Burren Ecotourism Network
Doolin Cave is a member of the Burren Ecotourism Network which promotes sustainable tourism in the Burren, helping to conserve the environment and improve the well being of local people. Doolin Cave is one of Ireland’s leading ecotourist attractions.
As a member of the Burren Ecotourism Network, Doolin Cave follows a detailed conservation policy. You can find out all about the policies in place for the day-to-day operation of the business concentrate on the following areas.
1. We use LED (low energy) light bulbs in the main building.
2. The design of the Visitor Centre, particularly the grass roof and triple-glazed areas, reduces our energy use as natural sunlight lights and heats, helping retains heat in the building as much as possible.
1. We collect rain water from the roof for our animals in the Eco-Trail and are installing an underground tank to collect rain water for use in the washrooms.
2. Our toilets are all double flushing to conserve water use.
Green Purchasing Policies / Green Products / Fair Trade
1. We use only Fair Trade coffee and tea.
2. We source our foodstuffs from sustainable sources.
Impacts on Biodiversity
1. We do not use pesticides.
2. Fruit bushes have been planted to make jams and we use the fruit in the café menu.
3. We have planted 300 native trees on site and we have natural hedgerows of indigenous plants.
4. We have an on-site composter and we use the compost on our flowers and other plants.
1. We have a comprehensive system in place for recycling, composting and reducing materials used.
Use Of Detergents / Disinfectants
1. All cleaning products used are naturally biodegradable.
2. We use steam cleaners and power hoses to eliminate the need for detergents as much as possible.
Supporting the Local Community
1. We support local food producers as outlined in the menu section
2. We promote local attractions, accommodation, etc.
3. We host a Burren Information Point which is an initiative of the Burren Connect project by Clare County Council.
4. We give employment in the area as we have a policy of using local staff as much as possible.
Sustainable tourism is embedded in the ethos here at Doolin Cave and we take our responsibility to run our visitor attraction in a sustainable way very seriously. Part of this sustainable code of practice involves encouraging the use of sustainable transport in our wonderful destination. There are bike parking spaces available in the car park at Doolin Cave.
Eco Tourism Policy at Doolin Cave
1. Environmentally sustainable practices
At Doolin Cave we are working towards a minimal environmental impact both underground and over ground on all the activities carried out.
Our policy is to ‘Reduce, Re-use and Recycle’.
We use cold lighting in the cave and low-energy bulbs in the visitor centre. Light are always turned off in areas when not in use.
We bulk buy as much as possible. We have separate bins for different materials. Paper, plastic and cardboard is re-used where possible and then re-cycled. Waste is composted and used as fertiliser.
We monitor energy consumption and try to find ways to reduce it.
We make our own soups, breads, salads and cakes using local natural ingredients.
All our cleaning products are natural or eco-friendly.
All spending decisions are taken with a view to minimise environmental impacts.
Water usage is monitored and kept to a minimum.
Rain water is gathered and used for plants and animals.
The visitor centre has been built using low-impact, local and energy efficient materials.
2. Natural Area Focus
The main focus of the operation is the cave tour where visitors see a natural cave as formed over the millennia by water. Cave systems are hugely important to scientists in the study of rock formations, fossils, climate change, geological structures, etc. It is often only in caves that materials are left undisturbed, so we highlight the importance of cave systems and their conservation to our visitors.
Our Eco-Trail helps conserve and highlight the local flora and fauna of rural Ireland.
We emphasise the significance of the Geopark status of the Burren and Cliffs of Moher by focusing on the earth science aspect of the Burren.
3. Interpretation and Education
Information panels in the Visitor Centre give visitors information on the origins of limestone, the Burren, cave formation and the history of the exploration and opening of the cave.
We are part of the Burren / Cliffs of Moher Geopark and are working with them through Burren Connect erecting information panels along the Eco-Trail explaining the earth science elements of the Burren landscape, e.g., dolines, glacial valley fossils in the limestone, etc.
Our tour focuses on the delicate climate of caves and the importance of cave conservation. We encourage visitors to behave responsibly while in the cave by not touching cave formations, not leaving litter, etc.
We run joint school tours with the Michael Cusack Centre where they focus on the over-ground elements of the Burren and we focus on the rock and underground elements.
4. Contributing to Conservation
We consider ourselves to be temporary guardians of the Great Stalactite during our lifetime and we aim to pass it on to the next generation in as pristine a state as we found it. Careful management of the flow and condition of water and air through cave systems is commonly critical to the successful management of caves, so we monitor temperature and humidity in order to ensure that visitor numbers do not impact negatively on the cave. Heretofore, the Great Stalactite had no proper conservation plan in place and since opening Doolin Cave as a show cave, it now has a sustainable management plan in place.
5. Benefiting local communities
We recruit local staffs which gives local employment.
We are actively involved in local community organisations like tourism and heritage.
We sell and promote the work of local artists and crafts-people, e.g., potters, stained glass cards, etc.
