Taking Responsibility for our impact. We will Respect & care for People and the Environment.
At the Arete Outdoor Centre, obviously we are passionate about learning through adventure, taking groups into the beautiful natural landscapes of North Wales. It is an absolute privilege that we can provide adventures in such amazing environments, but we are only mere custodians. As part of our outdoor activity courses we know it is important to include environmental education for pupils to appreciate the importance of functioning ecosystems and understand necessary changes to mitigate the climate crisis. Through being aware of our impact on the environment and local community, we take our responsibilities seriously. We want to work together to make a safer, sustainable and cleaner environment for all.
This policy highlights how Arete Outoor Centre has looked at every aspect of our operation to ensure that we are improving the local landscape and reducing our contributory factors towards the climate crisis. We will continue to monitor our performance and aim for continued advancements.
‘Save Energy, Save Earth, Save Life’
Our electricity supply has been changed to be from 100% renewable sources only. An important step to promote green energy, prove its economic worth and reduce the UK’s carbon footprint. As has been proved in the pandemic, renewable energy provides a stable source that isn’t dependant on governments and financial variances.
We have put some significant investment into solar energy over the past couple of years. Solar panels of 16Kw power have been installed between both sites, on the south-west facing roof of Bryn Eryr and the flat roof of the main store’s.
We have installed significant new heating computer controls. This clever computer can be programmed to heat rooms and water depending on the number of groups staying, movements in and out of the building and the outside temperature. This helpfully reduces unnecessarily heating parts of the building that aren’t in use. Thermostats keep the room temperatures at a comfortable level, without being excessive.
We have renovated large parts of the building since taking it on in 2014, adding insulation to roofs, and dry lining bedrooms and public areas. This insulation will reduce our heating requirements and therefore knock on effect to CO2 emissions. All windows are now double glazed, we have plenty of signs and posters prompting efforts to close them and therefore reduce waste in heat.
We have new large highly efficient hot water tanks, to cope with shower demands after a day’s adventuring, that keep the water hot once it’s heated up. The solar panels power are diverted to help heat these up during the day when the solar electricity is not in use elsewhere, often when groups are outside during the day on activities.
We have fitted and changed over all of our lights to LED from halogen bulbs, which use 85% less power.
We have removed light switches from busy public areas: hallways, dining room, common room and all the equipment stores. Instead we have installed movement sensors, so the lights turn on for a limited time and can’t be left on by accident.
We have educational displays about energy awareness around the centre, as well as discussing issues throughout the day and evening as they come up. Displays contain information about our heating system and renewable credentials, as well as ideas, considerations and tips about our lifestyle that can help promote our energy use and awareness.
Everyone needs to become energy aware considering what, where and when energy is needed.
We have considered all aspects of the centre’s energy needs and so have invested in proven technology in the form of renewable electricity sources and water heating efficiency.
Power Down: Efficient heating & controls, Insulation, LED bulbs, Light sensors.
Power Up: 100% renewable energy, Solar panels.
We know we need to play our small part in hopefully preventing the global climate crisis.
As is the norm, our transport has been driven by fossil fuel. As we strive for net carbon zero we have been investing in HVO fuel for our transport.
Power Down: Minimise driving, Less vehicles, Local food., Onsite laundry.
Power Up: HVO instead of Diesel.
Reducing Carbon Emissions
We have HVO (hyrdotreated vegetable oil – a premium quality second-generation renewable diesel alternative) fuel tanks on our grounds. This is a conscious environmental ethical decision, not an economic decision. It will be more expensive for us with current fossil diesel prices, however HVO is a significant improvement for the environment and will improve air quality. It is the cleanest liquid fuel currently available. It is both a renewable and sustainable energy source that is incredibly pure; it should cut our CO, CO2 and hydrocarbon emissions by 90% and our NOx emissions by 7.5%. We can also now fill our vehicles onsite when needed with, ½ full tanks sufficing for our longest journeys, cutting down on extra out of the way journeys to fill the tanks.
We try to use local venues when we can. We look to choose the best activity and venues to meet the groups needs, if there is no benefit for the group to travel then we will use a venue close-by. More time participating on activity plus less travel is an added bonus and so importantly less emissions too. We are fortunate to have some stunning geography and adventurous venues all within 20 minutes drive.
