Birchwood’s Green Team ‘Ever Green
Birchwood Hotel & OR Tambo Conference Centre, situated a mere seven kilometres from OR Tambo International Airport, opened its doors 13 years ago as a one conference room, 80 bedroom hotel. Today, it is the largest conference hotel in Southern Africa, with 665 hotel rooms and more than 50 venues to choose from, seating up to 2000 delegates.
Because of the size of the property and business, Birchwood recognises that it also has a big responsibility to the environment. In 2009, Birchwood embarked on a massive greening initiative with the aim to be the Greenest Hotel & Conference Centre in Southern Africa. Relationships have since been built with Waste Plan (Waste Management Company) and Heritage. The Heritage Environmental Management Company developed a programme for the South African tourism industry. The aim is to reduce and limit the impact of the tourism industry operation on the environment.
Birchwood currently holds a silver status with Heritage after an audit was conducted in February 2011. The Heritage silver rating acknowledges the effort and environmental changes made by Birchwood to its business practices. This wonderful accolade was achieved through the installation of solar systems in the 200 new-build rooms in May 2010 and the installation of eco-friendly shower heads in all the accommodation rooms.
Going forward, the goal is to achieve gold status and Birchwood has put together a Green Team as departmental champions to ensure this happens. Heritage gold status recognises those businesses that observe higher than average standards of environmental awareness. The team have named their programme “ ‘Ever Green”, reinforcing their message for Birchwood staff and guests that more than just Birchwood’s logo is green and Birchwood should remain focusing on greening efforts forever.
The Green Team is proud to announce that yet another milestone goal towards reaching gold status with Heritage has been put into practice. In the beginning of May, 2000 environmentally friendly taps throughout the entire property have been installed. The taps have a perforated film at the mouth allowing less water to be dispersed than conventional taps even when fully opened. The Green Team has also implemented a ‘separation at source’ recycling programme. By implementing a separation at source system throughout the whole property, including the hotel rooms, conference centres and public areas, improved recycling percentages of non contaminated waste can be achieved.
To reduce the environmental impact, Greg Dillon, the Commercial and Legal Manager, has investigated the possibility of replacing all the present lights within the Birchwood village with various LED lights. LED lighting will help save a lot of energy as LED lights only use an average of 18,9% of the energy usage of a normal light. Furthermore, Dillon and the Green Team have investigated the possibility of replace a number of inefficient old boiler and geyser systems within Birchwood with more solar systems or heat pumps. This will increase Birchwoods reliance on alternative forms of energy, and is a move towards the ultimate goal of moving Birchwood off the grid completely.
To keep Birchwood at the forefront of various environmental initiatives, the Birchwood Hotel tries to constantly improve and develop new relationships with alternative energy companies, such as EECO Fuels. EECO Fuels is exploring ways to provide the hotel with a system to generate bio diesel from used-cooking oil from the kitchens.
Birchwood’s environmental focus is not only carried out by investments in alternative energy, it is also interwoven in Birchwood’s mission. Birchwood’s environmental statement indicates that Birchwood is committed to minimise its impacts on the environment by actively reducing, reusing and recycling waste; reducing energy consumption and making use of alternative energy; promoting wise water usage; maintaining and growing the flora of the property wherever possible; creating awareness among staff, guests and visitors about environmental best practices; acting in a way to ensure that the operations will be as sustainable as possible.
Several national and global reports show that environmental performance concerns the whole world. Birchwood seeks to be independently verified as an environmentally responsible hospitality provider into the future and in doing so, bringing the hotel up to international standards of operations and, if possible, to set some benchmarks for other environmentally aware businesses.
For more information on Birchwood’s green programme and action plan, please visit Birchwood’s website or contact Greg Dillon at firstname.lastname@example.org .