Paint yourself greener—go low VOC

Paint yourself greener—go low VOC

 

Environmentally friendly paints are an interior-design consideration many of us neglect to think about—which is crazy when benzene and formaldehyde can be among the toxic chemicals found in traditional emulsions. Opting for low-VOC supplies is a simple way for a hotel or a home to boost its sustainability since these colours are low in—or even better, free of—volatile organic compounds. 

London's first environmentally friendly painting and decorating company, Paint the Town Green cares so much about being eco that they produced their own range of high-quality low-VOC products, which means their licks of colour also avoid noxious fumes and unappealing smells. And if you're a boutique, eco hotel with a heart, this is especially welcome as it also means that you can use the freshly decorated space as soon as the paint is dry. Plus those who are actually applying the paint are not exposed to headache-inducing carcinogenic chemicals. (As a guest, you can also breathe easier knowing that you are sleeping in a chemical-free room that won't have you waking up feeling nauseous or run the risk of triggering respiratory issues such as asthma.)

When it comes to interior design and renovation works, paint is a staple ingredient. So opting for an eco-friendly product and asking hotels about what supplies they choose helps manufacturers and hosts think about using more sustainable products. How paints are produced is another aspect worth thinking about.

Our paints are manufactured using hydroelectric and geothermal power in Iceland in a factory that regularly receives a green audit.
— Phil Robinson, Paint the Town Green

Sustainability does not mean you have to compromise on quality or colour. Since zero-VOC paints have improved an incredible amount in recent times, you don't have to scrimp regarding quality or character—so why not go green? Paint the Town Green recently launched a range in collaboration with International Designer of the Year, Nicky Haslam, called The Stones, since it's inspired by natural gemstones and minerals such as agate and peridot. 

And since Pantone's colour of the year for 2017 is Greenery (Pantone 15-0343)—a 'fresh, yellowish hue' that 'symbolises the reawakening of nature in spring and is a symbol for a new beginning—you could even take that literally. Particularly as Paint the Town Green produces a delightful grey-green called Scarborough Fair

Paint The Town Green, 39 a&b Allfarthing Lane, London SW18 2AP

Less harm, more positive impact—the Sustainability Institute inspires us to travel better

Less harm, more positive impact—the Sustainability Institute inspires us to travel better

We travel for many reasons. To explore, to restore, to renew. Sometimes to inspire and sometimes to just escape. Often an enjoyable combination. As conscious travellers, we look for ways to reduce the impact of our travel from an environmental perspective—beautiful retreats that are off the grid, places that serve bountiful local organic produce, or maybe we just offset our flights with carbon credits. The way in which we travel matters—to the environment, the communities and ourselves. 

For those looking to leave lighter, more respectful footprints, there are an increasing number of opportunities to stay, travel and explore in ecologically and socially minded ways. From a community-impact perspective, simply employing locally is a starting point but doesn’t necessarily translate into meaningful positivity for the community itself. Do these companies, for example, pay a living wage—as opposed to just minimum wage? Some restaurants have their waiters rely only on tips for income— not bad in busy season but hugely challenging in quiet seasons. Often, profits continue to be extracted to head offices and shareholders far removed from the community who work for the company, benefitting the economy of the land you are actually in. 

Partnering with local charities to invest profits back into the community and giving visitors the opportunity to visit these projects is a way companies can be more sustainable. Supporting a network of local businesses that help to stimulate the local economy is even better. The multiplier effects to the communities are increased, as money circulates in the local economy and benefits more local families. 

There are wonderful community-owned organisations to whom the benefits of your stay are distributed in the very communities who own, run and benefit from your visit. In Lynedoch Ecovillage in South Africa, our Drie Gewels Eco-Lodge (pictured below) is run by the Sustainability Institute (a non-profit trust), where all the staff share in the profit from the business and a share goes towards our children and youth educational programmes in the valley. 

Supporting local community initiatives—from where you stay to your meals to the experiences you enjoy—is a powerful means of using your travel for good. The benefit is always to the traveller too—experiences of authenticity, and integrity, unexpected adventures, sincere exchanges and even new friendships.

On your next trip, seek out new experiences—reach out and open yourself to something unexpected and entirely rewarding. 

 

Jess Schulschenk is director of the Sustainability Institute, Stellenbosch, South Africa.

