to choose companies that manufacture entirely in the UK if possible. While this is rare, we recognise that we all have a long way to go and will look to choose products that are environmentally friendly in as many aspects as possible.
This may be that it is made from recycled materials or can be recycled more easily in the future. How the company mitigates the impact their business has on the environment is also a factor we look at.
Our principal suppliers are all UK based companies: Peak UK, Palm Equipment, Ainsworth Paddles, Venture Canoes, P&H Sea Kayaks and Life Systems. The majority of these manufacture their products in the UK.
The majority of the food we use on trips is sourced from crofts in Strontian itself and estates in the locality. We do use meat and we recognise the impact this can have on the environment and health.
All the meat used by Otter Adventures is sourced from animals reared or caught on the West Highland Peninsulas and processed principally on the Isle of Mull or the peninsulas themselves. We know the people who tend the animals and run/live on the crofts. We also source seasonal fresh produce from them where possible.
This puts money directly back into the local community and supports local businesses and people. We believe that the strength of our community links is one thing that separates Otter Adventures from other similar tourism businesses.
In a similar vein to our beliefs on using local suppliers where possible, we also look to employ local people in any roles supporting our business. As an example, our accountant is based in Lochaline and our only freelance walking guide lives in Strontian. When we looked to expand in 2020, we put out adverts on the peninsulas before looking further and will do the same in 2021.
We strive to do away with all plastics where possible. Single-use plastics are not wherever we can. We also encourage visitors to bring suitable drinking vessels with them on trips.
Where we do have plastic items (e.g. plates, cups, food storage boxes, etc.) these chosen for durability and because they can be recycled. We do have some legacy items (e.g. melamine crockery set) that we will use until it needs replacing. When doing so, we will choose new items based upon a balance of environmental impact, longevity, cost, etc.
Our one known area for improvement is single-use glow sticks. We only use these on night-time water activities (which are rare) and are looking for environmentally friendly alternatives. It seems the only option is small torches, but cannot yet find one that is small, waterproof, practical and rechargeable. When we do, we will look to invest in these.
Whenever possible we encourage other local businesses and people to consider how they can reduce their use of plastics. While we would love to see Strontian as a plastic (and polystyrene) free village
We buy high-quality equipment that should last for many years. We encourage everyone to look after it. We also keep our equipment clean. For this, we use Nikwax products as they have clear and comprehensive environmental and ethical policies. They are also a UK based company.
We rinse the saltwater off our equipment in plain water after trips as and when needed. We also clean equipment properly when needed and look to ‘launder’ once a year before the season starts. While regular washing may seem to be in contradiction to our environmental ethos, we feel it presents a higher level of respect for the equipment which, in turn, means it performs better and lasts longer.
When equipment needs repairing, we do so using appropriate materials and often move the item to ‘personal’ use. We sometimes donate used equipment to local charities.
We are considering whether to replace the existing equipment on a three- or five-year cycle. This will be the end of 2020 or 2022. Any ‘outgoing’ equipment will be sold on locally while it is still in good and fully serviceable condition. The local community benefit from this by being able to buy high quality used equipment at affordable prices.
We value anyone who comes to work with or for Otter Adventures. We will look to pay above the industry norm and to support them in their professional development. In 2020 we hope to employ our first additional guide(s) and will be able to update this section in due course.
We are developing a staff handbook and induction programme in advance of employing our first team-member.
We don’t haggle with local suppliers over price as we know that margins are tight. We also trust them to set prices that are fair for all concerned.
We also look to the West Highland Peninsulas for products and services before looking outside this area. There is a wealth of talent so close to our base of operations that it seems rude to ignore it.
We currently have a business bank account with the Royal Bank of Scotland. While they have ethical and environmental statements on their site, there are probably more ethical companies available.
At this time, there are other priorities for Otter Adventures and finding an ethical provider that offers the facilities we need will be on our ‘to do’ list. We hope to review this at the end of 2021.
Our website is hosted with Siteground, one of the industry leaders in web hosting. They have switched to Intel Atom 370 shared servers and reduced their energy consumption by around 75% over previous generation Intel Pentium 4 servers. Energy use has been further reduced through LED lights and energy containment systems. All energy used comes from an energy supplier that guarantees 100% renewable energy generation for their data centres.
We know we are not perfect. Who is? We accept that we have gaps in our knowledge and understanding of environmental issues, what products are ‘environmentally friendly’, etc. and will continue to do our best. This is for the benefit of our local community and environment as well as the global situation we are in. We also encourage others to do their best to help matters at the same time.
If you feel there is something we could do that would make a difference and has positive effects on the environment, the community and isn’t significantly detrimental to us being able to make enough profit to live on, then please get in touch.
Some of the links on this page are referral links to suppliers. We may earn a commission personally while you gain a discount, but only should you choose to sign up with the relevant company. You have a choice.
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