We sell locally-produced foods in our cafe, e.g., smoked salmon, goat’s cheese, ice cream, etc.
We promote other tourism operators in the area, e.g., ferries to the Aran Islands, Cliffs of Moher, Pitch and Putt as well as all the other tourist attractions in the Burren and North Clare.
We take part in any local initiatives that benefit Doolin and the Burren, e.g., the new Burren signage plan and the Wild Atlantic Way.
We contribute food and support to local festivals like the Russell Weekend and the Winterage Festival.
6. Visitor Satisfaction
We are committed to ensuring that every visitor to Doolin Cave is left with a better understanding of the underground world of the Burren and a sense of wonder at nature’s beauty.
We also allow people to get a close look at our native breeds of animals on the Eco-Trail and let them get close and see them in their natural habitat. We encourage people to linger and relax and enjoy the views of the area by providing seating at strategic points along the way.
We provide fresh, local tasty food for enjoyment in the café and have comfortable seating and books to browse through.
7. Responsible Marketing
We are working towards a paperless policy as regards marketing by use of our website, email, social media, etc., for promotions. Our flyers are printed on both sides and we are working towards printing them on recycled paper. We use ‘Green Cartridge’ ink and recycled paper for all of our printing. Our website has eco information links along with our eco-policy.
8. Cultural Respect and Awareness
We promote any traditional Irish music or heritage events that are being held in the locality.
We do not impede local residents’ access to historically, archeologically, culturally and spiritually-important sites. We also invite local people to open days or visits to the cave so they can enjoy the natural heritage in their area. We also at times invite local children from three national schools in the area to visit the cave for free. This helps educate them on the natural heritage in the area where they live.
Useful Eco-Tourism links
- Burren Eco-Tourism Network www.burren.ie
- Birdwatch Ireland www.birdwatchireland.ie
- Leave No Trace www.leavenotraceireland.org
- Wwoof Ireland www.wwoof.ie
- An Taisce (National Trust of Ireland) www.antaisce.org
- Native Woodland Trust www.nativewoodlandtrust.ie
Other non-for-profits we like
- Greenpeace www.greenpeace.org
- Friends of the Earth www.foe.ie
- World Wildlife Fund www.wwf.org
- Notice Nature Ireland www.noticenature.ie
Other useful links
- GSTC (Global Sustainable Tourism Council) www.gstcouncil.org
- The International Ecotourism Club www.ecoclub.com
- The International Ecotourism Society www.ecotourism.org
Green Purchasing Policy
Our motto at the cave is reduce, reuse, recycle. We use Clean Ireland Recycling for our refuse collection. They collect the bins every 2 weeks. We have a general waste bin and a recycling bin. There are several bins at the cave for recycling.
Our general kitchen waste is scraps of food from the kitchen and general rubbish that cannot be recycled.
This is organic matter that will decompose and can be used in our gardens as fertiliser, e.g. vegetable and fruit scraps, egg shells, tea bags, dead flowers and lawn cuttings.
We also use the leftover coffee grounds as slug repellent. We dry out the coffee grounds in the oven and then sprinkle the grounds on vegetables and plants that are at risk from being eaten by slugs. The grounds are also high in nitrogen.
Our plastic can be from some packaging from the shop and café. We ask our suppliers to take back any plastic packaging with them where possible.
We recycle all leftover paper which comes mostly from the office as well as some from the café.
We try to use recycled paper for documents like rosters as well as printing on both sides. The ink cartages we use are refilled by a company in Ennis through Cartridge Green. We aim to have eliminated the use of paper completely in the next 2 years by holding all rosters and check sheets online.
The recycled blue hands towels from the toilets are separated in to different bins and put into the paper recycling when they have been used.
We sell canned soft drinks in our café and we have placed special bins for the cans both inside and outside the building.
We bring any glass to the recycling centre ourselves.
The blown light bulbs from the cave are kept together and we bring them to the refuse plant once a year.
We have several bins inside and out of the visitor centre. We have one bin for general waste and one for recycling cans. We have put signs up around the building telling our visitors that we recycle and that we are happy to recycle any specific rubbish they want to dispose of.
We endeavour to continually cut down on the amount of packaging in the cave. We no longer use plastic jam packages. We serve little portions of jam in little glass jars. We no longer use sugar sachets and instead use sugar bowls on the tables in the café. This cuts down on the unnecessary paper packaging on sugar. We ask all our suppliers to the kitchen to take away all unnecessary cardboard when they deliver to us. The takeaway cups and lids and napkins we use in the café are all biodegradable. We have cut down on the amount of cling film we use in the kitchen. We now use containers with lids that can be used over and over again.
We use eco-friendly cleaning products as much as possible.
In the kitchen
We use bio concentrated disinfectant. Bio concentrated multi-surface cleaner is used on the table tops in the café as well as on surfaces in the kitchen.
We use Lillys Eco Clean concentrated floor cleaner. We use vinegar to clean our windows.
