Location: Finca Florecer
Date Started: September 2014
Date Completed: April 2017.
Design Process: CEAP
The cabin was built in May 2010 for my parents, to have somewhere for them to stay when they came to visit. It was purchased as a self-assemble log cabin kit and delivered on a pallet. In preparation I had laid a concrete pad for it to sit on. With the help from my parents and Emma ( my volunteer at the time) we began constructing the Lego style building using the A4 sheet of instructions as our guide.
The wood came untreated, as I had thought it would save money to treat it ourselves. This was a big mistake. Not only did it cost us the same amount in wood preservatives, as it would have cost to have it done in the factory, but also the amount of time it took to paint each individual plank , slowing the building process considerably.
Due to the building being 19 square metres, it came under the requirements for planning permissions (20 sq m + needs to have permissions).
I wanted my parents to have their own space and independence. This was not only for them, but myself as well. Getting two kids up in the morning and off to school, was a juggling act as itself, without adding extra bodies to the equation.
The interior of the cabin was turned into a studio apartment with fully equipped and functioning kitchen, dining table and chairs, sofa-bed and wardrobe. At the back of the cabin, a bathroom was built. To keep 'with-in code', it was built separately but adjacent to cabin, with access to the bathroom made by cutting a door way in the back wall, (using a chainsaw!). Taking my parents needs into consideration; access to a (wee only) toilet in the night and their own shower was essential. During the day they can use the compost toilet.
The electricity was supplied via two 80 watt photovoltaic cells and a leisure battery.
Butane gas powered my old caravan fridge and the small 8 LTR water heater.
Water was supplied to the cabin by a small compression pump attached to a 1'000 LTR IBC which was filled with water collected in my van (and another IBC) from a neighbour.
As a suggestion from a friend for me to generating a little extra income, in August 2012, I started to rent the cabin as a holiday accommodation using the holiday letting platform Airbnb.
It was cheap and basic but most guests loved it even when it ran out of power or water.
Of course there were others that just saw the price and didn't read the description, who although disappointed at first (or shocked that it wasn't a hotel), soon got into it.
It was a big learning curve and I found out a lot about what people liked about the farm and a lot about myself. Accepting their feed back was a valuable lesson.
By January 2013, I had made some big changes to the cabin. In the previous months I had connected to the community well for a mains water supply and between October and December 2012 we had constructed (but not finished) the new Japanese bath-house. With the newly installed and upgraded 3 kW Outback solar system, we would be able to run the house and the cabin together. These installations allowed me a bit of security and freed up some valuable time. I did not have to worry if we did not have sun for a few day or if my guests were high water users, which before had meant constant water collection runs in the van.
I could also start to increase the nightly rate to stay in the cabin.
All was going well, until... In August 2014 the Catalan government put a clamp down on non-registered 'Casa Rurals', country homes that are rented out for holiday lets. As I was unregistered, I unlisted the cabin from Airbnb and started the process of getting my tourist registration number. My only problem was none of the building on my property were legal, which was part of the requirements.
Be legal on the land and in business
Make a living that doesn't have a negative impact on the environment.
Make a holiday a unique experience
Make the farm more productive without jeopardise it's primary function (a farm)
What do I need to become a legal holiday let?
To obtain a tourist licence I must first legalise all the building on my property including my house. Once all these paper are up to-date, I can then apply to my local council for a tourist establishment no.
What do I need to make my guest welcome and educate them at the same time?
People love to be included, Make them feel they are contributing to the project.
What do I offer as an ecological holiday accommodation that other don't?
Fully off-grid experience
How can I broaden my business?
List on different travel media platforms
Why do people go on a ecological/sustainable holiday?
We are trying to make our homes and our lives more environmentally friendly, so why would we go on a holiday the doesn't believe in these issues too?
What's my niche?
Offer a holiday experience which will not leave a large ecological footprint
What is ecotourism?
ECOLOGY & TOURISM
Environmentally responsible, enlightening travel and visitation to relatively undisturbed natural areas in order to enjoy and appreciate nature (and any accompanying cultural features both past and present) that promotes conservation, has low visitor impact, and provides for beneficially active socio-economic involvement of local populations” (Ceballos-Lascurain, 1987) “Ecotourism is a sustainable form of natural resource-based tourism that focuses primarily on experiencing and learning about nature, and which is ethically managed to be low-impact, non-consumptive, and locally oriented (control, benefits, and scale). It typically occurs in natural areas, and should contribute to the conservation or preservation of such areas”. (Fennell, D., 1999 p.43)
Understanding our desires:
We still want holidays...
To get away from jobs and daily lives
Experience a different culture and places
Low or negative impact on the local environment
See something different and unique
If we have to flying choosing a sustainable place to stay can offset the negative impact.
With growing environmental issues, do we want to go on a commercial holiday that ignores and disrespects the beauty that we came to see?
S.W.O.C and the principles Permaculture
Create a no-waste holiday experience where guests can holiday conscientious free, knowing they are not damaging the earth while recharging their batteries.
Creating a space for guests to relax and breath in a beautiful environment
Providing essentials in the cabin that are ecological and/or locally sourced.
Advertising tourist opportunities in the area that are not ecologically damaging but enhance the economy of the area
Inability to use computers
To be true to myself and to who I am trying to attract
Believe in yourself
Find it hard to express myself in writing
Travel media platforms, not always possible to convey true status of site
Site reform and maintenance
Combining farming and volunteering with other peoples holidays
What I offer
Ecological and sustainable
Design an effective and sustainable living and business
Make better interaction between myself, my guests and the local community.
