Think four star hotels and you think certain creature comforts. Then think sustainability and environmental best practises. Put the two together and you have ‘Africa’s Greenest hotel’ – Hotel Verde.
Call Cape Town’s Verde a mere airport hotel and you’d be severely mistaken. Though true that it’s located a skip and a hop from the airport, the dozens of sustainable features, environmental practises and systems here are jaw-dropping in number alone.
They’re also so innovative and creative they’ve won Verde many local and international accolades since their 2013 opening.
This includes a Fair Trade certification demonstrating leadership in responsible tourism in April 2017 and winning the Skål International Sustainable Tourism Awards’ global Urban Accommodation category in 2016. They also won the World’s Best City Hotel for responsible tourism at London’s World Travel Market in 2014.
Additionally, Verde was the first hotel in the world to be certified LEED Platinum (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) by the United States’ Green Building Council. For construction, design, operations and maintenance.
”We achieved the highest level Platinum. The Council’s programme is probably the world’s most renowned and stringent green system, “said Ecolution’s sustainability engineer, Andre Harms.
You’ll know you’ve arrived long before you step across the hotel entrance. Brightly coloured in purple and lime, the building stands out like an oasis surrounded by a bland desert of industrial structures.
Practising what it preaches, wherever you look Verde has something that’s been upcycled or recycled. Often transformed into things of great beauty – like the funky art work. Made from recycled car engine parts, ‘Trevor’ stands sentinel at the door. You can even get interactive with some of the other art installations.
But perhaps the interior’s most attractive feature is the large living wall of flora, generating both beauty and oxygen. Growing under ultraviolet light, relax right next to it for best results. “Our indoor environment and better quality air benefits staff and guests. We design buildings for the consumer – often overlooked elsewhere”, said Harms.
If you’re really serious about flora, walk up to the first floor’s indigenous rooftop garden. Implemented to attracts birds and regulate temperature in the internal areas it covers, it also has appeal for voyeurs where you can spy on the reception staff through the roof window.
Those with more pedestrian hotel interests, such as bed quality if you’re fresh off a flight and dog-tired, won’t be disappointed. Nor will your beauty sleep be disturbed by plane activity outside – thanks to the double-glazed windows, which also keeps the room temperate.
Other sustainable or environmental features and systems in your comfortable, contemporary-designed suite include a low-flow shower, recycling bins and a toilet system using ‘grey’ water. Even the carpet is warmer and a rapidly-renewable resource with its higher wool content.
Envisioned by owners, Annemarie and Mario Delicio, all features and systems were designed and implemented to provide a carbon neutral footprint experience for their guests.
That includes Verde’s state-of-the-art central heating/cooling and water heating system, which uses the earth as a thermal battery.
“Heat pumps coupled to boreholes and geothermal ground loops produce heat on one side and cooling on another. I compare it to a fridge where energy’s being moved around. We use both sides, depending on the season’s requirements,” said Harms.
Other energy-efficient initiatives include occupancy sensors on lighting, wind turbines, regenerative drive elevators and 220 solar panels that can run 26 kettles simultaneously. All making it easy to see how Verde is 70% more energy efficient than other standard Cape Town hotels.
Boasting that they save enough electricity to power 217 mid-income households annually, Verde’s serious about its mission to ‘shift minds’. Encouraging guests towards sustainable practises – in a fun way – they will pay you in Verdinos, the hotel currency, with each green practise you undertake.
Choosing to use the air instead of the air-con in your room, taking the stairs instead of the lift and doing a fun run around the hotel’s outdoor track will each earn you a Verdino, the hotel currency. Accumulated Verdinos can be splurged anywhere in the hotel.
Use the elliptical equipment and cycles in the gym and you’ll be creating power elsewhere in the hotel. Exercise for an hour and you’ll create 45 Watt hours of energy. “You’ll have enough energy for a half a breakfast: to brown toast and boil hot water for coffee”, said Harms.
Included as one of the Best Hotel restaurants for foodies in Cape Town by Culture Trip, the delivery of consistently-superlative cuisine at the hotel’s Nuevo restaurant is like the cherry on the cake of the Verde experience.
What’s more, if you’re hooked on the green theme, extend it to your food choices at dinner. Sustainable, responsibly-sourced dishes change weekly and can include grilled dorado with nasturtium. While vegans and vegetarians are also creatively catered for.
Breakfasts are banquet-like in their enormity and variety and will likely keep you well-fuelled for the day. Interesting and healthy touches include a smoothie bar, their own delicious home-made muesli and honey from the walkway’s beehive outside.
Wander the 360 metre walkway for a closer look at the bees, the herb garden and the hydroponically-grown vegetables that you may have had with your dinner.
Four years ago the high wetland reeds and their bird visitors, the trees and flourishing flora were non-existent. Then the land was a disrespected dumpsite. “We beautified the walking path, bees are pollinating, the fauna and flora has increased and it’s created a bit of an oasis here”, said Harms of the transformed ecosystem.
One of the facilities that intrigues guests the most is the wetlands, self-cleansing swimming pool. Chemical and chlorine-free, contaminants are cleaned via a living ecosystem of aquatic plants. Beautifully soft on the skin, your unique swimming experience is in the interior, while the plants live along the edge.
Delivering European standards in room comfort, cuisine and service alike, Verde successfully marries sustainability with luxury. Genuinely. Summarised in the words behind reception: ‘Respect, Caring, Sustainable, Passionate, Honest’.