Hotel Verde (Supplied)
When you stay at “Africa’s greenest hotel” – Cape Town’s four-star Hotel Verde – you’ll be paid for it to save our planet.
Guests are encouraged to be environmentally conscious while having fun. Every time you contribute to saving or generating energy, you will be paid in the hotel’s currency, Verdinos.
Earn Verdinos by jogging around the outdoor track, using the stairs instead of the lift, or opting for air instead of air-con in your room. Additionally, using the gym equipment helps generate power elsewhere in the hotel. Each activity earns you a token that you can spend in the hotel’s shop, at the bar or on food.
One hour on the gym bikes or walker machines, for instance, will create 45 watt hours of energy, or half a breakfast: enough energy to boil hot water for coffee and brown your toast.
SEE: Africa's greenest hotel adds Fair Trade stamp to its green hub
With seemingly endless sustainable features, environmental practices and systems, it’s no surprise Hotel Verde was the world’s first hotel to be get a platinum certification for leadership in energy and environmental design from the US’s Green Building Council. It was initially applied to design and construction, and then extended to operations and maintenance.
“The council’s programme is probably the world’s most renowned and stringent green system. We achieved the highest level – platinum,” says Ecolution Consulting’s sustainability engineer, André Harms.
He was involved in the design and implementation of the hotel’s features.
Verde won the accolade of “world’s best city hotel for responsible tourism” at London’s World Travel Market in 2014, and was Skål International Sustainable Tourism Awards’ global urban accommodation winner last year.
Built by visionary owners Annemarie and Mario Delicio and opened in 2013, Verde prides itself on saving enough electricity a year to power 217 middle-income households. Three imposing wind turbines outside the brightly painted purple and lime building bear testimony to this.
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Quirky environmentally conscious artworks are everywhere, including the welcoming woman in wood at the entrance and a metal man made from car engine parts.
Catching your eye inside are fibreoptic lighting and an ultraviolet-lit wall of flora that provides beauty and oxygen. You could swear the happy plants contribute to the upbeat atmosphere.
“The indoor environment benefits both guests and staff. It’s how we design buildings – for the end user,” says Harms.
Although the hotel is a stone’s throw from Cape Town International Airport, once you are in your modern suite, you can hardly hear the planes passing overhead thanks to the double-glazed windows.
“They also prevent heat from escaping, but the harsh rays are filtered out, keeping the room temperate comfortable,” says Harms.
Other features include a low-flow shower to minimise water use, recycling bins and toilets that flush with grey water. Munch your complimentary, healthy snacks on the indigenous roof garden nearby – which helps keep the areas it covers warm or cool – and spy on the reception staff below.
Nothing if not creative, this is upcycling, reusing, recycling and reducing to avoid carbon emissions at its best. This is the objective of every system and feature here, and the result is a carbon-neutral footprint without compromising on comfort.
On a hotel tour, you’ll visit the plant room, with its state-of-the-art air and water cooling and heating. The system uses the earth as a thermal battery.
“Heat pumps coupled to boreholes and geothermal ground loops produce heat on one side and cooling on another. We use both sides, depending on the season’s requirements,” says Harms.
A one-time dump site and wasteland, today the garden’s mini wetland flourishes with birdlife.
Trees, reeds and other plants, a beautiful walking path, a herb garden and a self-cleansing wetland swimming pool constitute Verde’s rejuvenated ecosystem.
Guests will find this truly intriguing. As the water is circulated through the system, the aquatic plants filter out the contaminants, leaving clean water that is soft on the skin to swim in. Guests swim in the inner partition, while the plants live in the outer one.
Verde’s beehive is one of the walkway features. At the sumptuous breakfast, you’ll be able to smother your toast and muesli in the home-made honey and wash it down with herb-infused water or a smoothie bar delight.
If your environmental awareness has been suitably piqued, you can extend the sustainable theme to dinner at Verde’s Nuovo restaurant. Responsibly-sourced dishes can include harissa lamb loin with chickpea and turmeric purée or calamari with wasabi tartar sauce. Vegetarians won’t feel left out thanks to the moreish corn and chickpea burger and blue cheese sauce.
Sustainable tourism is the fastest-growing tourism sector in the world, and Hotel Verde is clearly a global trendsetter. Another Hotel Verde is scheduled to open in Zanzibar in December. If sustainability is a journey and not a destination, Hotel Verde has just begun its own.
*Disclaimer: Shellee-Kim Gold was hosted by Hotel Verde
The hotel is located at 15 Michigan Street, Airport Industria, Cape Town. Rooms start at R1 428 per person sharing. Book at hotelverde.com or by phoning 021 380 5500 .
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