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Touches of Home at Africa's Greenest Hotel: How Sustainability Works for Travelers and Hotel Verde
"We didn't even know this was possible!" the retired couple from England explained. They were vacationing in South Africa and due to a family issue had to quickly catch a flight from Cape Town back home. So, they checked into Hotel Verde for the night and found themselves as pleasantly surprised and intrigued by the hotel's green features and grounds as I was.
We were lucky enough to be given a personalized tour by Sarah, one of the most passionate and informed hotel marketing executives I've met in the sustainable travel industry. While the 4-star Hotel Verde (owned by Bon Hotels) is primarily geared for the business traveler (with its complementary shuttles to the airport and the city center as well as ample conference room space), leisure travelers will find this hotel to be a treat as well.
It's the personalized touches, such as complementary green tours, bottled still and sparkling water produced onsite, energy-generating gym equipment, vertical herb garden, and urban beehives, which all tie into the concepts of sustainability education and awareness, that make this LEED Platinum certified hotel a standout not only for Africa, but for the world.
Sustainable from the foundation up
We put in everything we could think of to see what worked! Sarah was not kidding at all. Through the implementation of energy-efficient, water-efficient, and zero-waste-to-landfill strategies, designs and solutions that minimize each guest's carbon footprint along with capturing details about the hotel's carbon emissions (every water, energy and waste system the hotel has implemented has sophisticated tracking and reporting mechanisms), Hotel Verde provides a true carbon neutral experience.
- Shower water that is filtered and sterilized with natural bacteria and UV light, so it can be used to flush toilets,
- Use of subsoil rainwater for grounds maintenance,
- Living eco-pool, which has an outer perimeter of living plants and organisms that serve as a natural filtering system,
- Vegetated roof garden that thermally cools the reception and lobby area while also providing a habitat for birdlife,
- Wind turbines and solar panels that produce renewable energy for the hotel,
- Insulated hot and cold water systems that minimize energy loss and ensure consistent circulation of hot water (and therefore decrease in water waste as guests do not have to wait for hot water),
- Geothermal field coupled to ground-source heat pumps that bypasses the need for standard air conditioning systems and provides increased heat efficiency in the winter, and
- Energy-efficient lighting including motion sensors, natural lighting and a "smart" elevator that recaptures energy when it is in 'light' mode (full elevator is going down or an empty elevator is going up) and "feeding" it back to the building.
Biodiversity translates to a more relaxing guest experience
Ultimately, it's about the customer experience, right? From my perspective, guests at Hotel Verde aren't missing out on any features that they would not be able to get at another hotel. There's still the friendly reception staff, comfortable rooms, weekly life jazz performance (lit by candles and solar powered jars along with an electricity free buffet), locally sourced food and wine, a music corner filled with instruments, and lovely green space throughout the interiors and exterior of the hotel.
However, in my opinion, the most telling feature was the restoration of the adjacent wetland. Prior to the construction of the hotel, the adjacent land, which is owned by the City of Cape Town, was used as a local dumping ground for garbage. Hotel Verde restored the wetland for the city and over time, birds, frogs, butterflies and pollinating bees, just to name a few, came and helped to create an oasis. A jogging trail that surrounds the wetland completes the experience.
Sustainability works for both customers and the bottom line
Certainly the interior and exterior design touches both provide inspiration and comfort. But, make no mistake, it not only makes sense for the planet and for travelers that strive to have a unique, but comfortable hotel stay, it makes sense for the finance bottom line.
Through carefully studied operational investments along with employee and customer educational efforts and community programs, Hotel Verde is delivering a healthy return on investment (ROI) making sustainability a viable financial strategy for all hotels.
Heading to Cape Town? Check out Hotel Verde and let them know you found out about them through Greenloons.