Nathan Road, Kowloon-side in Hong Kong is about as urban as you can get in a crowded city of 7.2 million people, and yet it is the location for an oasis of sustainability.
Eaton Hong Kong, is a 465 room hotel built in 1990. Since 2009, the hotel has been pursuing a strong policy of sustainability which saw it receive the bronze benchmark from EarthCheck in 2010, and silver in 2011, as well as an award as Hong Kong’s best eco hotel in the 2012 HotelClub awards.
It’s a theme which hits you as soon as walk in off the chaos of Nathan Road, up several flights in the lift and into the Eaton lobby, where an impressively large green wall reminds you that, yes, there actually is vegetation in Hong Kong.
This year, explains Katrina Cheng – Eaton’s environmental officer – the hotel is up for gold benchmark status from EarthCheck, a rating which would be the culmination of more than five years of commitment and the ongoing addition of new sustainability initiatives.
“More recently, we have been placing more emphasis on food and beverage,” says Cheng.
“We introduced a vegetarian banquet menu earlier this year, because we understand that eating meat creates a lot of indirect carbon emissions in the livestock rearing, meat processing and transportation processes. We stopped serving blue-fin tuna in 2009 because it is endangered.
“While promoting a vegetarian diet, we hope to educate our guests about its environmental and health benefits at the same time.”
As a guest, it’s impossible not to notice the small details which demonstrate the Eaton’s sustainability commitment.
Dual rubbish bins in the room give the opportunity to separate recyclable material, pump soaps in the bathroom limit wastage, LED lighting saves energy, and guests can elect not to have your bed linen changed, thereby saving power on washing.
In place of plastic water bottles, Eaton has its own re-usable system for drinking water with washable bottles in the room, an initiative which eliminates the consumption and disposal of around 850,000 plastic bottles every year.
Eaton invested HK$500,000 in importing the Classic Crystal Tropical Purification System from the UK, which uses a seven stage filter and purification process. The washable glass bottles are themselves made from 60 percent recycled materials.
Katrina Cheng explains that the HK$500,000 will be recouped in two years, based on eliminating the need to purchase plastic bottles.
“But it’s also a cheque we are happy to write as it clearly demonstrates our firm belief in the importance of these initiatives,” she says.
Other green initiatives comprise the hotel’s signature design feature, the green wall in the lobby which comprises 3600 Sansevieria trifasciata plants.
The plants improve air quality and increase the output of oxygen without the need for energy consuming filters and pumps. Coming in off the street, you feel the change of atmosphere immediately.
Sustainable materials have been used extensively throughout the hotel fit-out. Bamboo, for example, was chosen as an alternative to wood in the lobby, and the hotel recycles its food waste, cooking oils and chemical waste where it can.
Initiatives from the showpiece “smart room” such as the use of bamboo and recycled PET material for the walls have been rolled out throughout the hotel.
Eaton also replaced air cool chillers with energy efficient water cool chillers which help save up to 25 percent on the electricity bill, and installed solar functioning low flow taps.
“These energy saving initiatives, and others such as timer switches and motion sensors, helped reduce our 2014 energy bill by 22 percent compared with 2012,” Katrina Cheng says.
Reaching out to environmentally supportive corporates, Eaton last year introduced “Green Meetings by Eaton” packages for events, packaging the hotel’s sustainability initiatives into its MICE offering.
Eaton hasn’t measured the impact sustainability has had on attracting guests and driving repeat business, but Katrina Cheng says guests “regularly show appreciation for our sustainability initiatives.”
Many guests, she says, do not know about the initiatives and the hotel’s reputation when they check in to the Eaton, but they quickly become aware of the sustainability theme a short time into their stay.
Added to the hotel’s natural focus on service, the advantages of its location and its competitive pricing, Cheng says sustainability is a significant factor in differentiating the Eaton, and attracting guests back on their next trip to Hong Kong.