When Mark Dodds and Nicola Francey took over the Sun & Doves in Camberwell in South London in 1995 they already had a lot of ideas about making it environmentally friendly.
As a landscape gardener with some strong conservational tendencies Mark had already thought that when he ran his own pub, he wanted to do it in a way that would help boost the environment, as well as his own profits.
Trouble was, in those days saving energy was an expensive business.
"I was very interested in what we could do about global warming," he recalls. "When I set up the pub we saw all these things that we wanted to do but we didn't have the money to do it. Moreover back in those days there wasn't any infrastructure to help us do what we wanted to do."
Fast forward 11 years and the Sun & Doves, a Scottish & Newcastle Pub Enterprises site, is leading the way in saving energy, and saving money for itself in the process.
A 1,500 litre rainwater retrieval unit made from a huge recycled orange juice concentrate container sits outside to collect rainwater, while inside all sorts of small, but effective changes have been put in place to reduce the pub's energy output.
Mark and Nicola have spent the last 11 years keenly promoting environmental standards throughout the pub, and have taken a proactive approach to tackling wastage.
But it is only in the last three years following a major refurbishment that they have been able to make real strides in energy saving as the cost of environmentally-friendly equipment has shrunk and a new breed of energy consultants has come forward to help pubs and other small businesses.
Mark says: "We got a consultant to come in, do an environmental audit and have a look round at what changes we could make. The things he suggested were really practical and mostly things that we could do ourselves too.
"We've spent about £8,000, mainly on a condensing boiler and the rainwater unit. Our water bills are lower and our energy bills are static - which isn't bad in this day and age!"
As well as looking at the bigger picture the consultant also met with the whole team to talk about making adjustments to the way they work, such as using reusable cloths instead of paper towels to mop up spillage, not leaving taps running while washing things up and serving drinks without plastic straws. Mark says: "It was really good to get the consultant to meet with the staff because it really engaged them and made them think about how they could make changes in their work."
Practical changes to the Sun and Doves have included:
- using low energy light bulbs and ensuring that lights are switched off when not in use
- installing heavy curtains and draught excluders to save on heating,
- putting loaded plastic bottles in toilet cisterns to prevent them filling to the top unnecessarily
- fitting motion activated urinals, which don't keep water running through constantly.
There have also been bigger moves such as the introduction of a condensing boiler and the rainwater tank, which waters the flowerbeds in front of the pub and in the beer garden.
Another big change was the switching of energy suppliers from a mainstream market leader to Good Energy (see panel), whose energy is supplied entirely from renewable sources.
"It doesn't cost significantly more than other suppliers, and it's a good step towards cutting carbon emissions. The company has told use we are saving 6 to 7 per cent on our previous energy supplier but we believe we've saved more," claims Mark.
"We've really seen the benefits of the changes we've made as fuel prices have continued to rise, but our costs have stayed the same."
Message on the menus
The environmentally responsible message is carried over to their menus too. The pub stocks Fairtrade teas and coffee, uses meat from good husbandry and where possible buys seasonal produce in their recipes.
Customers, Mark and Nicola claim, have really responded to what they have been trying to do. An information box was added on the back of the menus to highlight the fact that the pub had changed to an energy company that uses entirely renewable energy sources, and regulars have been interested to find out more.
Nicola says: "We're lucky because we have a customer base that is quite enlightened, but there has been a really positive reaction to the changes we've made, which has increased customer loyalty and in turn the ambience of the place."
It hasn't all been smooth running though. Despite plugging away at Lambeth council since 1995, there is still no consumer recycling facility in the area, because they say it's not accessible. In order to get around this problem the staff use the domestic recycling boxes provided for the pub's flat for some of their cardboard and glass.
"It's so frustrating that we're generating so much glass every week and so much of it is just going to landfill. Businesses could easily separate their waste - and that would be an easy way for the council to deal with it."
The next step is probably going to be getting the energy auditors back in to review what is being done and if there are other potential energy saving opportunities to explore. Nicola says: "There is still more we could do, and that we'd like to do, but with some of the issues we face, we are restricted by cost. Ideally we'd like to rewire the whole building and put water heating solar panels in the roof, but we can't do that without backing from Scottish and Newcastle."
Not being the freeholders of the pub also impacts on the availability of grants for further work too.
The pair feel that there is still a long way to go to make all pubs as eco-friendly as their own though. Mark says: "Pubs are among the most energy guzzling small and medium businesses, but it's also one of the hardest industries to try to change peoples views.
"But this is beyond common sense when you can save yourself money and help save the environment too."
The natural energy of wind, sun and running water is the source for the 100 per cent renewable electricity supplied by Good Energy.
In effect, this means that for every unit of electricity used by a Good Energy customer the company promises to buy an equivalent unit of electricity from a renewable source and supply it to the national grid.
An average Good Energy customer saves two tonnes of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions a year; the equivalent amount of emissions produced on a 5,000-mile journey in a petrol-fuelled car.
For more details visit www.good-energy.co.uk or call 0845 456 1640
For more information on any of these areas speak to our Get Switched On! campaign partner, Hospitable Climates, the free of charge energy efficiency advisory programme managed by the Hotel & Catering International Management Association on behalf of the Carbon Trust. Visit www.hospitableclimates.co.uk or call 0800 585794.