Co. Clare's Falls Hotel has been awarded carbon neutral status by Green Hospitality Ireland for eliminating its carbon output over a five year period.
One of the most significant measures taken by the hotel was the installation of a €1.3 million hydroelectric turbine on the nearby River Inagh, which generates enough electricity to power the hotel. Other projects included switching to renewable electricity and Bio LPG gas, using water from the hotel's own well and planting 350 native Irish trees on the hotel grounds.
A green team was also set up to encourage staff to become fully involved in all of the hotel's sustainability initiatives. These include using chemical free cleaning products, compostable cups and straws and cutting back on food waste.
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The hotel's owners said that, being based in the Burren and Cliffs of Moher UNESCO Global Geopark and a member of the Burren Ecotourism Network, they were conscious of trying to reduce their environmental impact on the area around them. The move to renewable energy was also driven by demand from guests, locals and staff.
Falls Hotel & Spa General Manager Statement
Falls Hotel & Spa general manager Michael McCarthy stated, "We are delighted to receive this recognition, especially given the huge investment we have made with our hydroelectric plant.
"We are extremely proud of this award. With 140 bedrooms, a leisure centre and a spa complex, we went from having a large carbon footprint to being carbon neutral in five short years. It's a massive achievement.
"Being based in an area of such natural beauty, as the Burren, we felt compelled to do our best to minimise our impact on the area around us. Utilising the power of the river alongside us seemed the best place to start our sustainability journey."
Harnessing The Power Of Water
The idea of harnessing energy from the nearby river Inagh is not new. In the 1960s, the hotel's previous owners, Bridget and John F. Woods, recognised the potential of the cascades to generate electricity for the then 20 bedroom hotel. The couple had installed a 30-kWH hydroelectric plant on the site, which was then upgraded by the McCarthy family into the current 220 kWH hydroelectric turbine.
A year after it was completed in 2019, the property had reduced its energy consumption by 830,000 kWh of electricity. This counteracts the emission of an estimated 550 tonnes of carbon and is the equivalent of offsetting three return trips, by car, to the moon.
The 220kw turbine, which is located next to the Inagh river, provides up to 70% of the hotel's annual energy needs. In winter, this can reach 100%, when the river is in full flow. During drier spells, the hotel tops its energy from renewable electricity sources. Any excess electricity will be sold back to the national grid, and there are plans to install a battery unit that can store electricity, which can be used by the hotel later.
Sustainability Is At The Heart Of The Hotel's Guest Experience
The hotel said that sustainability not only guides the management of all of its operations, it is also at the heart of its guest experience.
The hotel is encouraging all of its guests to play their part, whether it's reusing towels, using less water, turning off lights and heat, or dividing rubbish into separate bins in guest rooms. the hotel said that it is all part of a concerted effort to educate visitors on the importance of sustainability.
The story of the hotel's journey to sustainability will be told on storyboards located around the hotel and next to the hydro-electric pump house beside the river. More trees will be planted annually, and guests will be encouraged to offset their own carbon footprint by adopting a tree.
McCarthy added, "It is our responsibility to take direct action to minimise our environmental footprint, and we have additional plans to further reduce our absolute consumption and drive even greater levels of sustainability within the hotel."
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