Inspira Santa Marta: dedicated to sustainability

Inspira Santa Marta, Portugal

Inspira Santa Marta, Portugal

Inspira Santa Marta Hotel was named Highly Commended in Europe in our 2016 Green Hotelier Awards. The property opened its doors for the first time in 2010 and even before it opened assumed a commitment: offering guests different and unique experiences and premium services, whilst respecting the environment, raising awareness of social responsibility issues and balancing people, nature and materials.

Describe the hotel’s sustainability journey

Inspira Hotels Management carried out the total reconstruction of the existing building between 2007 and 2010, preserving its original façade dated from the 18th century, an example of Baroque and “pombaline” architecture.

All the main decisions regarding efficiency were made during construction and these choices have enabled the everyday operation according to sustainability principles which aim to reduce the inherent environmental impact. The hotel used thermal insulation or local materials like cork on the floors to reduce energy consumption.

In five years, Inspira Santa Marta Hotel has been recognised as a leader among sustainable hospitality units, receiving a number of awards.

At the moment, Inspira is performing extremely well regarding the goals it previously set. But the hotel refuses to rest on its laurels and is constantly innovating and searching for new ways to keep reducing its environmental impact. The most recent example was investing in a Carbon Free Website; the Green4Network “0% CO2” certificate attests that Inspira are assuring the compensation of the carbon foot print associated to its website through the production of 50kWh of renewable sources energy, without any CO2 emission, avoiding the annual release of 20Kg of carbon to the atmosphere.

Why did you feel it was important to have a sustainable hotel?

As we consider the future of the hotel industry, we are forced to reflect upon a premise that is our true conviction. We believe that, on a global scale, the development of this industry will inevitably adopt more sustainable practices, so as to pursue a more responsible and conscious tourism when it comes to resource management.

Convinced that is the right path, at Inspira Santa Marta Hotel we have made a commitment to reduce the environmental impact inherent to our activity, assuming, from day one, a leadership position in implementing a sustainable policy, across our entire operation.

Our sustainability policy stands on three major pillars: sustainable development, environmental sustainability and social responsibility. Set on doing our share with respect to promoting a more sustainable world and, aware that every step counts, we uphold this commitment every day of our lives and in our every activity.

What are the key initiatives that the hotel has undertaken to improve its sustainability?


At Inspira Santa Marta Hotel electricity is 100% provided by renewable sources, as the hotel holds green certificates. Among the initiatives implemented towards an efficient use of energy, we would like to point out:

  • the choice for adequate thermal insulation materials like the use of cork in some room floors;
  • double glazed windows;
  • Card System Master Control Switch to control electric and electronic equipment in the rooms;
  • Building Management System that controls the hotel's lighting and air conditioning;
  • use of solar thermal energy for hot sanitary water, through the 35 collecting panels that occupy an area of 70 square meters, reducing gas consumption;
  • operational actions that result in the direct reduction of electricity consumption such as turning off electronic devices and lights when not in use, daily monitoring of equipment left on after 11pm, adapting the working hours of some equipment to use/occupation scenarios, adjusting the schedule of the heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems to the season of the year;
  • raise awareness among the guests and employees, promoting positive habits and providing information about our practices - appropriate signage throughout several areas of the hotel;
  • the useful information is made available on digitals panels and LCDs in the rooms.

In addition to these measures, Inspira Santa Marta Hotel also compensates its carbon emissions. In 2104 direct greenhouse gas emissions were neutralised by the acquisition of carbon credits (Verified Carbon Standard - VCS) generated through a wind power project located in Tamil Nadu, India.


Regarding water footprint, it entails a set of procedures that are aimed at an efficient management of this resource at an internal level, which requires both the participation of all employees and the contribution of all our guests.

