Sustainability and the environment are central to The Red Carnation Hotel Collection, and we’re committed to green initiatives that support our surroundings, minimise waste and reduce our carbon footprint. Going green is our immediate priority—and fortunately modern technology is making that transition easier. From architectural innovations that maximise energy efficiency to app-based platforms that help to reduce individual impact, here we explore the extensive ways technological advancements are revolutionising sustainable practices. All the while, we profile how we’re using the latest in technology and sustainable practice to minimise our environmental impact.
The greenest architecture
Green design is increasingly defining the field of architecture, influencing not only how building materials are sourced but also how a project is designed. Over the past 40 years, world-renowned architects have applied energy-saving features to several high-profile projects. Most famous is perhaps Renzo Piano, the celebrated designer of the Centre Pompidou in Paris. In the States, The New York Times Building was designed by him from the ground up to preserve heat and afford as much natural light as possible. It combines an interior glass-walled garden to trap warmth, with a façade of more than 100,000 ceramic tubes to regulate external light and heat as necessary throughout the year. Over a decade after its completion, it still ranks amongst the city’s most energy-efficient buildings.
More recently, Piano’s California Academy of Sciences incorporated a so-called “green roof,” which is layered with soil and vegetation to assist in temperature regulation and ventilation control. Piano’s living roof is a successful example of landscaping in which the maintenance of natural vegetation bolsters a building’s sustainability and offsets its carbon footprint. At The Rubens at the Palace, we’ve applied a similar concept to our exterior southern face in the form of our “living wall.” Here, over 10,000 plants bloom throughout the year, providing homes for birds and nutrition for pollinating insects while filtering the emissions from the streets of Victoria. In addition, the living wall helps with temperature regulation in the hotel. In the summer, the green blanket absorbs sun rays, cooling interiors by up to 30 degrees; while in winter, the plants trap in the warmth, reducing the energy wasted on heating. To minimise water use, we’ve combined the plants with a dynamic water irrigation system that stores collected rainfall and distributes it evenly across the wall.
Our newest property, Xigera Safari Lodge, has embraced green architecture in its totality. Located in the middle of Botswana’s unspoilt Okavango Delta, the ecolodge has been designed to preserve the tranquillity of the local ecosystem as much as possible. During construction, an arborist was brought in to ensure all the on-site trees were protected; the lodge has been connected to off-site renewable energy sources without damage to the environment; and SolarView tinted windows have been used for energy-efficient air conditioning.
Alongside architectural green initiatives, technologically advanced interiors are helping to maximise sustainability. Developments in LED technology have led to its wide adoption by residential and smaller-scale commercial buildings. Today’s LED bulbs last roughly 25 times longer than their incandescent counterparts, while using only a quarter of the energy. At the same time, design innovations have led to increased light emission and a variety of applicable functions, from recessed downlighting to task lighting. Across all our hotels, we’ve made the switch to LED lighting, helping to drastically shrink our global footprint.
In addition, several green technologies are working to regulate water usage at the individual level. In the UK alone, the average household water use per person comes to 150 litres per day. Design company Kohler has developed a smart tap that responds to voice signals and pours measured amounts. Heatworks and Frog Design have meanwhile collaborated on a water-saving countertop dishwasher that uses just half a gallon per cycle; and several companies are developing intelligent showers that dispense water only when heated to the preferred temperature. At Red Carnation Hotels, we’ve installed aerators, or flow regulators, into our showers to minimise excessive water use. These ingenious devices introduce air into a shower’s pressurised water flow, which increases water pressure while using up to 50 per cent less water.
At the heart of an environmentally friendly interior is a sustainable home-heating system. Heat pumps are increasingly taking the place of traditional gas boilers, with some systems operating with triple the efficiency. Current heat pumps work in one of two ways: ground source systems draw upon heat below the surface to convert it into energy; air source systems use heat from the atmosphere around them. Other home-heating devices focus on non-wasteful energy regulation. Smart thermostats, most famously Google’s Nest, bring together AI and a mobile platform to regulate the house temperature. These products will learn residents’ schedules and temperature preferences to make sure a building is only as warm as it needs to be at any given time.
To minimise our carbon footprint, we’ve installed low carbon-emitting heaters at The Rubens and Hotel 41. Meanwhile, at Xigera Safari Lodge, we’ve implemented a hybrid system for energy efficiency: hot water is supplied by thermodynamic geysers, while over 95 per cent of Xigera’s wider energy needs are serviced by our specially built solar hybrid power system.
