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Hotel beehives in an eco-responsible way

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There's a buzz at the Hamilton Princess& Beach Club — and it's not just from its beehives.

The hotel has stepped up its sustainability programme, including finding ways to reduce its impact on the environment and bring benefit to the community.

That's the buzz, and it is producing results. For example, the hotel has phased out plastic straws and replaced them with drinking straws made from hay. It has increased its purchases of local food produce, while reducing food wastage, and it is in the process of switching to energy-efficient LED lighting.

The hotel also recycles glass, and its used office paper is shredded and given to a local pet supplier to be used as bedding.

Meanwhile, ten beehives at its beach club property are producing honey that can be served to guests or used as an ingredient by the hotel's restaurants.

These and other socially responsible and environmentally beneficial actions are under way or being considered.

Hotel guests and staff have welcomed the steps, which have been given added impetus from AccorHotels. In 2015, the group became the parent company of Fairmont Hotels. The Hamilton Princess is managed by Fairmont.

D'esta Ascento is maintenance manager and Planet 21 manager at the hotel. She said: “Planet 21 is the Accor group's sustainability umbrella. They have mandated each Accor company or hotel to meet six social responsibility initiatives.

“The pillars are our staff, guests, communities, food and beverage side, our buildings, and who we partner with. Under each of the tiers were 16 things we have to complete by 2018, which we did.”

Other ideas have been instigated by the hotel's owners under their own steam.

“We looked at our central plant — our boiler room infrastructure — to see if we could reduce and cut back on energy usage.

“Three things implemented were the condensed water heat recovery; air handling recovery and air compressor heat recovery. These back-of-house initiatives decrease the amount of energy we use on a daily basis.”

All the hotel's outdoor lightning has been replaced with LED instalments. LED lighting is also being introduced internally in corridors, public spaces and rooms.

Not all the ideas come from management, some are suggested by staff members.

Ricardo Cera, executive chef, said: “The different departments take their own approach and try to play their part. We have a commitment for 2020 to reduce the food waste in our kitchens to 30 per cent.”

Reducing the use of plastic is also part of the drive.

Mr Cera said: “We started last year with phasing out plastic straws. The first solution was a paper straw, but we read that they still have micro particles of plastic. So we found a second option, which is hay straws. They are 100 per cent natural and biodegradable.

“A lot of guests find them funny, and they really appreciate the initiative. Also, we have stopped putting straws automatically in drinks, by guests' request, to prevent extra consumption.”

Takeaway containers are being replaced by biodegradable alternatives, and the hotel is increasing its use of locally produced food.

“We are trying to go more with local produce from farmers and fishermen to help reduce our carbon footprint,” said Mr Cera.

“In the first four months of this year, we increased by 30 per cent our local purchases.”

Ideas suggested by staff and put into action include using orange peelings as an ingredient to enhance chutney, while excess pastries go to the Salvation Army.

Another chef has recommended that instead of disposing of coffee grind it can be put it into the hotel's fertiliser. That idea is being looked into.

The hotel adopted two beehives at its south shore beach club property earlier this year. That has been expanded to ten hives. They are looked after by Spencer Field, of Passion Fields Maintenance and Beekeeping Ltd.

Guests can experience local honey production, and some of the honey ends up at the hotel to be served up or included as an ingredient in menu items.

The island's bee population is fragile and suffered a huge die-off a few years ago as a result of pesticides and parasites, including the varroa mite. The population is recovering, helped by proper maintenance of hives on the island. The addition of the hotel's ten beehives is welcome, said Mr Field.

“Any appreciation goes a long way,” he said, adding it is important for corporations or businesses considering having beehives to ensure they get specialised help to maintain them.

There are about 250 beehives on the island and on average each has 20,000 to 25,000 bees. The hives can be harvested for honey once or twice each year, depending on hurricanes.

While the hotel's share of the honey harvested from its hives will not meet all its needs, it does reduce the amount of honey sourced from elsewhere.

By implementing the various social responsibility actions, there is a positive impact on the hotel's bottom line. There has been a decrease in its electricity consumption and there is likely more to come as the hotel looks at the possibility of solar battery power storage and food waste composting. However, beyond the dollars and cents there are wider considerations.

Ms Ascento said: “Everyone from ownership down is creating an atmosphere of doing what's right for the environment.

“We are sharing that with guests so they are aware of what we are doing, and so they can get the ‘buy-in'.”

While Mr Cera said: “It is no longer just awareness, it is an obligation for all of us.”

He said the hotel has a role to play educating and giving as much information as it can to create awareness among guests and employees.

“We have some funny stories. Some wondered why we were doing it and asked ‘is it just to save money?' No, it is to save the planet. We are using more than the planet can regenerate,” he said.

“Our goal is that they take these measures to their homes — so it is a trend, not [merely] a phase.”

Making a difference: D'esta Ascento, left, maintenance manager and Project 21 manager at Hamilton Princess, and Ricardo Cera, executive chef, have spoken about the hotel's sustainability actions (Photograph by Blaire Simmons)
Sweet work: beekeeper Spencer Field prepares for harvesting at the Hamilton Princess Hotel and Beach Club. The hotel has ten beehives as part of its sustainability programme (Photograph by Blaire Simmons)
Sweet work: beekeeper Spencer Field prepares for harvesting at the Hamilton Princess Hotel and Beach Club. The hotel has ten beehives as part of its sustainability programme (Photograph by Blaire Simmons)
Sweet work: beekeeper Spencer Field prepares for harvesting at the Hamilton Princess Hotel and Beach Club. The hotel has ten beehives as part of its sustainability programme (Photograph by Blaire Simmons)
Ricardo Cera, executive chef at Hamilton Princess (Photograph by Blaire Simmons)
D'esta Ascento, mainenance manager and Project 21 manager at Hamilton Princess (Photograph by Blaire Simmons)

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Published August 23, 2019 at 9:00 am (Updated August 23, 2019 at 11:50 am)

Hotel beehives in an eco-responsible way

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