Low-Waste Living at The Decca

Low-Waste Living at The Decca

We strive to be responsible citizens of Earth in all we do. That means living and promoting a low-waste lifestyle here at The Decca — for all types of accommodation (B&B, self-catering, and retreats).

These are some of the eco-friendly choices we have made in running this business. You may not have given this much though before now, but the hospitality industry is FULL of wasteful practices. There’s a balance to walk between maintaining hygienic practices and minimising waste, and we are always looking at ways to protect the health and safety of our guests, our family, and our planet.

We know that it’s not always convenient to do the right thing, but we hope you’ll join us in our efforts to minimise waste and be kind to our planetary home.

Self-Catering Kitchens, Coffee, & Tea

We have been seeking out ways to minimise waste in our personal lifestyle for many years now. In our experience, most of the unnecessary waste happens in the kitchens, so we have tried a wide variety of environmentally-friendly products and sought to incorporate these as much as possible into our business.

We do not provide disposable items such as napkins, kitchen roll, plates, cups, cutlery, cling film, or kitchen foil. Instead, we provide cloth napkins, dishtowels, and dishcloths (the previous owners left a TON of plastic sponges, so once those are used up, we will switch to washable/ reusable dishcloths).

We do provide coffee, tea, sugar, and stevia (mixed with erythritol). Coffee (instant plus ground regular and decaf for cafetières and the espresso machine in Muirneag) is provided in reusable (and refillable) glass jars. Some of these are single-serve, and some have multiple servings. These are cleaned and sanitised between guests. In the B&B accommodation, we use tea bags that are unbleached, plastic-free, and come without individual envelopes, but for the guest kitchens, we use individually-wrapped tea bags. This is for hygiene reasons (we wouldn’t want to use tea bags someone else could have touched or breathed on), but the envelopes are paper so they can be composted. Our sugar packets are also compostable, and the sugar is fair trade certified.

We have multiple bins for your rubbish in the guest kitchens. Our council composts organic waste (food scraps, used tissue, brown cardboard, etc.), so we have a bin for that, a bin for mixed recyclables, and a bin for non-organic, non-recyclable waste. We also have a laminated sign posted in each guest kitchen to explain which types of rubbish go where (since we know this varies from council to council). We ask that you use the bins as they’re marked and if you choose to dump the bags into the plastic receptacles outside, that you only place them in the appropriate bins.

This saves David from having to sort them out later — a job that is messy and dangerous (especially in cases of broken glass or germs from used tissues). You don’t have to place your rubbish in the outside bins, but if your kitchen bins are full, we imagine you might want to do that, which is why we ask that you use the correct bins. Again, there is information in the cottage kitchens that explains what rubbish goes where. The council will not pick up the bins if the wrong items are included or if the organic waste is packed in non-compostable bin bags.

We also have a kitchen honour bar system for evening meals and snacks (please note: we are not licensed, so “bar” in this case does not refer to alcohol). For this, we offer pre-made meals (mostly home cooked options plus a few frozen pizzas) with both meat and vegetarian options. These are packaged as individual or family-sized portions in reusable glass containers. This service is provided due to (1) the fact that we have cyclists and walkers who might not want to venture out once they’ve arrived at the end of a long day of walking or cycling, and (2) the fact that most places are closed on Sundays, so it’s difficult to get groceries or a meal out on those days. The kitchens are well-stocked with plates, cutlery, etc., and we ask guests to tidy-up after yourselves. Fianais cottage has a dishwasher, so food containers can go in there after they’ve been rinsed and cleared of food debris.

Breakfasts (for B&B and Retreat Guests)

The amount of food waste we saw on our very first morning, made it clear we needed to figure out a way to minimise food waste, and do it quickly. Now, we ask B&B guests to pre-order breakfast the night before. This way, we make enough (and we’re happy to make more for you if you’re still hungry!), but not too much that there is leftover waste. Because let’s face it, while the previous owners told us that extra black pudding and sausages could be reheated and served the next day, that didn’t sit well with us. They’re just not as tasty as when they’re freshly cooked.

