He who knows what sweets and virtues are in the ground, the waters, the plants, the heavens, and how to come at these enchantments, is the rich and royal man.
Ralph Waldo Emerson
According to Jim MacNeill, Former Secretary General of the World Commission on Environment and Development, “Sustainability is growth based on forms and processes of development that do not undermine the integrity of the environment on which they depend.”
It is important to me that the holidays I offer do as little damage to the environment as possible, while at the same time contribute towards the local community’s economy. I feel more like the custodian than the owner of this property – I feel very privileged to live here. As its custodian, my intention is to look after it to the very best of my ability and to preserve it for the generations to come. In the meantime, I share the exceptional natural beauty, the rich cultural heritage and the nurturing tranquillity of my house with my guests without harming the natural environment and helping environmentally-aware local producers at the same time.
First and foremost, I support my local community economically by buying what I need myself and what I use for my wellness retreats locally – whenever possible, directly from the producer: often from a neighbour, a small local business or at a weekly fresh food market.
Preserving and improving environmental health is one of my prime objectives, especially when I was restoring my house.
I recycle everything I can, I buy second-hand whenever practical. I compost everything compostable. Everything I no longer need, I donate to Emmaus, a charity that sells second-hand goods. I often exchange my horse manure compost for home-made jams, compotes and yoghourts – perfect supplements to our guests’ already copious breakfasts!
I source meat, cheese and eggs from neighbours, friends and our favourites at the local markets – people who raise their animals in free-range conditions. My guests often comment on the incredible taste and colour of our eggs.
In the winter, I heat the house with wood from the trees on my property, taking care to replant what I use. I have also planted several indigenous trees, mostly oaks, as a legacy for future generations.
I make a conscious effort to minimise waste when shopping by buying products with less packaging and when I go to the market, I take a basket.
I avoid cleaning and washing products that are harmful to the environment – I use more natural products like vinegar which is amazingly effective – it even kills (some) weeds.
The sewerage system is a “fosse septique” – all sewerage is processed naturally.
All the wines served in generous quantities during my wellness retreats comes from local winegrowers, more often than not from the vignerons nearby.
My booking process is paperless, I do not print brochures and guests can choose to pay with bank transfer that makes the payment process paperless as well.
I use my car as little as possible.
During our walks and after our picnics, we are careful not to leave anything behind and we take great care not to disturb the natural environment in any way.
I live in a cultivated region where many farmers are still using farming methods that are harmful to nature, especially bees, but some of the more enlightened farmers are now making efforts to use less damaging methods.
I limit the number of guests I receive each year and I keep group sizes small to reduce our impact on the environment. I can comfortably sleep 4 guests. I prefer smaller groups to ensure I can spend time with each guest individually.
I firmly believe in supporting and investing and my local community.
I have several large, ancient woods surrounding me that we work as a community to maintain and to safeguard our local wildlife: deer, boar and a huge variety of smaller fauna, flora and birds offering our guests the opportunity to walk through woods not much dissimilar to the enormous forests that used to cover this part of France centuries ago.
This region proudly hosts several festivals every year. Especially wine festivals: we have an Armagnac festival, a Madiran Festival, a Saint Mont festival, a Pacherenc festival…the list goes on. I support my neighbours by frequently attending and by incorporating these festivals as part of my wellness retreats, to give my guests a taste of local traditions.
We also work as a community to restore and maintain our diverse architectural and cultural heritage raising money through a variety of activities aimed at educating the inhabitants of our region about their rich heritage.
I live close to the fertile Adour valley, a powerful river that takes its origin in the Pyrénées mountains. The river biosphere is fragile and precious; I do my bit by helping to maintain the tracks on its borders.
I have asked permission from the local vineyard/landowners to walk across their land and through their vineyards and made sure that by doing so we will not be doing anything to harm their crop.
According to SustainableTourism.net, “Sustainable tourism is about re-focusing and adapting. A balance must be found between limits and usage so that continuous changing, monitoring and planning ensure that tourism can be managed. This requires thinking long-term (10, 20+ years) and realising that change is often cumulative, gradual and irreversible. Economic, social and environmental aspects of sustainable development must include the interests of all stakeholders including indigenous people, local communities, visitors, industry and government.”
What can you do to help?
- Turn off your lights when you leave your room
- Turn off your computer when not in use. Conserve energy by using your computer’s “sleep mode” instead of a screensaver.
- Unplug unused electronics (even your mobile phone)
- Conserve water. Take shorter showers using less hot water means using less energy
- Recycle paper, plastic and glass – we have separate bins for each
- Buy organic food – chemicals used in modern agriculture pollute that pollute the water supply, and require energy to produce.
- Use cloth/paper/reusable bags/a basket when shopping instead of plastic or paper bags.
- Buy local products locally
- Buy minimally packaged goods
- Buy produce that is in season
- Always ask before you take pictures
Any of my retreats – the Introduction to Intermittent Fasting Retreat, Write Your Story Writers’ Retreat, Connect and Communicate with Horses Retreat, or the reinvent yourself Your Magical Future Retreat in this part of the world is a very special experience…the best way to discover why our guests come back year after year is to visit in person.
So seize this exceptional opportunity to spend a few nights with us NOW…to help you make your trip a special one, please let us know you are coming by making a reservation by e-mail on welcome2gascony[at]gmail.com.