Sustainability without being hippie or tacky. In Amsterdam, the first hotel in Europe that combines sustainability and circularity with the luxury of four to five stars has opened in April 2018, named QO Amsterdam. This hotel is an example to the world that the hotel and hospitality sector can be done differently. Let’s leave the Green Key and lazy sustainability efforts of hotels behind and make some real steps towards an actual sustainable hotel. It can be done, it doesn’t have to affect the level of luxury negatively, but it does needs a bit more effort and courage.
The construction of a sustainable hotel
Although the area is still in development, the new QO Amsterdam hotel is finished after just seven years of construction. It will be the first hotel in Europe that combines sustainability and circularity with a high level of luxury. It can be done! The QO hotel does not yet have an official rating, but will be in the four to five-star segment. It is part of the InterContinental Hotels Group.
The building of this revolutionary hotel counts twenty-one floors and is located at the Amstel river in a newly developed area of the city. The hotel has a restaurant, called Persijn, which offers high-class Dutch cuisine. The hotel bar is called Juniper & Kin bar and offers a great view over de Amstel river, that flows towards the old city centre.
The hotel counts 288 rooms, which vary in price between averagely €200 and €600 per night. The very exclusive Amstel suite has no more than 101 square meters and includes a personal trainer. This suite is therefor a bit more expensive, at averagely €7500 per night.
Sustainability in the rooms
As mentioned, sustainability has been implemented in all levels of the QO hotel. This sustainable effort already started during the construction. An ingenious system with panels in front of the windows and a heat and cold storage in the basement of the hotel controls the climate inside the building in an energy-efficient way. The toilets are flushed with used shower water through a special water system that reuses waste water. Everything that is served in the hotel, food wise at least, is cooked on induction stoves. The hotel staff uses digital solutions and screens, as iPads, instead of printed paper and printed receipts.
Honestly, when staying in this hotel one realises how unnecessarily unsustainable the average hotel actually is. For example with paper receipts, unnecessary prints of paper, new towels after one day, water waste, etcetera. It can be done differently. Small steps are better than nothing, but big steps in sustainability are not so difficult as it may seem.
A sustainable breakfast
Naturally there is no breakfast buffet. A buffet leads to relatively a lot of waste and encourages people to eat excessively. Instead, it is healthier and more sustainable to be served the amount of food one is going to eat. Therefore, all meals at the QO hotel are à la carte. Meat is served, but in small portions. The meat comes from so called ‘dual purpose cow’s that give both milk and meat.
Furthermore, all products that guests use and eat are preferably locally grown or produced. The wooden trays in the restaurants are, for example, made from trees from a local park: the Vondelpark. At breakfast, a range of products come from local businesses, like the peanut butter and the typically Dutch and delicious chocolate sprinkles. Locally produced products limit the emissions caused by transport. Therefore, the QO hotel strives to find its suppliers nearby, when possible of course.
This does include that certain products are not available at this hotel. Limes and lemons, for example, don’t grow anywhere near to The Netherlands. Instead alternatives are found and used.
A greenhouse at an altitude of 76 meters
And that’s not all. One of the most unique parts of the QO hotel is the greenhouse that is located on the roof of the hotel. The hotel grows its own vegetables, herbs and edible flowers in this greenhouse, at a height of 76 meters. The products are used in the bar and restaurant of the hotel. This is not only unique, but locally grown products cannot be more local.
In terms of herbs and flowers, the hotel can be self sufficient. This guarantees the most delicious fresh herbs and, in some cases, vegetables imaginable.
Of course sustainability does not end there. The fish served in the restaurant of the hotel swims in a water tank in the greenhouse. This water tank is part of a circular aquaponic system. The water with the excrement of the fish serves as food for the plants in the greenhouse, that in turn purify the water. For the future, the hotel plans to use composted vegetable and fruit waste from the kitchen as food for the fish.
As sustainable as can be
Of course, not everything can be as sustainable as described above. A hotel should strive to be a hotel that is as sustainable as possible. One of the things that didn’t work out as preferred by the QO hotel is coffee and tea. Coffee and tea produced locally is simply not available, nor an alternative. Of course, fresh herb tea is possible, but in the end guests do prefer a cup of coffee or regular tea.
Another issue is that the hotel is part of a very polluting travel industry. Their guests do not live locally, but rather travel (around the world) in order to stay at this sustainable hotel. It is questionable whether a stay at the most sustainable hotel of Europe makes sense after flying to Amsterdam by a most polluting airplane from the other side of the world.
Encouraging people to travel less is therefore difficult. QO is however committed to inspire its guests and show their guests and the world that accommodation can be done differently by using sustainable and local products. That is definitely a step in the right direction for the very unsustainable hospitality industry.
To inspire is not only a good intention. QO aims to organize events to spread their solutions to sustainability in combination with luxury. Sustainability doesn’t have to be boring, old fashioned, hippie or basic. On the other hand, luxury doesn’t have to mean excessiveness. The QO hotel is an existing proof it can be done.
You want more tips on the best eco-friendly hotels? Read my blog on the best eco-friendly hotels of 2019.