12 February 2012

Step Down Sunday - Center Parcs

We’ve just returned from a lovely five day holiday at Center Parcs, and while I sat in Meeting on Sunday I had chance to think how our lives have changed.

Growing up holidays always required a driving for days or an international flight, so I acquired a sense of wanderlust at a young age. I aspired to explore and see the world, and I did tick many of the European destinations off my list with my three month backpacking trip. But as I think back on it, the cities were nearly identical. There are wonderful things you can only see in person, but I’m not sure I really need to see them.

When my health deteriorated travel became more difficult - suddenly busy holidays and sleeping in cheap & lumpy hostel beds seemed unbearable. These days I can barely carry a handbag much less my own luggage, so something at a slower pace is more appealing.

I fell in love with Center Parcs the first time we were invited along on a big family trip with the in-laws. There was no pressure to dash around doing things, yet there was an amazing pool I could spend hours in! So for the last few years we’ve gone on a mid-winter holiday (when Center Parcs is at its cheapest). We knew about the money and time Center Parcs invests in the forest and wildlife...but I’ve been a bit worried about that giant heated pool I love so much!
Since returning home I’ve investigated further and been pleased with what I’ve found. Center Parcs is one of the leaders in eco-tourism. They have a solid commitment to the environment and were the first recreational sector organisation to earn ISO 14001 standard, which requires a company to assess all potential environmental impacts and demonstrate active management to prevent negative impacts. (TreeHugger)

Practical ways they do this include:
  • They don’t use chemicals for pest control
  • They use grey water recycling
  • They use electric vehicles on site (25% of fleet)
  • Upgraded all diesel vans to efficient E4 rated engines
  • Staff use video conferencing where possible
  • Old bicycles are refurbished and donated to charities worldwide
  • They encourage guests to recycle and aim to produce zero landfill waste by 2015
  • Once guests have upacked, their cars are returned to the parking lots for the duration of the holiday.
  • They aim to reduce their carbon footprint by %20 over the next ten years
  • Any new facilities or expansions will be carbon neutral
  • They’re even assessing the sustainability of their supply chain to ensure all vulnerable raw materials come from sustainable sources.
Each village has an Environmental Action Team which involves staff in environmental initiatives. It’s estimated that each village implements 150 initiatives a year!

They’ve also recently invested £1 million in replacing the Winfell boilers with new more efficient boilers and a new Combined Heat Power (CHP) Unit which is the first of its type in the UK. Recent refurbishments of the Lakeside Inn have used LED lighting and kitchen extraction to make a 15-20% savings in energy.
In addition to reducing their carbon-footprint and energy usage, they also invest in wildlife conservation and biodiversity effort. In fact one of the highlights of visiting Winfell Village is watching the cute red squirrels, which are a native species struggling to survive.
Red Squirrel
So when it comes to environmentally friendly holidays Center Parcs fully receives my endorsement. It’s a wonderful holiday that combines relaxation, nature, and swimming, while making a stunning commitment to the environment and our future. Granted we’re lucky that we can go in the off season when it’s cheaper, but I hope we’ll still be able to support these good works even if we have a family.

Step Down Sunday Have you made any Steps Down this week?

If you'd like the code for the Step Down Sunday badge or to learn more about it, go to the Step Down Sunday page.