For B&B breakfasts, we offer individual (mini) jam jars for hygiene reasons (rather than placing a whole container on the table or buffet-style), but we wash, sanitise, and refill these between guests. That way, you have the perfect amount of jam for your toast, it’s sealed (so no one else has breathed on it or left crumbs in it — yuck!), and we’re not contributing to waste by having to recycle all those little glass jars and throw away the non-recyclable metal lids. I must say, doing it this way is a LOT more work (and does use additional energy in the washing/ sanitising), but to us, it seems like the best available choice.

Packed Lunches

Pre-packaged lunches (only available with advance notice) were a bit of a conundrum for us, and we looked into ways to make them both eco-friendly and cost-effective. Personally, we use reusable zip bags and reusable containers, but we know that this may not be ideal for cyclists and walkers, so we have chosen to use compostable paper bags for packed lunches. Our hope is that these will all make it to their appropriate waste containers, but if not, we feel these are at least better for the environment than cling film and foil. We have a large number of foil containers and plasticware left over by the previous owners, so we use using these when appropriate (rather than send them to the landfill unused), but our choices are always made with the goal of limiting single-use, non-recyclable, and non-compostable goods.

The Loo

Rather than single service bars of soap and small packaged toiletries, we provide refillable dispensers with body wash, shampoo, conditioner, hand wash, and lotion from The Highland Soap Company. Their products are eco-friendly and luxurious and we think you’ll love them as much as we do.

We also use Who Gives A Crap recycled paper toilet rolls. This company not only provides quality toilet paper, but helps build toilets for communities in need, and has a strong eco-friendly focus. Once we finish the supply of tissues left by the previous owners, our tissues will come from this company as well.


We line dry our linens when possible, mostly depending on the weather. This saves energy by not having to run the tumble dryer. Despite having solar panels, we still aim to keep our energy consumption low because we believe every little effort helps.

Behind the Scenes

There are a variety of measures we take behind the scenes, that you may or may not be aware of. We are always working to increase our efficiency, minimise waste, and streamline our practices so we are better stewards of the Earth and this beautiful island.

Some of the additional measures we take include: using energy-efficient lightbulbs, using washable antimicrobial cleaning cloths rather than single-use wipes, using a silpat instead of foil or parchment paper to line baking trays, using refillable cleaning products, writing with pens that are refillable instead of single-use plastic pens, buying linens made from sustainable (non-plastic, and non-microfibre-shedding) fibres such as cotton, bamboo, and hemp. The previous owners left us mostly poly-blend linens (probably because they’re less prone to wrinkle), so we’re evaluating our use of what’s here and plan to consider a system overhaul in the offseason. In the meantime, we’re making sure that anything we purchase new is sustainably grown/ harvested, fair trade, and organic, when available.

Personally, some of the modifications we’ve made to our lifestyle include: only using safety razors (so you only throw away the small razor blades, not the handle, and not a big plastic cartridge), using tooth powder rather than toothpaste (which comes in low-waste refill packages, rather than a wasteful, non-recyclable tube) and biodegradable floss that comes in reusable glass jars, use bamboo toothbrush heads for our electric toothbrushes, etc.. It’s been a labour of love to find products that suit our needs and our good for the planet, but we believe it’s worth it.

Inspired to Learn More?

In her book, Zero Waste Home, Bea Johnson changes the old idea of the 3 Rs (reduce, reuse, recycle) to the 5 Rs. We try to follow these as much as possible. It’s a great book with lots of ideas and we highly recommend reading it if you’re new to the concept of zero-waste (or just want some solid guidance).

These are, listed in order of priority:

  • Refuse — don’t bring any single-use items into the house; refuse them politely to keep the house clutter-free and to publicly acknowledge that wasteful items are unnecessary and unwanted. This includes: single use plastics/ food wrappers, “freebies” (typically cheaply made with loads of single-use plastics), etc.;
  • Reduce — minimise usage of anything that is not reusable or sustainable;
  • Reuse — while this is a LOT more work, overall it’s more sustainable, so we reuse refillable multi-use containers whenever possible along with cloth napkins, dishtowels, etc.;
  • Recycle — the goal of zero-waste is not to recycle everything, which is why this is #4 on the list. When we can’t refuse, reduce, or reuse, we do recycle;
  • Rot (aka Compost) — we’re lucky to have a council that not only knows the value of composting, but provides it as a service. We compost our own food waste for our own garden, but for hygiene reasons, send guest food waste to the council every two weeks when they collect the bins.


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