More and more people are turning to a plant-based diet, and it seems the travel industry is following suit. Lauren McCrostie speaks to the Hilton Hotels & Resorts team to find out about why it has decided to launch a vegan hotel suite.
Travelling for many eco folks can a tricky thing. I’m often plagued with fear that I’ll create more damage than good if I decide to go away. The carbon footprint of vacating overseas is one thing, but then there is also the excessive levels of waste produced at airports, restaurants, tourist attractions hotels, resorts and their abundant use of air-con (or heat if you’re going skiing!).
After deciding what destination I’m going to, I try to hunt for a sustainable place to stay. Picking somewhere that follows ethical principles, and somewhere where I can do the majority of my ‘consuming’ from while I’m away like dining, working, socialising and exploring, is a significant factor. Self-catered options allow you complete autonomy to continue your sustainable habits, but there is also an increasing number of eco-hotel and resort options actively working to minimise their impact through their choices of energy, furnishings, activities, food and facilities.
Which is why I was intrigued to hear about a new hotel suite that was launched in central London earlier this year by the Hilton Hotels & Resorts franchise. Nestled away in its Bankside branch, the accommodation boasts a number of ethical and conscientious qualities, specifically designed with a plant-based traveller in mind.
Hilton Bankside’s suite offers an “experience for all ethically-conscious travellers” with sustainable, conscious decisions extending further than a simple planet-based menu. For starters, the solid stone-grey flooring is made from 100% renewable and sustainable Moso Bamboo, which grows quickly with no fertiliser (it also self-regenerates through its own roots, cool huh?).
There are also responsibly-sourced organic cotton carpets for guests to sink their feet into. Furnishings are coated in Piñatex – a leather alternative made resourcefully from the cellos of the pineapple fruit. Harvesting the crop also supports the income streams of subsistence farmers, allowing them to utilise all the elements of their pineapple harvest.
And if the carefully curated three-course plant-based meal doesn’t quite fill you up, then your peckish needs are tended to with a mini-bar filled with responsible provisions. You’ll find the fridge stocked with vegan-friendly snacks from London-based companies like Deliciously Ella and fair-trade beverages from Lemonaid – the proceeds of which go towards supporting local initiatives in Africa, Asia and Latin America.
Toiletries are cruelty-free and come in recycled packaging. The room and linens are cleaned with eco-friendly Method – a non-toxic and non-animal-tested cleaning alternative. The space is furnished with recycled stationary and real plants, but the most exciting offering is the bamboo version of the hotel’s bikes to peruse the city with.
Previous guests have shown their affection for this completely vegan experience. The Vegan Society grants their seal of approval in addition to the popular instagram account @vegansofldn. So, will Hilton extend its ethical service and integrate these choices into more of its rooms and hotels? I spoke to the team to find out more.
Why did you choose to introduce a vegan hotel suite?
Our general manager James B. Clarke spoke to a vegan client in New York who said that travel options for vegans were very limited. James felt inspired by the idea of creating a luxury, fully-vegan experience – from check-in to room to restaurant and bar – for the ever-growing market that follows a plant-based diet.
What has the reaction been like?
The vegan suite has had a very positive reaction within the plant-based community, with the news spreading internationally. Booking-wise, we’ve had a lot of new vegan guests, as well as current guests who stay with us regularly asking if they can upgrade to the vegan suite. On top of this, the whole project of creating [the suite] made us look at the full experience – and therefore a vegan menu and vegan bar menu were introduced (in vegan-friendly packaging of course), which all hotel guests and visitors to the bar and restaurant can enjoy.
The room itself boasts numerous sustainable qualities, but what other sustainable measures are you taking as a hotel?
As part of the Hilton brand, we are committed to a lot of their environmental improvement initiatives. But on top of that, as a standalone hotel, we’ve done a few things ourselves. We have four beehives in a wilderness on top of the hotel that are managed by Bermondsey Bees and produce honey for the local area.
Our team members participated in a workshop last year with local business ‘Bamboo Bicycle Club’ where they hand-crafted bikes out of bamboo. The bikes can be used by hotel guests to explore the local area for free.
We’ve teamed up with Bio Beans who we send our used coffee beans to and they then turn them into logs for fuel. And instead of getting rid of the large plastic containers that food supplies come in, we use them for planting herbs that can be used in the kitchen. The pots are decorated by team members to give them a bit of colour and some can be seen around the restaurant and on our garden terrace.
What are Hilton’s sustainability aims over the next 15 years?
We are committed to cutting our environmental footprint in half by 2030, reducing our Scope 1 and 2 carbon footprints’ intensity by 61% by 2030, reducing our water use intensity and waste (including food waste) by 50% by 2030. We also engage our value chain to provide sustainable options: we re-engineered our menus to promote plant-based dishes, notably by launching the Blended Burger in the US and the UK with the Better Buying Lab.
Hilton says that the vegan experience was designed in “response to evolving values”, after 250,000 people took the Veganuary pledge this year, with Veganuary organisers predicting a further 300,000 people will join the venture by the end of 2019.
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