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Business News Wales spoke with John Whitehead, owner at the Bryn Elltyd Eco Guest House, an award-winning eco guest house in Snowdonia which has added ‘Carbon Negative’ to its host of environmental accolades. John discusses his own sustainability journey and shares advice for other hospitality businesses looking to become more sustainable.
John and Ceilia Whitehead’s Bryn Elltyd Eco House at Tanygrisiau, near Blaenau Ffestiniog, is believed to be one of the first accommodation businesses in the UK to be certified carbon negative.
Bryn Elltyd, which can provide self-catering for guests, became the first Tesla destination charging point in Wales, and its six electric vehicle (EV) charging points are continually upgraded.
Last year, it was recognised by Electrifying.com as one of the best places to visit in the UK with excellent electric car charging facilities.
The business has been operating entirely on renewable energy since 2013, when it won the Considerate Small Accommodation Provider of the Year Award. Bryn Elltyd was the only Welsh business shortlisted by Considerate Hoteliers in the 10 award categories and triumphed against much larger five-star businesses.
The eco guest house was described by the judges as “a beacon of sustainability at the foot of Snowdon” and went on to win the accolade again in 2014. Bryn Elltyd has also achieved gold in the Green Tourism Business Scheme for more than a decade.
Stu Meades, managing director of Greener Edge Sustainability, based in Beddgelert, who undertook the carbon footprint analysis of Bryn Elltyd, said:
“I haven’t assessed or seen any other holiday homes in Wales which have achieved carbon negativity, and I think it’s extremely rare in the UK. The amount of work John has done at Bryn Elltyd is exceptional; he’s a demonstrator of best practice.”
The story for Bryn Elltyd began when Ceilia took John to the Centre for Alternative Technology, near Machynlleth in 1982 and was amazed at working solar panels in a slate quarry. John left his aerospace career, fitted solar panels on their suburban semi-detached home in Coventry and devoted the next 20 odd years to teaching technology.
The chance came in 2007 to change careers and create a green guesthouse, 700ft up a mountain in Snowdonia National Park. Bryn Elltyd is an 1883 granite building, which was a challenge for energy efficiency.
John has sensitively developed the property with massive insulation and turf roofed buildings, lined with sheep’s wool, solar panels, hot air extraction from conservatories, rainwater loo flushing and biological sewerage into a reed bed and duckpond.
The property was one of the early adopters of a boiler that turns local wood to gas and burns it at 900c. The boiler is computer integrated with a massive solar array. The couple buy mainly local products and services and have their own orchard and vegetable plots