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Inside The Langham Auckland's sustainability push

Auckland's iconic Langham has just been certified as one of the most sustainable hotels in the world. But there's far more to it than just saving the planet.

Most of us can agree that it’s a pretty good idea to be sustainable – not just in order to save the planet for future generations, but also to attract the business of consumers that are more socially conscious than ever. But there’s a big difference between saying you’re committed to sustainability and actually doing something about it. And few are doing as much as The Langham in Auckland.

One of the City of Sails’ best-known high-end hotels, visitors to The Langham expect a certain level of luxury. But now the hotel can also claim to have EarthCheck Platinum status – becoming the first company in Aotearoa and the first hotel in Australasia to earn what is considered the world’s leading international sustainability certification programme for the tourism and travel industry.

The award – a full ten years in the making – was marked with a ceremonial unveiling of a plaque last week at a ceremony attended by former Prime Minister Sir John Key.

Former Prime Minister Sir John Key.

At the event, Key said sustainability needed to be a propriety for ever business, no matter how large or small. “You can imagine how much you can do to manage sustainability,” he said. “It can really make a difference. There’s a lot we can do as a country to support that.”

He also said it was important to set a benchmark for excellence, because then competitors – regardless of the industry – would be inspired to surpass that in order to gain an edge. “Keep trying to set a new benchmark. In the end your competitors will follow that.”

Unveiling the plaque.

EarthCheck CEO Stewart Moore said sustainability was something any business could focus on. “There are three things that separate a company for sustainability: you have to have a vision. And you have to follow vision with passion. And the last thing is you can’t have just vision and passion. You have to have engagement. You have to have those three things.”

Langham Auckland director of sales and marketing Michael Shah said no organisation could be sustainable without clear, consistent communication between all departments. “It shows them the difference that they can make personally. The whole sustainability initiative came from a staff project 10 years ago.”

Among its initiatives, the hotel – also the second-largest in New Zealand – invested in roof-top beehives in 2016 to help pollinate the inner city's flora. This year, it is partnering with vodka maker 42Below to turn the citrus waste from drinks and cocktails into soap, and working with local company Rubbish Direct to sustainably deal with refuse and rubbish, among other initiatives like replacing old lights with more energy-efficient LED lights.

Managing director Franz Mascarenhas said luxury can be sustainable. “Sustainability has become a passion for the hotel and it underpins everything we do. We started advancing our sustainability credentials long before it became mainstream to do so, and before there was a real demand from our guests.

Recently, The Langham also hired Helene Pacalin as a sustainability manager, who is a dedicated resource to achieve their sustainability goals. “We are constantly looking at ways to do things better and minimise the hotel’s impact,” she explained. “For example, we are investigating the option of our own water bottling plant so we can eradicate single use plastic water bottles and we are also investigating the potential of investing in solar power. The office spaces are about to become binless because we know this has proven to reduce waste.”

Employees are passionate about the sustainability programme, too. The hotel has a staff volunteer programme, and in 2016 the 480 hotel employees clocked 615 volunteer hours working in charities.

And just because it is currently Platinum-certified by EarthCheck doesn’t mean The Langham will stay there: the certification must be reviewed each year in order to be renewed.

Said Mascarenhas: “Sustainability is good for everyone – our employees, our guests and the environment. It is also important for New Zealand tourism because it positions ourselves as a premium eco destination. Achieving EarthCheck Platinum has been a great reward we can all celebrate and be proud of.” 

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By the numbers: The Langham Auckland’s sustainability facts and figures

Between 2006/2007 and 2016 The Langham Auckland has...

- Saved 25,673,024 MJ in energy consumption, which is enough to power 1,078 typical 4-person households in New Zealand for a year. This equates to $613,144 in financial savings in energy consumption on a per guest night basis.

- Minimised 2,061,842 kg CO2-e saved in greenhouse gas emissions, which is equivalent of taking 692 cars off the road per year.

- Saved 20,493,755 litres of potable water, which is equivalent of 8 standard Olympic-sized swimming pools. This equates to $82,025 in financial savings in water consumption on a per guest night basis.

- Minimised 331,823 litres of landfilled waste, which is equivalent of 10 standard 20-foot shipping containers.  This equates to $78,055 in financial savings in waste sent to landfill on a per guest night basis.

- Tripled the amount of volunteer hours from 2014 to 2016, from 261 hours in 2014 to 615 hours in 2016.