Waste-reducing green initiatives
Going green also extends to proper waste management. Half of the food produced annually, not to mention its packaging, ends up as refuse, requiring massive amounts of energy for it to then be disposed of in a hygienic and efficient manner. Green initiative-led waste technology is helping to change this scene. Plastics are increasingly being re-used in the fashion industry; organic waste is being composted indoors thanks to small-scale compost bins; and numerous companies continue to convert waste into energy, as is the case for our non-compostable food waste at Summer Lodge Country House Hotel & Restaurant.
At Hotel d’Angleterre, we’re trialling Swiss company KITRO to analyse our monthly avoidable waste. KITRO is a tool that analyses food waste and provides detailed reports on what is unnecessarily thrown out. After just three months, we’d already cut our food waste by one third; the information KITRO processed has since been passed around our global teams to ensure similar waste reduction practices in all our hotels. Other hotels will undergo similar waste consulting in 2020 to ensure we are being as environmentally considerate as possible across our collection.
In Bushmans Kloof, meanwhile, we’ve combined a wide-scale composting green initiative with Biolytix wastewater processing. Biolytix uses an engineered ecosystem to mimic decomposition in nature. Solid waste is first separated from liquid waste before being broken down by tiger worms and other organisms. These organisms convert waste into humic substances, all the while aerating the tank to prevent odour. The treated water is then passed to an industrial-strength pump, and, in our case, is used to irrigate our on-site gardens. This is especially necessary for sustainability in an area as historically water-scarce as the Western Cape. At The Oyster Box, we separate our water, recycling grey water in our flushing systems and using harvested rainwater for watering our garden.
Beautifully sustainable gardens
In our hotel gardens, we deploy a mix of modern technology and green initiatives to ensure we’re cultivating plants and vegetables as sustainably as possible. New biological research has allowed us to optimise our composted material. We incorporate tea leaves, eggshells and coffee grounds for slow-release nitrogen, further reducing the need for chemical fertilisers. At Summer Lodge, we’ve further combined compositing with “insect hotels,” specialised structures that stimulate biodiversity, promote ecosystem preservation and augment the gardens’ nutrient cycles.
In three of our hotels, we’ve implemented state-of-the-art polytunnels to assist in plant growth. These elongated, semi-circular tunnels are made of steel and polythene, which, together, keep vegetables perfectly insulated throughout the year. Using a polytunnel not only increases yields but extends the growing season of herbs and vegetables. The result: more locally produced and sustainably managed ingredients to be enjoyed for longer in our restaurants.
A number of apps are similarly making green living more achievable. Leveraging modern society’s connectivity, they enable simple measures such as carpooling and ingredient sharing to reduce individual footprint and waste. Olio, a London-based app, enables food sharing by connecting nearby residents and local businesses. Exchanges through Olio are non-monetary and are designed to be as hassle-free as possible. The benefits are two-fold: not only are fewer food items thrown out; fewer food miles are spent travelling to and from a grocery store. The app has been responsible for more than two million meal portions and seven million food miles saved so far. Other apps, such as Epicurious and SuperCook, focus on eliminating waste by intelligently generating recipes based on leftover ingredients.
Meanwhile, ride-sharing apps have taken the world by storm since Uber’s launch in 2009. Developing their algorithms to enable more efficient carpooling, these services are reducing the number of miles driven across the world, while also decreasing the number of cars on the streets. Data scientists predict that, with developments in AI and self-driving technology, automated “robo taxi” fleets could service the driving needs of mid-sized towns and cities with only 15 per cent of today’s number of vehicles. Combined with more viable electric cars, the benefits for the environment will be enormous.
Another breed of ethical software rethinks the traditional business model, replacing profits with environmentally friendly investments. Across our hotels, we encourage all employees to use the search engine Ecosia, which invests advertisement revenue into planting new trees. The search engine is already responsible for nearly 75 million new trees. Other green initiatives include 4Ocean, an e-commerce platform that directs revenue from its recycled apparel and reusable products to fund massive ocean clean-ups.
The future of green technology
As connectivity and data collection grow and develop, we will get ever closer to carbon neutrality. Combining our green initiatives with state-of-the-art technology, we’ve been able to effect massive changes across our hotels. Preserving the extraordinary environments that we introduce our guests to is our top priority. We look forward to adopting new green technology and initiatives to further reduce our carbon emissions and to make travel matter.
Stay at any one of Red Carnation Hotels’ properties to see how green initiatives are being used to reduce our footprint and inspire local change.