We’re always on the lookout for businesses that are leading by example when it comes to reducing single-use plastic and waste in general.
Over the summer, we virtually met with Glyn Peris Guest House owner Ceris Meredith. Ceris has run the 4-star detached Victorian Guest House for 14 years together with her partner Paul. Ideally situated to discover the attractions of the Snowdonia National Park, the house offers six comfortable en-suite guest bedrooms, all with central heating, double glazing and tea and coffee making facilities.
Ceris has been an advocate of waste reduction and sustainability for many years, she is probably the only person we know who has used the same fairy liquid washing up bottle for eight years, topping it up from a 5-litre refill which is recycled when empty!
We asked Ceris to tell us a little bit more about how business is done at the guest house.
Q: Apart from the long-lasting washing up liquid bottle, what other things have you been doing to minimize waste over the years?
We’ve always been conscious of the amount of waste a guest house can produce we do everything we can avoid creating waste in the first place. For example, we’ve always provided fresh tap water in glass jugs in guest rooms, we’ve never used single-use wipes – all of our cleaning cloths are boil washed and reused, picnic lunches are provided in paper bags without and are made so that cutlery isn’t required, and we always bulk buy as many items as possible, particularly cereals and cleaning products.
We’ve also always encouraged guests to fill reusable water bottles or flasks with coffee, tea or hot chocolate before they go out for the day, not only does this help them to avoid single-use bottles and cups, it saves them a few pounds too!
We ask guests to pre-order their breakfasts which are therefore cooked to order for the time they have requested. This saves a lot of food wastage.
Q: Did you have to make any changes that increased waste because of the pandemic?
Actually, we’ve been able to make changes that have reduced waste even more.
Because of COVID we had to switch to providing breakfast in guest rooms as we could no longer use the breakfast room. We thought really carefully about how to do this so that we could avoid unnecessary waste and we came up with the idea of reusable breakfast boxes.
We prepared breakfast based on orders taken the night before and delivered them to rooms at the time requested by the guest. All breakfast items were served using ceramic plates, bowls and cups and stainless cutlery.
Extras like jam, marmalade and ketchup were provided in small ceramic bowls, yoghurt is decanted from larger size tubs into ceramic bowls. Once finished, guests left their lidded breakfast box outside of their room for us to collect, all items went through the dishwasher and were stored ready for use the following day.
Q: Have there been any other benefits to the breakfast boxes besides avoiding single-use plastic?
Actually yes, it might not sound like it, but they actually save a lot of time. We were able to do a lot of preparation the night before, and we as we knew what time guests would like their breakfast to be served it was very efficient time-wise. Cooking the breakfast and collecting the boxes was less time consuming than setting up the breakfast service and it’s always less wasteful in other ways.
Often times, guests will choose cereal, yoghurts and pastries whilst waiting for their cooked breakfast to be served, only to find they are too full to eat the cooked breakfast when it arrives, so the pre-order service helps us to reduce food waste too.
Q: What has been the guest's reaction to the breakfast boxes?
To be honest, the vast majority of our guests loved them, we bought some lovely collapsible breakfast trays so that they could eat comfortably in bed, they didn’t have to worry about getting up or getting dressed for breakfast and many of them prefered to eat in their own room because of COVID. We wanted to make sure they still have a great breakfast experience but without creating unnecessary waste.
Q: Are there any single-use plastic items you still have to use or find it challenging to eliminate?
A: Yes, it is really hard to get local biscuits for the tea and coffee tray that aren’t wrapped in plastic and even though we offer a water refill, some guests prefer to have a plastic bottle of water in the picnic lunch, so we do keep some in case they are requested.
Even though we buy cereals in bulk boxes, putting the cereal in the breakfast box meant we have to cover the bowl so that it doesn’t spill out, it’s really hard to find another alternative to clingfilm as was wraps don’t always stay put in place.
We also have to use bin liners as guests may dispose of food that they bring back with them, but we use compostable liners. We separate any recyclable waste ourselves on behalf of the guest.
We also have to outsource our laundry and this is often returned in plastic bags, we would like to get more involved in making changes in the supply chain but it might take a few guest houses to get together to achieve this
Q: What would be your advice to any other guest house owner looking to reduce waste?
Do your research to find the best alternatives to single-use items. Using bulk-buy products that can be decanted into smaller dishes when needed makes a big difference in cost and wastage.
Its fun to try and think out of the box to come up with new ideas, or visiting other guest houses/hotels/restaurants and cafes can be inspiring and spark something you hadn’t thought of before.
Looking at various ‘green’ websites for alternatives is helpful too.