Written by Mutave Nellie
From saving turtles, to recycling wine bottles, to portion measuring when you’re eating, there’s a lot of things you can do to maintain a delicate touch when you travel. My two favourite colours used to be black and red. Now you can add green to that mix. I know it sounds like I’m ripping off the Kenyan flag but I want to find places that are just that little bit conscientious about the impact they have on the environment.
The quest of finding genuine eco-friendly hotels or a “Green Hotel” can sometimes feel like looking for a needle in a haystack. A green hotel is an environmentally sustainable hotel or accommodation that has made important environmental improvements to its structure in order to minimize its impact on the natural habitat.
This is basically a long preamble to say that I looked for a place that does all that and ended up at ibis Styles Hotel which is located in Westlands, Nairobi. It’s part of the Accor Hotels.
We were welcomed by an amazing team; Joel, Stuart and Maryanne who did not hesitate to take us through the safety measures the hotel had put in place. We surely felt #ALLSafe #ALLTogether and definitely ready to #Unwindinstyle. Ha! The message is in the hashtags! There is a plethora of “Eco-labels” that offer security and safety certifications to hotels, ibis is Safe Certified hence the #ALLSafe.
The four main things that make their story green:
1. They plant a buttload of trees
2. They keep their energy load down and repurpose their wastewater
3. They recycle kitchen oil into biofuel
4. They compost their food waste
Allow me to explain:
- Plant 4 the Planet
Accor hotels launched Planet 21- a sustainable development program based around four strategic priorities. It involves its employees, it’s customers, innovation with partners, and work with local communities.
Planet 21 is on its way to cutting down its carbon footprint to zero with every hotel being low-carbon emitting and employing eco-friendly practises just as ibis Styles is doing.
Plant for the Planet initiative is their global agroforestry program that promotes ecological farming as well as planting trees every minute all over the world! Yes! Mind-blowing. As ibis, they have planted so many at Karura Forest and Arboretum.
This initiative aims to incentivize guests who are staying more than one night to reuse their towels. Well, we did stay for two nights and I’m certain that we helped reduce consumption of water, energy and detergent for laundry. I’ll ask that you, my dear reader, will be a responsible traveller on your next staycation.
In addition to the towels, I noticed that their coffee stirrers are made of wood. Their laundry bag is reusable, I gladly carried mine home. Does that account to stealing? Haha. I don’t get the fuss about flip flops but this bag was distinct! I had to. They have lovely glass bottles moving from plastic ones. Their shower gel is eco-label, same to their linens and sheets. They also use environmentally friendly, eco-certified cleaning products.
In 2018, ibis Styles won an award as the best hotel on Planet 21 green initiatives in Middle and East Africa. Joel, the Maintenance Manager, was so elated while telling us the story, you can imagine Noni and I saying “Awwwww, Congratulations.” in unison.
2. Energy and Water Management
For proper energy and water management system, monitoring has to be done to check what is used. Data is recorded and they are able to know how much water and energy they consume on a daily or monthly basis in order to make appropriate changes. However, such monitoring requires the promotion of best practices on a daily basis.
Best practises for energy:
- Installing less energy-intensive appliances.
- Installing motion detectors to control the lighting in certain areas such as basements and corridors.
- In the rooms there are no minibars, meaning they are saving more on energy efficiency.
- Changing lights to be in LED.
- Solar energy is in the works. This will be a great saving too.
Best practices for water:
- Having water flow regulators on sinks and showers.
- Choosing high-efficiency washing machines.
- Raising awareness among employees to pass on good habits such as moderation of running water in the kitchen and general cleaning.
Some of their amazing projects include:
.Reducing flushing systems in the toilets. Most travellers don’t do half flash during short calls and double flash for long calls. Systems were 9 litres and were reduced to 6 litres of water per flush. Visualize 277 rooms saving 3 litres per flush while some rooms are flushing averagely five times a day. What a save! We were really impressed by this. I always thought they were two cute flushes for one to push the nearest to them. Guess I was wrong.
.They harvest sump water from the ground and instead of pumping it out, they store in the tanks and use it to flush water in toilets. This saves on their water bills, in turn, it helps them use less water from the Nairobi water company.
They also have Energy Recovery System where they use a simple chiller to cool the rooms using manufacturers modification system. It sucks the heat from the rooms to preheat the water used in the showering systems. It’s usually 38-42 degrees. They need to heat from this range to 100 degrees meaning they are saving on the initial degrees.
.Biodiesel project – ibis Styles Biggest Project!🤗🤗
ibis Styles has partnered with a local company, Alternative Energy Solution Limited, which recycles plastics to make biodiesel. This process is cautious as the harmful products are taken out. The amount of waste going out to the environment is little when using the biodiesel. This saves money and it’s a green initiative.
ibis Styles has partnered with Zijani Company which is a brand owned by Biogen Diesel Kenya Limited with a focus on renewable energy. In this partnership, they dispose off a barrel full of used cooking oil in exchange for 100 litres of liquid multipurpose soap. Proper disposal of used oil which means less waste to the environment, in exchange to detergents that clean public areas. Their products include; liquid purpose cleaner soap, biofuel and bar soap.
Food Waste Management
With the current COVID situation, I loved how they moved to a contactless menu that you scan using your QR code and order your meal. This also means, no buffet hence less wastage. With that said, the team will serve you as much as you want, but please eat as much as you can take.
They have these cute quotes on their kitchen walls and on the tables that urges you to serve what you can finish so as to reduce plate waste. Joel informed us there’s little food waste, which they measure and record as organic waste and it’s recycled by a garbage collection company. I’ll quote one of the writings which goes like, “An empty plate is a happy plate.” This was always our slogan every mealtime. Ha! Pushing us to always finish our servings.
Out in the back, they have an urban garden made of recycled tires that they plant ingredients and spices used to prepare food and cocktails. Cocktails which looks like one of those artsy places because all the tyres are painted in different colours. Don’t you think the green one is such a stunner? I mean😍
David, the mixologist, made me a mojito cocktail with the freshly picked mint and my smile can tell it all. Or should I say it’s 5 pm somewhere? Also, note how they have beautiful aesthetically pleasing hanging plants! See why green is my favourite colour now?
With the ban on single-use plastic in place, I admired the sustainable swap from plastic straws to paper ones.
In the kitchen, they use produce that is of fair trade, ibis Styles has banned the use of overfished species like tuna, and so, they don’t buy them. They use organic and local produce from our farmers where they buy directly from them and equally use produce that is in season.
I have never imagined that I would consider having a staycation in any hotel within the city. For the simple reason that I had a preconceived notion that they lack a good ambience and most locations are surrounded by noisy streets and a lot of hullabaloos. However, I would often find myself forgetting that I am in Nairobi! The tranquillity was top notch! I would undoubtedly go back to ibis. It’s a perfect escape.
Besides the mountain of food, the wine and time spent with the team in the evenings, I must say, I really enjoyed and gained a lot of knowledge learning about ibis’ green story and innovation. It’s not every day you get to hear about a hotel taking initiative in the conservation and protection of the environment we live in.
Thank you, ibis Styles team and Congratulations on your 4th year anniversary!