Wivenhoe House Hotel, home to Edge Hotel School, has made real progress on sustainability in recent years.
With its own ‘Plastic Patrol’, and dedicated groups now driving progress across the four-star hotel, the team has pursued a range of practical measures, including updating its AV facilities to allow remote attendance at events, compacting waste to reduce the number of collections necessary and identifying meadow areas within its grounds.
The Hotel provides environmental awareness training as part of its staff induction programme and, working with the University, it has encouraged car sharing and the use of both discounted public transport and the government’s cycle to work scheme.
Stephen Matthews, from the University’s Communications Team, caught up with Oliver Brown, General Manager, to find out more.
Why did Wivenhoe House Hotel take the decision to limit single-use plastic?
“The team felt it was part of our social responsibility to do what we can to reduce the impact we have on the environment. It has also become part of our corporate responsibility - we are always looking at ways to reduce our consumption of goods that are damaging to the environment.”
What progress has been made since 2018?
“It would be impossible to list every single change, but we’ve reduced our plastic consumption in a number of ways – we’ve stopped buying plastic drinking cups and straws, worked with our kitchen suppliers to eliminate plastic where possible, and also reduced our use of things like cling film.
“We’ve moved to reusable glass bottles for guest water and are using plumbed-in dispensers for staff water. Our guest pens are now made from cardboard.
“Most guest rooms are now fitted with refillable dispensers for shampoo and soap etc. We have sought to reduce the use of hazardous chemicals throughout the hotel and, for those chemicals we still use, we utilise refillable bottles, wherever possible.
“We’ve tried where possible to re-use plastics – examples range from kitchen containers to the bags that dry cleaning comes back in.
“We use local, seasonal produce for beverages, fish, meat, fruit, vegetables and dairy, where possible, and use organic produce in our breakfast items.
“We also have recycling bins throughout the building and have been looking at a bin system for guest rooms too, although we have come up against some barriers with that idea.” (see below)
What is the 'Plastic Patrol' and how does it help police the use of plastic?
“Specifically, the Plastic Patrol is aimed at reducing our consumption of single-use plastics in order to benefit the environment. That said, this forum is about more than just plastic; it is meant to look at all areas that can impact the environment in a negative way.”
What conversations have you had with suppliers? Do you feel there is awareness in the hospitality sector of these issues?
“Simon (Head Chef) and Bev (Housekeeping Manager) have both been working with suppliers to reduce their use of plastics. Not only in terms of what we use but also what the supplier uses to package the goods we order.”
Has your dual role, as a hotel and a hotel providing training had an impact? What part have students played in supporting progress?
“On the whole, students have had a very positive impact on progress. They come into the Hotel with enthusiasm as well as new and fresh eyes, often coming up with ideas we hadn’t considered.”
Are there things you have wanted to change, but haven’t been able to yet? What have been the barriers to progress?
“Some areas proved to be cost-prohibitive; milk cartons for example or the proposed guest recycling facilities. We have yet to find recycling bins that are aesthetically appropriate for the guest rooms of a four-star hotel, available in the UK and affordable.
"Some suppliers also seem to be too large or unable to change their packaging methods.”
Wivenhoe House is a historic building. What has that impact had on your wider attempts to reduce your carbon footprint?
“Obviously part of the Hotel is an old building, which can have its limitations, however our refurbishment 12 years ago means that the majority of the building meets more recent building regulations and so its carbon footprint is better than you might think. Great care is taken with its maintenance, however there are things we cannot change such as heating. So we work with what we have and make a difference wherever possible.”
Wivenhoe House Hotel offers a wide range of free, online resources for those interested in a career in hospitality.
Communications Officer, University of Essex
Stephen Matthews is a member of the University's central Communications team, with responsibility for the School of Law, Human Rights Centre and East 15 Acting School. Stephen also supports the work of the Climate Emergency Group and sits on the organising committee for Holocaust Memorial Week. Prior to Essex, Stephen was an award-winning filmmaker, working in TV, advertising and corporate communications. He also wrote and directed campaign films for charities including Friends of the Earth, Sustrans and World Development Movement.
29 June 2021
Categories: The Climate and Ecological Emergency, Alumni
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