Reduce, Reuse, Recycle: The Bull Inn, Totnes
The Bull Inn is an organic, ethical pub and hotel at the top of the high street in Totnes, Devon. Guided by a set of ‘No-Bull Rules’ that govern dining, trading and working at The Bull Inn, sustainability has been built into the very foundations of Geetie Singh-Watson’s values-driven business. We sat down with Phillipa Hughes, Managing Director at The Bull Inn, to discover more about their No-Bull attitude to sustainability and what ‘Reduce, Reuse, Recycle’ means at this incredible establishment.
‘Reduce, reuse, recycle’ at The Bull Inn
“We all understand the ecological benefits of ‘reduce, reuse, recycle’, says Managing Director Phillipa Hughes, “but for businesses, I think one of its greatest benefits is that offers a straightforward way to evaluate your operations – an easily applicable litmus test. It means asking simple questions that, if acted upon, can create positive impacts.
Do I need to use this much of a certain product? How do I reduce waste? How do I reduce energy use? Do I need to buy this? Do my customers really need this? How do I add value to their experience without this ‘thing’? How can this be reused? What do I do with my unrecyclable waste?”
With questions like these in mind, The Bull Inn takes a multi-pronged approach in translating the theory of ‘reduce, reuse, recycle’ into practice. One example is how they combine different sources of energy, leading to an overall reduction. “The ground floor is heated via a heat recapture system, harnessing the heat from the kitchen and recycling it, while solar panels on the roof heat water for the bedrooms. We’ve also just had a voltage optimiser installed, which should cut our electricity consumption by 10%.” Another smart example of reduction is how they’ve swapped all their house wines to BiBs (bags in boxes), saving 40 glass bottles and approximately 14kg in transport requirements every week.
When it comes to reuse, The Bull Inn implements circular practices where possible; this is particularly evident in their design. The interiors of the pub and rooms are decorated with antique and vintage furniture and installed with refurbished vintage radiators, and their flooring is done using old quarry tiles. Even their aprons are made from old tablecloths.
On the recycling end of the journey, Phillipa and the team are particularly proud of how they manage their bins. “Our bins are a mega mission!” she says. “We use two separate companies to make sure that nothing goes to landfill. If it can’t be recycled or composted, it’s sent to an anaerobic digestor.”
Not content to rest on these very efficient laurels, the team is now working to break down the Inn’s waste into even more specific categories. “This will allow us to gather data about the volumes of recyclable materials created by a company like ours for which we don’t currently have recycling infrastructure. Using this data, we hope that recycling companies will be able to make a business case to government, proving that there is a need to create an infrastructure that can deal with more different types of waste.”
Practicing what they preach: The FMG Standard
“Morally, sustainability is obviously the right thing to do, but beyond that, operating in a sustainable way brings more soul into a business,” Phillipa says. “Running a sustainable, ecological and value-driven business is a hopeful action.”
The Bull Inn was always destined to take the Food Made Good Standard. “We believe in external audits – its one of our No-Bull Rules – so we had to practice what we preach!” says Phillipa. “Our owner/founder, Geetie, has known about The SRA since its inception, so when we opened the pub, it was a no-brainer.” Geetie Singh-Watson was also the founder of The Duke of Cambridge, in Islington, London – Britain’s first-ever official organic pub and another stand-out Food Made Good accredited business.
The impact of those No-Bull Rules is evident in the Inn’s three-star accreditation, reflecting an exceptional commitment to sustainability across the three pillars of Sourcing, Society and Environment.
Phillipa notes that the process of taking the Standard is a thorough one. “I would advise a business to dedicate an appropriate amount of time to it, and to remember it’s not about getting the highest score – it’s about learning how sustainable your business is so that you can continue doing what you do well and work on the areas that need improvement.”
The challenges of building a sustainable operation lie in its complexities, says Phillipa. “In today’s world, we’re used to a ‘just in time’ model of procurement that doesn’t really work when a business is committed to being sustainable – but it is in the complexities that we can find real joy.”
Shouting about sustainability
Because The Bull Inn is already known for its ethos, people already expect them to hold themselves to a high standard. “From a marketing perspective, though, the Food Made Good Standard really helps demonstrate our credentials to the press. Because it’s educational and informative, it’s also a great tool to use in talking through sustainability with your staff.”
Communicating about their sustainability work comes naturally to the team at The Bull. “We are very loud about what we do,” says Phillipa. Their No-Bull Rules are proudly displayed in-house, on boards and on their website, and they are eager to talk about what they do in the press and on their social media. “Our customers love it. They know they are spending their money in an ethical business that spends its own money solely on other ethical businesses and services. They find it inspiring and hopeful.”
So, what’s next for the team at The Bull Inn? “Bins, bar and food waste,” says Phillipa. “We are determined to keep pushing harder on these aspects. Watch this space!” We definitely will.
Learn more about The Bull Inn and their values-driven business philosophy at their website. Click here to read why ‘Reduce, Reuse, Recycle’ is one of the 10 focus areas of the Food Made Good Framework, or discover the Food Made Good Standard and how your business can reap the benefits of the only global sustainability accreditation designed for the hospitality industry.