A number of businesses in West Oxfordshire can prove that they have made efforts to protect the environment thanks to the Cotswolds Green Tourism Project.

On June 1st an awards ceremony was held at the Crown and Cushion Hotel in Chipping Norton where nine businesses received bronze, silver and gold awards in recognition of their efforts to become more environmentally friendly. Participants all agreed to take part in a special audit provided by Green Business UK Ltd and subsidised by the Cotswolds Conservation Board in partnership with West Oxfordshire District Council.

The environmental credentials of each business were assessed and the auditors suggested efficiency measures that managers could undertake to ensure that the business became greener. The businesses were encouraged to cut their utilities bills by reducing energy consumption, shown how to reduce the amount of water they used and in some cases introduced to the idea of recycling waste.

Manager of the Crown and Cushion hotel Stephan Schmitter who won a gold award said:

" We have really benefited from taking part in this project. Not only have we managed to cut costs by reducing energy consumption but we have established a green team in the hotel who are responsible for motivating the rest of the staff and ensuring that we continue to meet our environmental objectives. I would recommend a green audit to any business involved in the tourism industry in the Cotswolds and I for one will be helping to encourage others to get on board."

Other participants at the awards ceremony said that they had enjoyed 'going green' and were already benefiting from the financial savings that their businesses had made.

There are real signs that the Cotswolds Green Tourism project has been a success with most of the business improving their energy efficiency through measures such as installing low energy light bulbs, replacing old fridges with A rated models and putting in better heating controls.

The way that the businesses went about purchasing products also changed with most participants buying more local food, eco-cleaning products, recycled paper and fair trade teas and coffees. Well over half of those involved reduced their water consumption and 60% now have formal environmental policies in place.

Verena Hunt member of the Cotswolds Conservation Board and deputy leader of West Oxfordshire District Council said:

" This really demonstrates the link between tourism and the need to protect the local environment, which is at the end of the day the key asset for the tourism industry."

All of the businesses involved will also be taking part in a visitor payback scheme called 'Step into the Cotswolds', which will encourage tourists to contribute to a fund that will help conserve and enhance the Cotswolds AONB. The scheme is designed to raise funds for projects that will conserve the area, make it more accessible and tell people about its special features. The participating businesses ask visitors to make a small voluntary contribution to help offset the environmental impact of their visit and to enhance the area. The money raised is initially being spent on footpath improvements in the Chipping Norton and Kingham area.

Here is a list of the participating businesses and their gradings:

The Crown and Cushion Hotel Chipping Norton: Gold

The Forge B&B Chipping Norton: Gold

Barley Park B&B Burford: Silver

Mill Cottage self catering Chipping Norton: Silver

Moat End B&B Chipping Norton: Silver

King John's Barn self catering cottage Leafield: Bronze

Laughton's Retreat self catering cottage: Bronze

Meadow Bank House B&B Ascott-Under-Wychwood: Bronze

Plum Cottage self catering Ascott-Under-Wychwood: Bronze

Click here to find out more about The Cotswolds Green Tourism Project

Click here for more information about the Green Tourism Business Scheme.