Ecotourism in the Hunter Valley
At Somewhere Unique in the Hunter Valley, we recognise that caring for the environment is directly linked to caring for the overall needs of our guests and the community. We accept the challenge to integrate environmental considerations into all relevant aspects of our business. We recognise that it is just as important to care for the environment today, as it is to ensure we continually improve our environmental performance for the future.
Somewhere Unique consists of two one-bedroom self-contained retreats. They are set on a private 20-acre bushland property in the NSW Hunter Valley, taking full advantage of the tranquil setting, natural ventilation, and proximity to native flora and fauna. Our business was the first accommodation property in Hunter Valley Wine Country to achieve EcoTourism certification through Ecotourism Australia. We regularly monitor our carbon footprint, and work to reduce the amount of energy consumed on the property. At the end of each financial year we offset our carbon emissions through Climate Friendly.
We strive to educate our guests and help them to understand and appreciate the natural environment in which we live. Download our Environmental and Sustainability Policy.
How Can You Help?
Breathe fresh air. Open your windows and give the air-conditioning a rest. Make use of the blinds and ceiling fans to maximise the efficiency of the building design.
Choose the right bin. Please place recyclable items into the bins provided. This includes glass, PET, paper, cardboard, and compostable materials.
Don’t forget to turn off lights, air-conditioning, heaters and other appliances when you leave the retreat.
Whether you are planning to travel to the Hunter Valley by car, or a combination of car and plane, you can offset your travel emissions. Did you know that if you drive from Sydney to Wollombi, you can offset your emissions for around $2*? That’s less than the price of a cappuccino!! (* Based on a 3L vehicle, travelling a 260km round trip from Sydney to Wollombi.)
“When you measure and offset your car travel emissions with Climate Friendly, you’re funding clean energy projects that save as much greenhouse gas as your car produces. You’re also supporting new and accredited renewable energy projects, which will help the industry grow, having a further impact on global warming.”
Climate change can be defined as, “changes in the Earth’s climate, especially those produced by global warming.” The Department of Climate Change states, “Climate change is one of the greatest economic, social, and environmental challenges of our time. Expert scientific evidence confirms that human activity is altering the climate. This is changing rainfall patterns, reducing water availability in Australia and increasing the frequency of severe weather events such as bushfires and storms.”
- In June 2008, Somewhere Unique was EcoCertified by Ecotourism Australia, being granted Nature Tourism Accreditation. The definition of Nature Tourism is: “Ecologically sustainable tourism with a primary focus on experiencing natural areas”. The retreats at Somewhere Unique aim to provide opportunities for guests to experience nature in ways that lead to a greater understanding, appreciation and enjoyment of the surrounding environment. One way this is achieved is by having many large windows, and easily accessible outdoor areas that allow our guests to directly experience the surrounding environment. Information on the local flora and fauna is also provided in each retreat.
- In March 2008, Somewhere Unique was independently assessed by AAA Tourism / NRMA and has achieved Eco-Friendly STAR Accreditation – showing our guests we are responsible and committed to reducing the environmental impact of our business. To be awarded Eco-Friendly STAR our property must achieve adequate points against a set of practical environmental criteria, including: energy efficiency, waste minimisation, and water management.
- In March 2009, Somewhere Unique was granted Climate Action Innovator certification via the Climate Action Certification Program. This level of certification is for businesses who have undertaken a set of adaption and emissions reduction and are auditing and measuring their carbon footprint.
- In February 2012, Somewhere Unique officially became a ‘Climate Friendly Business‘. We have measured and offset greenhouse gas emissions generated by our business activities including; LPG, electricity, business vehicle use, and off-site waste disposal. During the period 1/7/12-30/6/13, we offset 2.39 tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions, via the Alize Camseki Wind Project. During this period our annual emissions have been reduced by 21% from last year.
- In March 2011, Solar Switch installed a 3 kilowatt solar electricity system on the roof of our house (at the top of the hill behind the retreats). Solar Power is the cleanest, most viable form of renewable energy available. These panels convert sunlight into solar electricity, which is fed back into the grid and reduces the need for coal generated electricity. The panels produce around 50% of the energy needs of Lowanna and Allawah Retreats.
- The air-conditioning units chosen to keep our guests comfortable utilise inverter technology, making them more energy efficient than conventional air-conditioners. In conjunction, they are 6 star rated. The filters are cleaned regularly to maintain efficiency.
- Cross-flow air ventilation and ceiling fans reduces the need for constant air-conditioning.
- The remaining 50% of our electricity usage is offset via the purchase of PureEnergy from Energy Australia – they offer consumers a choice between conventional coal-generated energy and electricity generated from clean, renewable and non-polluting sources, including the sun, wind and hydro. By choosing PureEnergy, Energy Australia ensures that an amount equivalent to 50% of our electricity consumption has been or will be generated by accredited GreenPower Generators using renewable energy sources and delivered to the national electricity grid.
- Energy efficient light globes have been used where appropriate.
- We have chosen instant gas systems to supply our guests with hot water – these units have a 5 star energy rating. They heat as much water as you need, and only when you need it. So there are no heat losses, and you’ll never run out of hot water. We chose gas over electricity, as gas produces much less of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide than electricity to heat the same amount of water.
- In March 2011 we reworked the water pipes into each retreat, and the water is now gravity fed from tanks higher up the hill. So, less noise pollution, less electricity usage, and on odd occasion when we have a power outage there will still be running water available.
- Toilets implement Smart Flush technology, utilising a 4.5/3L dual flush cistern.
- High water saving rating on all taps and shower heads.
