Last updated: 10:00 AM ET, Sat July 19 2014

Stay Responsible: How Hotels Are Embracing ‘Green’

Hotel & Resort James Ruggia July 19, 2014

Stay Responsible: How Hotels Are Embracing ‘Green’

PHOTO: Fiji’s Jean-Michel Cousteau Resort has set many environmental standards for five star resorts. (Courtesy of Jean-Michel Cousteau Resort)

It wasn’t too long ago that hotels were designed as fortresses to create walls of luxury between exotic communities and guests. The result was an environment that created the sort of separation between travelers and people in the host destination that lead to contempt. That contempt is often expressed in unfriendliness on the streets, surly service and even crime against visitors.

Basically fortress hotels are tourist ghettoes, and unfortunately they can still be found in many destinations around the world. Many hotels try to attract local patrons into their bars and restaurants to create a culture of exchange. Increasingly hotels are embracing the idea of being good neighbors in the communities they’re located in, so they and their guests are perceived as welcome presences.

The Mandarin Oriental, Paris, the first hotel in France to obtain the High Quality Environment certification, encourages guests to help plant an agroforestry farm in the Paris Region. Guests who book their stay via Mandarin Oriental’s website can subscribe to the “Act for the Planet” option, where a donation of €8 can ensure a tree is planted. By creating and connecting to their profiles on the Purpojet website, participating guests will then have access to a certificate with detailed information on their planted tree including its location.

The hotel’s busiest guests are some 50,000 bees that were installed in a rooftop beehive with the help of a local organization Apiterra in order to help restore the decreasing bee population of Paris. Bees are an important part of the pollination cycle and can thrive in urban environments, especially in Paris, which has been a pesticide free-zone for the past 10 years. If you think this is silly, consider the fact that bees are the single most important player in the pollination of plant life.

The hotel’s first rooftop hive harvest yielded 30 kilograms of honey which Executive Chef Thierry Marx and Pastry Chef Pierre Mathieu are using in their recipes. Bar 8, for instance, offers two signature cocktails, “Honey Kingston” made of lemon juice, Cointreau, rum, whiskey barrel aged bitter and the hotel’s own honey, and “Homemade Honey” made of yuzu liqueur, jasmine tea with ginger, champagne and honey.

Guests who participate in the hotel’s environmental program, such as the selective replacement of bed linens or towels, also receive a jar of honey produced from the rooftop hive as a gesture of appreciation. Guests can join Mandarin Oriental, Paris in its commitment to sustainable development, by subscribing to the ‘Act for the Planet’ option when booking their stay online.

Cousteau’s Five Star Prototype Resort

The Jean-Michel Cousteau Resort, Fiji, one of the world’s first eco-luxury resorts, was built on 17 acres of a former coconut plantation. As a pioneer in responsible luxury hospitality, the resort has always taken its role as a prototype seriously and has set many standards for the industry. It was the first resort in Fiji to recycle paper and plastic and, in the process, set up a recycling program for the entire town of Savusavu. The resort uses no air-conditioning and solar panels on water heaters for some bures. All timber used comes from certified forests for construction.

The Cousteau legacy has for decades tried to make people broaden their concept of community to include the other creatures in the natural world as well. The resort has created a coral farm to assist local reefs by utilizing local corals that have been broken naturally from the parent colony and have very low chance of surviving without this help.

The resort gathers food responsibly by requiring sustainable fishing and agricultural practices. It does not serve reef fish or threatened species. The kitchen harvests fruit from a large number of indigenous fruit trees – including mango, papaya, lemon, lime, guava, pineapple, passion fruit, breadfruit and coconut, which are irrigated using recycled water from the resort’s wastewater treatment plant. The resort’s extensive organic herb and vegetable garden benefits from the composting of green kitchen waste.

Gathering Blood for the Bank

For Swiss-Belhotel International giving back to the community actually entailed giving blood. The company’s “One Love” initiative compiled more than 1,000 packs of blood for health organizations located where the company has hotels. Swiss-Belhotel International has more than 120 hotels, resorts and projects in China, Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia, Indonesia, Australia, New Zealand, Kuwait, Qatar, Bahrain, Iraq, Oman and Saudi Arabia.

The campaign collected blood from staff, guests and executives in its corporate offices. In Bali, where the Swiss-Belresort Watu Jimbar, Sanur, recently opened, the chosen charity was the Bali Red Cross. Indonesia, Swiss-Belhotel International operates 39 hotels, with 15 more coming in 2014. The company's Indonesian portfolio will contain 97 hotels and resorts within two years.

Over the past 20 years, The Banyan Tree Group has operated the Stay for Good program, which highlights sustainability-oriented guest experiences and activities. For instance, this year Banyan Tree added several voluntourism activities which will take place across Banyan Tree and Angsana hotels and resorts.

The first guest interaction initiative to launch this year, “Greening Communities Together,” has been designed to commemorate World Environment Day. From June 2 to 8, Banyan Tree and Angsana hotels committed to plant two trees per room night to support and highlight environment conservation and habitat protection. Guests were invited to be part of the Greening Communities Together activities during the week. In October, ‘Feeding Communities Together’ will celebrate World Food Day. From Oct. 13 to 19, guests will be invited to support and serve host communities by preparing and serving meals for local community members.

Throughout the year, sustainability projects will take place at specific resorts under the Stay for Good program. These include the Banyan Tree Maldives Marine Lab, school programs in Phuket and Bangkok, the on-property nature reserve in Ras Al Khaimah, learning about endangered Melipona bees in Mexico, Banyan Tree Bintan’s Conservation Lab and releasing turtles into the wild at coastal resorts, in which all guests will be invited to engage.

Banyan Tree’s Green Imperative Fund also forms part of the Stay for Good program, which crowd sources micro-contributions from guests during their stay, with every dollar matched by Banyan Tree. Since the fund’s inception in 2001, the Green Imperative Fund has raised more than $7 million, dispersing over $4.1 million in support of worthy social and environmental efforts whereby the primary beneficiary is external to Banyan Tree.