Several measures have been taken in this sense, such as:

  • implementing low flow aerators in every tap;
  • installing taps with sensors;
  • installing dual flush toilets;
  • using eco-label and biodegradable cleaning and hygiene products;
  • using detergent dilution control systems, adopting efficient cleaning procedures;
  • raising awareness among all employees through training sessions on the goals pursued by the hotel in terms of environmental sustainability, promoting a change of habits when performing their duties;
  • engaging guests in this matter, raising awareness and changing their own water consumption habits.
Inspira water raises money for Pump Aid

Inspira water raises money for Pump Aid

Addressing water risk and covering our social responsibility principles, we have the Inspira Water project that provides filtered water in recycled glass bottles with a symbolic fee in our restaurant and bar. The revenues are donated to Pump Aid, to co-sponsor the installation of elephant pumps in Africa, delivering drinkable water to the communities that are strongly affected by this resource shortage. This is also a way to alert our guests to this region's conditions and engage them in water saving actions.


At Inspira Santa Marta Hotel, we believe that more efficient waste management begins with preventing its production. Thus, reducing is the first step along the path we are committed to.

All waste is selectively sorted and channeled. Most of the waste we produce undergoes recovery operations. To prevent waste production, we have established a set of actions, for example:

  • ongoing training of our employees on waste management;
  • providing information about Inspira's waste management policy and practices to our guests;
  • procedures to reduce the use of paper in several areas/activities of the hotel (e.g. printing on both sides, and only when it is mandatory;
  • reusing paper whenever possible;
  • hotel directory, phone books and newspapers are only available online;
  • packing take-back suppliers policy;
  • polystyrene packages are not accepted;
  • large volume packages for events are client's responsibility;
  • all waste is weighed and selectively separated;
  • all the hotel's areas are equipped with recycling bins: most waste is sorted by employees and the guests themselves;
  • all effluents from the kitchen are channeled to a grease separator chamber, adapted to the restaurant’s capacity (400 meals per day), before being discharged to the sewage collector, avoiding water courses contamination.

All our organic waste is sent to "Valorsul" composting central, as part of "Valor+" - organic waste selective collection programme. In 2014, we have subscribed to the Food Bank "Paper for Food" initiative, in which all collected paper is converted into food, which then is distributed among the charitable institutions supported by the Food Banks that joined this initiative. To reduce food waste and the production of organic waste, we have adapted the way we replenish the buffet. Additionally, and covering our social responsibility actions, we have also joined the "Zero Waste" movement that collects products derived from food surplus that are then distributed among social charity institutions.

What initiatives have had the biggest impact on your sustainability and / or your bottom line?

The goals established for each parameter in the management plan are monitored and recorded on a weekly basis through available equipment (e.g. water/gas/electricity meters). From 2012 to 2015 Inspira saved 25% in energy/guest consumption; 43% in gas/guest consumption and 17% in water/ guest consumption. Paper consumption and printing is also monitored. The implementation of paperless procedures saved 18,833 prints in four years. Around 75% of the monthly waste produced by our daily operations is sent for recycling. In five years of operation Inspira has been recognised at both national and international levels.

Inspira benefits from its own sustainability management system; directly by identifying the potential for cost savings through efficiency improvements and indirectly by improving its public image. Reporting performance indicators is increasingly important to clients, stakeholders and the local community. As regards to our economic performance, in 2015, Inspira registered a 37% increase in revenue when compared to 2012, as the economic value retained rose 134% and GOP rose 820.754€. The distributed economic value grew by 4% in 2015, when compared to 2012, as the largest percentage was allocated to operating costs, followed by costs with salaries.

When establishing positive economic goals, increasing our GOP and REVPAR or striving to integrate a network of sustainable hotels, we are also working towards laying down targets in the field of consumption reduction (paper, electricity, gas, water, CO2 emissions), of energy resource management efficiency, of certification renovation or of, among many other, the promotion of environmental awareness among our employees, guests and the local community.

Describe your community outreach programmes.

At Inspira, our quest for a more sustainable world means we also involve the community around us in pursuing social goals and the common good. We have always undertaken an active role in citizenship education and in the promotion of the principles of equality, diversity and respect.

