Everyone's green journey has to start somewhere and it was no different for Fifty Shades Greener founder Raquel Noboa.
From the age of 17, Raquel has worked in the hospitality industry following her move from her native Spain to Ireland. Since embarking on her career in hotel management she has had the privilege of working around the world and in all areas of the industry. Hospitality was and remains her true passion and so she understands the unprecedented challenges it currently faces and the mental barriers it can encounter when it comes to sustainability in business.
In 2012, Raquel was working as the sales & marketing manager at Hotel Doolin, Co. Clare in the west of Ireland. That year, the general manager decided that they would strive to become the 'greenest hotel' in Ireland. The challenge was put forth and Raquel, by chance, was nominated for the job. She rose to the occasion, becoming the hotel's newly appointed green manager and implemented an effective green programme which in 2 years saw the hotel reduce their waste production by 40%, their energy consumption by 30% and water use by 25%.
Their efforts were met with deserved recognition and they won every green award they entered. She also successfully positioned the hotel as a leader in the sustainable travel market and last year saw them become the first certified carbon neutral hotel in Ireland.
“The idea for my business began to form in my head during my time as green manager in Doolin. If I could achieve these results at Hotel Doolin, then surely I could teach others how to begin their green journey, just like I did? That’s how Fifty Shades Greener was born.”
Raquel earned an Ecotourism Diploma from the University of Washington, however her approach to green hospitality and sustainability in business is very different to what other green programmes might offer. Her training is based on simple actions that will help reduce the use of energy, water and waste at a business, a festival or a community group.
Raquel believes in small wins and going at your own pace, because 'going green' should not make people jump through hoops. It is about understanding the environmentally sound options that are available and applying them in a way that make sense to each individual business. Start small - win big and THEN look at possible investment projects to become even more sustainable.
Contrary to the perception of many business owners, Raquel firmly believes that becoming a sustainable business will not only reduce the carbon footprint of that company, but it will also reduce their utility bills and improve their bottom line.
"I try to make sustainability make sense to business owners. The road to 'going green' for a business can be quite daunting. I firmly believe businesses can be encouraged to take small steps that can generate big results. Society is changing and sustainability in the industry is now essential. The hospitality industry needs to align itself with the values of their customers. Greening your hotel or restaurant is easier than you think and it will give you more exposure, more clients and therefore more profit. "
Raquel has completed the Female High Flyers Entrepreneurs programme with the DCU Ryan Academy, an Enterprise Ireland funded programme to accelerate the growth of high potential start ups in Ireland.
"When I studied hotel management I learned various things in terms of running a hospitality business including - how to control my staff wages and to set budgets and forecasts for my business. Never once however was I told that I would find myself managing the actual building that my business operates from! Aside from wages and stock, energy, water and waste account for the largest expenses over the calendar year - your overheads. By reducing your energy consumption by just 10% the €€ savings can be enormous. If you're still unsure, you can gather all your energy bills from last year and add them up. Imagine if you managed to save even 10% of what you have spent? Would you think it's worth it? The 50 Shades Greener programme assumes you do not know anything about running a green business. It is the starting point for anyone looking to hone their skills of financial control on their business and its resources. Of course we recognise that this course alone will not save the world or the melting ice-caps, but it is a stepping stone towards green certification programmes providing accessible guidance that everyone can apply to their business."
"As the initiator of the EPA “Green Hospitality Programme”, which was one of Europe’s best performing responsible tourism marques, I had special interest in properties that were not only engaging with the programme, but exceeding some elements of the scheme and always involved in innovation and developing new offerings that increased business at their properties, but also minimised the environmental impact. Certainly the Hotel Doolin fell into this category. The hotel has reached Platinum level which is outstanding. Much of the good work carried out there is due to the vision, and innovation of Ms Raquel Noboa, The Green Manager at Doolin, backed by a supportive management team and dedicated, and well-motivated staff. The hotel had nominated Raquel twice for the Irish Hospitality Institute “Environmental Manager of the Year”, of which I also judge, and after narrowly missing out at the first time of asking, we were delighted when she was successful the following year. The work being done at Doolin, including holding her own environmentally friendly wedding there, was again excellent. "