We have a selection of vehicles available, some smaller vans as well as large 17 seater minibuses that we can use when the group size is less than usual. We share vehicles with groups when we can and they are travelling to similar venues.
We educate groups about carbon emissions, the global climate crisis and what we can do to help reduce it. There are various displays and posters around the centre as well as daily discussions about our lifestyle impacts on the environment.
We think about where our food originates and source local produce for our kitchens. We use a local family meat wholesaler – Llechwedd Meats, a local Fruit and Vegetable business and another large family owned food supplier – Harlech Food Service for all other food stuffs. Local providers will help reduce unnecessary transportation. We also consider where and how they operate with regards to carbon emissions.
We consider what laundry products (including the chemicals they contain) we use for sheets, bedding and washing. We wash in house to reduce transportation.
We are always thinking about the aesthetics (‘green means clean’) of the buildings and gardens and have planted trees and hedgerows on our Bryn Eryr accommodation area.
Reduce, Reuse, Repair, Recycle…
‘Reduce – Reuse – Repair – Recycle’ is at the forefront of our work ethos, reducing waste being the primary issue. Everything we use has to come from somewhere and must go somewhere once we’re finished with it. Limiting brand new products, helps create a cleaner and greener country. Energy and resources are wasted whenever an item goes to landfill with raw materials being a limited resource. Less landfill means less pollution and with financial benefits to limiting waste.
Everyone at the centre is continually considering and discussing how we can be more efficient, resourceful and not wasteful. This is the case with regards to every aspect of the centre be that in the building, equipment, accommodation, food, grounds to transport. We try our best to instil the concept of reducing waste to groups on our courses..
For water management we have installed push taps in bathroom sinks and showers. This means generally reducing water being wasted but also reducing our carbon footprint from using less hot water too. These measures can save around 10 – 25 litres of water per shower, or 168,750 – 421,875 litres a year!
We are continually maintaining leaky taps and have toilet cistern water reducers in place.
Students are given food options at the start of the week using a tick sheet. Just enough food is therefore cooked by the catering team, reducing extra food being used so there is minimal waste.
Groups put together their own sandwiches in the morning using ready prepared healthy ingredients. They can choose what they will eat and how much they individually require.
Operationally we rarely use paper; recycled paper if we do have to, as everything is computerised and online. Instructor course notes, daily morning meeting / venues, equipment and vehicle logs.
We are reducing plastics in Tuck Shop by stocking with products made of alternative materials and with items that aren’t poorly made and essentially single use.
We try to use laminated resources when we can, these will last longer – Orienteering maps and Duke of Edinburgh’s award safety information for example. We use mini whiteboards instead of flipcharts. We use online photos and laptops for end of week photo review, a very powerful way to review the week’s adventurous outdoor experiences.
In general if we can’t reduce the waste we sure do reuse.
Some groups will occasionally leave old trainers, shorts, towels, other items of clothing from forgetfulness or thinking they are no longer usable. We do our best to make sure groups don’t leave anything behind and try to return items to their owners. If this doesn’t happen we keep spares to give out to others in need. We take any surplus clothes to clothing charity banks. We suggest groups use our rack of used trainers for sea side and wet activities to save their own which will then hopefully last longer. To save the neoprene wetsuits, we use old shorts or trousers to protect the rear from getting ripped on rocks and barnacles whilst on activity.
Equipment that is not fit for personal safety purposes is reused for other non-serious jobs. Good sections of ropes are cut shorter and used for canoe trailers or raft building. Zips, buckles, toggles, clips are rescued from retired kit and used for repair. Wetsuits cut down to body parts, removing sections that have fallen apart, then provide extra thickness and warmth for the canyon or coasteering. All underground lamps have rechargeable batteries.
We have been reusing for local businesses and the council. Some examples include using old tyres from our local garage for night line and team building tasks, old council lamp posts to prop up outdoor covers, ‘unsellable’ insulation as it is dirty, old stone for the BBQ and ‘waste’ wood beams to improve the centre in a variety of ways. As part of the outdoor education centres community we have been able to reuse furniture from other outdoor centres that was no longer needed. We also have managed to help out some closing outdoor centres with their end waste management.
We encourage groups to bring their own lunch boxes or to reuse bags from bread. We suggest they use plastic bottles from the recycling centre or reuse leftover water bottles from previous groups if they haven’t brought their own.
If there is any leftover food from breakfasts and dinners it isn’t wasted, usually eaten by admin, domestic and maintenance team members when groups are out during the daytime.
