AS people become more aware of the impact their travel plans have on the environment, schemes have been introduced where you pay a small fee that goes towards a sustainable project.
But for Graeme and Graziella Swan this wasn't quite enough, so they looked closer to home for a way to reduce the carbon footprint of their three gites in the Poitou Charentes, as well as that of visiting holidaymakers.
"I was watching breakfast television and saw a piece about planting trees to help the environment," Graeme said. "I thought to myself that we could do similar and allow our guests to take direct action.
"So on a portion of our land we will plant a sapling for people at a cost of €10, this also provides some protective netting as it grows and a name plate, so people know that is their tree.
"We worked it out that for a family of four driving the 1,200 miles here and back from Birmingham to our gites, Les Cygnes, a single tree would cover their carbon emissions. When we looked at a return flight from Birmingham then that was one tree per person."
Graeme also provides the option to visitors of making an online payment to a number of groups that are involved in supporting sustainable projects around the world, but he is also looking at a variety of ways to improve the efficiency of his own gites.
And he is the first to admit that he gets a thrill from experimenting with some of the gadgets and methods he uses.
"When the gites were built we made sure they were very well insulated with 13 layers of foam plastic and reflective materials to ensure there was no need to heat or cool them," Graeme said.
"And instead of small windows we went for large 2m by 4m ones that act like storage heaters as they absorb the sun's rays during the winter when it is low in the sky, but are shaded from the sun when it is higher during the summer.
"I've also investigated solar panels and spoke to Electricité de France recently about geothermal heating and selling back excess energy. I come from an IT background and enjoy new technology so I am interested in ways we can save energy, it's a bit like taking apart your father's record player, and putting it all back together again."
Graeme and Graziella have been running their gites since early 2004, after spending sometime before that in France and they have settled into their local community, with neighbourly talk of a wind turbine and the French way of life rubbing off on the couple.
"The trees are being planted with a long term view, in the same way the local people do when they plant trees for future use either as fuel or for agriculture," said Graeme.
"In the UK we seem to want everything today, or at the latest tomorrow, but I think that is a little sad, I hope that we are self sufficient in time but I also want people to know that they can head back to Les Cygnes in 10 or 20 years to see their tree proudly displaying their name."
Related article: Tips on turning your gite business green
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