Moonlight not mobile phones at Mirihi Island in the Maldives 

Moonlight not mobile phones at Mirihi Island in the Maldives 

MIRIHI ISLAND, MALDIVES | Swap smartphones for sunshine and starlight and switch off completely in the South Ari Atoll. Nowhere exemplifies barefoot luxury better than this private island in the Indian Ocean—and if you're looking for a good reason to tune out of your digital life entirely this is where to do it. The moment you step foot onto Mirihi Island your feet sink into soft white sand—and as you walk through this open-air traditional island retreat, the feeling of sand underfoot continues through the lobby, into the lounge and even throughout the restaurant. Nature is the headline act, and not contemporary design or architecture, letting its true Maldivian character shine through. 

Swim straight from the 37 stilted wooden villas off this tiny island, into the pristine house reef and spy the full roll call of marine life—puffer fish, scorpion fish, tiny harmless reef sharks, starfish. Who needs wifi to be entertained? Night time is also the right time to snorkel and scuba dive and under moonlight the clear ocean water is more dramatic than anything you could be watching on your laptop or mobile phone. No one ever forgets seeing glow-in-the-dark bioluminescent plankton in person—this marine phenomenon twinkles like millions of tiny blue stars.

Since the Maldivian sky is so dazzling, the hotel also invites guests to make use of its high-strength telescope. (If you want to whip out your smartphones now though, they can be rigged up to take astonishing pictures of the planets, too.)

Nightly rates from $650 (£510) per villa, on a half-board basis, based on two sharing. A 30-minute seaplane flight from Malé.

At Bouteco, we always ask hotels for their sustainability policy, obviously, and this is Mirihi Island's:

—We do not offer fishing except from deep sea.
—We do not feed fish and other sea creatures.
—We do not sell or use for decoration, corals and shells dead or alive.
—We have opened two channels from the house reef for snorkelers to cross the reef in low tide to prevent anyone from stepping on corals even by accident.
We don't allow divers to wear gloves so that they don't touch corals.
—By using our own water collected from the sea around the island desalinated and purified to drink and bottled in 60% recycled glass bottles, we manage to stop disposing 10,000 plastic bottles a month.
—We clean our house reef once every month.
—We use an in-house sewage treatment plant to treat every drop of wastewater and sewage from the entire island. The treatment is a biological process to remove dissolved organic matter by cultivating microorganisms in the wastewater tank which absorbs organic matter from sewage as their food supply. The clarified water is disinfected and used for irrigation. Hot water for shower is heated using recycled energy from air conditioners. (more info, go to www.ecogen.com.my).
—In order to preserve the trees on the island, we do not use palm leaves, coconuts or any other products harvested from the trees on the island. We purchase all palm products from palm groves in neighboring islands. 99% of all lights bulbs used on the island are LED.
—We use non-toxic environment friendly pesticides for pest controlling. Our in-house incinerator is used to burn all waste papers, cardboard boxes, dry leaves and other natural waste. Glass bottles are crushed into powder using a crushing machine and sent to purpose built island for recycling. Other waste such as plastic bottles and aluminum cans are compacted into bundles and sent to the same island.  

 

Earth Day 2017 | Saturday 22 April

Earth Day 2017 | Saturday 22 April

Bouteco believes that hotels can be purveyors of environmental and social learning without being preachy or limiting the guest experience — through inspiring architecture, outreach programmes and even just instilling a positive sense of place.

Green School Bali's Sustainable Solutions 2017

Green School Bali's Sustainable Solutions 2017

This Friday 21 April, the Green School Bali hosts this day and evening of activities, workshops, speakers and a performance of 'Ramayana' on its campus just south of Ubud from 8.30am to 8.30pm. Buy tickets for the event here; even this donation helps them make a difference to the world.

Green School Bali is an extraordinary centre for education from pre-kindergarten right through high school. It's not just a school in Indonesia but a project in itself which hopes to be a solution when it comes to sustainability. 

Sustainable Solutions is their community event which beings together solutions providers to help connect, inspire, educate and upskill their own community and the world at large so we can all have a more positive impact.

