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Introducing Six Senses Svart, the world’s 1st energy-positive hotel

If the idea of utter seclusion and being totally cocooned by nature and the elements sounds like an appealing holiday to you, you may want to bookmark early 2024 in your calendar.

Once it’s fully operating, the innovative hotel will consume approximately 85% less energy than traditional hotels and harvesting solar power, it will produce more energy than it uses – thus making it energy-positive.

Pioneering in both its low-impact design and sustainability goals, the hotel aims to be fully off-grid, carbon-neutral and zero waste within the first five years of operation. To add to its eco-credentials, the project is being funded by Green Bond, a sustainable investment fund. Svart’s design, courtesy of Norwegian architect firm Snøhetta is inspired by the Norwegian Fiskehjell (a wooden structure used to dry fish) and Rorbue (a fisherman’s traditional seasonal home). Energy-intensive building materials such as structural steel and concrete were avoided as much as possible throughout the construction.

Architects carried out extensive studies into how solar radiation behaves in the area throughout the year, in order to optimise energy output. They then used the findings to design the hotel rooms, restaurants and terraces strategically within a circular design in order to utilise the sun’s energy consistently despite the changing time of day or seasons. The glass-fronted, circular design also allows for 360-degree views of the glacier, the crystal clear waters which surround it, and the breathtaking Northern Lights. The roof is clad with solar panels which will further reduce the overall carbon footprint.

Six Senses Svart will house 94 rooms, four restaurants, a 1,000 square metre spa, a sustainable farm, a design laboratory and an education centre which will educate guests on topics such as waste management, glacier protection and sustainable farming. There will also be two electric boats to be used by the hotel and its visitors.

The food served across each of Svart’s four restaurants will make use of local, home-grown and foraged produce as much as possible, while the spa will offer holistic treatments using indigenous Nordic elements and 100% sustainable and locally-sourced products. From kayaking straight from the waters just below the bedrooms to ice climbing on the glacier and practising yoga in the midnight sun, the beautiful location of the hotel will allow for many arctic experiences. The surrounding area is home to some of the rarest flora and fauna species in the world too, so there is plenty to explore with foraging, wildlife-spotting, diving and fishing.

In the meantime, while we patiently wait for Svart to open its doors, here are 3 alternative eco-friendly hotels in Europe well worth a visit:

Forsthofalm is an Austrian eco-retreat set within the beautiful Alps. The family-run hotel is built entirely from wood, stone and natural materials, without the use of chemicals and houses a wonderful spa which incorporates homemade products using local ingredients.

The Scarlet is a coastal escape in Cornwall’s Mawgan Porth with an Ayurvedic spa, an outdoor pool that’s naturally filtered by reeds and clifftop hot tubs. The food also champions seasonality and locality.

The Lefay Resort in the mountains of Gargnano, Italy overlooks the stunning Lake Garda. It is built from biocompatible materials and decorated with natural fabrics. Electricity used to power the hotel comes from a renewable source, recycled rainwater is used within the spa and local farms supply the restaurant’s delicious and seasonal menu.

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The sustainable laundry company harnessing space-age technology

When we consider how to combat climate change, our laundry pile may not be the first thing that comes to mind. Yet as we know from recycling, reducing food waste in our kitchens and making everyday smarter purchasing decisions, it’s often the seemingly mundane lifestyle choices we make which collectively determine our individual impact on the planet.

When we reframe a chore such as laundry in this way, and take into account that the average household uses their washing machine 4.7 times a week, with each wash requiring around 50 litres of water, perhaps it doesn’t seem so trivial after all. Whether washing our clothes at home or taking special care items to be professionally cleaned, creating some impact on the environment is inevitable.

Launched in 2017, Oxwash is a sustainable, ultra-hygienic and on-demand laundry and drycleaning company founded by former NASA engineer Dr Kyle Grant while he was completing a PhD at Oxford University. 

“I fell into the laundry space completely by accident after getting frustrated doing my sports teams kit one day and finding all the machines out of order. I started a student laundry service that very quickly grew due to the demand from small businesses. When I took my first look under the hood of a commercial laundry I was horrified at the waste being produced and the inefficiencies that were often plugged by below minimum wage workers.” Kyle was inspired to re-engineer the process, making it more planet friendly. “I have always wanted to build a business that has a positive impact for every single customer from day one” he says.

The commercial laundry industry is both wasteful and pollutive throughout much of the process. Traditional laundries are renowned for high energy usage from their washing and drying machines. There’s also the issue of microfibre pollution, caused by inadequate filtration systems which are unable to prevent microplastics from entering our water systems. Then the type of detergent used, or the packaging it comes in; most laundries use whichever detergent is most cost-effective, and these tend to have high levels of toxicity, such as the chemical PERC which is a known health and environmental hazard. Finally, the effect of transportation; most laundries that offer collections and deliveries use vans as transport, contributing to GHG emissions and CO2 pollution.

