Maybe one of our most comfy stay of the trip so far. After some long days of cycling without giving you lots of news, we are back!
Searching for some sustainable tourism examples in California, the Sur la Route du Patrimoine Projet’s Team read and heard about the Stanford Inn – by the sea, located in the lovely neighbourhood of the archetypal North-American village of Mendocino, Mendocino County, California. We have heard that the Mendocino County is very slow, organic-food oriented and more generally very conscious and committed to a good quality of life. Did you know that the Mendocino County is the only part in the USA where it is illegal to grow GMO (Genetically Modified Organisms)?
After few minutes discussing with M. Jeff Stanford, owner of this « 4 diamonds » hotel, we realized that we won’t have enough time to learn all what he knows and what they had accomplished so far in the hotel to make it more sustainable. The Sustainability is a long process, a long road, that was taken by the Inn more than thirty years ago. Since our arrival in the USA, we realized that this is the place for superlatives: the tallest trees with the redwood trees, the biggest cars and camping-cars you have ever seen, the fattest people thanks to the poorest quality food and way of eating (maybe). So let’s keep on using superlatives. The Stanford Inn can be proud to be the first sustainable Inn in the USA (maybe in the world?), to have been one of the first organic garden in the county of Mendocino, pioneer in the California’s Organic movement in the 1970’s. Proud to be still in research to be better for the health and happiness of people passing by there. Miguel and I had the chance to experience sustainability from the inside! Thanks a lot to them!
Reverend Jeff Stanford, trained as an anthropologist, gained this sensitivity and philosophy about sustainability. He has been advocating about life style. By providing quality services (accommodation, food, environment…) to guests, he contributes « to make people think about sustainability and even if people does not change their behaviours right now, maybe they’ll do it in 10 years or teach differently to their children ». « I (we) just want to feel about good decision », he confessed.
What Does Sustainable Mean for Them?
The Stanford Inn hotel, founded in 1980 by Jeff and Joan Stanford, provides all-year-around 41 rooms in a preserved chemicals-free environment that makes you feel at home. Even when we arrived by bike, we were wondering if we arrived in a hotel or in a rural village, passing by the farm, the gardens and arriving finally to these wooden-buildings very well-integrated. It hosts around 15 to 20.000 guests a year, the majority coming from North America (the US and Canada), very few from South America and Europe.
Here, being sustainable is not a label (through any kind of certifications) but a « way of living and thinking of all people who work or experience the place ». « Every decision is made with the necessity to reduce the impact. We do everything as natural as possible », Jeff insisted. For example, wood we used in buildings was from managed forests – which are replanted. The paneling in the rooms was made from pine trees that were cut to eliminate competition to more desired trees such as Douglas Fir. We had the wood from these pine trees made into paneling at a regional mill. Garbage from operations are 100% recycled when possible, used for composting for the garden (see below). Even if they cannot control the customers garbage production, only recyclable products, with minimal packaging, are provided in the rooms, recycling bins are well sign-posted, low-consumption lamps for lighting. Water supplies and watering of the garden is not a specific issue because of the very rainy (in winter) and foggy climate but they use wells to catch the water from the ground. They are now trying to find a more sustainable way to produce their own green electricity. The Inn has four diesel-powered trucks fueled by biodiesel, a plant-based fuel recycled from a Chips factory’s frying oil… Never, these more sustainable choices are not the cheapest. So how can the Inn be still alive and competitive? Because they are different and because they « don’t need to make money. It’s important to create the necessary profits to sustain the jobs and improve how they live and work. Some years, the company is not highly profitable, and most of the money gained is put back into the Inn to repay loans and also to capital improvements.
Being sustainable is not a label but a way of living and thinking of all people who work or experience the place
As a whole way of thinking, they diversified the business with a restaurant called the Raven, since 1985, that offers you a bunch of quality food, most of the time organic and local, but most of all « sustainably grown », that means « without any animal products, without killing or being harmful to anything, that pays in a fair way the farmers ». Depending on the season, most of the food is locally produced within the hotel propriety, just a few feet from your room balcony, in the 2.5 acres Gardens and the Big River Nurseries. As Ms. Jaime Jensen explained to us, they are trying to work intimately with the nature to provide sustainable and nutritious products for the restaurant.
According to Jeff, consuming strictly local food, what he calls local-vore, « is simply silly, not an intelligent ways of thinking », as it mays break down some win-win trading connexions between countries and regions, change the diversity of alimentation. The only matter is to find food sustainably grown. In this way, sometimes, they can buy products from Mexico, Chile…
Feed by the internationally renowned sustainable agriculture leader M. John Jeavons and his knowledge on biointensive agriculture from his book, How to Grow More Vegetables (here is more information on the Ecology Action), the Stanford Inn’s Gardens are involved with the Ecology Action and its Green Belt Project as a training garden for interns. They demonstrate ways in which humans can grow complete diets in the smallest amount of land possible.
In addition to the garden, the restaurant and the hotel, the Stanford Inn also provides and teach integrative and unique approach to wellness in the Mendocino Center for Living Well through yoga, art-therapy, meditation, nutrition, herbal medicines or gardening among other classes/trainings. Also, you could rent a canoe or mountain-bikes to experience the beautiful area through the redwoods, fern canyons, coastal streams and the Big River estuary, among other wonders. They are considering the big picture of Health.
Another example of the company committment in the Corporate Social Responsibility
The hotel employs about 80 persons, pretty well paid, who have free access to the Center for Living Well, have a paid medical insurance (which is an issue and a very big social gap in the USA!), have access to trainings on quality food and nutrition, languages classes… That is also part of their whole sustainability approach.