Behind the Green is all about giving you more insight into the places we feature.

Meet Di, the owner of Los Castaños. She is extremely well-traveled, having lived all over the world, from Uganda to California. She even sailed halfway around the world many years ago! She loves cooking and experimenting with food and has even written a book about it.

Learn more about Los Castaños here>

What inspired the eco-philosophy at Los Castaños?

‘I was living in California, getting my degree at Berkeley. Part of my studies was looking at the ecology of the planet, and that’s really where my fascination began. I was concerned there was this massive problem, especially with plastic, but nobody was doing anything about it. I became alarmed at the greed and waste in California so I knew I had to go somewhere else and create a place where people could experience how to live in a different way, with less is more. So, I found what was essentially a ruin in the middle of the village to create a way to show people a new way of life, a more simplistic one’.

You’re described by some as the real authentic Spanish experience, why do you think this is?

‘It’s not so much inside the hotel as it is outside the hotel. Inside the hotel I’d like to think I’ve created an environment that is quite multicultural, bringing ideas from all of my travels. Spanish furniture can be quite dark and heavy, but I wanted to create a really light and open space, that was comfortable and luxurious above anything. Outside the hotel though, it’s a very traditional Spanish community of less than 100 people, so that is where the authentic Spanish experience comes from.’

Can you tell us about the white villages in this area of Spain, why is this area so unique? 

‘The area is heavily influenced by Arabic culture. The white villages themselves were built by the Arabic people who came here and reflect how Spanish people like to live within close proximity to their neighbours. It is really a spectacle to see.

These small, quiet hilltop villages are distinguished by their simple whitewashed houses. The architecture derives its influence from North Africa (Algeria and Morocco), the Moors’ native land. Surrounded by a pristine mountainous landscape it is quite a site.

This area is unique as the government created routes that take you on incredible hikes which are almost undiscovered. You can go on a 7-hour hike and not see a single soul.’

What in your opinion is the most important element in running a green hotel?

‘I believe it is always looking for ways to reduce. Reduce your energy usage, reduce your waste, reduce your use of plastic. It can be very difficult to do this though and you can never really be completely sustainable, especially when you’re trying to create a luxury experience. We’re always searching for ways to be better.’

What was the most recent green initiative you introduced?

‘As part of our way of reducing plastic, we’re looking to replace our toiletries bottles with dispensers and we are talking to the company we buy the products from to supply it to us in bulk, so that we can just refill the dispensers when needed. We’re also talking to our laundry company about how we can minimise waste here as well. For example, we used to send the laundry to them in bin liners which were never reused, now we use large reusable bags that they send back to us.’

What has been the most challenging aspect of running a green property?

‘The local people don’t seem to understand the environmental issues we’re facing. They hear about the problems on the news but they sometimes think that it doesn’t apply to them because we are so secluded here. Villagers used to throw their waste down the side of the mountain until eventually the mayor put up signs to stop it. It’s been slower progress than I would have liked to get the community to be more eco-conscious.’

You’ve been praised for you innovative vegetarian food, could you tell us what makes it so innovative?

‘I like to refer to myself as a plant-preferring omnivore. I know how hard it can be to find exciting vegetarian food, so I like to make options that are quite different to the ordinary vegetarian options. I bring in flavours from all around the world, such as North Africa, to create food that is just a bit more exciting. I think people really appreciate the effort.’

What’s Next for Los Castanos?

‘We are planning an eco-retreat with a wellness twist, my friend Emily who lives in the village is collaborating with us. The theme of the retreat will be self-love and we have many ideas for it, such as yoga classes, pilates, ayurvedic cooking workshops and we’re even getting in a psychotherapist to do a presentation and have private sessions with people if they want them.

Emily is a very spiritual person and when she came to me with the idea, I thought it was great.’

Learn more about Los Castaños & do your own green checks here>

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