Waterproof tears or holes are repaired quickly, while still small, through sewing, sticking or patching. Sewing is also used on fleeces and instructor clothing. We can usually get another season of use from our neoprene wetsuits if we stop a hole from becoming too big using wetsuit glue and look out for wear and thinness repairs before it’s too late. The same glue is used to repair holes in dry bags.
We keep spare inserts for helmets and buckles to repair rucksacks and buoyancy aids. Climbing equipment is kept in tip top safety working order through making sure we regularly repair, clean, and oil to keep on top of all wear and tear.
Walking boots soles are re-stuck with shoo goo, laces replaced and eyelets fixed by the cobbler.
Our boats are always repaired from replacing spars and seats in canoes, patches on rafts and stand up paddle boards, welds on kayaks and re-fixing blades on paddles. Trailers need repairs on lights, wheels and jockey wheels.
The maintenance team are constantly repairing the centre building after it has been lovingly used by groups.
When it comes to recycling, we do our best to recycle everything that can’t be reused or repaired. All the usual materials are put into the recycling bin – plastic container, cardboard, paper, metal tins and glass containers from any source. We break up any items of mixed materials into individual materials to help the recycling process.
Most recently crisp packets are now recycled too, as we’ve found a business that offers this service if we can drop them off. So groups are asked to save their packets in separate recycling bins. It may seem like a small and insignificant contribution, but if we have 100 guests plus 10 instructors for a week that’s up to 550 packets a week, or 25000 a year! The process of educating and making young people think about other recycling opportunities is worth it in its own right.
We recycle office items such as printer cartridges or batteries with toxic materials.
We have display boards and prompts about what materials are recyclable. These are discussed at the start of a course and on a daily basis as groups are reminded to separate out their recyclable waste.
Supporting the Local Economy and Community
Our instructors, cleaners, admin, maintenance and catering team all live locally. All employees are on at least a Living wage. We use local food including meat, fruit and vegetable businesses. Specalist trade
Arete Residential Fund has been setup to help financially disadvantaged pupild. Applications can be made to access grant to fund a course so that outdoor adventure education can be available for ALL, no matter what financial situation they are in.
Change comes from knowledge and education.
The first step in understanding the importance of nature is making an emotional connection to the environment. Through our activities, we allow people to be in the great outdoors and so enjoy their time within the natural environment. We make sure they feel comfortable within these surroundings. The activities give many opportunities to connect with nature, observing different environments and gaining strong and positive experiences.
We promote and develop environmental knowledge to all colleagues, staff and students. We show how the ecosystems that we visit operate, be that – Sea, Mountain, Gorges, Lakes, Underground or Rivers. Unique flora and fauna is pointed out, the important role of insects and marvel at birds and animals. How environments are formed and carved out, such as sea cliffs, gorges, or mountains, can often be plainly seen. Equally though to understand how quickly they can be destroyed and how this can impact on all of us.
We look at how we impact the venues we visit, whether that is on micro or macro scale. We look at how we can improve biodiversity and help improve habitats. Within the centre displays point towards to the greater worldwide impact we have on the big issues of climate crisis and plastic.
We look to play a role within Natural Resource Wales ‘Natural Progression‘ and show the multiple benefits.
Future Steps for Arete
Arete Outdoor Centre will continually review what we do and why. Asking the question, is it still good enough? Environmental responsibility will be part of our structured team meetings.
In the future we are currently putting plans in place to install ground source heating in Bryn Eryr and air source heating in the Main Centre. This will be used for room heating and hot water, through extracting heat from the ground or air passing it through a heat exchange similar to a fridge in reverse.
We are also considering and aim to:
- Use Rain water better.
- Withing our grounds, make habitat Improvements, try and improve biodiversity, introduce bird and bat boxes, plant more trees, more hedge rows.
- Keep a lookout for manufactures starting to produce electric vans or minibuses.
- There could be options for a mini wind turbine.
- Introduce John Muir Award (‘Discover / Explore / Conserve / Share.’) for Primary school groups on a weeklong residential.
- Look into Accreditation – Carbon Trust standard, Energy Savings Opportunity Scheme (ESOS), Food for Life (Soil Association), Green Dragon Environmental Standard, Green Key Wales, Green Tourism Standard. This will help is look into detail our current environmental policy.