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My sustainability journey: running a sustainable guest house

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Kevin Murphy is the owner of Point B Guest House, a sustainable property located in Cape Town, South Africa. From implementing new initiatives to identifying cost-saving opportunities, here’s what he’s learnt during his sustainability journey

I took over Point B Guest House about three and a half years ago. Back then, the previous owner had some sustainability initiatives in place, such as recycling, but we really took it to the next level. 

I chose to move towards operating more sustainably, firstly because I care about the environment. I grew up in an area with polluted air and without much green space, so I always thought that if I could do something different, I would. There’s no denying that global warming is a ginormous issue, and I wanted to do my part to make a positive change. Secondly, operating sustainably actually lowers our operation costs, benefitting both the environment and our bottom line.

Targeted sustainability efforts 

We recently implemented solar panels, one of our most lucrative investments in sustainability yet. The panels are connected to an app that helps me measure how much renewable energy we’re using while tracking our carbon footprint. To date, we’ve saved 38 trees and 2,732.6 pounds of carbon dioxide. 

The panels have a direct impact on our revenue, too. It’s no secret that the upfront costs of solar panels can be expensive, but before installing them we calculated that in two or three years we will break even on what we spent upfront – and the following two years we would start seeing profit. 

While we’re not 100% reliant on our panels just yet – we generate 10 kilowatts and need to generate 15 kilowatts to be completely off the grid – we’re already seeing the financial benefits a year in. Before we had solar panels, we used to spend 4,000-5,000 rand each month on average. Now, we’re down to 3,000 rand on average, and we expect this will decrease further as South Africa moves into summer and there’s more sun.

Solar panels

 

Alongside our energy initiatives, we religiously recycle and use organic waste as compost for our garden. We grow different types of herbs and fruit trees, which we then use in our food offerings. For example, we serve fruit as part of the guests’ breakfast, which helps us save on grocery store costs and single-use plastic packaging. For the rest of our food, we try to buy organic wherever possible by partnering with local farmers. 

Supporting local communities 

For me, it’s important that everything we do has a positive impact on our local community. We work with locals wherever possible to uplift the community and create connection moments for our guests. 

As a Fair Trade Tourism certified property, we have access to their community app that I use to build a local network. For example, I was searching for a local artisan to make candles for the property instead of buying them from a regular shopping centre. Through the app, I was able to connect with a local who makes great soybean candles. We also work with locals to create our crockery and uniforms, and we invite local artists to display their artwork in our property.

On top of this, we support our community by working with local orphanages. When you book a stay at Point B, a percentage of the proceeds goes to helping different orphanages across South Africa.

Turning intent into action

All projects have their challenges and our sustainability journey has been no different. From navigating new initiatives to figuring out the best approach for our business, my main takeaway is to make sure you seek out the right experts who can help you along the way. 

For me, it’s incredibly important that we don’t just talk about wanting to be sustainable and that we actually take the steps to do so. From the amount of trees and energy we’ve saved, to feedback from our guests and community, it’s uplifting and motivating to see the difference we’re making by operating in a sustainable way.

 

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Takeaway
  • Tracking your carbon footprint can help you make informed decisions about which sustainability measures to invest in, while highlighting the progress you’ve already made
  • Implementing sustainable measures can lower operational costs, benefitting both the environment and your bottom line
  • Working with locals can help to uplift your community and create connection moments for your guests