Sustainability & the mudhouse… Who are we and what do we actually do?
Since its inception in 2005, The Mudhouse has been run with a strong dedication towards sustainability. Long before it was considered a duty of hotels, The Mudhouse was already experimenting with different models of community based and environmentally focused tourism. This was a big part of the motivation to start The Mudhouse in the first place.
Put simply, our vision is to create a model of tourism that is win-win-win. It should be beneficial to the natural environment, beneficial to our local community and, crucially, beneficial to the guests. On a deeper level the challenges are often more complicated and sometimes there are no clear-cut right or wrong ways to do things. Compromises may have to be made. However, we always try to remember this overall target to keep things as simple as possible. It’s generally not that complicated. It is just a case of doing it.
Here are some of the core values that underpin everything we do and make us who we are.
Smiles are sustainable. Smiles generate positivity. Smiles are valuable. Appreciating the simple things in life can start with a smile. It's one of the few things that almost everybody can do to make things better. Smiles cost nothing and good things can come from them.
The first stage of our approach to conservation to protect what we already have. Only by doing that that can we embark on more ambitious projects. We share our home with a hugely diverse range of flora and fauna. Our futures are entwined with theirs and by protecting their habitats we also protect our own.
We have been able to embark on a long and wide reaching regeneration project, encouraging biodiversity through careful forest management and landscaping. The main aims are to encourage ecosystem services and wildlife habitat. This sometimes includes removing certain plant species to promote balance. Every year our environment matures and we do whatever we can while striving to find improved ways to nurture and facilitate this natural healing process.
A crucial and ongoing part of our project is the reforestation of sections of our land that were damaged by dubious farming practices or logging in prior eras. A healthy, vibrant forest is going to be key to maintaining balance, especially if temperatures continue to rise. We are actively working towards enriching and shaping the canopy around us for the benefit of all.
Carefully and proportionately selected areas of our land have been allocated for organic farming. The long term goal is to be entirely self-sufficient with food but for now we manage to provide a regular flow of fruits and vegetables to the kitchen. Four acres are used for cultivation of paddy, which usually provides enough to cover our rice requirements. Again, water is the main challenge.
With two lakes and four acres of rice fields, water collection, retention and management are crucial areas for us. All our land is now shaped to channel rain water to storage tanks, lakes or fields and we continue to improve our irrigation network within the site. With more frequent drought periods seeming likely, smart water management is now an essential survival skill in this region.
A key tenet of The Mudhouse's approach to sustainability is generating employment. We do not promote charity but instead concentrate on creating livelihoods. We promote local employment by training staff rather than recruiting from further afield as well as deliberately maintaining an overall labour-intensive approach.
Desire and openness to learn is a value that has always guided us and our team. We continue to learn and improve and welcome input and suggestions from guests as to how we can improve. Never built a lake before? Figure it out. Never built a hut on stilts before? Figure it out. It's never too late to learn new skills, species or recipes.
From very tiny beginnings in 2005, The Mudhouse has evolved through a continual process of designing and building. We build as a way of life, not because there is any particular target in sight. When we finish one project we start another or revisit an earlier one. The Mudhouse is a work in progress that will never be finished. It's the journey not the destination.
All our furniture is hand made on site and every piece is unique. Beds, tables, chairs, racks, doors, stools, benches, cabinets, bookshelves and more are all lovingly and slowly crafted by our team of carpenters. The none-linear style of many of the pieces is our signature and we encourage creativity. This also an ongoing and never ending part of our approach.
The Mudhouse offers employment opportunities for local men and women in an area where good jobs are often scarce. We also actively promote and train women in the workplace and aim to offer practical solutions to some of the barriers that often prevent women from working in tourism. We are unquestionably stronger as a team for this approach.
What we cannot grow or produce ourselves we source locally. All our hardware is purchased in town and fruits and vegetables are sourced from local farmers or longstanding suppliers in the Anamaduwa market. We hire local drivers to operate many of our transfers, promoting local indirect employment. Our entire focus is deliberately local.
The Mudhouse works on an 'open source' foundation and our knowledge base is there to be shared. We hope that any progress we make here can be replicated by our staff in their homes and villages. Similarly, we like nothing more than sharing our knowledge with guests, either during short stays or more targeted, workshop-based retreats.
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