The Last Drop Village Hotel & Spa

Sustainability Spotlight


In our latest 'Sustainability Spotlight' we caught up with the team at The Last Drop Village Hotel & Spa.

The Last Drop Village Hotel & Spa in Bolton blends history with modern luxury. Converted 17th-century farmhouses offer a unique stay, with scenic views and a relaxing spa nearby.

Awarded HOSPA 'Sustainability Champion' in 2023, Stephen Parkinson played a pivotal role in helping Last Drop Village achieve the globally recognised Green Key Award. He kindly shares more about their approach below.

How has Last Drop Village approached becoming a more responsible and sustainable business?

Stephen: Our Hotel Director Gerry McGee saw a shift in the world and was keen to lead our hotel into the world of sustainability and help drive key actions around carbon emissions, sustainability and improved bio-diversity.

We engaged a sustainability consultant organisation called mission: net zero in 2022, led by Simon Catterick, with myself as green champion, we carried out an audit of the Last Drop Village Hotel & Spa. This audit looked at current green actions we do naturally, shortfalls, limitations, areas for development and set out the opportunities the hotel could improve or implement in the short term vs long term. From this audit we could see such an opportunity for good initiatives we could make, make us accountable for current practices, change in improved practices and take a holistic joined up thinking approach when implementing procedures and best practices operationally.

We wanted to achieve an accreditation on our green journey, being able to make change for the environment and be audited externally, to be held accountable. The award would structure the approach we would take across the different areas for sustainability, waste management, utilities, education, controls and working practices.

When reviewing the awards available, we wanted to focus on those that had a structured approach with their overall goals accredited by a national/international award. We chose to achieve the Green Key Award, a global award, which has a strict but fair criteria that covers different parts of the business and different sustainability actions. We felt the award had clear, structured tasks which would help us implement actions, change current practices with a real impact, not just for the business but for the environment.

The award has a starting point with a pass or fail and sets out a clear road map for year-on-year growth and development. The accreditation is an annual inspection so we cannot stagnate and must keep improving which is a positive for our green journey.

Can you share some of the initiatives you’ve worked on that have had the greatest impact?

Stephen: Harnessing technology has seen our hotel implement many different systems, including initiatives to help reduce our printing across different departments. By implementing an online check in and check out, we have reduced the amount of paper we use. Customers can check in prior to arrival, complete the guest registration digitally and make payment. Invoices can be emailed directly to the customer and improved data collection means no need for registration cards or use of PDQ’s. This has resulted in a better guest experience journey but from a business point of view speeds up the check in process, allows our systems to be updated automatically with no staff involvement or the use of paper. Investment in the latest technology has included kitchen ovens and boilers that are more energy efficient, with more control measures, cost savings and a better service ultimately for the guests.

Working with our HR department we implemented a 100% digital onboarding system, from recruitment application form, starter paperwork and induction training information. This has resulted in all employee files becoming digitalised, with correspondence to our team now digital too. This, along with our online Time and Attendance App with integrated payroll and digital bulletin board, has seen a dramatic reduction in paper use and a faster service time. All while ensuring our team are getting the information required, in real time. We also use Shred-it, a confidential waste paper collection solution. They collect paper weekly, shred it and turn it into consumer paper products for a second life. As a result, millions of trees are saved every year.

Working with our waste management provider we implemented coloured bins across site for the different waste streams we have; paper/cardboard, general waste, glass and food. We have carried out training sessions to ensure the team know which waste should be placed in each bin and our waste provider goes further by separating our general waste into further waste streams, resulting in zero being sent to landfill.

We've also invested in developing our meadowlands, not only for wildlife development and biodiversity gains, but for our customers to explore and staff wellbeing appreciation. This area is naturally a haven for wildlife such as insects, flies, bird, rabbits, and hedgehogs and we want to attract more. We have planted wildflowers, increased pollinator plants and herb plant boxes and erected hedgehog homes, bat boxes, bird boxes and bug homes. We also have created pallet bug hotels with each year’s hotel being bigger and better. The latest bug hotel saw us forage, reuse, repurpose and recycle items from within our grounds resulting in being crowned winners of mission : net zero National Bug Hotel Competition 2023!

