Inside The Net-Positive Headwaters Eco Lodge

A deep love for the environment and community has turned this once neglected land in Glenorchy, into a net-positive, world-leading eco lodge with a focus on slow travel. Meet The Headwaters.

Hear from more changemakers making a difference – watch another episode.

In this episode of From the Ground Up:

  • You’ll meet the team behind The Headwaters Eco Lodge the first, and only, accommodation destination to be accredited as a Living Building globally.
  • Learn how the eco-lodge saves over 400,000 litres of water per year and is able to be net positive through intentional design.
  • Discover what The Headwaters has learnt from piloting the world’s first commercial community composting facility.

The Headwaters Eco Lodge is a net positive energy accommodation in Glenorchy. The first in the world accredited through the Living Building Challenge. Debbi Brainerd and her husband Paul founded The Headwaters in 2014.

“When we wake up every day, we always think, what small thing can we do? Sometimes those little things end up being bigger than we ever imagined. We never imagined we'd build a net positive energy lodge,” says Debbi.

“The vision behind The Headwaters Eco Lodge was to create a slow tourism destination experience that could support regenerative design.”

“We’ve used recycled and reclaimed building materials so that the place feels like it has a heart and soul.”

The energy that The Headwaters consumes is produced entirely by their onsite solar garden. John Pope, Head of Maintenance at Headwater says 589 solar panels at 340w each have enabled them to be net positive by 30 megawatts, which they export to other businesses.

They’re also piloting a community composting facility, the first of its kind.

Community Composter Project Manager, Steve Hewland says, “This facility was thought of by Paul Brainerd, co-founder of The Headwaters. He saw the need to reduce organic waste that was going to landfill and the ongoing benefits to help reduce greenhouse gases.”

Green waste and kitchen waste is collected from around the Glenorchy community by e-bike and then brought back to the facility for processing. “The community's really getting on board and we’ve been successful in diverting about 21 tonnes of organic waste so far. We weigh each bin, so we are keeping a good record of all of the material that's coming in and where it's come from.”

The nutrient-dense compost is then donated to the local Glenorchy community nursery and is also available to residents to use in their gardens.

“This pilot process is all about learning and feeding our learnings back to the council so other communities can take on board what we've learned and do a better job.”

Debbi agrees, “This idea of being an inspiration to people is actually very exciting. If you can create a regenerative process, not only in what you're building but create a regenerative process in the destination experiences that you're providing, then people leave with something to give back.”

From The Ground Up video series digs deep into the stories of local businesses building a regenerative future within the Queenstown community. From pioneering world-firsts to grassroots initiatives, each episode celebrates those making a difference to the environment and their communities, from the ground up.

Hear from more changemakers making a difference to Queenstown’s environment and community – watch another episode of From the Ground Up.

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