Tom Hunt, conscious chef and award-winning food entrepreneur speaks to SideStory

Tom Hunt, conscious chef and award-winning food entrepreneur speaks to SideStory

Tom Hunt—Bouteco Hero—eco-friendly chef, food waste activist and champion of charities galore, gets to the root of how we can eat our way to a better world. Sitting down with Livia Solustri at SideStory—Bouteco’s favourite hosts of creative experiences—Tom tells us what we can all do to reduce the UK’s 20 million tons of annual food waste. 

Tom Hunt’s mission is to champion root-to-fruit eating, and to reduce waste by using every scrap of produce. Actually, that’s just the start of The Natural Cook author and Soil Association ambassador’s vision. If that wasn’t uplifting enough—big smiles, good humour and an infallible determination shine through in his work and his energy, too. Did we mention he also works with Feeding the 5000, FareShare, FoodCycle and StreetSmart? And his London restaurant Poco was 2016's Sustainable Restaurant of the Year as well as Best English and Best Independent at the Food Made Good awards.

Tom, you just got back from Nepal where you were helping Action Against Hunger. Your life is a whirlwind of projects supporting sustainable food and zero-waste initiatives.

My ambition and drive is to improve the environment by helping people reconnect with their food. The goal is to create a more conscious and joyous global community and achieving a more sustainable future. These days I’ve taken a step back from chef life to focus on the broader vision and purpose. I spend most days online, doing interviews and finding ways of making connections for the cause. I write a few articles a month, create recipes and shoot and style, and visit the restaurants. As an optimist and a food entrepreneur, I’m always devising new ideas and projects. I’ll throw an idea out there and see if anyone catches it. 

What are you most excited about right now?

A book proposal! I have a concept I want to explore which is looking at food holistically and marrying health and sustainability in a recipe book.

And an idea for a ‘handmade restaurant’ in which everything is handmade – the walls, the cutlery, the crockery... the idea is to look to the past and see what we can bring forward into a sustainable future. Nothing made by machines, not even any fridges! Everything cooked around the central fireplace and no electricity so all ingredients will be fresh, fermented or cured. Hyperlocal and focusing on indigenous products. It could potentially be nomadic – I want to pilot it in one location for a year or so.

Acclaimed chefs such as you and Dan Barber are drawing attention to how we could be collectively paying attention to food waste. Should other chefs join the cause, or are you more concerned with educating home cooks on how to make better use of food?

I think of my audience as the public. Chefs now have the privilege of being able to communicate with the public, so the more of us who subscribe to cooking sustainably and talking about it the better. Chefs in the best UK restaurants are already offering high-quality, sustainable produce. Although often they’re not talking about the sustainability. Their focus—and not wrongly—is the taste and quality, and that’s what they want to talk about. Only a few of us are openly championing sustainability.

Congratulations for becoming a vegetarian! Can carnivores still be sustainable and eat animal protein?

Going vegetarian was a very personal choice. My message is about reconnecting with food and nature to learn its true value. I realised I needed to genuinely know the origin of the meat, and when you eat out a lot, it can be hard. So I really wanted to acknowledge my connection with the animal. It’s worth saying, If I were offered meat in Nepali village because they’ve slaughtered it to celebrate our arrival, I’d share the meal out of respect and gratitude.

We can eat meat sustainably, and I’m an advocate for good sustainable animal agriculture. But we need to change how we do it. We have to eat much less meat and only on special occasions. Its price will continue to increase as the cost of energy and production rises. I hope this brings a natural shift towards eating more veg, and pushes a diverse range of grains into our diet. As we become more attuned to the idea of biodiversity and farming on a commercial scale we’ll be more resilient to a sustainable farming system. As part of this cost sensitivity many are shifting to meat substitutes, although I’m not a fan of imitation products. I like food intervened with as little as possible.

Price vs quality. Any tips for environmentally minded home cooks?

Falling for lower prices can be a false economy.  The focus of my writing and study is around eating and shopping for home cooks and consumers. There is a false dichotomy in having to choose quality or price…

  • Buy seasonal produce at markets, if it's abundant, is priced competitively with grocery stores.
  • Supermarkets are built to encourage spending. You buy things you might not need, or things packaged into quantities that force you to buy more than you may want—making you spend more.
  • Through my ‘root to fruit’ eating philosophy I’m trying to communicate that eating for pleasure, and connecting with the origin of ingredients, and being proud of where our food comes from, will produce less waste. This saves on costs, making healthy and sustainable dietary improvements cost-neutral while helping regenerate the environment. We waste 20–30% of the food we purchase. If we invest in high-quality produce that we truly value—high welfare and organic produce that we eat in its entirety including skin, leaves and stalks—we save money spent on that wasted food and all of the resources used to produce it. We even prevent social and environmental destruction caused by the food we have forfeited.
This process of reconnecting with our food and its origin creates a butterfly effect: the more we build a connection with our food and value it, the more good it does for the environment and our collective health.

