When the original building was renovated we were able to reuse much of the existing materials; wooden doors, floor and roof tiles. Reclaimed, antique doors were fitted to the south aspect and double glazed doors to all other aspects. Wooden windows and double glazing were installed throughout to help keep the house warm in winter and a log burning stove and shutters were added to keep in the heat.
The kitchen has an induction hob which uses considerably less energy than a traditional hob due to no loss of energy transfer (reduced ambient heat means it is nicer to cook on in summer too). All appliances have an energy rating of A+ or higher.
Air conditioning was fitted because this has become a prerequisite for holiday rentals in Andalucia but guests can choose not to use air conditioning but instead to follow traditional methods of keeping the house cool in summer.
When choosing furniture and fittings for the house we opted for sustainable and rapidly renewable natural materials and high quality items that will last and last, keeping toxic chemicals and our plastic footprint to a minimum. Outdoor furniture is made from bamboo, sustainably sourced timber or the incredibly durable, powder coated aluminium. Indoor furniture is crafted from sustainably sourced timber, recycled aluminium, palm, bamboo, rattan, hemp and natural fabrics such as wool, linen and cotton. Along with antique and vintage items we have sourced a good number of fairly traded, recycled and reclaimed items; rugs woven from recycled leather, reclaimed wooden items, fairly traded ceramics, artisanal items and original pieces.
The house has its own water supply from a well in the olive grove. Should this ever run dry (it has never happened yet) it is possible to switch to mains supply. There is an irrigation system in place but this is carefully timed to reduce wastage. The olive grove is still relatively young but once it becomes more established there will be no need to artificially irrigate. We kindly ask that guests are careful not to waste water in this arid environment where water is a precious resource.
Organic gardening has always been our preferred method. There has been a huge growth in organic methods of cultivation in this region that has also been taken up by many of the local vintners who rely on the local insect population for pollination of their vines. The garden has been planted with many pollinator attracting species; lavenders, rosemary, salvias, santolinas, thymes and native varieties that will encourage the local wildlife and are especially beneficial to bees. No slug pellets are used, 'waspinators' - fake wasp’s nests are used to deter wasps - and we kindly request that guests are respectful to the insect and animal life in the area. Keeping the doors and windows closed helps keep the house inside cool and the insects outside, out.
We inherited the olive grove when we bought the house but we soon transferred to organic methods of cultivation. This has meant that we have had a very modest harvest for the past two years, just 80 litres a year, but what we have lost in quantity we have gained in quality: The oil from our trees is liquid gold.
The house has biodegradable cleaning products, laundry liquid, dishwasher tablets etc. and recycled paper loo roll. Any bleach or disinfectants are used very sparingly, if at all, so as not to upset the delicate balance of the flora in the septic tank.
We ask guests to separate all their waste for recycling and provide bins to make this an easy task. There is no refuse collection in Spain but just down the road are bins for glass, cartons, cans, plastics, card, paper and general waste.
The house was chosen partly due to its fabulous setting and partly due to its location. Whilst we fully understand the desire to escape to a remote hideaway, the reality of having to drive every time one needs some bread or runs out of fresh vegetables eats into relaxation time and adds to the carbon footprint of one’s stay. Finca El Olivar is close enough to walk to a bodega and restaurant, cycle to a hotel, bar or to the fabulous amenities of the nearest village, you could even cycle into Ronda in less than half an hour and when you do drive, the proximity to Ronda makes it easier on you and on the planet.
Whilst most guests will arrive to Spain by air it is a fairly straightforward trip by train. You can catch the Eurostar at St Pancras at 09.17h, arrive in Paris, then on to Spain, spending a night in Barcelona and arriving the next day in Ronda at 15.45h. Or, if you wish to collect a car at Malaga, arrive at Malaga at 14.24h. www.seat61.com/Spain.htm#London_to_Cadiz
You can rent a Toyota Yaris Hybrid or Toyota Auris Hybrid automatic and see how economical they are to run from car rental firm Helle Hollis just outside Malaga Airport, there is a courtesy bus service to the terminal www.hellehollis.com
Whatever your feelings about carbon offsetting, there is no denying that the world needs more trees and that the forests we currently have desperately need protecting. If you do choose to fly you may wish to offset the carbon of your flight, here are a couple of options.
At www.carbonfootprint.com you can calculate your CO2 emissions per person, per flight (including radiative forcing) and choose to plant trees in the UK (you can choose to plant in your own local region) or donate to global carbon reduction programmes or to a reforestation project in Kenya.
The World Land Trust is a worldwide conservation charity, which protects the world’s most biologically important and threatened habitats acre by acre. You can calculate the carbon cost of your flight (including radiative forcing) and donate to the World Land Trust via text or via Just Giving www.worldlandtrust.org/eco-services/offsetting/individuals
We have grown to love this area and its wonderful people and, in letting El Olivar, we hope that local communities will benefit. As much as possible we like to forge links with local eateries, businesses and individuals, supporting the local community. All our laundry is done by a company working with individuals with learning difficulties. We provide employment to five local people and encourage our guests to enjoy interaction with the extremely hospitable locals.
There are many opportunities for Ecotourism in this area, private birdwatching tours or hikes through less visited parts of the Grazalema National Park or the Sierra de las Nieves Natural Park. In exploring these environments in a responsible way guests can help contribute towards the appreciation and protection of the local plant and animal population.
Local tourism company Entrelenguas offers slow tourism opportunities such as visits to organic pig farms to see how the jamón iberico de bellota is produced, tastings at biodynamic vineyards in the shadow of El Tajo, intensive Spanish courses, cookery or flamenco lessons with locals, photography tours and much, much more. We highly recommend the philosophy and the people at this little company in Ronda's Old Town.