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 business decisions 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 also acknowledge that there will always be more we could do to reduce our impact, but we commit to addressing these as part of our ongoing business plans (and as funds allow).
In 2018 we switched provider for Otterburn B&B and Otter Adventures to Bulb to use 100% renewable electricity (solar, wind and hydro). They buy most of their energy from independent renewable generators located across the UK and estimate that we save around 1100 kg of CO2 being emitted each year from our property.
In 2022, Bulb were placed into administration and we are waiting to find out what options we are presented with once this has been resolved.
In order to reduce our consumption, we are changing lightbulbs from existing fluorescent or incandescent sources to low energy LEDs where practicable. Our supply network is pretty temperamental and has caused problems with some low energy devices, so we are still experimenting. We know there are two fluorescent strips left to change and will do this when 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 thing to consider. Zero polluting emissions at source, 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 revisit this.
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 between 28 and 55 mpg (averaging just over 40 mpg that year). This varied widely as we are often towing a heavy trailer on narrow roads where frequent changes in speed are the norm. We also did a number of longer runs to training events.
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 and for the first three years of operations.
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 had to replace the boiler in 2021 and decided that another oil boiler was the only practicable ay forwards financially at that time.
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 and, as of 2020, we have stopped printing invoices unless a paper copy is requested. The paper we use every day is made from part-recycled materials and we save letters and receipts so we may use the often blank reverse for notes and lists.
Most 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.
Many companies are UK based but 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 companies that are striving towards similar goals.
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. 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.
Since the pandemic of the early 2020's, there have been less local people growing and selling salads, vegetables, etc. and we have had no option but to rethink the above.
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. Every time we advertise for additional guides, we put out adverts on the peninsulas before looking further. Since 2020, we have been building a network of qualified guides specialising in their interest. As long as this fits with our ethos, then we'd like to have a chat with you and see if there is a way forwards. This is how some of our most interesting adventures have come about.
We strive to do away with all plastics where possible. Single-use plastics are not used wherever we can avoid them. We 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 that we will use until they need replacing. When doing so, we will choose new items based upon a balance of factors already mentioned.
Whenever possible we encourage other local businesses and people to consider how they can reduce their use of plastics. 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. 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. Although the COVID pandemic delayed this, we will be selling some boats on in 2022/23.
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 2021 we employed our first additional guide(s) and have added several more since then and no need to develop a staff handbook and induction programme conveying our mission, ethos and operating procedures.
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 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 2023.
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.
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