You joined forces with likeminded chefs as part of the wastED pop-up at Selfridges. Chef or dish you found special? 

[Tom smiles and pulls out the one-page paper menu from the night.] Look—one side has a map of all the different things they are using. The other side is the actual menu. What was inspiring was the innovation – look what Michelin-starred chefs from world-class restaurants can do when they put their minds to an environmental issue.

90% of each dish truly is a byproduct or an ingredient that people would never use, like the bloodline from a tuna or the core from a broccoli or an old battery hen! WastED’s one pre-set menu invites guest chefs to do their own dish, which they provide the ingredients for. They didn’t have as many vegetarian dishes as I would have liked, but they worked with incredible ingredients.

The spiralising trend has resulted in vegetable cores going to waste, and the juicing trends discard the husks and pulps. WastED turned spiralised cores into a pretty dish, and fruit and veg pulp into a vegetable cheeseburger.

My English twist on Dan Barber’s ‘rotation risotto’ was a ‘rotation porridge’ using spelt and rye from trial crop grains sourced through Gilchesters Organic farm, topped with clover, their rotation crop.

You’ve undertaken a 30-day no-packing minimal-waste challenge. Any learnings to share?

There is no such thing as zero waste, really. It’s just a great way to communicate the idea. In the industrial food system there is no such thing as zero waste. Every seven weeks we produce our own bodyweight in rubbish—by reducing the packaging we consume, we can have a huge impact. This journey has taught me of the power and impact of the individual in achieving sustainable outcomes.

Every seven weeks we produce our own bodyweight in rubbish—by reducing the packaging we consume, we can have a huge impact. This journey has taught me of the power and impact of the individual in achieving sustainable outcomes.

Waste-conscious start-ups are making a different. What businesses are making a real effort to champion the cause? How can consumers support the initiatives?

 The majority of major supermarkets have taken up the challenge of reducing their waste—although lots of the time their solution is to send food to anaerobic digestion instead of stopping it from actually spoiling and feeding it to people. They need to improve that. The charity FareShare in the UK is significantly helping with food-waste reduction—help them by volunteering.

Thank you to SideStory for sharing Tom Hunt's wisdom and ideas. 'Every city has a story, and every story has a SideStory. The experiences we’ve crafted show you the city through the eyes of its creative movers and shakers — our SideStory Insiders.' An authentic and sustainable way to learn about a destination is to spend time with their insiders.

Beyond compost toilets; joining the dots between sustainability and luxury

Beyond compost toilets; joining the dots between sustainability and luxury

Last week’s #LuxTravelChat on Twitter co-hosted by @BoutecoHotelsTM, highlighted a need to change the way we talk about sustainability. We love fun times when we travel, we appreciate style and design—but somehow that can get lost in conversations around sustainability.

Eco enthusiasts aplenty sing the praises of hotels that save energy. Lots of beautifully crafted hotels create inspiring experiences for local communities and guests, but few of us are connecting the dots between sustainability and authentic, life-enhancing luxury experiences. 

Let’s face it, it is not a terribly evocative word. Say it: 'suss-tain-a-bility'—if you're feeling generous, at best it's conjuring images of an organic farm, with pretty flowers and happy bees, right?

For most folks, 'sustainable hotel' threatens compost toilets or little more than a sign in the bathroom asking guests to hang up their towels and save water. (Ahem. An initiative thought up in the Nineties and rolled out with zero innovation since, right?) Others think of cold showers or earnest eco-types debating their favourite herbal teas. Or maybe you're picturing a corporate hotel with a LED glare and obsession with the bottom line—PWC is one of the world’s most environmentally responsible companies, but that doesn’t make me want to shack up in their offices for the night.  

Things have moved on. In terms of hotels being more subtle about sustainability, and in our mindsets. Luxury is no longer about excessive and spontaneous splurges at other people’s expenses. We’re more sophisticated than that. You don't lust after a hotel room filled with mass-produced furniture, do you? Nor do you want to travel across the world to eat and drink exactly what you can have at that restaurant around the corner from your home?