Supporting the local community is part of our identity and the dedication of our employees to the defining values of our conduct, allows us to integrate projects and initiatives of great relevance in the community.

Locally, we have established partnerships and protocols with several social work institutions whose projects allow us to help, provide shelter, or integrate people in different vulnerable conditions. A few of those include: Fundação Rui Osório de Castro, APPDA – Lisboa, Amara, Associação Laço, Grace, Associação Ouvir or Abraço.

As a team, we engage in several voluntary activities, most of the time in partnership with these associations, such as workshops in collaboration with external entities; organisation of campaigns to collect and donate goods; social and environmental volunteering, from which we can point out: the participation in "Grace" project GIRO, which took us to the streets of Lisbon to deal with the challenges that reduced mobility citizens have to face every day; donation of food provisions to CASA and go out with this association's voluntary workers to provide a meal to homeless persons in Lisbon.

Regarding a more economic perspective, we always choose local products, supporting local economy, producers and entrepreneurs. The events we carry out are commonly open to the public, in an attempt to engage the community and educate them on sustainability issues. Inspira is also engaged in environmental volunteering programmes in order to contribute to the protection and preservation of local biodiversity. Therefore, we participate regularly in initiatives in partnership with Botanical Garden and Bio+Sintra.

Internationally, the project that has been with us from the very first day, which we are proud and honoured to participate in is Pump Aid. Using our Inspira Water project, which filters and bottles water at the hotel, that is then sold at our bar and restaurant, we obtain a revenue destined to co-sponsor drinking water pumps in Malawi. Throughout the past five years we have managed to co-sponsor five water pumps.

What has been the biggest surprise on your sustainability journey?

What surprised us the most was the real possibility of combining premium services and high quality products with a sustainability aligned programme, without ever neglecting our main purpose - make our guests happy, fulfilled and satisfied when staying with us. Another surprise is the interest that our concept derives in our guests. They want to book their stay with us not in spite of our concept but because of it. There is a real demand for differentiating experiences, and that's what we are offering them to try: a more responsible and sustainable experience, respecting nature without leaving the city centre.

The lobby at Inspira Santa Marta uses natural materials

The lobby at Inspira Santa Marta uses natural materials

What has been the biggest challenge?

Back when it was still a project, sustainability was already defining the features of Inspira Santa Marta Hotel. The hotel took on a concept and, from its embryonic stage, embraced a mission within sustainability and social responsibility, overcoming all the necessary constraints and obstacles to apply these principles to the daily operation. There were some procedures and systems implemented which at first seemed sustainable practices but when tested with the operation of the hotel, had to be adjusted. One example was breakfast “a la carte”, which had the aim of reducing food waste. Quickly we found that customers “over-ordered” thereby incurring more food waste, which is why we chose a buffet operation instead.

The costs and technical issues related to the displacement of conventional technologies in order to implement "green" technologies were considered, from the very beginning, an investment which would bring its return in the middle to long run. The quality of our services is paired with an integrated management system that guarantees both the reduction of environmental impact from our activity and a differentiated service for guests.

How have guests and business partners reacted to your sustainability programmes?

Inspira invests in the engagement of all of our stakeholders in all sustainability initiatives, including our suppliers, encouraging them to adopt sustainability policies. Many of them are now certified and are improving their sustainability policy. We feel our guests really care about our concept and try to adapt their stays to these principles. In the end, many of them leave Inspira with a different, very new perspective on how to do something about our environmental issues and how to act for the common good of society.

Is there a stand-out aspect to your sustainability that is unusual or eye-catching?

We consider the use of energy provided by our solar thermal panels to be the most innovative feature of our sustainability programme. The use of electricity 100% derived from renewable sources; the compensation of our greenhouse gas emissions through carbon credits; the innovative meeting and corporate events concept that is an Inspira registered trademark - "Green Meetings" - that enables us to help our guests turn their own business meeting into a "green" event relying on the most advanced technology. We would also highlight the Pump Aid partnership, and the fact that the water is treated and filtered in the hotel. The hotel also provides services and devices for guests with special needs, boasting specially adapted rooms for reduced mobility guests. Inspira’s restaurant, Open Brasserie Mediterrânica, is the only gluten-free certified restaurant in Lisbon.

