Businesses can sometimes embellish their green credentials without doing too much. It’s a common PR strategy called ‘greenwashing’. For us, it’s the reverse. We’ve done a lot, but haven’t made much fuss about it.
Since 2015, we’ve reduced our energy consumption by 30% through the installation of LED lights and changes to the way we run our plant and equipment. We’re now in the process of going carbon neutral and plan to install a large solar power plant and offset our remaining carbon emissions through ‘gold standard’ carbon sequestration projects around the world. We’re not there yet. The process is long, rigorous and expensive. Eventually, we hope to be the first Australian hotel to achieve carbon neutral certification through the Australian Government National Carbon Offset Standard. There’s a lot of talk about climate change and global warming, and it’s easy to let other people make sacrifices, but with a business that’s about three metres above sea level on a subtropical island (with an eroding foreshore), we’re very much at the coalface of the problem. Pardon the pun.
We’re also working with the Lord Howe Island Board and NSW Government to regenerate two hectares of Sallywood Swamp Forest in our back paddock. The forest was once common along the floodplains of Lord Howe, but was mostly cleared over 100 years ago for grazing. Now, there’s only about one hectare left (in the world) and it’s been designated as an Endangered Ecological Community. We’re training our staff in horticulture and plan to build our own rainforest nursery to propagate the correct species for planting. It’s not often you get to double the coverage of an endangered community. By 2030, we expect to have a fully regenerated Sallywood Swamp Forest instead of degraded pasture.
Another less glamorous, but equally important, project is our installation of state-of-the-art Fuji wastewater systems. Until recently, most homes and businesses on Lord Howe relied on traditional septic systems, which are simple to use but can pollute groundwater and eventually the lagoon. Our first step was to reduce our water usage by 35% over four years through the installation of water saving taps, showers and toilets, and we also changed to the way we use our laundry (did you ever wonder what happened to our fancy white tablecloths?). Now, with less water to treat and dispose of, we’ll use our highly-treated wastewater for irrigation around the lodge, and if needed, for irrigation of our Sallywood Swamp Forest seedlings.
We also recycle as much green waste as possible through worm farms and compost heaps, and use the rich fertiliser in our organic market garden. In 2016, we converted one acre of old paddock to a beautiful market garden. It took a few years of green manure rotations and soil improvement to increase the fertility of the garden, and now we grow most of our leaf greens, herbs and vine crops for the restaurant. ‘Food miles’ are an issue on Lord Howe when our produce comes via freight ship from Port Macquarie (and truck from Sydney or Brisbane), but our organic market garden ensures that at least some of our produce is grown 50 metres from where it’s consumed. Our chefs often serve meals with local fish and produce from the garden. Read the feature article in Outdoor Magazine about our environment programs.
In 2015, 2016 and 2017, we organised and hosted the Australian Geographic Expedition to Lord Howe Island in partnership with the CSIRO and Lord Howe Island Board. Each expedition surveyed insects, seabirds and fish with the help of up to 20 citizen scientists, and we discovered new species of soldier fly, wasp and native bee. The new species are being described and published at the Australian National Insect Collection in Canberra. It’s hard to conserve Lord Howe’s life forms until we know what we’ve got, and we’ve contributed – at least a little bit – to the discovery and conservation of three new species. We may even get one named after us! Watch the beautiful video about the 2016 Expedition by film-maker, Andy Lloyd.