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The Best Western Chilworth Manor Hotel is located in 12 acres on the University of Southampton Science Park (USSP). The hotel comprises 95 bedrooms and 11 conference meeting rooms. Also on site is a health club with pool, spa pool, dance studio, and gymnasium.
Chilworth Manor is a member of the Considerate Hoteliers Association (CHA) and has also signed up to the Hospitable Climates Campaign, which aims to reduce energy and resources within the catering and hospitality industry. The hotel is also a leading participant in Best Western’s own Green Awards programme where the hotel is inspected every six months, and assessed on a wide range of sustainable initiatives including recycling and water and energy savings.
A renewed focus on sustainability began when Gavin Elliott was appointed Managing Director in 2005. Gavin realised that adopting more sustainable practices was not only good for the environment, but would also save money and help attract more corporate clients.
The first step was to bring in a consultancy to help develop a sustainable framework for what could be achieved and what measures needed to be taken. One of the first initiatives was the formation of ‘Green Teams’; a working group of employees responsible for ensuring that the green measures work and are adhered to by the rest of the staff.
Whilst Gavin is the man with the green vision, it is Steve Axton, the Hotel’s Maintenance Manager, who is responsible for the viable solutions and implementing them.
Steve introduced better monitoring of energy and water usage and more rigorous temperature control. He also began replacing traditional incandescent bulb lighting with LED lights.
But it is in the area of recycling that the hotel has enjoyed most success. Moving from a one-bin-for-all situation, the hotel now carefully segregates waste into different streams and is currently recycling at 45%.
It has also become a pioneer in the management of food and green waste which is now being processed by an on-site micro power plant for conversion into heat, electricity and a nutrient-rich fertilizer.
In a collaborative approach between the hotel and USSP, an average of 500kg of kitchen food waste, cooking oil and spent alcoholic drinks are collected and together with grass waste from the grounds, are processed each day through SEaB Energy’s award-winning Flexibuster™.
The hotel and USSP are able to harvest energy from food and organic waste produced on the site, whilst eliminating the costs of collection and disposal of green wastes; estimated to be 60% by volume of all the waste produced by the hotel.
Steve Axton is delighted. “SEaB Energy’s Flexibuster has been a revelation in the way we manage our food waste. It ticks all our important recycling and sustainability boxes as well as health, safety and cleanliness,” he said.
SEaB Energy’s Flexibuster is a compact micro power plant housed in a standard shipping container. Not only is it extremely mobile, but the planning requirements are very simple. Electricity and heat generated from the biogas production is used within the Science Park buildings, whilst the liquid digestate is used as fertiliser by a local turf and landscaping company.
Through the generation of energy and the elimination of waste disposal costs, the unit produces net revenues of around £20,000 per annum, achieving payback in five years when the system reaches capacity during 2014.
More recent measures include the installation of water meters and an improved water filtration system in the pool that will reduce the amount of water consumption.
One key benefit from these green measures has been to reduce operating costs. And, with a green policy in place, the hotel is also benefitting from a boost in corporate bookings from companies favouring more ecologically aware suppliers.
Looking ahead, the hotel is committed to training new staff on its green policies, as well as ensuring current staff are also up to speed. It is also looking at installing a biomass boiler to completely replace gas and electricity. The hotel intends to tackle its shrink-wrap waste, as well as completing the roll-out of its LED lighting programme.
Drawing on their experiences over the last nine years, Gavin and Steve’s advice for hotels just starting their journey would be to find the right consultancy to help establish what can realistically be achieved, before creating a plan that matches the capital budget. They suggest starting from small beginnings and slowly building the reach and depth of your sustainable initiatives.