- As in most country areas, limiting water usage is always a priority. We use rain water for all our water needs at Somewhere Unique, and have designed the buildings to provide maximum water catchment (that is, a large roof area!) We can currently store over 170,000 litres of water on the property.
- We use front-loading washing machines for our laundry needs.
- As we are on a rural property, we are expected to treat our own waste water on-site – this includes water from such things as showers, toilets and the washing machine. To efficiently treat the waste water created on the property, we chose to use the Garden Master Bio-Logic System. In order for the bacteria in the Garden Master system to do their job, it is essential that foreign objects aren’t put down the sink or toilet. This includes any types of bleaches or anti-bacterial products. Our treated waste water is colourless and odourless, and has been recycled to provide irrigation to gardens and lawns. The Garden Master System is pollution free, safe, reliable and economical to operate.
- Utilising drought tolerant native plants in our landscape design enables us to minimise water requirements on the property.
- We recycle newspapers, cardboard, glass bottles, PET plastic, steel cans, aluminium cans, and printer cartridges, and ask our guests to separate these items from their general waste. It’s not difficult to separate these items from our general rubbish – every little bit counts!
- Food scraps at Somewhere Unique are composted, using an Aerobin system, which allows us to contribute positively to the environment with aerated composting of house and garden waste, rather than these items being added to landfill.
- All lawn clippings, prunings from trees, and other green waste are disposed of on the property. On average, 35% of household waste going to landfill in Australia is green waste, so by retaining all this type of waste on the property, we are keeping landfill to a minimum.
- The use of fertilisers, residual herbicides and pesticides on the property is minimised.
- The retreats at Somewhere Unique have been designed using passive solar architecture principles. This involves designing buildings to make the best use of the sun’s energy.
- Large north facing windows that allow in the low winter sun, and roof overhangs that stop the high summer sun from penetrating.
- Using thermal mass to maximise the benefits of passive solar design, by building on a concrete slab, which can store heat during the day in winter, and re-radiate it at night time.
- The retreats are well insulated, keeping warmth inside in cold weather, and preventing heat from entering when it is hot.
- The water tanks, roof, internal ceilings, and the majority of the external walls in the retreats are constructed from Colorbond steel. This product is thermally efficient and environmentally friendly – steel is one of the world’s most recycled products, and all steel made by Bluescope Steel includes recycled steel in its manufacture.
- Low-E glass has been used in the retreats – the special coating on this glass reflects long wave heat radiation back into the rooms during winter, and reflects the heat back outside during summer.
- The use of Dulux EnvirO2 paints where possible. This paint range is certified by the Australian Greenhouse Office as 100% greenhouse neutral, and is both low odour and low VOC, creating lower emissions.
- Bamboo timber flooring was chosen. This timber is sustainably sourced, fast growing, rapidly renewable, has very low manufacturing waste, and uses non-toxic water based glues and finishes.
- Timber furniture created for the retreat is built using ecoSelect hardwood. This timber is Australian grown, and is sourced from a natural and renewable resource.
- Many of the fabrics used in our soft furnishings are from Cloth Fabric, who work with natural fabrics such as hemp, linen and organic cotton, use water based, nontoxic inks and dyes and have a controllable, low impact approach to manufacturing and materials. The scatter cushions have been filled with corn fibre inserts from Innergreen – these inserts are 100% biodegradable and compostable, and their manufacturing uses 60% less fossil fuels when compared to traditional synthetic polyester fibres.
- Where appropriate, preference is given to local suppliers and those suppliers and business partners who have proven a commitment to environmental management and climate change initiatives, such as Margan Family Wines.
- The stationery needs of Somewhere Unique are met by a printer utilising recycled paper and card, and environmentally sound printing methods. Where possible we use email rather than mail out marketing material.
- We use recycled Reflex paper in our office, and only print out documents when necessary.
- Even our pens are encased in recycled paper!
- Within each retreat the toilet paper, tissues and paper towel are all made from recycled paper.
- Rubbish bin liners and compost bags used in the retreats are biodegradable.
- Public transport is not readily available in many rural areas, so cars have become an essential part of life. There is however a simple way to reduce our car’s impact on the environment. At Somewhere Unique we have chosen to take part in the Greenfleet program, where trees are planted every year to help create a forest, and as they grow they will absorb the greenhouse gases that our motor vehicles produce.
- In March 2011 we purchased a diesel Ford Mondeo as our business vehicle, which uses around 6.5L/100km. Our previous vehicle was a Toyota Rav4, using around 10-11L/100km.
- We provide our guests with bicycles, so that they can reduce carbon emissions during their time in Wollombi, ride into the village and a number of local wineries, get some exercise, take in the natural beauty of the area, and hopefully spot native fauna.
Ecotourism Australia was formed in 1991 as an incorporated NPO, and is the peak national body for the ecotourism industry.
The International Ecotourism Society
As the world’s oldest and largest ecotourism organization, TIES is committed to promoting the principles of ecotourism and responsible travel. With the goal of uniting conservation, communities and sustainable travel, TIES serves its members in over 90 countries, as the global source of knowledge and advocacy in ecotourism.
Green Globe shows your organisation is serious about the environmental, social and economic performance of your organisation.
Australia’s guide to sustainable living.
Department of Climate Change
How households and communities can reduce emissions at work and home
Climate Change Australia
Devoted to the discussion and analysis of issues surrounding climate change.
Banjo’s Bushland Retreat
Eaglereach Wilderness Resort
Hunter Wetlands Centre Australia
Tree Top Adventure Park
To find out more about EcoCertified tourism businesses in Australia, why not look through the EcoTourism Australia ‘Green Travel Guide’ Online?