Reader Travel Awards 2022: The Burren Ecotourism Network wins our judges’ ‘Green Light’ award for sustainability
We love a trailblazer, and the Burren Ecotourism Network has been leading the way for more than a decade when it comes to sustainability, pioneering ecotourism principles in Ireland.
Our Green Light award set out to celebrate a business, destination or initiative for its contribution to sustainable tourism. Its efforts will have “helped make Ireland a greener destination and provided an inspirational example,” we said.
Here’s a perfect winner. Made up of 62 tourism enterprises, from cheesemongers to carbon-neutral hotels, the Burren Ecotourism Network works to conserve the area through training, initiatives and a code of sustainable practices.
The tally of projects under its belt is impressive. Members spearhead projects like community clean-ups, and each business gives out Burren Bags — tote bags that can be filled with rubbish found when guests are out exploring.
Businesses can adopt hedgerows and undergo biodiversity training, and they also support the Burren Pine Project, which aims to restore Ireland’s only native pine species, previously believed to have been extinct.
But it’s not just sustainability projects. In May 2020, the network launched a visitor voucher that could be spent among any of the members, and it also held two festivals completely virtually during the pandemic — the Burren Food Fayre and Burren Slow Food Festival.
“We joined about nine years ago,” said Áine Martin, Green Team Leader at Hotel Doolin, which was Ireland’s first hotel to become carbon neutral. “It’s very beneficial to us. Part of the ethos of the network is to promote other businesses in the community, and there are lots we wouldn’t know about unless they were members.”
The world has taken notice too. In 2020, Lonely Planet named it one of the world’s Best Community Tourism Projects and “a global leader for sustainable tourism”.
Sustainability has long taken a back seat in travel. But climate change and Covid have injected a sense of urgency, and it now feels more mainstream. Months of lockdown gave the planet a chance to breathe, and travellers had time to appreciate nature and community like never before.
“People have become more conscious of the environment as a result of the pandemic,” said Jarlath O’Dwyer, CEO of the Burren Ecotourism Network.
“We’re proud of the fact we’ve mobilised the community with our regular litter picking and beach clean-ups. There’s always a great turnout, not just from our members, but also from people in the community as well. That’s a sign that people really want to protect the area.”
Here’s just a small selection of the businesses that were in the shake-up for our judges’ Green Light award…
1. Falls Hotel, Co Clare
The Ennistymon hotel built its own hydro-electric turbine on the River Inagh. It has set up an in-house Green Team, whose initiatives have ranged from native tree-planting to chemical-free cleaning products. falllshotel.ie
2. Cream of the Crop Gelato, Dublin
Giselle Makinde’s gelatos are produced using surplus and imperfect ingredients, which would otherwise have ended up in landfill. ‘Zero waste, more taste’ is the ethos. creamofthecropgelato.com
3. 50 Shades Greener, Co Clare
Raquel Noboa’s international education company runs online environmental sustainability programmes for the hospitality sector, secondary schools and adult learning. fiftyshadesgreener.ie
4. Rock Farm, Slane, Co Meath
Alex and Carina Mount Charles have been at the vanguard of organic farming and sustainable tourism in Ireland, from back-to-nature camping holidays to weddings and farm tours. rockfarmslane.ie
5. FoodSpace, Dublin
Conor Spacey and Gráinne Carberry’s on-site food services are planned around fresh, Irish produce. Policies include working with farmers and zero waste. food-space.ie
6. Wren Urban Nest, Dublin
This is a testing time for new hotels in Dublin, but Wren Urban Nest is carbon neutral (without offsets) and has put painstaking effort into local sourcing, from architects to food, drink and toiletries. Read our Wren hotel review here. wrenhotel.ie
7. Kai, Galway
Jess Murphy’s Galway restaurant has kept the environment, local produce and staff culture at the heart of the business for years. Kai has a Michelin Green Star for sustainable practices. kairestaurant.ie
8. Earth’s Edge, Dublin
The tour operator wants its business to be ‘a force for good’, from staff welfare to a responsible expedition ethos and an all-female-led expedition to Kilimanjaro, from guides to porters. earths-edge.com
9. Sustainable Travel Ireland
Since Rob Rankin’s Vagabond Tours bought Ecotourism Ireland, it has transformed it into Sustainable Travel Ireland, working with over 100 members to become more responsible tourism businesses. sustainabletravelreland.ie
10. Killarney Park & Ross hotels, Co Kerry
The sister hotels use 100pc renewable electricity, are single-use plastic free, and were founder members of the Killarney Hotels Sustainability Group. All bottled water is produced on site, with proceeds on water sales donated to charity. killarneyparkhotel.ie
NB: Visit our Reader Travel Awards 2022 hub page to read the full list of winners – from Ireland’s best hotel and beach to its sexiest bedroom.