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Stylish new Lisbon hotel leading the way in environmental sustainability

Green with Envy

Paul Bernhardt, eTN ambassador  Jul 30, 2011

One of Lisbon’s newest hotels is also its greenest. Inspira Santa Marta, a contemporary-styled four-star property located in Rua de Santa Marta, is currently the only hotel in the Portuguese capital with Green Globe Certification.

Green Globe is recognized as the premier international environmental benchmarking and certification program. The certificate is bestowed upon travel and tourism businesses that successfully meet a range of environmental sustainability criteria set by the organization. Recipients must also be seen to actively promote environmentally sustainable development through management and operations.

Former Inspira Group CEO Daniel Frey and Nicolas Roucos, who is the hotel’s general manager, spearheaded the hotel’s start-up. (Frey, who defined much of the corporate and environmental strategy, has since left to develop new projects.)

During its construction, the hotel’s developers used building materials, products, and equipment chosen for their minimal impact on the environment. Energy and resource efficiency were two important considerations. So, too, was waste management.

Achieving a healthier and more comfortable environment for both guests and employees was paramount. Designers and managers worked together to draw up blueprints that integrated eco-friendly design elements with low-cost performance. The proposals embraced the principals of Feng Shui – the ancient Chinese system of aesthetics – to achieve a greater sense of balance and harmony.

The result is a modern and efficient city center hotel – a so-called "Urban Retreat" – whose core values address some of the most urgent environmental challenges of the 21st century.

Minimizing the carbon footprint is the new lifestyle, believes Nicolas Roucos. “Reduce, reuse, recycle, and respect. These are the hotel’s themes.”

Some of the eco-initiatives are deceptively subtle. The shampoo, gel, and soap placed in bathrooms are biodegradable and come in recycled containers – a fact lost on most guests. “But this has encouraged a greener supply chain,” said Roucos, “and other hotels have begun using the same products.”

Restaurant options include dishes whose ingredients are predominantly organic. When possible, Inspira sources locally-grown or fair-trade produce. And the hotel follows Marine Stewardship Council guidelines regarding seafood. For example, the cod purchased by the kitchen is from the Pacific Ocean where it is still abundant rather than the Atlantic where it is endangered. “In fact, we refuse to use any product that is not sustainable.”

The investment in cutting-edge technology has enabled the implementation of new forms of communication and business. The hotel can offer digital conferencing systems – so-called "Green Meetings" – and advocates a paperless process.

Perhaps the most tangible evidence of Inspira’s green credentials is its partnership with Pump Aid, a UK-based charity.

Profits from the sale of the hotel’s own processed mineral water – sold in recycled bottles – go towards Pump Aid’s Water For Life initiative, which funds the construction and upkeep of fresh water pumps in Africa. Inspira is the only hotel in Portugal working directly to support Pump Aid’s work in this way.

“Inspira’s method of selling water onsite to guests is unique,” said Pump Aid consultant Chris Pethers.

“It is a very innovative way to provide drinking water in a sustainable manner and support the provision of water supplies in rural Africa at the same time.”

It costs around £1,300 to install and support what’s known as an Elephant Pump. This includes not just the materials and labor to set up the device, but also training of local communities in pump maintenance. Each pump can serve up to 250 people and, as well as making the water supply more accessible, the sealed nature of the design protects the supply from contamination thus reducing the risk of disease. In just five months, generous hotel guests have raised enough money to build one pump, which is located in a village in Malawi.

“All businesses, including the travel and tourism sector, are investing more in sustainability both within their company practices and also within a wider environmental, social, and economic framework,” said Pethers, “It is fantastic that companies see Pump Aid as a valuable way to invest in sustainable development. However, most of these are water-related businesses, such as suppliers of bottled water and water coolers. To have a company such as Inspira that isn’t directly water-related supporting us is wonderful.”

Green Globe acknowledges corporate social responsibility as a key compliance indicator, and Inspira’s successful affiliation with Pump Aid is indicative of how to invest in long-term sustainability.

Nearer home, Inspira works with two Portuguese charities, autism support group, Associação de Apoio a Pessoas com Autismo (APPDA), and AMARA, an association that cares for the terminally ill. Proceeds from books and postcards sold in the hotel are divided between the two good causes.

Inspira’s senior management team is quick to credit hotel staff for the effort in gaining Green Globe certification and cite the endorsement as proof that an environmentally-sustainable structure is firmly in place. The hotel is currently undergoing certification for ISO 9001 and 14001.

“It’s been a lot of work for everybody,” said Nicolas Roucos, “and we are very proud to be recognized. It means we are doing the right thing.”

Green with Envy
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