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By Mike Duff

Michelle and I, the co-owners and co-directors of La Bruguera, have been moderately loud-mouthed about environmental and social justice for over two decades now.  Putting the planet first is what we do: Michelle through her activist art and social work, myself (Mike) through my work as a sustainability consultant for long-term regional planning projects in the global south. Through our household’s lifestyle we’ve pushed these ideas, and our joint projects (like our first eco-refurb of a Victorian house in London in 2007 (here and here on instagram, here in The Times Newspaper) to the development of the sustainability component of our business here at La Bruguera. 

putting the planet first - Michelle and Frances at climate march
Michelle & Frances at the Girona Climate Protest in September 2019

The environmental angle in our content has always been somewhat in the background, or a bit of an “added extra”. This was in part a timidity – we didn’t want to sound preachy and “scare” away potential guests – and it was also a market response – people came to La Bruguera 6 years ago, when we opened to “get away from it all”, and no guests in their feedback that first year, mentioned the environmental characteristics of La Bruguera as contributing to their decision to stay here.  

putting the planet first - Mike at Climate march
Mike, with Mafalda, being drowned by rising sea levels, because of global inaction – Girona Climate protest September 2019

Now – a lot of things have changed. We are no longer newcomers to the industry for one. We have learned that positivity and guidance can take the place of preachiness, and even do a better job of helping people take on environmental learning.  We have not only had guests who choose La Bruguera because of its environmental credentials, but this has now become a reason for the majority of our guests selecting La Bruguera over other possible venues.  We have even begun a series of environmental education masterclasses, working with experts on Zero Waste, Permaculture and Regenerative Design, to sold-out attendance.  

Change isn’t only here at La Bruguera though.  Having been in the environmental movement, putting the planet first since the year 2000, I have never, ever, seen themes of climate change, global warming, the conflict between capitalism and the survival of our species getting so much press, and being on so many people’s lips.  Sure we didn’t have social media two decades ago, but it simply wasn’t such a typical topic of conversation.  

putting the planet first - La Bruguera instagram climate banner
A placard from one Fridays for Future event we went to in May 2019

In other global changes we’ve had the emergence of a youth movement asking us 20th century folk WTF we have been doing to the environment for the last 150 years, and not letting the topic go, and we have just been through a frankly limp COP26 summit. This, for us, feels like a time to vote with our behaviour, to vote with the decisions our business makes.  Because, honestly, do we really think that the governments and businesses getting together at COP26 are going to solve the planetary crisis?  In Paris in 2015 they signed up to stay within 1.5 degrees of warming. By 2021 not a single country had stuck to its promised tactics to move towards this goal. Then, in 2021, they describe the group of countries still willing to sign up to what they said they would do in 2015, as the “High Ambition Coalition”? In most people’s books, if you haven’t done any of the things you said you would do in 6 years, then you say you are going to try again, that doesn’t make you a high achiever.  And what’s more, not even all the countries who signed the 2015 deal signed up to re-attempt their pledge in 2021.  So the net result is less countries signing up to 2015 promises in 2021, when the problem is already 6 years worse…

putting the planet first - Frances's climate banner at Fridays for Future La Bruguera
Frances’s poster at a Fridays For Future sit-in, 2019

So, to Michelle and I, and our wider team of staff, permaculture collaborators and work-exchangers here at La Bruguera, feel that the time is ripe for us to “put the planet first” in all of our communications, branding and identity.  Instead of being a lovely guesthouse for sports and well-being activities, that happens to have fantastic environmental cred (like being renewable energy-positive, and growing almost all of its own food), we are going to flip that phrase around, and communicate, a bit more honestly, in a way that puts the environmental moral imperative first – right where we believe it should be.  Something like “a homestead and knowledge centre, run along the principles of regenerative design, which includes an amazing guest house and retreat centre”. 

We are through with pitching our moral imperative of putting the planet first as a “free added extra”!  To us, this is a more truthful and living embodiment of what we are doing here, and probably includes more of the experiences you have all come to expect at La Bruguera. 

How we cascade this transformation through our transformative tourism product offering, our communications and our identity this year will be something we articulate over the coming 4 seasons, and we hope you will come along for the ride. 

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