There are not a lot of hotels near Cape Town International Airport. Most business and leisure travellers are in a hurry to get to Cape Town, or reluctant to leave, and understandably so, given the city’s many attractions.
That’s why the 145-room Hotel Verde, located about a three-minute drive to Cape Town International Airport, feels like such a game changer. I stayed there my last night of a recent trip to Cape Town and it felt like a glimpse into the future of the hotel industry.
Hotel Verde claims to be Africa’s greenest hotel, built from the ground up according to eco-friendly principles. Staying there, you are practicing conscious, sustainable tourism. It’s the first hotel in Africa to offer a carbon-neutral stay, meaning you know exactly how much or how little your stay impacted the environment, and that makes it an amazingly feel-good experience.
Being accountable for its footprint is the guiding principle behind this hotel, which opened in August, 2013. South Africa’s green building certification wasn’t sophisticated enough for Hotel Verde, said General Manager Samantha Annandale, so they applied for — and got – LEED certification by the U.S. Green Building Council.
Annandale reckons the hotel got about 30 million rand (2.57 million USD) in free publicity just for being green.
Pulling up to the hotel, I knew it was going to be unlike anything I’d ever experienced when I saw the massive wind turbines spinning in the parking lot. But as big as they appear to be, they aren’t big enough, Annandale said. Though these are the most visible signs of green technology at the hotel, the wind turbines turned out to be probably its least productive investment.
“Return on investment (of wind turbines) is 20 years,” Annandale said. “We’d need to build (the wind turbines) bigger to make it worth it. We’ve learned from our mistakes. But they make a huge statement.”
Annandale spent a lot more time talking to me about the hotel’s eco pool, which uses plants and natural soil filtration to balance bacteria without chlorine. Water is clean and clear, but nothing like the hotel swimming pool international guests are used to, and some find it a bit weird, Annandale said.
Getting used to it requires a new mindset. “We cannot build hotels the way we used to build them,” she said.
Hotel Verde owners Mario and Annemarie Delicio have a 10-year lease on the wetland adjacent to the hotel where they built the eco pool. They took what amounted to a rat-infested swamp and turned it into an outdoor gym, with plants that attract birds and bees, owl houses and beehives that the hotel harvests. Kids staying at the hotel can go on a treasure hunt there.
Born in Italy and raised in Germany, Mario is a longtime South African resident and the shareholder in another hotel in Ethiopia.
One of Mario’s goals at Hotel Verde was to have zero waste to landfill. “We wanted to revolutionize that,” Annandale said. So far, the hotel manages to divert an 91-to-94 percent of waste from the landfill and they do that by recycling. The hotel has a composting room. Packaging is returned to suppliers. “One thing you can never control is what guests bring in,” Annandale said.
About 30 percent of the hotel staff’s time is spent educating school children, guests, tours and site inspectors.
Hotel Verde construction cost about 240 million rand ($20.5 million) and building it green cost about 20 million rand ($1.7 million) more than an ordinary hotel would have cost, Annandale estimates. It will take three to five years to see a return on the investment, she said.
Annandale is particularly proud of the room where gray water from guest showers is recycled. It’s fed into tanks, filtered by ultraviolet light, and then piped back up into the building to flush guest toilets.
The hotel also has a 40,000-liter rainwater harvesting tank for car washing, irrigation and cleaning.
To save energy on water heating, a geothermal loop system 90 feet beneath the surface of the hotel taps into the natural water in the earth, acting as a heat sink for the hotel water.
Engineers from the University of Cape Town visit the hotel, which serves as a model for the Stellenbosch municipality.
Art designed by local school children and South African artists is used to decorate the hotel. School children in the nearby townships don’t get art education, according to Annandale. Mario agreed to fund an art education project on condition the children learn about sustainability. In return, they created the designs for stunning tapestries that decorate the common areas on the floor I my room was on.
Using Recycled Products
One wall in the lobby was textured with recycled glass. The hotel’s carpet runners are made of recycled plastic. On the outside of the hotel, a five-story mosaic art installation was designed by Svenja, Mario’s youngest daughter.
There is free unlimited Wi-Fi and sensor lighting throughout Hotel Verde, and my room was paperless, in that all hotel information was on the TV.
One of my favorite places in the hotel was in the basement garage, where graffiti artists had been invited to come in and paint. This turned out to be a moneymaker for the hotel. Guests loved the basement art and some have paid to have banquets there, Annandale said.
But you probably want to hear about the rooms. I loved that the butter cookies I found on the coffee tray in my room were made by a local woman in Mitchell’s Plain, one of South Africa’s largest townships.
“We helped her become compliant in food preparation and now she employs two people,” Annandale said.
When you check out of Hotel Verde, you have the option to offset your carbon footprint and you can track where and how it was offset. Just knowing that made me feel good.
Hisense, a manufacturer of premium consumer electronics and home appliances, is focusing its attention on increasing its green credentials in an attempt to decrease carbon emissions, increase recycling, and creating a closed loop system at their high tech manufacturing facility in Atlantis, Western Cape.
Hisense has always looked for ways to contribute positively toward the environment. The business places an importance on creating products that are energy efficient and which lead the way in green technology. In addition to this, the business looks at ways in which its operations can be more sustainable.
Recycling systems have been put in place to contribute to the bottom line including the environment, strategic initiatives have been implemented to recycle discarded cardboard, bubble-wrap, polystyrene, plastic, foam and other materials.
Ebrahim Khan, Deputy General Manager, Manufacturing Group at Hisense South Africa, says, “When we launched our new manufacturing facility in Atlantis in 2013, we ensured that energy efficiency is part of the core of the products being manufactured at the facility. Sustainability and greening are so important to us that our launch was a green event. Our close collaboration with Bluemoon and Earth Patrol produced a carbon neutral event called ‘Living Legacy’ that proved the industry and sustainability are on par.”
From planting 190 indigenous trees to offset carbon emissions, to using LED lighting, to implementing recycling programmes, initiatives were put in practice throughout the operation aimed at reducing the company’s environmental footprint.
From January – September 2014, Hisense collected 655,780kg of recyclable materials, and saved a total of 2,790,378kg of carbon emissions. Recyclables now heavily outweigh general waste and the figure is improving on a monthly basis – in September, 10,680kg of general wastes vs. 79,954kg of recyclables. Carbon emissions in January measured 154,955kg, and in September, 324,522kg was reported, and landfill volumes have more than tripled too.
To put this into perspective, 2,790,378kg of carbon emissions is equivalent to:
- The annual greenhouse gas emissions from 587 passenger vehicles or;
- The carbon dioxide emissions from burning 1,359 tons of coal or;
- The carbon sequestered by 71,548 tree seedlings grown for 10 years.
“Hisense’s future plan centres on a process of implementing a zero-waste to landfill strategy, which is currently in its testing phase. The plan will be implemented in 2015,” explains Khan.
Hisense has made the most of the opportunity to run a sustainable business, and is fully conscious about the environment in which it operates.
Source: Cape Business News