We use baking soda to clean the oven and we soak our kitchen cloths in baking soda and water to get rid of bad smells. We also use it on our pots and pan to make them shine.
We adhere to strict health and safety regulations enforced by the health inspector.
We try to keep as many harsh chemicals out of the kitchen and do so if we can source an alternative.
In the toilets
We use Attitude Ecoleaf toilet cleaner and Lillys Eco Clean concentrate floor cleaner. We clean the sinks with bio concentrate disinfectant.
Instead of air fresheners in the toilet we use fresh flowers. When we have fresh flowers in the gardens they are used. As well as the great scent they look beautiful!
The toilet paper we use in the toilets breaks down in water immediately.
There isn’t a washing machine at the cave. The tea towels, aprons and cloths at washed at the owner’s home. Ecogenie Washing Ball is used to remove all the usual dirt and grime without the use of any washing powder. This saves money as well as being environmentally friendly as, unlike washing powders, the Ecogenie Ball does not discharge hazardous phosphates or chemical products down the drain. What’s more, all these phosphates and chemicals in detergents stay in clothing, which can cause skin irritation and the fading of fabrics.
In the gardens and nature trail
Here we do not use any pesticides. We use dried out coffee grounds as a slug repellent in our flower and herb beds. It is a good way of using the coffee grounds that cannot be composted.
The grease traps that run from the kitchen are cleaned out every few months.
Our guides’ duties include daily inspections of the car park for rubbish. Once a week two or more guides collect rubbish on the roadsides at the entrance to the cave. They also check for rubbish in the cave system, even though we ask visitors not to drop any rubbish in the cave. We also ask visitors to touch any formation in the cave or to take any clay from the cave.
The nature trail rangers check for rubbish around the trail as well. They always make sure that people are staying on the designated paths and not walking around the land that is specifically for the animals or in the fenced-off areas where we have the wildflower meadows.
Every couple of weeks we organise a rubbish collection with staff to clean up the roadside to and from the cave.
The Burren and Cliffs of Moher UNESCO Global Geopark
Already spectacular neighbours, in 2011, the Burren and the Cliffs of Moher gained Global Geopark status, coming together to form a destination of natural wonders. Making up over 530 square kilometres, the Burren and Cliffs of Moher Geopark offers diversity that is second to none. This rich and alluring landscape of staggering sea cliffs, limestone karst terraces, fertile valleys, vibrant villages and welcoming communities offers some truly inspiring experiences. The Burren and Cliffs of Moher Geopark not only has outstanding natural and culture heritage but a management organisation that supports its people and organisations to work together to ensure a cared-for landscape, a better-understood heritage, more sustainable tourism, a vibrant community and strengthened livelihoods.
For more information visit the official Burren website. www.burren.ie
About the Burren Ecotourism Network (B.E.N.)
B.E.N. is a network of tourism businesses with the objective of establishing the Burren as a premier internationally-recognised sustainable tourism region ensuring the future economic and social growth and sustainable development of its communities, environment and heritage. It seeks to support continued training, mentoring and accreditation in sustainable tourism for its members and for businesses interested in joining the Network. The Network aims to be a recognisable network of enterprises in the Burren, who have achieved independent accreditation, demonstrate ecotourism ‘best practice’, positively discriminate in each other’s favour, provide ‘one voice’ representation on issues impacting the Burren (where appropriate), and inspire conservation activism.
The Burren Ecotourism Network and the management organisation of the Burren and Cliffs of Moher UNESCO Global Geopark have enjoyed a special relationship since 2008. The two organisations work in partnership, having agreed in late 2012 to pool their resources in pursuit of their common objective. Both organisations are committed to the promotion of responsible tourism that conserves the environment and improves the well-being of local people. They work together to promote ‘The Burren & Cliffs of Moher UNESCO Global Geopark’ as a leading sustainable visitor destination, celebrated for high standards in visitor experience, conservation and learning.
Leave No Trace
Leave No Trace Ireland aims to promote and inspire responsible outdoor recreation through education, research and partnerships. It began in 2004 as a concerted effort across a range of recreational and land-managing bodies to address the increasing burden of negative impacts on the mountains. Today, Leave No Trace Ireland exists as a not-for-profit company run by volunteers and employing one part-time person.
At the heart of Leave No Trace is an educational message that encourages us as recreational users to understand the consequences of our actions, and challenges us to make good choices when we engage in activities in the outdoors.
The programme uses a framework of seven principles to guide us towards better choices.
Leave No Trace Guidelines
- Plan Ahead and Prepare
- Be Considerate to Others
- Respect farm animals and wildlife
- Travel and camp on durable surfaces
- Leave what you find
- Dispose of waste properly
- Minimise the effects of fire
The Burren & Cliffs of Moher Geopark and Doolin Cave both endorse these messages, aiming to adhere to these principles during all outdoor activities and events. We have also incorporated Leave No Trace into our training programme.
Learn more about Leave No Trace here. www.leavenotraceireland.org.