Nestled in a private valley with soaring bush escarpments, Emirates One&Only Wolgan Valley is Australia’s leading ultra-luxury conservation resort and the first One&Only Nature Resort. Located between the Wollemi and Gardens of Stone National Parks in the World Heritage listed Greater Blue Mountains area, a mere 2.5 hour scenic drive from Sydney, the resort occupies just one percent of a 7,000-acre wildlife reserve, and is a world-leading example of carbon-neutral conservation and sustainable design.
This year, Emirates One&Only Wolgan Valley celebrates its ninth consecutive year of carbon neutral certification. It was the first resort in the world to achieve internationally accredited carbon neutral status when it opened in 2009, and remains the only resort in Australia with this standard of accreditation. It is also the only Australian resort in recent history granted permission to build in close proximity to a World Heritage Area, and was built according to a philosophy of complete integration with its environment.
In 2018, the resort continues to demonstrate its strong commitment to its carbon neutral status by scaling up its environmental, heritage and conservation initiatives. Sustainability not only guides the management of all operations at the resort, but shapes and is at the heart of the guest experience. From the moment guests leave their cars at the gate, they are transported to a wilderness oasis run by passionate conservationists, who ensure that guests not only enjoy the resort but also gain a deeper understanding of the stunning bushland setting. Care for the environment guides every guest touchpoint, from the replacement of traditional paper newspapers in guest rooms and the library with iPads, to offering guests the option of travelling to the resort in hybrid and electric vehicles.
These day-to-day initiatives sit within a broader, ten-year conservation plan for the entire site developed by the resort’s dedicated Team, which aims to minimize energy consumption, maximize recycling, protect local wildlife and restore the natural environment to its pre-colonial state. Highlights of the Emirates One&Only Wolgan Valley environmental programme and initiatives include:
The resort Team constantly looks for new ways to conserve water. In addition to rain water collection, water is now sourced from the onsite, pristine Carne Creek, extracted and carbon and UV filtered at the resort’s onsite plant. This filtered drinking water, both still and sparkling, is used across the resort in reusable, glass branded bottles as a unique part of the guest experience. The resort has recently installed three outdoor filtered water stations to encourage guests to use the multi-use bottles that are provided and to further reduce use of glass and plastic bottles. Guests are encouraged to take these bottles home to continue this practice.
One hundred percent of the water used at Emirates One&Only Wolgan Valley is captured and recycled on site. The resort was constructed using the best engineering practices to minimise water consumption; each villa has its own rainwater tank and all water used at the resort is recycled and used to irrigate gardens and horse paddocks.
Emirates One&Only Wolgan Valley constantly explores new ways to decrease its reliance on coal-fired electricity, wherever possible using energy-saving technology such as fluorescent and LED light globes, sensors and timers, as well as solar panels for hot water supplies and exterior lighting. The resort’s outdoor swimming pool is equipped with environment-friendly heat exchange technology that keeps it warm. In recent years, initiatives such as double glazing the windows in the main homestead have improved heating and cooling efficiency of the interiors and reduced energy usage. Guests are encouraged to participate in the wise use of energy during their stay.
A long-term goal of Emirates One&Only Wolgan Valley is to minimise the waste sent to landfills and maximise recycling, and this aim guides the resort team’s actions and initiatives, from waste sorting to reviews of all packaging and implementation of bulk purchasing. The resort recently opted to take part in a bin-trim program which will see food waste converted into water, and the team are committed to continuing to innovative and find solutions to further reduce single-use plastics on the resort.
Emirates One&Only Wolgan Valley now offers guests the opportunity to choose a company called Evoke for their transfers to and from the resort. Evoke use Tesla cars and are audited as one hundred percent carbon neutral. The resort also has two hybrid charging stations and two Tesla charging stations available for guest to recharge hybrid and full electric vehicles whilst staying at the resort.
One of the main objectives of Emirates One&Only Wolgan Valley’s conservation plan is to protect native wildlife by restoring their environment. The resort works constantly to control weeds and feral predators, and to improve the aquatic habitat of the waterways on the property. Over 200,000 trees have been planted across the property, using seeds from native species collected onsite and grown at a local nursery, with focus on the streamside revegetation of Carne Creek, Wolgan Dam and most recently, the Wolgan River.
For the last nine years, the resort has assisted the University of Western Sydney with its field research and monitoring of the local wombat population, providing crucial financial support to create a website and app that aggregates wombat sightings for researchers to analyse. Wombat sightings are common around the resort and guests are encouraged to share their own data with the resort’s trained conservation team. Emirates One&Only Wolgan Valley’s fundraising supports the Native Animal Research faculty of the Western Sydney University – the target for 2018 is $10,000 - and provides numerous field research opportunities for undergraduate and postgraduate students. The resort also supports the Wildlife Rescue Network, a regional volunteer organisation dedicated to rescuing injured and orphaned native wildlife.
Conservation and Education
Emirates One&Only Wolgan Valley’s long-term vision is the protection of regional biodiversity and the restoration of habitat, and the resort’s extensive conservation work helps to secure a more stable future for many of the region’s 1,500 native and endangered species. Guests are encouraged to become involved in the resort’s initiatives through the Conservation Activity, which enables guests to make a ‘hands on’ contribution to the restoration and protection of the reserve by working alongside the resort’s Field Guides on tree planting, nest box installation, wildlife surveys, habitat assessments and collecting data regarding feral predators.
At Emirates One&Only Wolgan Valley, guests eat and drink locally and sustainably. Under Executive Chef Nancy Kinchela, the resort works closely with local artisan producers, sourcing seasonal and, where possible, organic produce, and showcasing local food heroes from cheese-makers to vintners, orchardists to trout fishermen. Menus are designed to educate guests on the provenance of the food they are consuming, and guests are also invited to discover the resort’s on-site market garden.
Every year, Emirates One&Only Wolgan Valley undergoes an extensive carbon audit. Greenhouse gas emission inventory assessments are carried out by Landcare Research New Zealand (carboNZero), one of the world’s leading organisations in the assessment of carbon footprints and forest sinks. The 2018 audit has confirmed the resort’s ninth year of operating at Net Zero Emissions or better, and that in the past five years, carbon emissions have been reduced by 6% from the baseline results.
NSW Government Sustainability Advantage Program
In 2018, Emirates One&Only Wolgan Valley was awarded as a Bronze Partner of the NSW Government’s Sustainability Advantage Program in acknowledgement of the resort’s environmental achievements and commitment to business sustainability.
“Conservation and sustainability lie at the heart of Emirates One&Only Wolgan Valley and we are incredibly proud to celebrate our ninth year as a world-leading carbon neutral resort,” says General Manager, James Wyndham. “Our team of passionate conservationists are constantly looking for ways that we can improve our beautiful environment and improve how we operate in order to minimise our impact. Guests who visit our beautiful valley come away with not only a lasting memory of this stunning wilderness environment but also a profound understanding and appreciation of it.”