From collection through washing and back to delivery, Oxwash aims to maintain net zero carbon emissions – something which has never been done before. Kyle’s career as a scientist for NASA informed the process greatly, by bringing a systems engineering mindset to the problem: 

“My time working in the aerospace industry has etched in my mind the importance of viewing a ‘system’ as a whole as well as the sum of the parts and analysing our service completely end-to-end. To that end, Oxwash owns the entire value chain from collection, washing and delivery to the tech development and washing research and development. Like launching a rocket it’s only when you build and launch the whole vehicle can you see how all the parts function together in the most efficient way.”

Cutting down on energy consumption, the company uses solar panels to power their washing machines. They use biodegradable detergents and emulsifiers that are automatically dosed depending on the weight of each wash which prevents up to 25% excess chemistry being used. As for the water, where each 8kg wash cycle typically uses 50 litres of water per wash, Oxwash uses 18 litres. Using ozone technology for disinfection, washes are done at low temperatures while still destroying bacteria, viruses and allergens and more recently, dissolvable laundry bags have been introduced to eliminate coronavirus transmission through fabric and clothing. As for the transportations, Oxwash uses e-cargo bikes which save 6,700 KG of CO2 emissions per year.

Oxwash’s model is simple; customers place an order online, choose a collection and drop off time and place, and have their items collected, washed and delivered, all with zero net carbon emissions. The eco-friendly dry cleaning service isn’t just available for individuals, Oxwash has also partnered with companies including Marriott and Airbnb too; both heavyweights in the hospitality industry which is notorious for its huge impact on the environment through laundering, particularly towels and bedding. 

Kyle hopes that disrupting the laundry industry will have a knock-on effect on other adjacent industries. “Laundry is one of the oldest circular economies out there. You don’t sleep in your bed sheets once then throw them away! We believe that this mindset and model can be extrapolated.” Here’s hoping!

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Escape to a farmhouse in the Portuguese countryside

Currently brainstorming where to visit in the charming, colourful country of Portugal? Exploring the cobblestone alleyways of Porto and tasting the region’s famed fortified wine sounds wonderful for a late-Spring getaway, as does working our way through the Pasteis de Nata bakeries of Lisbon, but we’ll be skipping the crowds and opting for something a little more secluded. 

Overtourism is a real issue, one that affects the planet and people in myriad ways, so staying off the beaten track while supporting an independently owned, sustainably run hotel like Craveiral Farmhouse feels right. It is located in the region of Alentejo, which covers over 30% of Portugal but is home to just 5% of the population. It’s the hottest and driest part of the country and is sparsely populated, rich in history and diverse in landscape. 

Spread across 9 acres of land and nestled amidst the rocky terrain of Alentejo, Craveiral is the passion project of Pedro Franca Pinto, a Lisbon lawyer who always had dreams of becoming a farmer. Pinto bought the land – a neglected field of carnations in the hills of Odemira – over 10 years ago, and slowly set about restoring it into the resort that stands today. 

Beautifully imperfect in its ruggedness, Craveiral was built with respect and consideration for the surrounding environment, which is awash with pine forests, orchards, olive groves and cork fields. It’s all about simplicity, space and slow living here. A collection of 38 cottages of varying sizes are peppered across the resort, many framed by wooden terraces. The relaxed interiors are a nod to Portuguese design, with hand-crafted wooden furniture from local brands and a pared-back, simplistic feel. 

For those craving a reconnection with nature and taste of rural life, Craveiral provides a relaxing and unfussy setting. There are plenty of opportunities for families to be entertained and educated through authentic experiences on-site. Spend time on the farm amongst goats, donkeys and other animals, take in the surrounding area on horseback, meander through an orchard of indigenous trees, learn about the local flora, fauna and produce at the permaculture garden and nature centre, and enjoy al fresco picnics and BBQs amidst unspoilt countryside with soothing views. Set between the countryside and the sea, you get the best of both worlds here. Nearby, there are quaint fishing towns, nature parks and plenty of coastline to explore. The turquoise beaches of Zambujeira do Mar and Carvalhal are also just 15 minutes away and are far less crowded than more popular destinations such as nearby Lagos. 

The hotel adopts various eco initiatives. Rainwater is collected, filtered and reused and the resort’s restaurants adopt a seasonal, organic-first, low-waste approach. The farm-to-table concept at both Craveiral FarmTable and Craveiral Pizzeria highlights local ingredients, much of which come from Craveiral’s very own farm and gardens. 

Owner Pedro’s driving goals run deeper than providing a unique and inspiring experience for guests; he is driven by a dedication to leaving a positive impact on the world. “I started Craveiral Farmhouse when I knew that I was going to be a father back in 2010,” he says. “Since the beginning, conceptually wise, the aim of the project was to contribute to a better world, one that my children would be proud of.” With this in mind, every decision that is taken regarding

Craveiral is carefully considered with a holistic view on sustainability in an environmental, social and financial sense. “We are aware that we cannot change the world, but we can take small steps that will contribute to the change we want to see in the world and lead by example, contributing to changing the mentalities in our community.” 

