Reduce, Reuse, Recycle

One of the easiest ways your tourism business can minimise its carbon footprint and increase its sustainability is by reducing, reusing and recycling waste.  Taking relatively simple steps can make a big difference here.  As well as helping the planet, you will also be reducing your own costs.  Recycling initiatives are one of the easiest ways you can help your clients feel involved in your sustainability journey, increasing their confidence in your brand and customer satisfaction.  

Working with our partners in the Coast & Country project and inspired by the innovations of our Changemaker Champions, here is our guide to help you reduce, reuse and recycle.

Step 1 – Reduce

Reducing the amount of waste your business produces is the best practice and the best way to save you money.   Ideas include:

  • Conduct a waste audit, monitoring how much you throw away each week – are there items that you always overbuy?  This may be particularly cost-effective for larger businesses.
  • Manage food supplies in your kitchen, paying close attention to best-before and use-by dates.  Think about the temperature of your refrigerators, larders and cellars to prolong food life.   Monitor visitor patterns and order supplies accordingly.
  • Monitor how much food comes back to the kitchen – if there’s always something left on the plate then it may be time to think about portion sizes.  Offer lighter bites and children’s portions and think about making sides optional.
  • Fat, oil and grease waste from catering businesses can easily clog waste water outlets, potentially leading to flooding, fatbergs and pollution events.  South West Water provides help to businesses to avoid these pitfalls by fitting waste traps and taking other practical steps.  You can find out more here.
  • Bulk buy non-perishable items from suppliers to reduce packaging waste (and the carbon costs of deliveries).
  • Challenge the brands that you use if you think that they are using excessive packaging.  Our Changemaker Champion Crane & Kind adopts this approach to all its suppliers in the interests of sustainability.  You can hear more about their approach in the Visit Sidmouth Sustainable East Devon video.
  • Switch to digital transactions and record keeping where you can. Adopt paperless checkouts and receipts.  Our Changemaker Champion Wildwood Escot, part of the Wildwood Trust. always uses electronic communications where possible to minimise the use of printed paper. When they do print, they choose suppliers who use chemical-free printing plates, vegetable-based ink and carbon balance schemes and plant trees to mitigate CO2 emissions.
  • A reduced laundry regime helps linens to last longer.

Single-use plastics are a priority in coastal areas like East Devon.  Even with good waste management, they often end up in waterways leading to high chemical levels in the water and posing a hazard to aquatic life.  All the towns that are part of the Coast & Country project have committed to going plastic-free, with Sidmouth and Ottery St Mary certified plastic-free by Surfers Against Sewage and Seaton, Budleigh Salterton and Honiton working towards this status.  You can help by:

  • Avoid individual packages for things like condiments, the bedroom tea tray and breakfast cereals.  Use refillable containers where possible.
  • In bedrooms, use refillable toiletry holders. Think about whether you need to supply plastic water bottles in bedrooms and minibars.  Choose biodegradable packaging where possible and glass bottles in preference to plastic.  Think about supplying a branded refillable water bottle which your guests can take away with them to help promote your business.  Our Changemaker Champion, Alpine Park Holiday Cottages supplies reusable jute bags to guests to encourage them not to use polluting plastic bags.
  • Support guests who want to picnic by investing in picnic hampers with reusable cutlery and crockery, to also provide a charming and thoughtful USP for your business.
  • If you are running an event or festival, encourage your suppliers and caterers to be plastic-free.  Sidmouth Town Council has had a plastic-free policy at all its events since 2019.  Our festival page provides more information.  Changemaker Champion Sidmouth Seafest has been single-use plastic-free since 2018 and educates others on the negative effects of plastic in our seas and oceans, providing an impetus to change.   Our Festivals Forum [link] which includes Seafest and fellow Changemaker Champion Sidmouth Jazz & Blues Festival is also working to promote one reusable festival cup for the area.  We encourage local businesses to consider accepting the festival cup for refills rather than using single-use plastic options.
  • Our partner organisation the Travel Foundation recommends Travel Without Plastic, which provides a range of hints, tips and toolkits to help accommodation providers reduce their reliance on single-use plastics. 

Step 2 – Reuse

Innovative reuse is a great way to minimise the amount of waste going into landfills, while also providing opportunities for cost-saving and creating unique features for your business.  Here are some examples:

  • Use leftovers to create special dishes like smoothies, soups and stews, rather than letting them go to waste.
  • Reuse paper and envelopes.
  • Upcycle old furniture or donate it to a charitable organisation.  Turntable Furniture is an Exeter-based charity which passes on donated furniture and housewares small essential household items suited to those setting up home for the first time (e.g. curtains, clean bed linen, crockery, cutlery and kitchenware) to local people on very low incomes. 
  • Think creatively about what you can reuse.  Our Changemaker Champion Oakdown Holiday Park recently revamped their reception area using an oak tree that had fallen on their land to provide a cheap, sustainable solution which is now a talking point.   Changemaker Champion Sidmouth Seafest showcases art installations, outreach projects and workshops that utilise found or recyclable materials.
  • Oakdown also reuses almost empty toilet rolls from guest rooms in the staff toilets instead of rubbishing them.
  • Think about setting up an exchange system for guests’ books, games and toys so that these can be reused rather than disposed of at the end of the holiday.
  • In Sidmouth, you can direct families to our beach toy library on the Esplanade which provides an excellent alternative to buying plastic beach toys.

Step 3 – Recycle

Once you’ve reduced and reused as much as you can, it’s time to think about recycling.  Educating your staff and guests and thinking innovatively can really help to make a difference here.  Here are some top tips from our Changemaker Champions:

  • Engage your guests in recycling by including a note on recycling in their welcome pack and directing them to recycling points around your site.  Clear signage showing where the recycling points are is essential; so are signs to tell guests what goes in what recycling bin, like this from Alpine Park.   
  • If you’re running a festival or event, think about whether you can positively influence guest behaviours.  Ian Bowden, Director at Sidmouth Jazz and Blues Festival, a Changemaker Champion, is actively: “encouraging attendees to pick up their rubbish or recyclable materials at the end of the event via a little-picking deposit scheme or other incentives.”
  • Recycling provision is different all over the country, so it may be useful to direct guests here to let them know what is recycled in East Devon, particularly for guests staying in holiday lets. 
  • Oakdown Holiday Park has an innovative solution for its garden waste.  It converts pruned tree branches into woodchips and uses them as mulch around the Park. This limits the need for watering, discourages weed growth and reduces the use of chemicals for weed control.
  • Compost your food and garden waste and use it as fertiliser.  [Changemaker Champion] Sidmouth In Bloom is an example of a local group promoting composting around our town.  
  • Some items can be recycled for cash, for example, mobile phones, old IT equipment and printer cartridges.  Reputable suppliers will make sure your data is safe as well as repurposing or recovering up to 98% of the raw materials used in manufacturing.  Alternatively, many national and local charities will recycle and repurpose old equipment for you, which provides them with a revenue stream.  You can find a list of licensed waste brokers here. 
  • Think about recycling textiles such as staff uniforms and old linens.  The rate of UK textile recycling is currently way behind other materials and the current ‘take, make, dispose’ model has severe environmental and social impacts.  You can become part of the change by joining Textiles 2030, an initiative of the Waste and Resources Action Project which aims to achieve 50% reduction in carbon emissions for textile production and greater industry circularity by 2030.  More information can be found here.
  • Make recycling part of your staff training and induction process and offer visual reminders of the importance of waste management around the workplace.

These online resources can help you to reduce, reuse and recycle: