Hotels & Resorts

How This Hotel Helped the Hawaii of China Get a Whole Lot Greener

If you haven’t heard of 1 Hotels, get your green flags waving. This extra-eco, uber-luxury brand has just opened in Hainan, China.

By Uracha Chaiyapinunt

Mar 31, 2021

IN THE SUMMER OF 2020, U.S.-BASED ECO-LUXE hotel group 1 Hotels quietly launched their first property in Asia. Like its 1 Hotel predecessors in Miami, New York, Los Angeles and Cabo, 1 Hotel Haitang Bay is committed to providing guests with a five-star resort experience centered around sustainability. But this one is in Hainan, and when it opened last May it was to usher in a brand-new breed of hotel guests to the island known as the Hawaii of China: the post-lockdown local. For staycation-hungry, eco-conscious travelers—armed with sanitizer in one hand and a Stella McCartney vegan leather tote in the other—the launch of this luxury haven was a lockdown-induced fever dream come true.

1 Hotel Haitang Bay boasts many charms, but its location is definitely one to WhatsApp home about, with its pristine beaches and activity-based amusements that include hiking trails, world-class golf courses and nascent surf scene just off the coast of southern China. In a burgeoning sea (teehee) of enticing beachfront accommodations, 1 Hotel Haitang Bay’s unique brand positioning sets the property apart. Even as the first sustainable hotel to arrive on Hainan’s golden shores, 1 Hotel Haitang Bay does not sacrifice extravagance for eco-friendliness, with impressive amenities such as seven dining venues, five swimming pools, a natural farm and a Sky Deck.

It goes without saying that going green in a billion-dollar industry with a reputation for waste requires much more than just ridding the grounds of virgin plastic. 1 Hotel Haitang Bay was designed to be an extension of the land—borrowing from its surroundings, rather than taking them away. From the very beginning, the hotel architecture was designed to be as eco-conscious as possible. Here are some examples:

  • Skylights and clerestory windows allow for maximum daylight and minimum artificial light
  • Vertical landscaping and trellising provide much-needed shade
  • Natural ventilation systems take advantage of the sea breeze in key areas like guest corridors and elevator lobbies
  • All building materials were sourced within an 800-kilometer radius of the site to reduce transport energy
  • Environmentally friendly, low-VOC materials were used for the interior decor
  • More than 75 percent of construction waste was deposited at recycling centers

This level of consideration is seen in every aspect of the hotel down to where the leftovers from your cocktail—watermelon rinds and pineapple pulp—end up. Answer: either repurposed and incorporated into drinks, composted, or used to feed the local farms’ livestock. In the case of 1 Hotel Haitang Bay, what goes around really does come back around.

Of course, those who know 1 Hotels wouldn’t expect anything less from them. Launched in 2015, the group helmed by veteran hospitality leader Barry Sternlicht, famous for developing brands like St. Regis and the W Hotels, made headlines for promoting the then-somewhat-novel concept of a sustainability-first hotel. CEO Arash Azarbarzin notes how rapidly the industry mentality has changed since 1 Hotel South Beach opened six years ago, when there was only one sustainable mattress company in the U.S.

Projects under 1 Hotels show a similar formula: careful planning to minimize impact right from the very start. All hotels use mostly regional, reclaimed or repurposed materials for construction, and try to incorporate biophilic design, with greenery in the grounds through interior and decor—floor-to-ceiling green lobby wall, living mosses and on-site herb garden and local farm.

The eco-driven mission leads to some fun and unique guest experiences. For example, West Hollywood’s rooms feature chalkboards instead of notepads and Central Park has a five-minute shower timer to gently encourage mindful water usage. Knowing that education and awareness are the most important parts of the green movement, 1 Hotels also has developed Seedlings, their cooler version of a daycare center for junior guests. Activities offered through the program—nature walks, tree planting, seashell art and so on—aim to bring children closer to nature while teaching them about the importance of taking care of the world now.

“Our chairman Barry Sternlicht founded 1 Hotels because he wanted to capture the beauty of nature in a hotel and commit to safeguarding it as best we could—a responsibility that he believes we all share,” Azarbarzin told me. “Our guiding principle is that it’s 1 World and we see 1 as more than a hotel; it’s a platform for change. We know the future of the world and the future of hospitality are intertwined.”

For 1 Hotels, all of this is just the tip of the hopefully-shrinking-less-rapidly iceberg. 1 Hotel Haitang Bay marks the beginning of an international conquest, as they look to expand their ethos to, Azarbarzin shared, London, Melbourne, Kauai, Paris and Toronto. For our part, we’re hoping for another Asian destination, too.

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