OWe’ve all seen this sign at hotels where we’re encouraged to reuse our towels for the good of the planet. Often, it is only lip service. But what if this idea is taken to the next level – to make your entire hotel sustainable?
This is the premise room2 in Chiswick, west of London, would be the world’s first net zero ‘hometel’. It is expected to be 89% more energy efficient than a typical UK hotel and features a host of sustainable measures, from solar panels to recycled furniture, zero food waste and a wildflower roof.
It’s the brainchild of owner Robert Godwin, who is passionate about driving cultural change in an industry where sustainability is often an afterthought.
I didn’t think a night in a hotel could make me think about climate change, but here it does, and not in a judgmental way. All staff are on board and proud of their sustainable goals – and all the little details add up.
When we arrive, someone picks up an order from Too good to leave, an app that connects people to restaurants and stores that have excess food, and the lobby is full of plants and upcycled furniture.
Another welcome innovation is flexibility: check-in is from 2 p.m., just like check-out, so you have a full 24 hours to make the most of your stay.
Each room has a kitchenette – hence the hometel moniker – so it’s ideal for those who want to cut costs by being self-catering. Coffee and delicious food are available at the Boca restaurant on the ground floor – more on that later.
Our studio is flooded with light from the large Critall windows and has everything you would expect from a boutique stay: comfortable queen bed with crisp linens, Roberts radio, soothing color palette and the kitchen is fully equipped.
I never thought waste would excite me so much, but the three-in-one bin in the room – for food waste, mixed recycling and general waste – really makes us aware of what we’re using. Godwin tells us he looked at 200 bins from around the world, couldn’t find one that fit his philosophy, and came up with this design.
“We needed the vouchers to encourage our customers to recycle the right way,” says Godwin. “All waste is compartmentalized and sent to different plants for mixed recycling or renewable energy. And all food scraps have a new life.
Natural textures are everywhere: a wooden floor, a blue and white striped fabric headboard, rattan chairs and a cork bench. A wooden Do Not Disturb sign, post-it notes made from recycled paper, and pens and pencils that guests are asked to leave after use for future guests are nice touches.
Features such as bespoke marble-print wallpaper in the bathroom and handcrafted Dali-esque mirrors were inspired by Chiswick’s Arts and Crafts heritage. And any carbon emissions from unavoidable items like the large television are offset by a tree-planting program with its reforestation partner in Nicaragua.
The energy-efficient shower – said to use 40% less water – is huge and powerful enough for any long stay. Bath towels are generously sized, and heavenly-smelling body washes and shampoos are available from dispensers by vegan brand Doers of London. Carpets in the hallways are made from recycled fishing nets, and in the basement there’s a 24-hour laundry room and a gym with Peloton bikes, weights, and yoga mats.
According to Godwin, the real savings behind the scenes are in energy consumption. “We plan to be 89% more energy efficient than a typical UK hotel and a big part of that is by minimizing heat and energy loss. We are built to new regulations and collectively this is a massive improvement.
These upgrades include a geothermal heat pump, solar panels, motion sensors in bedrooms, a green roof with 75,000 bees and wildflowers for biodiversity and insulation, and a blue roof to capture rainwater. and minimize local flooding. Any additional electricity will be purchased from solar, wind and hydro sources. Two lab rooms monitor the building’s efficiency and how guests use electricity and energy in their rooms.
So why is the hospitality industry lagging behind in sustainability? “I think it’s a lack of will, and it comes from a lack of knowledge,” says Godwin, whose epiphany came after a trip to South Africa in 2019 where he saw firsthand the effects of climate change on droughts and the collapse of food chains. . He is now considered a pioneer, with major hotel chains, including Hilton, seeking his advice.
In the kitchen of the Boca restaurant, there are no large fryers or extractor hoods, and the menu, created by chef Elisabetta Boi, has been adapted to be energy efficient. Boi tells us she sources locally where she can and brings a taste of her Italian heritage. Here too, zero waste is targeted: potato peelings are transformed into vodka and all other waste is recycled or available on the Too good to leave application.
We’re trying out a few sample dishes of what’s to come when Boca fully opens on February 1, and they’re all bursting with flavor. There is a delicious homemade focaccia with wholemeal flour, a black truffle and parmesan risotto, and a white radicchio salad with figs and fresh homemade ricotta. The puddings are a mascarpone tiramisu and an appetizing panettone filled with ice cream. Starters are from £8 and mains from £10.50, about the going rate in Chiswick.
The next morning we grab a coffee and set off for Chiswick High Road, a short walk away. There is no need for parking at room 2 as public transport is so good. Turnham Green station is a three-minute walk away, from where it takes 20 minutes by tube to reach central London. There are frequent buses to Kew Gardens or Richmond Park, or you can stroll down to the River Thames to see the homes of arts and crafts figureheads Emery Walker and William Morris.
Morris urged people not to have anything in their homes that wasn’t beautiful or useful. Room2 has beauty and utility aplenty, and shows that being net zero doesn’t have to mean compromising on comfort or style.
Doubles from £116 rooms only, room2.com/chiswick
Four sustainable European hotels
On a farm in southern Iceland, Hotel Fljótshlid has been certified by Svanurinn, a Nordic eco-labeling system, which means it is one of the most eco-friendly hotels in the region. Its 14 rooms have heated floors and private bathrooms, all powered by renewable energy. Nationally, Iceland uses 70% hydroelectricity and 30% geothermal energy. Guests can pay to plant trees to offset their carbon footprint, and the hotel is aiming for zero food waste. Local jams, meat, eggs and vegetables can be bought on site or at the restaurant. It offers views of the Eyjafjallajökull volcano and guests can go horseback riding or visit the working farm.
Doublefrom £106 B&B, smaratun.is
In Zagori, in the northwest of Greece, Aristi Mountain Resort & Villas was built with traditional methods and using only locally available materials. Water consumption is minimized thanks to pressure regulators and waste water is recycled thanks to a high-tech cleaning system. It is a member of Stay Beyond Green, a network of hotels monitored according to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. The hotel’s award-winning Salvia restaurant uses fruit and vegetables from its own gardens and greenhouses, raises its own chickens and features local trout on the menu. The 24 rooms, suites, and villas are spread out to blend into the mountain, and activities include hiking, rafting, horseback riding, and birdwatching.
Double from 178 € Bed and Breakfast, aristi.eu
Inaugurated last September, the Wren in Dublin uses 100% renewable energy and recyclable and biodegradable materials. Aiming to be Ireland’s most sustainable hotel, it makes a conscious effort to limit single-use plastics in its 137 rooms and emphasizes local. Wonky veg is used in the kitchen and waste is reduced by using Too good to leave. ALT Bar makes the most of local distilleries and brews, with Irish whiskey, Dingle gin and micro-ales on tap. It’s a four-minute walk from Trinity College and Grafton Street, and a 19-minute walk from Connolly, the country’s busiest station.
Rooms from €129 room only, wrenhotel.ie
In the Alqueva Dark Sky Reserve, Montimerso Skyscape Country House has 15 rooms, all with contemporary Portuguese furnishings and a terrace or balcony. Rainwater is used for irrigation, and due to its location in the dark sky, light pollution has been reduced. The staff are mainly from the local Alentejo region and local food suppliers are used whenever possible. The big draw here is the sky – the reserve was the world’s first Unesco-certified tourist destination under the stars. Customers can use binoculars to observe distant stars and planets from the star gazing platform; other activities include cycling and wine tasting.
Double from 200€ B&B, montimerso.pt