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The Langham Auckland's sustainability initiatives

Energy

The Langham purchases more energy-efficient equipment when replacing old ones such as fridges and lights.

When renovating, all lights in the hotel rooms, outside and corridor will be LED lights.

The hotel has installed 20 energy meters on the electric board to be able to monitor consumption in specific outlets to find areas of improvement.  This is a three-year project to ensure that no energy is wasted and all opportunities to reduce consumption are utilised.

Ecosystem conservation

The Langham has put a bee hive on the rooftop.

Research shows that 62.5% of urban bees survive the winter compared to only 40% in rural areas. Honey yield was higher for urban bees, possibly due to less pesticide use or maybe more diverse pollen and nectar sources in the community gardens help fight off bee diseases.

Therefore, to support the bees and their wonderful work with pollination of flowers and human food, the hotel decided to put a hive on its rooftop.

Waste

Office:

All individual desk bins in the executive / sales / finance office have been removed.

The removal of 40 individual bins has the flow-on effect of saving 40 bin liners per day.

Increased waste separation allowing separating food saste, Cans, glass and plastic, paper and landfill. This will also keep employees healthier by promoting getting up and moving to the waste stations.

Operationally:

The Langham reviewed the entire waste system to increase diverting waste to landfill. The hotel has moved away from a compactor to be able to have more transparency and monitor what goes where. There is currently a 36 percent recycling diversion rate over the entire waste stream. It separates:

  • Food waste – Envirofert, turned into compost
  • Glass
  • Plastic
  • Cans
  • Paper
  • Cardboard
  • Polystyrene
  • Cooking oil
  • Lemons
  • Electronics
  • Toner
  • Light bulbs

Waste is constantly evolving and it requires a lot of education with staff.

The hotel will donate anything that is no longer used. For example, blankets and pillows were donated to a marae last year as well as cutlery and soaps to Foster Hope.

Every month all the magazines are donated to Ronald McDonald House or other associations that can make use of them.

Coasters

The hotel stopped using one use only paper coasters and changed to reusable linen coasters. These are washed onsite and then redistributed to food and beverage outlets.

EcoSoap

The Palm Court menu is currently promoting three sustainable cocktails by local vodka 42Below.  

The lemons utilised throughout the hotel’s food and beverage outlets are collected and picked up by the company and turned into EcoSoap that is distilled and produced on Waiheke Island.

Another great way of diverting waste from landfill by partnering with innovative companies!

Education

The Langham’s Volunteer Activity Programme allows employees to volunteer their time, expertise and efforts in the local community. They assist the hotel’s community partners through various activities ranging from cleaning up local parks and coastlines to baking and digging gardens. All of the hotel's colleagues enjoy the chance to give back to the local community and to see the positive impact of their efforts.

Total volunteer hours: 2015 – 435 hours / 2016 – 615 hours.

Each employee is inducted into the hotel’s sustainability commitments during their induction.

Suppliers

Sustainability is regularly communicated to key suppliers annually. The Langham shares the sustainability policy and risk assessment to receive feedback from key players.

Additionally, for any new supplier, a checklist needs to be completed including the below key points regarding sustainability:

  • Environment Sustainability
  • Company demonstrates its commitment to environment sustainability
  • Goods made from recycled material / from sustainable resources, is easily reusable or recyclable
  • Minimal use of packaging, made form a high percentage of post and pre-consumer material (Styrofoam free)
  • Goods are energy efficient, durable and repairable

Seafood

The Langham have started a journey to try and reduce the amount of endangered species that are purchased for the buffet.

It partnered with Moana and Sanford who utilise “Precision Seafood Harvesting PSH” technique, which is the friendliest method of fishing. This is because it allows fishing vessels to target specific species and fish size, and greatly increases protection for small fish that can swim free through ‘escape portals’ and non-target fish (by-catch), which are released unharmed. Moreover, it does not damage the seafloor.

http://www.precisionseafoodharvesting.co.nz/

The Langam wants to avoid using polystyrene so asked the suppliers to work on improving their packaging. They developed recyclable cardboard boxes.

Other

The Langham is also investigating the following:

  • Looking at the potential of solar energy
  • Looking at a potential onsite water bottling plant to move away from plastic bottles
  • Looking at shifting our amenities to HealthPak, a local company who has a back-to-base soap programme
  • Online check in – to reduce paper consumption
  • Paperless event – online contracts and designs, providing them with tablets to erase the need for paper
  • Press reader – to move away from physical newspaper delivered daily to the rooms
  • Potential to move to biodegradable straws


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