What plans do you have for your hotel’s sustainability in the future?

In the future, we are committed to continue "doing the right thing": reducing the environmental impact of our activity by reducing the use of paper, maintaining the amount of recycled waste, reducing greenhouse gas emissions, reducing electricity, gas and water consumption, improving the management of energy resources through the installation of a monitoring and management system, renewing our green certificates (ISO 14001 and Green Globe), holding up to 10 sustainability initiatives per year, assuring the maintenance of our partnerships and establish new ones, participating in social responsibility initiatives with all the hotel's team, improve the engaging of stakeholders advising them about possible actions to promote our own sustainability initiatives, communicating the hotel's activity and its value chain.

List any awards and / or certificates your hotel has been awarded for its sustainability.

Regarding awards for our sustainability initiatives, we have won: The European Hotel Award for Best Sustainable Hotel in Portugal (2013/2014); The European Hospitality Award for Green Hotel of the Year 2014; UNWTO Ulysses Award for Excellence and Innovation in Tourism (2nd runner-up); European Green Hotelier Awards 2015 - 2nd runner-up; On a national level we can also highlight the Green Project Award 2015 for "Turismo, Mar e Agricultura" or the 2012 Best Concept Hotel for Events and 2013 Sustainability in Events Award.

In Portugal, Inspira Santa Marta has been distinguished with several “green awards” and considered the greenest hotel integrated in an urban environment. Internationally, it was elected the “Best Sustainable Hotel in Portugal” in 2013 and 2014 at the International Hotel Awards and “Green Hotel of the Year” in 2014 at the European Hospitality Awards. The Lisbon boutique hotel is also proud to have taken the 2nd position of the UNWTO Ulysses Award for Excellence and Innovation in Tourism and, recently, as one of the 4 finalists of the respected National Geographic World Legacy Awards 2016 in the category of “Earth Changer”.

- ISO 14 001 and ISO 9001. ISO 14001 (environment) and 9001 (quality) can be applied to any organisation regardless of size, product / service or activity sector. It implements requirements for management systems. Inspira is certified company since 2010.

- Green Globe certificate (Green Globe certification is assigned only in the area of tourism and travel, and consists of 41 criteria and 337 indicators. The main areas are: sustainable management, social, economic, cultural heritage and environment. In 2010 Inspira fulfilled 75% of the criteria, 85% in 2012 and 87% in 2014. In 2015, Inspira has managed to renew this certification.)

- Green Key certificate ("The Green Key" is an International Award for Environmental Education that promotes sustainable tourism through the recognition of good practice. Inspira was awarded in 2011 & 2012.)

- Travelife sustainability system - gold certificate (Inspira Santa Marta Hotel was awarded silver level in 2010 and gold in 2013 and 2014.)

- Carbon Free certificate (The amount of greenhouse gas emissions was calculated by Ecoprogresso based on the results of the following activities: fuel boilers and emergency generators diesel oil burnings; travelling in Inspira fleet; air conditioning systems gas release; wastewater and solid waste treatment; staff commuting and air travel in service. This assessment has followed the guidelines of the Greenhouse Gas Protocol of the WRI/WBCSD. Inspira channels 0.20€ of each room night profit to CO2 offset programmes.)

What tips or advice would you offer to any other hotel in your region which is just beginning the sustainability journey?

The future of this industry lies in responsibility, as the future of the planet lies in sustainability. We need to continue dreaming of a sustainable world, with a future filled with dreams, travels, and unforgettable experiences. This is what we wish to offer our guests: moments in which they can be closer to what is most real and organic... Nature, from which everything is born!

To begin such a project, it has to be taken seriously, you need to be perfectly conscious of what it implies and believe in it 100%. Our advice is always to try! Invest in eco-friendly tourism and join us in changing the industry.

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