A surge in the number of businesses participating in an environmental initiative in County Clare is transforming the development of sustainable tourism across the Burren region.
From a hotel harnessing all its electricity needs through hydropower to an artisan producer embracing sustainable farming practices, the 70 members of the Burren Ecotourism Network that are currently signed up for the Geopark Code of Practice for Sustainable Tourism are actively monitoring and adapting their environmental performance, as well has helping to build sustainable communities.
Developed with EU LIFE funding, the Code is the only sustainable initiative of its kind in Ireland and in the network of 169 Geoparks spread across 44 countries. The initiative is being funded by Clare County Council and is third party verified by the Burren and Cliffs of Moher UNESCO Global Geopark.
“Working with the Burren Ecotourism Network, we are raising the standard of sustainable practices among tourism businesses across the entire destination of the Geopark and across all types of businesses,” explained Carol Gleeson, Manager of the Burren and Cliffs of Moher UNESCO Global Geopark. “The Code of Practice is actively developing a sustainable ethos and practices amongst a critical mass of tourism businesses in a destination.”
“The growing network of businesses signing up to the Code is reflective of Clare’s continued moves toward established as a truly sustainable destination and follows the recent announcement that the County has broken into the Top 40 of the Global Destination Sustainability (GDS) Index, a sustainability benchmarking and performance improvement programme for destinations,” added Ms. Gleeson.
She continued, “This success will also support the efforts of the recently established Clare Green Team, comprising tourism leaders from across the County, to achieve Ireland’s first Global Sustainable Tourism Council (GSTC) Destination Certification.”
Burren Smokehouse is one of the small and medium enterprises that have taken steps to measure and manage their energy and water consumption, as well as increase their support for local producers, services and community groups.
Birgitta Hedin-Curtin, CEO/Owner of Burren Smokehouse described how a major investment in sustainable environmental management has led to considerable energy savings for the Lisdoonvarna-based during 2023.
“Solar power is going to be essential to meeting growing energy demands while staving off climate change,” added Ms. Hedin-Curtin. “We are delighted to have started on that journey with our recent investment. Our solar panels commenced generating electricity in August. We have been monitoring daily contributions and have to date 3,430 KWh saving over €1,000 in the past three months. Our aim is to reduce our total electricity use from the grid by 30%.”
The Falls Hotel Spa in Ennistymon, which became a certified carbon-neutral property through Green Hospitality Ireland in 2021, today harnesses 100% of its electricity needs from a 220kW hydro power turbine installed near the Cascades on the Inagh River. Doolin Ferry Co also has made strides towards sustainability, with a key focus on reducing its environmental footprint. Initiatives undertaken include the digitisation of ticket bookings, a move that has markedly decreased the company’s usage of paper.
The Aillwee Burren Experience is implementing the Code’s Sustainable Tourism principle around ‘vibrant communities’ through its sponsorship of the local GAA club.
According to Nuala Mulqueeny, Managing Director at Aillwee Burren Experience, “We a proud to subscribe to the Code of Practice and are committed to strengthening local livelihoods and communities by sourcing from local suppliers, employing locally, volunteering locally, and supporting local teams and activities. We sponsor the Burren Gaels Ladies Football Club, empowering girls from across North Clare to excel in sports and to forge life-long friendships. Many members of the club have also become valued members of the Aillwee Burren Experience family over the years.”
Hotel Doolin, which became Ireland’s first carbon neutral hotel in 2019, has received national acclaim for the “30-mile menu” at its Glas Restaurant.
“Every ingredient featured on the menu is foraged, reared, caught, grown, or produced in County Clare not more than 30 miles ‘as the crow flies’ from the hotel,” explained Donal Minihane, Managing Director of Hotel Doolin. “The 30-mile menu not only strengthens local livelihoods, but also reduces the carbon footprint associated with the sourcing of ingredients. This dedication to locally sourced dining reflects Hotel Doolin’s holistic approach to sustainable hospitality.”
Meanwhile, the Cliffs of Moher Experience is one of the many local tourism businesses that has helped to raise the profile of local artists, producers, and craftspeople.
Geraldine Enright, General Manager of Cliffs of Moher Clare Tourism North West explained, “Our ‘Meet The Makers’ and Cliffs of Moher & Clare Retail Expo initiatives have opened new opportunities for participating suppliers by introducing their products to new customers. By demonstrating the huge number of amazing food and crafts businesses in the Burren, we have helped to promote sustainable jobs and commercial activity in the region and the wider county.”
St. Tola Irish Goat Cheese near Inagh is fulfilling the Code’s Sustainable Tourism principle on ‘A Cared For Landscape’ through sustainable farming and production methods. Sustainable practices at the farm, which is open to visitors to learn more about the artistry behind the cheese and the delicacy of the local environment, include on-site production of all fertilisers, harvesting rainwater to wash down their farm, composting or recycling all organic products on-site, and generating 90% of their inputs on-site.
Elsewhere, the Carron-based Michael Cusack Centre, the birthplace of the founder of the GAA, has tackled the Ash Dieback Disease that has decimated thousands of acres of plantations across Ireland by planting hundreds of healthy ash trees.
Jarlath O’Dwyer, CEO of the Burren Ecotourism Network explained that members have invested considerable energy, time and resources into monitoring their wastewater and energy, and developing collaborations in the areas of food, conservation and marketing, all of which are essential measures in the Code.
“The successes that the Burren Ecotourism Network has achieved through collaboration such as the Lonely Planet Award, the launch of the Burren Dinners Book and the establishment of long running events like the Burren Food Fayre here in the destination, along with the collective adoption of sustainable products such as Solar power, have strengthened the overall belief that working together is the best way forward for businesses here in the Burren. The Code of Practice has been a huge help in giving network members a means of recording their contribution to environmental protection and conservation” added Mr. O’Dwyer.
Read more from the Hotel & Restaurant Times HERE