Sustainable tourism is the way of the future. But what steps are businesses taking to minimise their carbon emissions, protect their ecosystems and support their local communities? Here are just some of the innovative and creative ways Scottish businesses are becoming more environmentally responsible.
While many businesses are still reliant on fossil fuels, an ever-growing list of businesses, from tour companies to accommodation providers, are embracing alternative green energy sources to reduce their carbon footprint.
JP Orkney – this tour company based in Orkney is the only business of its kind to offer tours in (or the rental of) a fully electric van which also doubles as a campervan. Enjoy a carbon emissions-free drive around the magnificent Orkney Isles in the Nissan E-NV200.
Dawyck Botanic Garden, Stobo – educating yourself about the world’s ecosystems is key to becoming more conscious around sustainability. Learn about the importance and conservation of plant life on a tour of the UK’s first carbon neutral botanic garden. Powered by hydro-electric energy generated from a nearby burn, the sleek building also has a heat conserving ‘green roof’ which retains the warmth provided by its biomass boiler.
Inveraray Castle, Argyll Estates – this romantic 18th century castle has a forward-thinking approach to sustainability. In addition to providing a visitor charter for its guests, outlining how they can explore, shop and adhere to the Outdoor Access Code while visiting the area, Argyll Estates also boasts its own windfarm and biomass heating system.
The Scottish Seabird Centre, North Berwick – adopt a more sustainable mindset by learning all there is to know about Scotland’s seabirds and marine life and habitats at this solar-powered conservation centre and attraction. Even the webcams which monitor the wildlife action happening in the Firth of Forth are run on solar energy.
Kirkennan Estate Holiday Cottages, Castle Douglas – this tranquil 15th century estate boasts three comfortable cottages upgraded to 21st century green standards. Feel the benefit of a suite of green features including biomass boilers, solar panels, and an air source pump. Outside, explore acres of riverside woodland enriched by 5,000 newly planted trees, and an innovative organic waste composting system which nurtures the estate’s biodiversity.
One way businesses are working towards off-setting their greenhouse gas emissions is by planting young trees to absorb planet-warming carbon. Here’s how some are going about it.
Argyll Walking Holidays – this walking tour company is passionate about letting people access some of Scotland’s most wild and remote places. To lessen the impact of their minibuses they donate to Trees for Life which works towards restoring the ancient Caledonian forest of the Highlands.
Ten Hill Place, Edinburgh – this is a hotel with a unique mission. Owned by the Royal College of Surgeons, all the hotel’s profits fund the training of surgeons around the world. It also encourages guests to help support their local ecosystem by gifting a packet of Scottish wildflower seeds in each room.
The National Museum of Rural Life, East Kilbride – this living history museum is a great way to reconnect with nature and discover how generations of Scots have lived off the land. See how the museum is looking to the future by partnering with Plan Bee to cultivate the local honeybee population, which ensures the vital pollination of farm crops with hives and the site’s wildflower meadow. In the summer months, witness the colourful return of an array of fragrant flower species which have been replanted to support the growth of bees and other essential insects.
VEGAN & SUSTAINABLY SOURCED FOOD & DRINK
A vegan, vegetarian or simply a sustainably sourced diet is widely seen as an essential part of an eco-conscious lifestyle. It’s also an eco-friendly way to travel and a fantastic way to discover a destination. Here are some of Scotland’s innovative sustainable food and drink businesses.
Drygate Brewery, Glasgow – Drygate Brewery might be renowned for its craft beers but we’re raising a toast to them for all their sustainability efforts. The brewery work on circular economy practices and any spent grain is donated to Freedom Bakery, a social enterprise who employ and train former inmates. The grain is used to make delicious types of bread; from sourdoughs and Struan loaves to French croissants, which can all be ordered from Drygate Brasserie’s food menu.
Saorsa 1875, Pitlochry – stay and dine in the lap of luxury in this exquisitely styled Victorian property. Boasting just 11 rooms, this boutique establishment is recognised by PETA for its cruelty-free ethical stance on every aspect of the business, from its luxurious bedding to the wholly plant-based menu featuring sustainably sourced seasonal produce.
Mharsanta, Glasgow – working closely with local food and drink suppliers, Mharsanta want to create a strong reputation when it comes to Scottish dining. Macsween Haggis, Graham’s Dairy and The Fish People are just some of the local suppliers making a star appearance on the menu. The restaurant has even gone the extra mile when it comes to their green efforts by switching to smarter packaging. Bagasse packaging is now used which is pulp made from extractions of juice and sugarcane for all their takeaway orders.
Eden Mill Distillery, St Andrews – order a glass of delicious gin or a dram from this popular craft distillery and off-set carbon emissions. Having opened Scotland’s first carbon-neutral distillery in 2021, Eden Mill’s striking bottles are deliberately sized to reduce waste turnover and use nearly 20% less glass than the average drinks brand.
Slow Food Glasgow – become part of the sustainable revolution with Slow Food Glasgow. Helping to promote Scottish history and heritage of food, the charity works alongside social enterprises on how to reduce food waste and produce food as sustainably as possible. Educational events are held throughout the year as well as supporting small artisan producers to highlight the very best of the city’s local food and drink produce.
Loch Arthur Farm Shop & Café, Dumfries – shopping locally and organically isn’t just good for the environment, it can also make a huge difference to people’s lives. Loch Arthur is part of a working community that looks after people with learning disabilities, some of whom work in the bustling café and shop. Everything served and on display is made using the finest organic ingredients, grown and reared on the farm, or sourced locally.
Locavore, Glasgow – this social enterprise is a fully sustainable and organic alternative to the supermarket. It has its own farm, spread across three sites, which supplies the café and shop with organic meals and produce. A living-wage employer, a large portion of its profits fund charitable initiatives to help tackle food poverty and support other local growers.
Scotland’s coasts and waters are ripe for exploration. Here are some businesses which have found ways to help off-set their environmental impact through measures to tackle energy inefficiency and fuel consumption, support local economies and boost awareness of marine conservation.
Pentland Ferries, Orkney – heading to Orkney? Hop onboard Scotland’s most green ferry – MV Alfred – which uses an incredible 65% less energy and emits 62% less CO2 than other Scottish vessels of its size and type. Watch as stunning coastal vistas and seascapes glide by while relaxing in the sleek interior illuminated with energy efficient LED lighting.
The Loch Katrine Experience, Callander – on a cruise onboard the historic steamship, SS Sir Walter Scott, you can savour the serene beauty of Loch Katrine and secure in the knowledge you aren’t helping to pollute its waters. Launched in 1900, the engine of the elegant vessel has since been converted to biofuel rather than diesel.
Outdoor Explore, Blairgowrie – the most environmentally friendly way to cruise around Scotland is in a man-powered canoe or kayak. Be extra eco-aware on your next paddle with this kayak tour company and join their free of charge ‘Litter Free Paddles’ and help tidy up some of Perthshire’s loveliest waterways.