Pinetrees is certified carbon neutral under the Climate Active Program of the Australian Government. We were the first full-service hotel in Australia to gain certification through the rigorous Climate Active Carbon Neutral Standard.
The certification process was long, demanding and highly rewarding. Initially, we spent over five million dollars on renovations to help reduce our carbon footprint. The work included the refurbishment of all guest rooms (following solar passive design principles), a 95% conversion to LED lights, installation of new wiring and switch boards, and installation of new commercial refrigeration plant. All up, we reduced our power consumption by 30%.
When the renovation program was finished, we analysed all sources of carbon emissions from the business – including electricity, freight, food and beverage, transport and more – and calculated an annual total of 1073 tonnes. These emissions were validated by independent consultants at Pangolin Associates and were then offset by our $19,000 investment in the Rimba Raya Biodiversity Project (a habitat protection project in Central Kalimantan with strong community-based initiatives) and the Protection of Tasmanian Native Forest Project (an initiative to expand our national conservation estate on private land). Both projects have a strong focus on conservation and forest restoration, and align well with our values and activities on the ground.
Pinetrees is also running the Sallywood Swamp Forest Restoration Project in our back paddock. Sallywood Swamp Forests are a Critically Endangered Ecological Community in NSW. Over 95% of the original forest coverage was destroyed by grazing, and only a few patches remain. In 2018, we partnered with the Lord Howe Island (LHI) Board to seek funding to restore a two-hectare patch of forest, and in 2019, we received $100,000 from the NSW Government through the NSW Environmental Trust. During 2020, Pinetrees and LHI Board staff planted around 3000 trees and palms, and in 2021, we’ll build our own nursery and plant another 3000 trees and palms to the north of the current project site. All going well, by 2030, Pinetrees and the LHI Board will have doubled the amount of Sallywood Swamp Forest on Lord Howe Island (and on the planet). This forest restoration is not included in our formal carbon offset calculations, but it’s probably one of our most important projects.
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.