5 simple ways to make a coliving space sustainable

Cabilaco-Community

Coliving with other like-minded people promotes a sustainable way of life through communal sharing of services (cleaning, laundry, internet), supplies (water, electricity, gas) and other things such as food.

Being a sustainable living space is an essential objective for us. In fact, one of the main reasons to start this space was to promote a lifestyle more respectful towards the environment and more in line with personal well-being.

In this article, we want to share some simple practices that a growing number of coliving spaces are adopting, as we do, to ensure the sector’s commitment to sustainability.

1. “Waste not, want not”

Put scraps and leftovers to good use by having clearly labelled recycling bins (including one specifically for food waste). At minimum there should be a compost heap in the garden to be used for fertilising your vegetable garden or that of the neighbours, but if you want to take it further you can turn this into animal feed, or teach colivers how to do this. For example, coffee grounds are something every coliving space will produce and many of your colivers will continue to throughout their lives. They can be useful as plant food but it’s a bit more complex than simply putting them on top of plants and expecting rapid growth: because of their acidity one has to consider balancing them out with brown compost material and what type of plant they’re being used on..

2. Save your energy

Lights are the second greatest consumer of electricity in a home (the first being fridges and freezers) and using long-life LEDs and natural lighting can have significant impacts on sustainability – ensuring that your outdoor areas are suitable for working during the day can be a huge advantage, for example. Plus, it is more pleasant. And of course, in the case of Southern Spain, air conditioning is another big one. For us this is actually less of a problem since the Sierra de Aracena is considerably cooler than Seville. All the same, our property is built to stay cool with its white brick walls, and in fact heating takes priority more often – something that the fireplace helps with. The fireplace also helps with lighting up the lounge at night.

Now of course, one has to use electricity from time to time, especially for that sweet sweet WiFi. Solar panels are a classic, and do indeed prove useful in Southern Spain, but there are also many other options for your space itself including shingles, heat pumps and microhydropower. Never heard of these?

3. Reduce water wastage

Avoiding water wastage is another major concern for sustainable living, especially in Spain, and like with electricity this involves a combination of reducing usage and using sustainable sources. Coliving spaces have the advantage over hotels that washing doesn’t need to happen nearly as often since guests typically stay for a week or more, but said guests still need to wash their laundry and shower themselves. In the case of the former, having a “laundry day” in which everyone’s clothes get washed together as opposed to multiple individual washes can help, plus providing this as a service can add value. There are also numerous technologies for reducing water usage that can be installed in your space, such as low-flow showerheads and rainwater harvesting systems.



4. Serve organic local food, and less meat

Here’s a not-so-fun fact: more than 10% of CO2 emissions are created by the transportation of food. Serving your guests locally produced food is not just good location marketing, it’s also doing the planet a favour. Additionally, promoting vegetarian cooking is another excellent method. In all but the coldest countries, vegetables, mushrooms and other plant-based foods are going to be logistically easier and cheaper to serve up, especially if you grow your own. The meat industry is also fairly infamous at this point for how much land and water it uses and its overall contribution to global warming. However, you need not cut meat out entirely if it can be sourced locally.

We’re fairly blessed at Cabilaco to be based in an area with a growing number of organic farms – the scenery is covered in forest at a distance, and pig pens when you get closer, a far cry from the desolate landscapes intensive meat farming leaves behind. There are nearby smallholdings that provide high-quality vegetables, and wild mushrooms at the right times of the year. As a result we’re able to provide high-quality organic meals that outdo city tapas (writer’s opinion). This is made all the more easier with our chef Jetske, who, with her creativity, taste and talent tickles our taste-buds and revives in us the pleasures of eating well. And a quick shout-out to our suppliers Las Tierras del Murtiga, who supported our first event with a discount and provide weekly baskets of organic vegetables – perfect if you want to enjoy the pleasures of such food from the comfort of your home.

