Wednesday, 30 December 2009

New eco-spa in Glasgow?

Since I did a post for Blog Action Day on eco-spas and the possible environmental impacts of spa and therapy activities, I've found myself getting more interested in this aspect of things. Having spent most of my working life dealing with these issues, and having realised that eco-spas are a lot easier to find than I'd expected, I'm keeping more of an eye out for more...

One of the upshots of this has been that I also spotted a press release recently about a new spa in Glasgow. The Spa at the new five-star Blythswood Square Hotel opens in February 2010 and as well as the usual blurb about luxury and 'discreet havens,' the media release includes the information that the spa will be using Ila (organic skincare) products and 'indigenous Scottish' beauty ingredients. It seems to be going for the 'local' trend that has swept food markets and other products areas, emphasising in this case the use of "organic seaweed sourced direct from the Hebrides" (good if it's being produced/harvested sustainably and shipped in low-carbon ways) and "Scotland’s purest ingredients including Scotch Thistle extract, seaweed and sea lavender, with healing therapies to provide a complete body and mind experience."

The food on offer is also apparently heavy on the “ locally sourced, organic dishes.”

All this is, of course, commendable and on the right track, and sustainable sourcing of all these consumables is an important step in the right direction.
But in terms of big environmental impacts I was also interested to find out more about the press release's statement that “Blythswood Square will be one of Scotland’s most environmentally-friendly hotels through the incorporation of renewable energy technologies to achieve reduced carbon emissions.” For this I had to head to the hotel company's own website, which lists a range of measures taken to reduce the hotel's carbon footprint, including:

- heating systems which combine Combined Heat & Power, geothermal and solar panels;
- “ highly efficient micro double glazing which is 300% better than the original sash windows at eliminating draughts” - which sounds like a useful resource for historical buildings, which are often constrained by conservation requirements when it comes to energy-efficient fittings;
- “energy efficient lighting” - which I'm guessing is a fancy way of saying low-energy light bulbs;
- additional insulation on internal walls and a heat recovery system in the roof;
- a rain water recovery system to supplement water supplies;
- some members of the same hotel chain also donate leftover food to FareShare, a stunningly common-sense scheme which distributes good-quality surplus food to homeless people, helping them to access better quality food and helping to reduce the shocking amount of food wasted every day in this (and other affluent) countries.

Unfortunately the actual information on the company website seems to have been written by a PR person who doesn't know anything about the subject and has got their terminology mixed up, so they've got geothermal down as meaning 'solar panels,' which doesn't do a great amount for its credibility. But it does look like this particular hotel is going beyond the pitiful and very annoying stickers that seem to have multiplied across many hotels, which point out how much water, heat and detergent is wasted in hotel laundries across the world by washing towels that have only been used once, and urging guests to only leave towels on the floor if they actively need them washing again. OK, fair enough on its own, but said sticker does not make a 'green hotel'. I hope that things have progressed since I wrote a report on the hotel sector for Ethical Consumer magazine in 2007, but at that time most hotel chains seemed to think that that was their environmental responsibilities covered...

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