A website that reflects who we are and what we do.
Make a truly unique holiday experience without it costing the earth!
Change living status on land
Gestor for change of status on Escriptura (deeds)
Architect for Cedula (fit for habitation certificate).
Register with tourist board http://empresaiocupacio.gencat.cat/.
Register with Mosso de Esquardra (police) https://registreviatgers. mossos.gencat.cat/mossos_ hotels/AppJava/
Pay tax! https://secure.e-tributs.cat:446/ca/OficinaVirtual/Pagines/EstablimentsTuristicsAnon.aspx
Media and Advertising
Travel media platforms
Connected cabin to mains water supply and solar system.
Designed grey water system for the cabin with volunteers Merrie and her daughter Rosie see Grey-water Design #3.1
Buy new bikes and build bike-shed
Start website design with Sophie
Change of status on Escriptura for house from agricultural land to vivienda.
Received Cedula and applied for tourist licence.
Received Tourist licence no.
Register with the Mosso de Esquardra
List property with Booking.com
Start to pay tax!
A huge change came into my life in October 2012, when finally the land was connected to the community well for its water supply. The well is a community owned between the local farmers, who pay for all the maintenance and upkeep between them, (For more information see JBH Design #5).
In January 2013, The cabin was connected to both the water and the new solar system.
I had a Gestor rewriting and applying to change the status to the Escriptura (deeds), to include all the buildings on the land including the house, which I had not got planning permission for before I built it.
As the JBH was just at the finishing stages of being built and the pool was in progress these structures could also be included. We were changing the status from Agricultural land to Habitation. Since I moved here, electricity power lines had been installed in the area, as I had opted out of installation, these power lines were redirected around me rather than over my land, (I was avoided me like the plague!). This meant that the area had changed from 'Agricol' to a 'Solar' statue, meaning it could have habitation rites.
When this was achieved, we could move on to the next step; certifying the house and the cabin in compliance with habitation codes, (they were fit to live in!).
As with any government administration, this took time. This time was not put to waste, I could not rent the cabin, so I used it to accommodate my volunteers. After Merrie and her daughter came to help with the grey-water design for the cabin (Grey-Water Design #3), my life got taken over by the natural swimming pool build (NSP Design #6).
August 2016 I was up and running again. The place was greatly improved, The cabin was completely hands free in the way of services, water and electricity. The grey-water ran through a newly made citrus garden and there was soon to be a new compost toilet especially for the guests. But the piece de resistance was the Natural Swimming pool.
Since then the running of the cabin has just got better and better.
I have been developing the website to advertise other eco-friendly properties in the area and holiday activities that are harmonious with the landscape, that brings awareness to the fragile ecology and opens up opportunities for local business. It will also promote services in the area such as natural builders, solar installers and permaculture designers.
What went well?
In the end getting legal was the best thing I could have done, It was easier than I thought, and has allowed me to advance with confidence. During the long process of obtaining all the papers and licences, I had time to build the natural swimming pool which has been a real selling and talking point.
The cabin is very self supporting giving me a lot more freedom and time to spend on other projects. It has brought in a good wage for me to live here modestly, and I have meet some wonderful people who have become friends.
In making the website (not completed yet) I have made a good connection with others in the area who are doing the same thing and have the same values as I do. It has also made me go out into the area and seek out environmentally responsible tourists activities which promote the area which has introduced me to the a lot of the nature working groups and organisations in the area, and I have had fun doing it!
What was challenging?
The popularity of the cabin has been incredible but also the up keep and improvements that have to happen. The grey-water system is too small for the occupancy rate (see design #3) and trying to get guests to understand our stance on no-waste. Better explanations need to be added.
The website is always a challenge for me, getting others to add information to it doesn't work and I have to do a lot of chasing up. Finding information about local activities can be hard as the websites I find are as shit as mine, but when I do get out and speak to people and organisers they are very helpful and give a lot more information.
I find some people think that I am trying to be int competition with them and it can take a lot of explaining that I am just trying to promote good things that are happening in the area.
What are my long term goals?
Build the website into a really great way for people to find amazing experiences to explore in the area, promoting lots of local activities. Get involved with many of the natural environmental groups promoting responsible tourism.
Join more Eco-friendly rental platforms such as Beco.com
What are my next achievable steps?
Be more inclusive in promoting the cabin on ethical tourist sites
Get the website looking great
Enjoy the success!!!
Kate Raworth: a healthy economy should be designed to thrive not grow. TED2018
Travelers can make a difference in the conservation of Spain's natural habitats by learning about environmentally responsible tourism
With an emphasis on enriching personal experiences and environmental awareness through interpretation, ecotourism promotes greater understanding and appreciation for nature, local society, and culture.
Funniest blog Ever!!
Minimize impact on the environment
Foster environmental awareness and respect
Provide positive experiences for visitors and the community
Ensure direct financial benefits for conservation and the destination
Promote sensitivity to the destination’s environmental and social climate
that focus on low or zero emissions, and keep a close eye on their carbon footprint.
Obviously the easiest way to compensate for your ecotourism transportation to the destination would be to off-set your air travel, (less expensive than you think), or to consider carbon-neutral methods of transportation, like walking, using eco-friendly cabs, public transit, or some trains.
many destinations are focused on making changes and progressing towards sustainable development
Components of Ecotourism • The natural-based component • Sustainability component • Educational component
The 'eco' in ecotourism relates to the science of ecology