Responsible travel: Andalucian self catering apartment, sleeps 6, Spain
Being on vacation should not be a reason to be less environmentally aware and we are doing our best to help in any way we can.
Our cluster of self-catering cottages situated in the hills above Lake Viρuela are in an area of outstanding beauty and one which is extremely environmentally sensitive. The lake below supplies water to Malaga and the authorities are ever watchful of businesses around its edge.
Despite our desire to be greener it is often difficult in Spain, due sometimes to the infrastructure, or maybe the lack of it, (no mains drainage for example) and it took over three years to get a bottle bank, and then it only came after writing a personal plea to the local Mayor!
Friendly Cottages: Inside our cottages and apartment we have reverse cycle airconditioning which means that the energy consumption is at a minimum whether providing heat or cooling. In fact the units use no more than a small light bulb. These units also have a metered electricity supply because it was found that guests simply left them running night and day even when they were out. The meter needs a 5 card and will give about thirty hours use, so not at all expensive but enough to encourage people to use the system wisely.
Water heating has also been subject to change and following a successful pilot scheme this summer all cottages will have electric/solar water heating in future.
Waste Treatment: A major development in progress, at a cost of over 20,000, has been the design of a waste and sewage treatment plant which will enable 100% recycling of waste from the ten cottages and restaurant. It has been designed in Denmark, built in the Czech Republic, and will be the first such plant in Spain. The final stage of the water treatment uses ultra violet light and the cottage will use the recycled water to irrigate their extensive gardens, with oversupply going to the neighbouring olive groves.
Soft Water Pool: As you would expect we have a large swimming pool and it has a salt water generator to produce chlorine; used in the disinfection of the water. The salt is hardly noticeable but creates a soft water effect similar to pure rain water which is very nice to bathe in. It also means that a minimum of chemicals have to be added to the pool
Food Too: Our on-site restaurant uses wherever possible organic produce and locally grown fruit and vegetables in season. We also grow many of their own herbs and fruit such as oranges, lemons, figs, grapes, peaches and even pomegranates. Growing fruit and vegetables is not without its problems as Spain has its share of pests which has led to using old fashioned remedies such as boiling garlic and spraying the left over water onto the citrus fruits. We also plant insect repelling herbs next to plants which are susceptible to these little invaders.
We are very much a contributor to the local community employing only local people. We either grow our own organic produce (including figs, oranges, lemons, olives, tomatoes, peaches, squash and many other vegetables) or buy from local sources wherever possible. We are one of 80 families that are members of the local olive oil cooperative producing a well known brand. We encourage visitors to take a tour of the olive oil factory and to buy the local products there.
Our restaurant has, as you would expect, a menu featuring the best of Spanish and local recipes always using seasonal crops. Our staff who have been educated locally, normally come to us with a minimum of skills, and we provide on the job training and will also pay for any relevant courses they may wish to take.
Periana our local village has a population of about 3500 and apart from growing olives relies on travelers. Our guests normally shop, eat and drink in the village, and of course make use of local services such as taxis. The villagers are having a particularly difficult time due to olive prices dropping by 25% last year and of course it is a once a year pay day for them. For many years unemployment in Axarquia has been near 20% and now with the recession even worse, therefore every visitor to this region does make a major contribution.