We’ve discovered the UK’s first hotel forest garden and it’s in North Yorkshire…
Raithwaite Sandsend Hotel, in partnership with Sapling Spirits, has created a forest garden to sustainably feed their guests all year-round.
We’ve switched to plant-based milk, we’ve cut back on buying fast fashion and we’ve discovered new ways to reduce our plastic use. But what about making our holidays more eco-friendly, too? We know just the staycation spot that will help.
Raithwaite Sandsend Hotel is a restored 19th century estate nestled between the Yorkshire coastline and the North York Moors, complete with grounds filled with sprawling woodland and a home-grown restaurant. This unique coastal retreat makes its home just north of Whitby, in the beautiful fishing village of Sandsend.
With the most stunning and dramatic landscapes right on their doorstep, it’s understandable that the team at Raithwate Sandsend want to do all they can to protect their spectacular surroundings. And the proof is in the pudding, after Raithwaite Sandsend has recently been named the UK’s most sustainable hotel at The Hotel Cateys 2021 awards.
But how is Raithwaite Sandsend Hotel so sustainable? Well, sourcing local produce and planting over 500 trees and shrubs with Sapling Spirits to create the UK’s first hotel forest garden where fresh ingredients can grow for their guests to enjoy, alongside developing new gardens to grow organic fruit and vegetables, is certainly an excellent start.
Raithwaite Sandsend has made history and is now on a mission to achieve zero-waste status and become carbon neutral by 2023. So we spoke to the Raithwaite Sandsend Hotel’s food, drink and sustainability director – and former MasterChef semi-finalist – Ollie Hunter to find out more…
Congratulations on being named ‘Sustainable Hotel of the Year’. What does that award mean to you?
Thank you! We’re very proud to have been recognised for our sustainability work and be named the UK’s most sustainable hotel. After lots of hard work, it’s an exciting accolade for the team, but also a privilege to represent Yorkshire at a national level. We hope to continue to lead the movement and inspire others to introduce their own sustainable business practices into the hospitality industry. Change is all within our grasp, every day.
What inspired you to become sustainable?
I think if you love nature, then you love sustainability, as the two go hand in hand. I was initially inspired by David Attenborough’s Planet Earth in 2008, which really shed a light on the impact that modern society has had on our planet and why we need to change our behaviours urgently.
At Raithwaite Sandsend, I saw an exciting opportunity to inspire change and reimagine the guest experience, ensuring that sustainability is at the absolute core of the business. Over the past two years, working alongside a fantastic new management team and host of local suppliers, we have relaunched the hotel with a new vision. It’s our responsibility to respect nature and the stunning surroundings that have come to be known as one of the hotel’s biggest assets. In this sense, everything we do must be a positive action forward to help protect or regenerate nature.
Talk us through your tree planting project with Sapling Spirits.
It’s a hugely exciting project, where Sapling Spirits plant a tree for each bottle of their vodka sold. It feels like a real milestone in our sustainability journey. The Forest Garden is a permaculture system, designed to mimic a natural forest using a layering of tall trees to form the canopy and sub-canopy, right down to bushes, shrubs, and herbs on the ground level – together forming a stable and sustainable ecosystem. The forest will provide the kitchen and bar with delicious perennial fruits, herbs and spices that can all be used in our menus and cocktails for our guests to enjoy.
What other sustainability initiatives have you introduced?
We have introduced lots of new initiatives and have implemented changes that are already making a big difference. Here are just a few I’d like to mention:
- We’ve established a Green Leader Programme, appointing individuals in each department to lead the conversation on sustainable improvements. The team solve five systematic issues for every one capital change: creating solutions very quickly and affordably.
- In the bar, we’ve introduced a new water bottling system which offers still and sparkling water. We regularly use organic, locally-made cordials to make lemonade and elderflower fizz, reducing the need to buy in bottles of soft drinks by a third and saving CO2 emissions in transport, bottle production and plastic packaging. We have also introduced a new cellar system that reduces ale waste to almost zero.
- We recycle rainwater, use a BMS system to monitor our energy usage, use electric buggies and provide electric car charging points for our guests.
What advice would you give to other hotels and businesses that want to become more sustainable?
The amazing thing about this industry is that it’s so immediate – we can make a change today. I’d advise all businesses to adopt a process where they ‘Observe, Analyse, Innovate and Instigate’, and then invest time into inspiring the whole team to implement these amazing ideas. Sustainability is a creative process; together we need to be constantly solving problems, the majority of which we’ve created ourselves. Work as a team and get as many people involved as possible, allowing space to think about both big and small changes.
In our findings, sustainability is more than just about the planet. We believe it’s a business model that lessens waste, improves efficiency, increases margins and boosts team morale. One of the greatest skills as a hotelier is paying attention to the smallest detail, making sure all the little touchpoints are consistent and executed to the highest standards. Nature works the same way: it’s in the small where real change happens. Change the small everyday to make the really big changes.
To learn more about the UK’s first hotel forest garden follow this link.