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  • Writer's pictureKate Haskell

Fresh Thinking

We all want to do our bit for the planet but sometimes it feels a bit overwhelming. In her new series for 2020, KATE HASKELL talks to people and businesses doing their best to make it easier to live The Green Life. This month - The Eco Laundry

There can be no better feeling than slipping in between cool, freshly laundered bedsheets. It's just one of the reasons I love a night away in a hotel or holiday cottage. The linen is clean and well-pressed, the bed perfectly made and, best of all, I haven't had to do it.

But what if you knew that your hotel sheets had been cleaned in the most eco -friendly way possible? If you also knew that a lot of care and thought had gone into making sure your experience was just as good but it wasn't at the expense of the world around you?

This is where The Eco Laundry comes in, with Lola Grogan the driving force and passion behind it. Lola and her family moved to Devon a few years ago and instantly set about making their house "off grid" as she explains: "We put in a biomass boiler, installed solar panels and got rid of a much-loved gas Aga, which I was sad to see go, but it had to."

An experienced businesswoman, Lola was used to managing properties in London and then in Devon, as well as project managing their home improvements. It was whilst sorting out the changeover at one of the holiday cottages she managed that Lola became so aware of the amount of water and detergent being used.

Here was the lightbulb moment, as Lola tells me from her office and laundry near Dartmouth: "I thought wouldn't it be good to have something more eco-friendly when it came to washing linen?

I searched online for an eco laundry in Devon and couldn't believe there wasn't one and not even one in the UK! So, in the summerhouse of our back garden, I started doing my clients' laundry and they loved it. Fresh, clean and with no hard chemicals and above all no plastic wrap!"

Word, as it does in Devon, quickly spread and one local business was keen to help too which delighted Lola: "The Sharpham Trust just called me up out of the blue and asked if I could do laundry for them. I explained that this would be a big account for such a small business but they promised to help and they did. When I went to collect the first load of washing I remember thinking, 'What have I done?' as there was so much!"

From then on everything snowballed with many more local businesses which are serious about their green credentials and how they do business, wanting to work with Lola and her team. Advertising has never been necessary Lola tells me: "The best PR is word of mouth. I don't even have a sign on our office! We have recently taken on three large hotels and have quadrupled in size over the last three years."

So just how does it all work? Well, the water they use is from their own borehole and her energy efficient washing machines rely on a biomass boiler along with solar panels. They use plant-based detergents, which is kinder to skin as well as the environment, and there is absolutely no plastic wrap with the linen bundled up into re-usable linen bags.

Lola's next challenge is install reverse osmosis so that she can re-use the water along with electric vehicles: "At the moment the infrastructure isn't good enough for us to use electric vans but we do make sure no miles are wasted and clump our drop offs together."

Passion and determination are always needed by the machine load in any small business. Lola certainly has that but she is also devoted to shaking up the industry as a whole to be more ethical and sustainable: "Nationally and even globally there are very few laundries that have strong green credentials, especially those that operate on a commercial scale. This needs to be addressed and the way we have grown proves there is a demand for it too.

Photo credit: Martin Norsworthy, Matt Austin.

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