Venues have been making great strides with ecological approaches and some in particular are leading the field, reports Nicole Holgate.
Tracey Beck, General Manager of Winford Manor, is always keen to talk about the green techniques the hotel uses and why they make a difference. Originally, she says, the decision to go green was made because “people were being forced [into sustainability], so we did it anyway.” Her team knew that building a responsible business would set them apart. “Our customers are aware that we do exactly what we say we do,” she explains.
From a corporate perspective, more and more companies are actively choosing a sustainable venue, she comments. While it was difficult gathering all of the information about the best green methods and suppliers to use when transforming the building, the return on investment comes from both the repeat business and the savings made by using environmental measures. Beck affirms that six out of 10 conferences at the Bristol venue are booked thanks to its green credentials.
Based on customer feedback, she says that one in 30 customers doesn’t know that it is a green hotel, but that one in three says it is very important once they are made aware. She adds that it also makes them more likely to rebook.
Winford Manor’s facilities include an environmentally friendly towel and sheet reuse programme, bulk dispensers for soap and other consumables and a biomass woodchip boiler for hot waterand underfloor heating. The hotel also offers garden composting, while its parkland is used as an educational resource for schools and has an ongoing conservation programme. Two areas of pasture are allowed to grow wild to encourage plants and wildlife.
More general and practical methods that might be employed for any business include using locally sourced suppliers, produce and contractors. Double-glazing and floor, thermal and acoustic insulation are all cost-saving, as well as eco-friendly, measures.
Other venues have taken on the same ethos. The Kent-based conference centre Pines Calyx (pictured) became carbon negative roughly a year ago to great fanfare. General Manager Kevin Francis reveals that the energy-efficient construction cost the same as a traditional build, thanks to sustainable methods. This included timber coming directly from the area of land that was cleared for the building, right down to details such as doormats made from used car fan belts and wall cladding made from recycled yoghurt pots. The Energy Strategy board helps commission future measures and ensures the centre continues to invest in up-to-date ecological technology.
Although Francis admits that its remote location beneath the cliffs of Dover can be a challenge for corporate visits, staff are happy to organise transport and manage local accommodation for an event. Similarly, Winford Manor offers a transfer service and a 10 per cent discount on travel when using public transport. The Pines Calyx building is also energy-positive, meaning that it generates and monitors its own power output. Visitors can view live data of the electricity they are using, plus activity such as telephone calls.
All of this is part of an educational approach. Both venues are keen to encourage other companies to go green by demonstrating and discussing the methods they use and acting as teaching centres as well as venues. There is plenty of information available for those who want it; even a cross-section view at Pines Calyx of the ‘living roof’, showing the structure of the building supporting the plant life on top of it. The ethos of these green venues is that an investment in the environment truly involves an investment in people.