TWO North Yorkshire youth hostels have become the first UK winners of a top European green award which aims to help tourism business manage their impact on the environment.
Langdon Beck Youth Hostel; a beacon of green tourism
The hostels - at Langdon Beck near Barnard Castle and Lockton, near Pickering - have been awarded the European Ecolabel by Defra, which runs the environmental scheme in Britain.
The Ecolabel is a top level European Commission award scheme, with its flower logo used on a range of consumer goods across Europe, as well as tourist accommodation and campsites that meet the strict environmental criteria.
Environment and Climate Change Minister Ian Pearson said: "I am delighted that the first awards in the UK have been won by the Youth Hostels Association, which has always been at the forefront of providing opportunities for everyone to appreciate the outstanding natural environment of our countryside.
"I hope the YHA will be the first of many organisations taking forward this European green award."
To win the award, both hostels had to show that they met the highest modern standards in every aspect of their impacts on the environment - from efficient use of energy and water through to staff training about green issues.
Among the changes introduced at Langdon Beck were a 50 per cent cut in total energy consumption, a 75 per cent reduction in carbon dioxide emissions and 50 per cent of all waste being recycled - a figure that many local authorities can only dream of.
Langdon Beck has led the way in developing renewable energy systems for hostels. European and Defra funding has helped the YHA to install two solar hot water systems and a 2.5 kilowatt wind turbine. They have also installed a rain harvesting system to provide water for the toilets at the hostel.
Funding from Defra's Rural Enterprise Scheme helped Lockton to build in environmentally responsible features to help minimise the environmental impact of tourists. The environmental benefits at the hostel include a 30 per cent reduction in water consumption and a 40 per cent fall in carbon dioxide emissions.
It is fantastic to be the first in the UK to achieve this and represents a key milestone in our development of a network of 'Green Beacon' centres as the YHA aims to become a national leader in green tourism
Ewan Boyd - YHA Environment Manager
Other features include showers heated by solar panels on the hostel roof and a system which harvests rainwater. The building is insulated using sheep's wool and a living sedum roof, whose foliage will provide a habitat for local wildlife as well as adding extra insulation.
Ewan Boyd, YHA Environment Manager, said: "The Ecolabel Flower Scheme is based on a really rigorous set of environmental criteria. Guests can rest assured that in achieving this award, YHA Langdon Beck and Lockton provide the very highest standards of green tourist accommodation.
"It is fantastic to be the first in the UK to achieve this and represents a key milestone in our development of a network of 'Green Beacon' centres as the YHA aims to become a national leader in green tourism."
The green initiative is part of the YHA's programme of renovation to provide modern facilities and environmentally responsible accommodation. The Association plans to make more applications for the Ecolabel over the next two years.
Inspections were carried out by the Scotland-based Green Tourism Business Scheme, which works with Defra on the award scheme.
I think what you have achieved is fantastic. I currently manage a 22 flat homeless hostel in Preston and am looking to get the residents into getting the unit green.
we are recycling the rubbish and have our own allotment on the land. I am looking to contact anyone that could advise me on good practice in this area.
Karen Little - Preston
If you can advise Karen on going green, email email@example.com and we'll put you in touch