The best features in recycling
A hotel stay usually means ‘getting away from it all’ – for business or pleasure – and keeping up our green practices can be tricky. Not so at the recently reopened Savoy, a hotel steeped in history and ‘world firsts’, where you can be green without lifting a finger. Leonie ‘Green’ Butler reports
Opulence, decadence, extravagance and perhaps a ‘nod and a wink’ to indiscretions of the rich and famous. These may be some of the things you think of when you imagine the Savoy hotel on the Strand. (Staff who attended Oscar Wilde on his stays at the hotel went on to testify at his trial for gross indecency, apparently.) What almost certainly does not come to mind is recycling and environmental innovations, and if the Green Team Champion at the Savoy has her way, it never will.
“We would never dream of asking our guests to do anything for themselves”, explains Debra Patterson, as she proudly shows off one of the hotel’s £1000-plus a night suites. “Everything we do [for the environment] has to be behind the scenes and not be visible to our guests.”
And management has certainly been paddling furiously underneath the water over the past two years while the hotel was closed for £220 million ‘restoration’ works. These included ‘huge environmental changes’, explains Patterson: “Prior to 2005, there was a waste management system that was fairly standard for hotels at the time, i.e. all general waste was collected and taken to landfill. Glass was collected separately and sent to make road aggregate. It was after Fairmont Hotels & Resorts took over the management… that the Savoy began to look more specifically at its waste streams to divert more away from landfill and our energy consumption and, as a consequence, set up a Green Team of volunteer colleagues chosen across the hotel’s departments. The Fairmont Green Partnership Programme goes back to 1990, so the Savoy was some way behind.”
Most notably, £2.4 million has been invested in the Savoy’s environmental technologies to reduce carbon emissions by 3,000 tonnes per annum and energy consumption by at least 40 per cent. (The curtains in the new Beaufort Bar, built on the hotel’s original cabaret stage, were a snip at £35,000, in comparison.) In the dark depths of the hotel, where no guest will ever visit, four new boilers have replaced five larger inefficient ones that had been chugging away since the 1950s and a combined heat and power plant will reduce the hotel’s reliance on the national grid by 50 per cent. Furthermore, excess heat from kitchen appliances is being reclaimed to preheat domestic hot water. The cost may seem vast, but recuperation is expected within a “six-year payback period”, says Patterson.
One such device to speed up recuperation can be found in the £1 million ‘engine room’ of the hotel, where smart meters record exactly how much energy is being used in each area of the hotel. It is hoped that, once sufficient data has been collected, this will enable the hotel to focus in on the largest energy users first and work to reduce consumption and, moreover, costs. As Patterson says: “Carbon reduction strategies can ultimately save money and that attracts every business’s attention, doesn’t it?”
In the rooms and suites, sensor technology means that lights (low energy ‘where possible’, though such bulbs in Murano glass chandeliers don’t look quite right) and air conditioning is turned off when rooms are
empty, operating in a similar way to key cards in other hotels, and making considerable energy savings without taking away from the luxurious mix of Art Deco and Edwardian decor.
Meanwhile, changes in waste management mean that chambermaids sort – ‘trolley side’ – guest’s waste bins to separate paper and glass. (Though Fairmont management has recently suggested that recycling bins should be provided in-situ – meaning guests may soon be able to do something for themselves, should they be so inclined.) The remainder is collected from the hotel’s compactor and sorted. “The Savoy uses Brewsters Waste Management Ltd and it currently recycles or reuses approximately 90 per cent of our compactor waste”, Patterson claims. Reports from the waste management company reveal that 25 per cent of waste is wood and another 25 per cent is plastics. Of the 10 per cent that isn’t diverted, “food packaging, wrappers, polystyrene, cellotape, stickers and Pyrex”, according to Patterson, there are plans to reduce the packaging received from suppliers to the Savoy.
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