At Othona we are keen to do anything we can to help make the world a fairer, happier, more sustainable place to live!
Enjoying a simple, low-impact lifestyle and living in tune with the natural environment is part of everyday life at the Othona. If interested, visitors are welcome to get close up to features like our wind turbine and solar panels, reedbed water treatment system and community–led sustainable construction project. Some visitors say that a stay at Othona gives them a heightened awareness of their relationship with the environment and leaves them feeling encouraged and inspired to apply new ideas back home.
Our aim is to make the most of any opportunities to use resources in a sustainable way. Here are a few examples:
Energy from the sun and the wind
Othona is off-grid so we have to encourage visitors to be very conscious of energy use. Being careful to only use what is needed means that Othona is able to run almost entirely on renewable energy generated by micro-technologies on-site. Our main source of electricity is a 5kw wind turbine, which spins briskly most days, taking advantage of the sea breeze. Hot water is pre-heated by solar panels, which we estimate to have reduced energy use by around 60%.
We are very grateful to the Low Carbon Buildings Programme and the Community Sustainable Energy Programme which funded the installations of the wind turbine and solar panels – without which we would still be relying on our temperamental LPG generator!
Visitors wanting to experience the ultimate in carbon-neutral accommodation, can stay in our new ‘solar building’ – so named because it is designed to make the most of the sunshine to provide heat and light (achieved through extremely high thermal mass and appropriate orientation), with the aim of minimising energy use on a day to day basis.
Completed in spring 2011, the Solar Building was constructed mainly of natural, local materials, and people power – the walls consist of the local mud, compacted using a ‘rammed earth’ technique, and strawbales from the neighbouring farm.
Lots of people were involved in this sustainable community building project – volunteers came from all over the world (nine different countries) to gain hands on experience of natural building techniques.
In the building you will find lots of reclaimed materials – sinks, windows and doors came mainly from skips and reclamation yards, and the granite floor was previously the walls of Green Park tube station in Central London. If you look carefully you will find some original graffiti remaining from its previous life, as well as a sign giving directions to Buckingham Palace!
The Solar Building was designed with adaptation to climate change in mind – its design means it should perform well in extreme weather conditions, (high thermal mass helps ensure it is naturally cool in summer and warm in winter).
We hope the Solar Building will be of especial interest to anyone interested in sustainable construction, particularly those considering self-build projects. It is open all year round for people to stay, or hire as a ’green’ venue for events, or just look round.
The Solar Building project was made possible by a grant from the East of England Development Agency 'Cut Your Carbon' grant as well as generous donations from members of the Community.
Other environmental initiatives
- A reedbed system provides for our waste water treatment and encourages biodiversity. This requires that only biodegradable cleaning products are used
- Bicycles are available for visitors for trips into the village, and we are happy to help facilitate journey sharing when requested and pick up visitors who arrive on the bus or train – please do ask!
- Wherever possible we prioritise local foods from nearby small-scale producers, and grow what we can on site in our orchard and a polytunnel irrigated by harvested rainwater
- We have an on-going tree-planting programme, (estimate about 2500 planted over last 30 years), providing shelter from wind, fuel for our wood burners and important habitat for wildlife.