Downtown Iiyama after typhoon Hagibis

Why We Committed to Making our Vacation Rental Fossil Fuel Free by 2025



I became an activist in 1999. As a student in Nottingham, England, I joined the youth climate action group People and Planet, and was thrilled to meet like-minded people, all determined to make the world a better place. I walked into a seminar while chatting to Naomi Klein. I wrote my dissertation on the power of design to support and promote the interests of oil companies and how designers should resist working for corporations that do evil in the world. I got a first class honours degree largely on the basis of that paper.

Cleaning up after typhoon Hagibis floods Iiyama
Cleaning up after typhoon Hagibis floods Iiyama

Now exactly 20 years later, I’ve changed careers more than once, moved to the other side of the world to Nagano, Japan, learned a whole new language, got married and started a business. I’ve changed a lot. And yet, those problems I worried about as a student, those issues I felt so passionately about? Nothing has changed. In fact things have got worse.

The following three reasons are why we have committed to work towards completely cutting out our reliance on fossil fuels by 2025 and moreover, being 100% carbon neutral by 2030.

Firstly it’s the kids. Young people in over 100 countries worldwide are marching in the streets to demand that we adults take action on an issue that they did not create, and will not have finished school before it’s too late to find a solution for. Now, as an adult, I’m finally in a position of authority, as an owner of a business, the literal decision maker-in-chief, so I owe it to my younger self to step up and do the right thing. Yes, it’s going to be hard. But, as adults, we do hard things all the time.

Secondly, in October 2019, Japan was hit by the super-typhoon Hagibis. Warmer than average sea surface temperatures caused the storm to intensify incredibly rapidly, and pulled a lot of moisture into the typhoon. The typhoon was vast, it was slow moving, and it was an immense rainmaker. It hit Nagano prefecture, where our vacation rental is based, with unprecedented intensity. The mountains that usually protect us from the worst of the typhoon season now worked against us, channeling rainwater into the Chikuma river basin. The river burst its banks and flooded thousands of businesses and homes. I have lived in Northern Nagano for 15 years now, this is my home, and I love this place and its people that have welcomed me so warmly into their community. Even now, two weeks later, and despite the best efforts of local officials, the army, and volunteers from all over the country, you can still see the mud, the debris, the ruined possessions and homes. It breaks my heart. Japan is a country that has a lot of natural disasters. Earthquakes and volcanoes we can do nothing to prevent. Destruction caused by extreme weather events? That is something we can, and should, do our best to avert.

Finally, as most tourism related businesses are, we are incredibly dependant on the right weather. If it doesn’t snow in winter, our guests won’t come to ski. If it’s too hot in summer, or too wet in spring or autumn our guests won’t come to enjoy outdoor activities. A major disaster like a typhoon can take out transportation routes and lead to cancelled bookings. Not to mention the potential damage to our property. If you weren’t with me on the moral and ethical reasons to take action, the economics of doing nothing are impossible to ignore any longer. Whilst we are talking about the bottom line, by the way, a lot of the things we can do to reduce our carbon dioxide output also reduce our utility bills which are probably our largest expenses.

But cutting bills and installing energy saving light bulbs isn’t enough. If we are to keep the climate from rising above 3.5 degrees of warming, the whole world has to stop using oil and coal by 2030. That means all of us. That means now. If we accept that the age of oil must end, then the only course is to plan and implement our transition to renewable sources of energy.

By making a commitment to cut our vacation rental’s dependence on fossil fuels by 2025 and be carbon neutral by 2030, we are making a choice to take positive action steps and to future-proof our business. But we can’t just take ourselves off-grid while the rest of the world carries on as usual. What’s more, this problem will not get solved by Hunters Gate being the only vacation rental to make this commitment. In fact, we won’t get answers to some of our questions, or the technology and infrastructure we need locally, without working together with others. We will document our process publicly, and also try to build a network to share ideas and press for change in our communities, with our suppliers, and in local government. 

Please follow our blog, share and repost along with your ideas, and help us all by starting a climate revolution in your vacation rental or hotel.