A simple action was rolling out a company wide IT policy defaulting users search engine to - a search engine that uses the ad revenue from searches to plant trees. Prior to joining they needed more users to sign up and use this platform to help plant 200 million trees. Not long after, they achieved this landmark goal. Such a simple, no cost, change that has a massive worldwide impact and we're proud that we played a very small role in hitting this goal.

2023 also saw us rewarded by achieving a variety of titles and green awards that include Green Key Accreditation, Eco Smart Accreditation, Travel Responsibly Level 3, Expedia Eco-Certified, Newsquest Runners up Environment/Sustainability Business of the year and myself being awarded the title of Sustainability Champion by HOSPA.

What advice would you give to other hoteliers seeking accreditation, like the Green Key Award?

Stephen: From the start I would say question yourself. What is the reasoning and rationale for going on a green journey? Do you have a long-term vision? Are you doing this for the right reasons?

You need buy-in from the team, from the top down and up, full support is needed with stakeholders at all levels with many actions needed to achieve the awards. A lot can be achieved with little investment, just time, however some tasks with a greater impact need some financial investment. This is where the team needs to come together to evaluate the value the investment can make. Of course some of these investments are not focused on a monetary ROI, but more the environmental impact.

You need a team to share the vision and be positive with the impact they can make and be shining stars within the business involved in the accreditation. The team members that can bring ideas not only from their department but as a hotel overall. All actions must be SMART objectives linked to improvement and growth, not just for the award but business improvement and environmental impact.

Use your resources well and look for other market leaders to share best practices greener ways of daily tasks. We work with a green partner, mission : net zero, and they help drive initiatives, innovation and recommend key market leaders on green activities from digital activities, award recommendations, EVC partners and bike hire. Working with mission : net zero has helped up keep ahead in the green world and be a leader in the hotel world of green change.

How have both the team and your guests reacted to your efforts?

Stephen: We have seen positive reactions from our customers with many understanding the need for change and seeking out other practices the hotel offers from EVC points, linen procedure, change in cleaning chemicals and biodiversity actions. Within our reception we have an information folder for guests to read about our journey, practices and how they can help and impact on the world. Implementing a standalone vegan menu was met with some initial reservations from customers and staff, however they now have the freedom to try a variety of improved options, rather than the traditional vegan food offered by most hotels.

Overall, the team have been positive and understand the value in what we're doing, not just for the awards but for the environment itself. Our approach has really helped staff develop their knowledge too, with individuals being able to become department champions, focused on how they can help.

What’s next in your journey to become a more responsible business?

Stephen: We have a long-term goal of continuous improvement and reviewing past actions as we aim to drive our Green Key Accreditation to a higher pass percentage but also the impact we have on the environment and carbon footprint.

We are looking at ways to reduce our water usage through tap/shower management rate flow management, tap/show restrictors, push/sensor taps, plumbing changes, introduction of water butts and reviewing our Village Spa pool plant equipment that supplies our 18m Swimming Pool and Hydrotherapy Pool. Within our Green Key Action plan we are aiming to:

  • Reduce Carbon emission by 5%
  • Reduce energy and utilities across the site
  • Reduce linen used
  • Increase staff development, empowerment and engagement
  • Install eco-friendly and energy rating criteria for replacement equipment

We are continuing to review our current suppliers and their business ethics, location and products they supply in an effort to find more environmentally friendly options as well as increasing our local suppliers and local produce.

The journey doesn’t stop upon accreditation. It's a continuous circle of actions, implementation, review, education and accreditation while moving forward with new practices and taking the positives into each new year.

Is your hotel looking to take a more strategic approach to sustainability? We can help...

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