Case study: Victorian House Hotel, Grasmere 

In June 2021 Serena von der Heyde, owner of the Victorian House Hotel in Grasmere contacted CAfS seeking advice about climate action activities in Grasmere. This was the start of an on-going relationship between our organisations and an enormous amount of work over a short period of time to reduce the carbon footprint of the hotel (and beyond).

We have been able to support Serena, refer her on to our network of other support organisations and introduce her to various initiatives. In turn, she has embraced every opportunity and created many more of her own. 

One of the first things Serena did was to calculate her business’s carbon footprint using the free CAfS carbon footprint calculator. This gave her a good understanding of where the hotel’s emission arise from and a baseline from which she can monitor her progress in reducing the hotel’s carbon footprint. At the same time, she engaged with Green Small Business, who carried out an environmental audit of the hotel and helped her to produce an action plan to tackle the hotel’s environmental impacts.  

One of the actions was to arrange a building energy audit, which was done by A Muir Surveying, a close collaborator of both Green Small Business and CAfS. Recommendations included: installing solar photovoltaic panels, linked to an electric water heater and electric vehicle charge point; lighting upgrades; door closers; and water flow restrictors. Second stage improvements would be to install an air source heat pump. Serena applied for a grant from the Low Carbon Lake District Grant Fund to cover 60% of the cost of the first stage work, and is waiting to hear the outcome. 

At the same time that Serena was thinking about solar panels, we at CAfS were developing a solar project in Ambleside (just minutes from Grasmere) with Ambleside Action for a Future (AAFAF). Solar Made Easy in the Lakes is there to support individuals and businesses who want solar panels, but don’t know where to start.

Serena put her hotel forward as a pioneer property, the purpose being to help us to identify high quality installers that we can work within in the longer term and confidently introduce to members of the community. We hope that her installation will take place with one of our preferred installers in spring 2022. 

Serena wasn’t content to limit her action to the carbon emissions that the hotel is directly responsible for. Instead, she is working hard to influence and enable her guests to enjoy the lowest impact holiday that they can, and is also becoming a hub for community climate action in Grasmere.  

In relation to guest behaviour, her first activity was to work with the Eco I NW team via the University of Lancaster, to calculate the carbon footprint of different travel options to reach Grasmere. This information is displayed on her website and is there to encourage guests to think about arriving by train rather than in the car. She has also developed car free itineraries for her guests while they are staying with her. Serena shared this work with Cumbria Tourism so that other hospitality businesses can also encourage more sustainable guest travel. In so doing she has strengthened a growing network of hospitality businesses wanting to collaborate to reduce the carbon footprint of the industry in Cumbria. 

The other guest engagement initiative Serena is implementing is My Green Butler. This is an intelligent system that links energy and resource use monitoring to a gamified app that nudges guests (and staff) into thinking about how they can minimise the environment impact of their stay. Other trials have shown that 30% energy saving can be achieved.  

In relation to community climate action, Serena is hosting a regular climate reading group at the hotel. This initiative is organised by Cumbria Libraries as part of the work of the Zero Carbon Cumbria Partnership. She is also a member of AAFAF’s transport group and is working with them to trial a car-free day in Grasmere. 

Of course, Serena has lots of plans for doing more. Next on her list is to tackle the carbon impact of the food they serve in the hotel, monitoring their waste and finding the best suppliers to reduce delivery miles and unnecessary plastics. We wish her the best of luck and look forward to continuing to work with her.