We’re thirsy for luxury experiences that fascinate and transport us somewhere new. Quality is measured by provenance and storytelling. 

At MOSAIC Private Sanctuary – Lagoon Lodge near Hermanus in Stanford, South Africa, four-poster beds, fireplaces and bar tops have been locally hand crafted from the mottled wood of an ancient Ghanan tree that has washed up on the shores of Cape Town. Hop over the Indian Ocean to the Maldives and when they couldn't source enough wood locally, Soneva Fushi shipped over and recycled redundant telegraph poles from India for their vast beachfront villas. At Katamama in Bali over 1.5 million hand-pressed Balinese temple bricks make up the facade of the hotel, revitalising and educating guests about an ancient Indonesian craft.

In New York and Miami, 1 Hotels does everything they can to make food as local an experience as possible, even though you’re in the middle of a city, by working with suppliers such as the community-run Little River Cooperative. And at Singita in South Africa, the chefs not only serve guests exquisite feasts but also teach pupils in the local village enough culinary skills to gain a cooking qualification. 

Behind the scenes can be the most telling. Bouteco Heroes are collecting rainwater, switching to LEDs, erecting solar panels and using ecological cleaning products—but, as the guest, you don’t need to know all that detail to have the time of your life. The best hotels take care of all that leaving you to enjoy adventures and soak up the stories. Marvel at the hand-decorated interiors, drool over fresh (line-caught) sashimi and revel in a momentary connection with a kindred spirit. Appreciate sustainability, sure—but more than anything, have the time of your lives doing so.

In it for The Long Run

In it for The Long Run

The Long Run is one of the most inspiring organisations out there when it comes to proactively driving forward nature-led tourism and sustainable principles.

Indonesia’​s hand-crafted private island

Indonesia’​s hand-crafted private island

From the makers of Nikoi — a luxury nature-loving resort in the Riau Archipelago, a mere three hours by boat and car from Singapore — Cempedak opens next month, on a neighbouring island.

1 Hotel Brooklyn Bridge

1 Hotel Brooklyn Bridge

Sustainability in the city has never been so sexy. It was an honour to look around 1 Hotel Brooklyn Bridge as final touches are being made to its inspired interiors.

Trancoso's favourite dancer and fisherman

Trancoso's favourite dancer and fisherman

This photo shared with us by UXUA's Bob Shevlin is of Manoel Lambada inside the Casa das Artes, shot by a great Brazilian photographer, Tuca Reinés

Tulum's eco-chic treehouses

Tulum's eco-chic treehouses

Tulum is well established as a go-to destination for boho sun-kissed luxe. And now Design Hotels' Papaya Playa Project on the Yucatan Peninsula is taking things one step further — get away from it all in an eco-designed treehouse set in pristine jungle by the Caribbean Sea.

The heart of SoHo

The heart of SoHo

'Conscious Hospitality' — that's the strapline of this sleek, Scandi Design Hotel in SoHo. Click on 'Collaborations' and read all about the hotel's partnership with Global Poverty Project which is striving to eliminate extreme poverty by 2030.

Aman's camphor-tree conservation

Aman's camphor-tree conservation

For Amanyangyun, a forest sanctuary near Shanghai opening autumn 2017, almost 10,000 camphor trees and 50 Ming and Qing dynasty homes have been painstakingly transferred over 800 km to Shanghai from Jiangxi Province in eastern China. 

Art of glass in the Maldives

Art of glass in the Maldives

Bouteco Hero, Soneva Fushi, is always coming up with innovative ways of making the guest experience even more magical (this is, after all, the tropical island that offers everything from its own mushroom cave to chocolate room) and living up to their sustainable luxury ethos.

Travel. Enjoy. Respect.

Travel. Enjoy. Respect.

UNWTO LAUNCHES INTERNATIONAL YEAR OF SUSTAINABLE TOURISM FOR DEVELOPMENT 2017 which kicks off 12 months of global action aimed at advancing sustainable tourism and establishing the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

Do-gooding decor

Do-gooding decor

UXUA Casa Hotel and Spa has extended its commitment to community by launching UXUA CASA, a homewares collection using local carpenters, weavers, ceramic artists, and still emphasising the use of recycled materials.