How do you turn an average plot of land into a dynamic, profitable eco-destination that makes a valuable contribution to our environment? A strong vision and a lot of hard work are necessary starting points, according to Andrew Donaldson, founder of Comrie Croft, an award-winning project set on a 250-acre site on a hillside in Perthshire, Scotland.
Andrew has long been passionate about rural regeneration. He says: “All of our efforts at Comrie Croft are focused on building awareness of our shared environment so that everyone who visits leaves feeling better empowered with the necessary knowledge to take action in defence of their environment.”
Boasting over 85km of sublime walking and biking routes, Comrie Croft welcomes over 35,000 visitors annually. It's a model for rural regeneration in a rich natural environment that includes people, homes, recreation and businesses, all in a design that ensures they are complimentary to each other. As well as creating green jobs and educating the local community on sustainability issues, Comrie Croft teaches guests staying in the eco-campaing project environmental literacy by sharing skills such as bushcraft, survival, and backwoods cooking.
It's an approach to nature-based tourism that nurtures environmental and climate literacy, which is the theme of this year’s Earth Day (Saturday 22nd April).
“Our focus is on educating people about the entire ecosystem, and the positive role we can play in protecting it,” says Andrew, who encourages all visitors to ‘leave no trace’ and make zero negative impact on the environment. “In neighbouring Loch Lomond National Park the negative impact made by campers is a big issue. There’s rubbish left behind, trees are chopped down for firewood, and people pick up all the deadwood which is actually a vital habitat for insects”.
“The issue of waste is a pressing one. It’s not only trying to make sure everyone recycles and having compost toilets, it’s also creating an understanding about not wasting energy and using renewable sources wherever possible. At Comrie Croft we generate enough energy from solar to power the whole facility, and we have a wood-fired district heating system which heats all the buildings. To continue this theme, our on-site shop sells tools for campers such as solar-powered iPhone chargers and wind-up radios.“
The ethos underpinning Comrie Croft is that education is the foundation for progress, and that only by building a global citizenry fluent in the concepts of environmental protection can we hope to protect our Earth.
Comrie Croft is a proud member of The Long Run, a conservation organisation that unites businesses who strive for the highest standard of excellence in sustainable tourism. The Long Run uses its framework of ‘The 4Cs of biodiversity (conservation, community development, cultural stewardship and commerce) to assess candidates. Comrie Croft is currently working towards becoming the first UK destination to be awarded the Global Ecosphere Retreat® (GER®) standard by The Long Run. The GER® is one of the most rigorously assessed sustainability standards in the tourism industry.
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