Our mother Lucia Geyer, a deeply thoughtful Catholic, was very keen to run her hotel business in an ethical way that fitted with her own personal Christian values. Not only did this manifest as a sense of responsibility towards all the employees as if they were members of an extended family, but also towards how the hotel impacted the environment.
In 2005 Stefan came back from travelling around the globe to work in the family business bringing his passion for Permaculture Design with him. Permaculture can best be described as the world-wide collective effort to re-design our relationship with each other and the planet – using ecological thinking to meet our needs and enhance the well-being of our environment.
Permaculture Design has been useful in understanding how to turn the St. Athans Hotel, a relatively generic family-run budget Bed & Breakfast hotel in Bloomsbury, into central London’s 1st Green B&B. To help him do this, Stefan is studying for the Diploma in Applied Permaculture Design, using the St. Athans Hotel for all 10 designs required – see stefangeyer.co.uk for more details on the ongoing diploma and permaculture.org.uk/diploma for more info on the diploma itself.
There are quite a few boutique hotels in central London that have high green credentials, offering such luxuries as organic cotton sheets and virtually waterless toilets, but they also demand very high prices for the privilege too – prices that most normal people just can’t afford. If it can be said that St. Athans Hotel has a niche, it’s being simple and affordable accommodation – for people that prefer to spend their money on going out in London rather than on their hotel room. So with this in mind we are keen to keep our prices low, and are bucking the trend that says going green costs more. To keep prices down we choose materials that are built to last or can be repaired, use as many energy saving devices and tricks as we can in such an old building, and buy everything we can in bulk.
Hans is a qualified electrician and loves keeping up-to-date with all the developments in energy saving technology, going so far as to get cutting edge tech shipped over from China to try out. For example, once LEDs light bulbs became reliable and cheap enough to use we immediately changed to them throughout our hotel.
There is no doubt we could do even more (see our Green Action Plan), and as we renovate we update. Along the way we have helped other hotels and businesses to go greener through collaboration (members of the Camden Climate Change Alliance, supporting the Permaculture Association, among many others), with advice (as part of the Hotel Network, and supporting Stefan with his Permaculture teaching & coaching) and by example (as the London Borough of Camden’s example of best practice for a B&B).
If the human race is going to live on this beautiful, bountiful planet for the next 10,000 years and more, we have to work out how to do it, and it’s very clear that everyone has to do their bit – which includes us. This is a work in progress, so we are open to collaborations, offers or simply suggestions – we’d love you to be part of our on-going green journey.