How Africa’s First Carbon-Neutral Hotel Makes Your Stay Sustainable
In 2014 Hotel Verde Cape Town became the first hotel in Africa to offer 100% offset carbon-neutral hospitality. Achieving this was our goal from the very beginning: cost implications and the challenges surrounding luxury services within this space aside, we knew what we were going to accomplish!
“I quickly realised that my dream to provide something luxurious and truly sustainable was not only possible but was also a business model worth sharing, with the potential to change lives and the industry as we know it. Thanks to our partner, Ecolution Consulting and a number of other hardworking individuals, we were able to achieve several prestigious certifications and awards, proving the extent to which we have gone to be thrivable,” says CEO Mario Delicio.
Carbon-neutral for what?
From social media buzzwords to news headlines, we’ve all seen the term “carbon-neutral” bandied about, but what does that even mean? Here’s a short and sweet explanation of why it’s important to be moving in this direction.
Greenhouse gasses include carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide and others. These accumulate in the atmosphere creating the heat-reflective layer that keeps the planet warm enough to support life. Climate change is caused by an excess of greenhouse gasses, which results in over-insulation and global temperature increases.
While carbon dioxide is not the most powerful greenhouse gas, it is the largest contributor to climate change due to the fact that it’s the most prevalent. Carbon dioxide is emitted whenever coal, oil, natural gas and other carbon-rich fossil fuels are burned as fuel for vehicles, electricity production, industry, and more. The term ‘carbon footprint’ refers to the amount of greenhouse gasses generated by the actions of an individual, organisation, or community.
Carbon neutrality, on the other hand, means that a balance has been achieved between emitting carbon and absorbing carbon from the atmosphere in carbon sinks, or, alternatively, utilising infrastructures that do not emit carbon to the same extent. When we know what the average carbon footprint of an individual is, we can calculate how much carbon emission needs to be prevented or sequestered (stored) in order to reach neutrality.
Which leads us to the next question — how do we accomplish this at Hotel Verde?
Our Green Design
Hotel Verde has been designed to be sustainable from the ground up. Every element of the building design took into account efficiency, sustainability, and environmental impact. Care was taken in both active and passive design elements to ensure that we were doing the utmost to achieve our goal of carbon neutrality.
Elements such as natural ventilation, night cooling, photovoltaic (solar) panels, wind turbines and a grey water recycling plant were included. In addition to these physical components, we also implement an active intelligent Building Management System (BMS) that monitors and controls the super-efficient ground-sourced heating, air-conditioning and ventilation system (HVAC). Further steps were taken to insulate the buildings to avoid energy wastage. The actual construction of the hotel was sustainable too, thanks to the help of our consultants — Ecolution Consulting, who partnered with Ecocentric on the LEED certification processes.
Each of these elements combines to offset the carbon footprint of the guests who stay at the hotel without compromising their comfort in any way. We believe that our impact is measurable and through our core values we encourage our staff, guests, suppliers, and partners to participate in this initiative.
This blog post begins a journey we’d like to invite you to join — a journey towards understanding our impact as humans on this beautiful planet. We’ll break down in real-world terms what it means to build, live, and consume sustainably through the lens of our experience at Hotel Verde. Keep your eyes glued to our social media channels for the next #SustainableStay blog post!