Oaktree Lodge is keeping it green
Andrew Birds, owner and manager of Whitley Bay’s Oaktree Lodge Guesthouse, proudly displays the Green Business and Sustainability Award certificate on the wall in the guest lounge. Hanging in pride of place, Andrew tells us that the certificate is a great talking point for visitors and also reflects the business’s ethos of sustainability.
Situated on one of the main streets running down to the newly regenerated seafront in Whitley Bay, Oaktree Lodge has been through a number of owners and business sectors since it was built back in the late 19th century. As Andrew explains, the building has always been a working property, starting out life as a Victorian tearoom, it became a sweetshop then a café, which later added a boarding house.
Andrew and his wife, Sonia, bought the property and the business back in 1988. At the time, Andrew was a shopfitting contractor working all over the UK. But when Sonia became ill with osteoarthritis ten years later, he had to make the choice between the business and his shopfitting.
“It had always been Sonia’s dream to run a guesthouse so the decision was quite straightforward,” explains Andrew. “I gave up shopfitting and ran the guesthouse full-time, alongside Sonia.”
A keen businessman, Andrew always keeps his ear to the ground about the latest innovations in the industry and how the most successful guesthouses kept ahead of the game.
The Green Business and Sustainability Award
Recycling and energy conservation has always been in Andrew’s business nature, he explains.
“Thriftiness was at the heart of it, but once you realise quite how much of an impact small measures can make, it becomes a habit. We got in at the beginning with eco-friendly bulbs which took half an hour to warm up and still only cast a meagre light. They cost a fortune and we received a few grumbles from our guests, but we were determined to continue with our green journey. Thankfully, lightbulbs have improved massively since then!
“We recycle everything we can and have installed a charge point for electric cars at the front of the guesthouse,” he continues.
When Andrew and Sonia approached Green Business, they were helped to achieve their Silver Award in the Green Tourism Business Scheme, which spurred them on to apply for planning consent for solar power panels and a wind turbine.
“I think all the work we were doing caught the eye of North Tyneside Business Forum. We were encouraged to enter the Green Business and Sustainability Award but we were reticent at first because we believed those kind of awards were only really for the bigger players,” continues Andrew. “However, in 2017 we entered in the hope that what we were doing might have an impact on other people.”
Winning the Award
“It was an incredible experience to win the award. The evening itself was amazing – very well organised and we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves.
“And then to win the award really surpassed our expectations. It’s been great – the certificate is a real talking point for our guests and we’ve loved the extra publicity we’ve received.”
Plans for the future
Andrew plans to implement more changes at Oaktree Lodge to further the business’s sustainability strategy.
“I’m always looking out for new ways to be environmentally friendly and I’m currently researching a new heating system based on bio-heaters.
“Some of the changes we’d like to make are quite challenging in a Victorian building, but we always find a way!”
Doing business in North Tyneside
Running a guesthouse in Whitley Bay has been challenging over the past few years for Andrew and his family.
“We’re very lucky though, because even when Whitley Bay was a little shabby, we could always point our guests in the direction of Tynemouth and the various other places around the region.
“But Whitley Bay is very much on the up again. Spanish City is being returned to its former glory and we have an amazing array of small independent shops and businesses springing up along our main streets. North Tyneside Council are working tirelessly to bring the town back to the standard it and its people deserve and we’re proud to be a part of that,” concludes Andrew.
Three words to describe Oaktree Lodge
Environmentally Friendly Accommodation!