 

5. Keep it clean, keep it green

Few things invite bad reviews for any accommodation more quickly than a dirty room and space, and keeping these as well as hands clean is even more important during the pandemic. With all the chemicals in cleaning supplies it may seem like they are at odds with eco-friendly living, but fortunately there are numerous brands and products made from ingredients that are more gentle on the environment. Sometimes you can even make your own: we recently hosted a workshop with local soap experts Rustica in which participants were able to learn how to produce it using local ingredients, including plants from the nearby countryside

And a final, overarching tip…

Show whatever sustainable living methods you have to your colivers, whether as part of a welcome tour or as a quick aside during conversations or whatever else – this has three main benefits. First, they will they likely be impressed by it all since a majority of people seek to live greener lifestyles and support businesses that adopt such practises; second, some of these methods especially when new technologies are being applied can be of great interest; and third, discussing sustainability subtly reminds them to be mindful of their own behaviour whilst on property – don’t leave the light on whilst not in the room, don’t leave the taps running while brushing your teeth, etc.



Our soap workshop was such a great experience that we’re looking to repeat it. Interested in participating? Send us an email and we’ll send you more info!



Authors: Shaun Edmond and Imane El Rhomri El Fatmi, Cabilaco.

How have coliving spaces in Spain coped with the pandemic?

Cabilaco-Coliving-Covid-19

“Weather the storm” was probably everyone’s mentality back in the dark days of March and April. For businesses that were neither digital nor essential there was little to do except clear out any backburner tasks and plan ahead for the reopening (whenever that would be). For accommodation it was mostly that – the only remaining market was that of travellers who had chosen to do their storm-weathering where they were rather than fly back home. Some coliving spaces latched upon this last one, and given their long stay nature they were already well-positioned to offer such services.

Nonetheless, pickings were slim and generally could not be counted upon. According to a survey we carried out back in April, only 25% of places coliving spaces had been able to stay open and none of them had more than 50% occupancy. Most adapted to this time by creating new content and exploring digital marketing methods, though a sizeable minority froze their businesses altogether.

At the end of June there was a sigh of relief. The pandemic had been beaten back – though, not defeated. As Europe reopened, businesses and individuals with their heads in the right place took on a new mentality with a buzzword-/ quasi-policy that came to dominate discussion: the New Normal.

Coliving spaces across the world reopened their doors – but, they too had to change.

Cabilaco-Coliving-Covid-19

 

Despite its communal nature, coliving has the advantage over other accommodation that it (for the most part) requires people to stay at least a week, so there’s a lot less coming and going. The other measure many have taken is reduced capacity – you can expect there to be far fewer participants if you stay in coliving spaces these days, moreso now that the rule of six is being applied in Spain as well as the UK (sorry grouse shooters, you’re not exempt this side of the channel). We can expect coliving to get a lot more intimate.

Cabilaco is already prepared to offer that, given that our houses have small selections of rooms and the tranquillity of the countryside is best preserved with small groups anyway. We also have multiple properties in two different towns so can easily separate groups should worst come to worst. The communal nature of coliving is also helping to combat another effect of the pandemic; the mental health crisis. Human interaction has such a huge effect on one’s frame of mind and wellbeing, that it’s almost essential (just ask Maslow).

And additional measures have been put in place to reduce the risk and effect of transmission. When outsiders are brought into the question, be it visitors to the space or colivers going out into the world, masks are worn (in the case of the latter, not least because it’s the law here in Spain). Some coliving spaces have begun to implement mask rules in desk spaces and common areas, though of course this cannot be done during communal meals or in pool areas for those that have one. Fortunately both of these activities as well as many others take place outside where the risk of serious transmission is lower, and thank goodness Spain has lovely weather! Finally, most rooms have been made private, both to reduce communal contact and to provide a space where people can self-isolate should this need arise.

The situation in Spain today is that unfortunately we are inching closer to a second lockdown, though with mobility restrictions already in place we may well have to return to the April scenario – close for custom, clear the backlog and get ready for reopening round 2. We intend to go ahead with only hosting small groups and ensuring surfaces and rooms are cleaned thoroughly – measures that we implemented during our pre-inauguration events. Our cancellation policies will ensure that you don’t get punished for covid-related reasons, and if you should need to self-isolate we’ll do everything to help you do so or get home safely.

We are sure you’re probably tired of hearing we’re all in this together, but we really are. So stay safe everybody, and start dreaming. There will be a Reopening II and we and the Sierra, as well as a multitude of spaces in Spain and outwith, will be ready to receive you.

Shaun Edmond and Imane El Rhomri El Fatmi, Cabilaco.