When we built Devon Dens it was never a case of, “let’s put some cabins in a woodland and, oh why not do some eco stuff?” It was always “Let’s create an off-grid, beautiful site with an ethical ethos running right through the core.” We wanted something to show how environmentally sound principles can work in practice.
The site has two timber cabins which are both solar powered. Water is on mains, but without mains sewage available, we took advice from the Environment Agency (who were extremely helpful and willing to consult) to design a water filtration system that would satisfy the local council – and would work. Shower, washing up water and pee is channelled into two filters which remove the solids (and when full, are then composted) then into reed beds, which clean and filter the water, then into a pond (which currently has thousands of baby toads swimming around!) for dilution, before dropping into the stream.
We work hard to ensure all our marketing and pre-arrival info highlights our ethos. This means guests expectations are met, and most people come expecting to share that ethos. This helps enormously when it comes to food waste, rubbish and recycling. We compost all food waste on site in our brilliant HOTBIN composter. This is an insulated box which all the food waste goes into. It gets mixed with sawdust or wood chips and once you get the quantities and mix at a certain level, the temperature rises. This heat speeds up the process, and after 3-4 months, we then transfer the waste into an aerated composter for a further maturation. We can deal with all food waste in around an eight-month cycle. This rich compost is then placed on the raised beds, which produce food for guests to pick and flowers for the cabins and bees, who live in our Freedom Hives onsite.
Sticking to it
This isn’t an easy route. Dealing with poo, food waste, dealing with a piece of kit that hasn’t worked or picking out bloody non-recyclable Burger King packaging (grrrr) does, sometimes, not fill me with joy. But the response is overwhelmingly positive. Inspiring people to change their behaviour once home is hugely rewarding, and bookings are very good for this year and beyond. I firmly believe we must take drastic steps to tackle climate change, and I sense there are a growing number of visitors who feel the same.