The local community of Alentejo is diverse and agriculture plays a central role in life here. Pedro sees great value in the community as well as an obligation to support and empower them. “In terms of tourism, we are one the biggest employers of our parish, with 50 workers. We never closed during the pandemic, we kept all jobs and we didn’t apply to lay-off procedures.” At a time when hospitality suffered greatly, Pedro was creative and resourceful in keeping his staff employed, business running and the many local artists and creatives supported. “During the first lockdown, we kept our Craveiral Pizzeria ComVida project open, delivering pizzas to the local community.” The project employs intellectually disabled people that have the capacity to work but have found it difficult to maintain jobs due to discrimination and bias. “In addition, 1€ from each pizza goes to fund the association Vila Com Vida, which promotes the integration of these people into the labour market.” Last month, Pedro invited a Portugeuse band to the farmhouse to record their album and in the evenings, they returned the favour by performing for guests. 

Staying at Craveiral, the focus on physical and mental health and wellbeing is ever-present. The resort provides four swimming pools, a wellness centre, spa treatments, and plenty of opportunity for physical activities. Integrating these values into their philanthropic efforts, they also financially support local sports clubs which serve those residing in the region. “This is not just about business, this is about life,” concludes Pedro. 

Going somewhere where you can experience a bit of luxury and relaxation is one thing, but also having the chance to ground yourself and reconnect with nature, without the superficial clutters of everyday life feels far more meaningful. The afterglow of this kind of trip is more likely to last once you’ve returned home than your typical beach holiday. 


Craveiral Farmhouse is located 15 minutes from the beaches of Zambujeira do Mar and Carvalhal, in the Southwest Alentejo. The nearest airport is Faro. Prices: High season: from €180 to €600 Low season: from €160 to €250

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8 simple ways to save energy and eco-proof your home

When there’s a holiday on the horizon, we typically spend most of our time figuring out where to stay and what we’ll do. We consider things such as how our pets (or plants!) will be cared for, and how safe our property and possessions will be while we’re gone, but something else that warrants consideration is how energy-efficient our homes will be – even if they’re empty. Whether you’re travelling long-haul or heading out of town for a mini staycation, unnecessary energy consumption can be easily avoided by taking the time to eco-proof your homes with these simple tips.
Unplug 

It’s not just you that needs to unplug when you’re on holiday. Make sure all of your electrical devices and appliances are unplugged, too. This includes everything from your blender, kettle, microwave, oven and coffee machine in the kitchen to your TV and computer. Appliances make up 40% of household electricity consumption and they’ll use up energy even if they’re not in use.

Turn your thermostat to eco-mode

Thermostats are particularly convenient for when you’re not at home. On most models, eco-mode will maintain a steady temperature while using very little fuel. They can sense when no one is at home and turn the temperature down completely too.

Check your fridge 

Your fridge is probably one of the only appliances that shouldn’t be switched off while you’re away. Do a sweep of your fridge to ensure anything that won’t get eaten before you leave can be saved. Freeze what you can, make a packed meal or snack for your journey, or cook with the ingredients and freeze the meal so that you’ll have something hearty and homemade to come back to. If you’ll be leaving your fridge virtually empty, consider reducing its power by adjusting the refrigerator and freezer temperature dials – this will minimise its energy consumption. 

Consider home automation

Programmable smart home technologies enable you to monitor your energy usage so that you can be more conscious of your consumption habits. Home automation has been found to reduce energy consumption and carbon emissions by 13% so it’s definitely worth considering as an investment for yourself and the planet. Home automation includes things like smart thermostats (such as Nest) which allow you to control your heating and hot water from your phone, as well as occupancy sensors and window shading – all helpful tools to make your home more sustainable. 

Close doors and windows

This isn’t just for security purposes. It will also prevent draughts and heat loss, as well keeping your home safe and secure, of course. Keep curtains and blinds closed too – they are great insulators and trap the heat in during the winter, while keeping it out in the summer. Pulling them shut will also prevent sun damage to your furniture, wooden floors or art. If you’re worried about your home looking empty for a prolonged period of time, try leaving just a few of the curtains or blinds open, ask a neighbour to check in, or put chosen lights on timers to give the illusion that someone is at home.

Switch off your water 

Switching off your water supply at the mains will prevent any leaks or water damage while you’re away. You can do this easily without any professional plumbing experience by just turning the stopcock valve to the closed position. It’s usually found just beneath your kitchen sink, in an airing cupboard or under a staircase if you have one. 

Turn down your boiler

If you’re going away during the summer, you probably won’t need your boiler for central heating, and you can turn the water heating setting right down before you leave too. If travelling during colder winter months, ensure that you don’t turn the boiler off completely as this could lead to frozen pipes. In this case, program your central heating to turn on for an hour or two daily – this will still make a considerable difference.

Use a slow-release plant-watering device

Easy to manage plants might tolerate a few days without watering or misting, and if you’re going away for a quick staycation or long weekend, a thorough watering right before you leave should be fine. Any longer though, and you could come home to a few casualties. Clever self-watering devices are a great option. They tend to have built-in reservoir systems and are perfect for plants that need moisture year-round. Moving any indoor potted plants into a cool, shady spot will help them to maintain hydration and prevent them from drying out too much too.