Greening Gaia House

Image of Flowers and BeeGaia House endeavours to act as an environmentally responsible organisation. For many years, we have been making efforts to embody teachings of interdependence and compassion by living in harmony with the earth and all our systems of support. While we are aware there will always be more we can do to operate in as harmless a manner as possible, there are many practical steps we have taken already.

Electricity: In addition to encouraging frugal use of electricity, we have alternated between two electricity suppliers over the past decade – Green Energy and Good Energy. Both companies offer electricity from 100% renewable sources i.e. wind, solar & water.

Heating: We have a 200kw biomass boiler run on sustainable woodchip, sourced just 7 miles away, which generates our heat and hot water with virtually zero carbon contribution. It is highly efficient and provides huge financial and carbon savings compared to our old oil burning system. IU Energy provided consultation and installation and our woodchip supplier is Torbay Coast & Countryside Trust.

Hot water: This is supplied by our biomass boiler but when the sun is out the solar panels on the Hermitage Wing roof automatically switch on to generate hot water for the house.

Showers: These are currently mostly electric to ensure everyone has constant hot water at peak times. However, future building plans will develop our plumbing systems so we can run those showers off the biomass system, further reducing our electricity consumption.

Water: We are on mains water supply but the daily usage here is very low thanks to the conscientious approach to resources by all those that stay here. We did sink a borehole to try and find a source to supply us, but being on the edge of a limestone belt, this did not produce enough for our needs. Increased rain water harvesting is on our agenda within our future building plans.

Wind energy: We have investigated this as a possible energy source but results showed insufficient wind to generate a constant supply.

Windows: Where possible, removable secondary glazing has been installed around the house. There are areas, such as the main house (Denbury) which has limitations because of the listed building status (Grade II) and the size and functionality of the old wooden sash windows.

Insulation: The newer wings (Hermitage, Garden & Meditation Hall) have cavity wall insulation filling. Loft insulation is present wherever there is space to put it. We have had a Thermal Imaging Survey carried out on the house to highlight areas where energy is being lost and where we can make improvements.

Trees: We have inherited a variety of fine majestic ancient trees including the magnificent Oriental Plane on the front lawn and an Elm tree (Ulmus Daveyi) at the back of the house which is a contender for national champion due to its immense size. Many have already reached maturity and we are fortunate to have the services and advice of tree supremo Rupert Baker who lives locally. He keeps a close eye on the trees to help us ensure their safety and longevity.

Walled garden and grounds: Everything is grown and tended to organically here at Gaia House. With over 60 raised beds in the walled garden, two polytunnels and an effective composting system, we are able to provide a significant contribution to the delicious wholesome food served to our retreatants.

Food purchasing: We prioritise local suppliers for all the fresh food we buy in, and actively support local producers and tradespeople. Dried food and household supplies all come from the Essential Trading Co-operative in Bristol. They deliver all our requirements once a fortnight, when they are in the south Devon area.

Recycling and waste management: We have always been proactive in dealing with the waste generated here at Gaia House. A re-use & re-cycle system helps us reduce our carbon footprint. We try to encourage our suppliers to minimise the packaging that goods are sent in.

Building maintenance: All paints (emulsion & gloss) used inside the house are water based. The Meditation Hall was recently painted using Earthborn eco paints.

Travel: Use of land-based public transport, car and taxi sharing, as well as arriving by bike are all encouraged to help reduce the carbon footprint of Gaia House’s activities – please see here for further details.


Photos of Gaia House and Gardens