Letter from Charlotte

‘All began when I was a small child in Sweden, I would often hear my parents, especially my father say ‘switch the light off when you leave your room, don’t do the washing up under running water, close the window when the heating is on…in other words, don’t waste.’‘ Later as an adult, I lived a very enriching experience in a small house in the country, in Stockholm. There was no running water and I can tell you that when you have to fetch buckets of water from the well each day, you don’t waste!!’

You probably know as well as I do that children do not always obey and that parents have to repeat themselves quite often. My father’s repetitive remarks have certainly paid off and I believe that today my parents would be very proud to see the influence that their environmental education has had on my commitment regarding the Domaine de Bassilour.

When I first arrived in France, there was no rubbish recycling in the commune and it was halfheartedly that everything went into the bin. As soon as the recycling Centre was created in Bidart, I was eager to participate in the action. Concerning electricity and water bills the effort was immediate, the house was big! At the time the environment wasn’t my main concern, it was more the stock exchange. Nevertheless the final result was good for both.

The first investment we made when we bought the mansion in 1989 was to change most of the windows for triple glazing…again another Swedish idea! What a difference that made, no more heat loss. Certainly the cost was quite high, but in the long term it was very much worthwhile. The second investment was to treat the walls against rising damp, we saw great results within two years.

In the year 2000 when we acquired the ‘Ferme de Bassilour’ I could take my efforts much further being perfectly aware of the impact that everyday gestures has on the environment.

La Ferme which dates back to the XV1 century was built with a bioclimatic design. All openings were oriented to ensure as little loss as possible. The building itself was oriented in order to capture heat in winter and to minimize this in summer.

We undertook the renovation work with a strong respect for the environment, giving much thought to the ‘Know how’ of our ancestors. We had to insulate the walls without forgetting that the 60 centimeters thick stone walls need to breathe. The choice was evident, cover the walls in limestone. After much research on the internet and numerous conversations with Swedish friends, I opted for geothermal energy. I, myself, was convinced but it took a while for me to persuade the architect. We chose under floor heating, which has two advantages, no radiators and gentle constant heat.

Installing an automatic electricity system in each bedroom allows customers to switch of all of the lamps, thus saving electricity.

Once the renovation was launched using only noble materials and after much documentation on HEQ (High Environmental Quality) constructions, my commitment to the environment became a natural thing.

When I received a proposal to be part of a pilot group in Aquitaine in order to obtain the ‘eco-label’ I was immediately interested. The only thing that scared me was the huge amount of paperwork involved; fortunately I was supported and helped by a research office.

Now we have to scrupulously follow the electricity and water consumption and keep records of the amount of sorting etc. For us, who are already used to making these efforts every day, progress is not going to be spectacular, but then again every effort is useful.

We have changed our purchasing habits and whenever possible only buy ‘eco-label’ products (soap, shampoo, laundry products…). We communicate a lot on ecology with our guests, an information sheet can be found both in French and in English in every room).

We have replaced plastic water bottles with returnable glass bottles, and soon we will use the same system for all of the other drinks in the minibars.

The next step will be to invite guests to use a jug for tap water. The “vintage” of Bidart is of excellent quality and it arrives straight in our glasses, this avoids polluting transport and waste.

A little original idea… perhaps!

There is also a free shuttle service in the summer provided by the new team at the City Hall, great for going to town or to the local beaches.

Another great idea!

We are now continuing our ecological approach in the mansion; the geothermal installation has been finished since May. We are delighted to have replaced the old oil boiler by drilling a well at 28 m in depth, with only 1kw output consumed for 4 to 5kw restored.

The same type of installation is underway at the Conciergerie and we will be getting started for Christmas. The conciergerie’s heated swimming pool water is produced by a heat pump “air – water”. The past year, has seen a considerable saving on electricity bills. At the beginning of the year, all of the Windows were replaced by double glazing.

I did a study on the installation of photovoltaic panels, unfortunately I do not have the funding yet, I think that in the future progress will make them smaller and perhaps even more efficient.

Where energy is concerned, my dream is to become completely “independent”

A little note to finish:

Luxury is health

Luxury it is to breathe clean air

Luxury is clean nature

Luxury is to have noble materials

Luxury is to not waste… »