Mar 18, 2021
FOOD WASTE IS A 100-BILLION-DOLLAR PROBLEM for the hospitality industry. And from overproduction to non-composted landfill, it’s terrible for the Earth. But it’s not just the heaving buffet — and our eyes bigger than our stomachs — that are to blame. According to Winnow, an AI firm that studies and helps streamline consumption, as much as 70 percent of food waste happens before it even reaches guests’ plates.
The recently opened Capella Bangkok has decided to tackle this environmental problem, toss in some corporate social responsibility, and create a feel-good guest experience — all in one healthy meal. That’s why a recent morning saw a handful of Capella staff combing through surplus ingredients in the hotel’s kitchens. Among five of them, they prepared more than 100 servings of stir-fried noodles, fried rice and pancakes, and brought them to a stall in Sanamluang’s Klonglord community, a historic neighborhood in Bangkok, to serve lunch for residents in need.
“The whole experience was very rewarding,” said Ted Tucker, the hotel’s executive assistant manager. “Being able to reduce food waste was, of course, the goal. But after all the work, to see [people] happily take the food we’ve cooked — even coming back for seconds — made us all very excited.” Now, it’s a Capella Curates half-day meal-donation program that guests can sign up for, called Waste Not, Want Not.
The environment played a major role in the crafting of Capella Bangkok. Unlike older hotels now playing an often expensive game of catch-up — replacing electrical systems or evaluating long-time suppliers, for example — this riverside property in the City of Angels is starting their tenure with a clean slate. While it might not be an off-grid jungle-draped carbon-neutral treehouse, it serves as a good example of how urban hotels can (re)conceive of themselves from the get-go to shrink their footprint. By establishing a green ethos as a core component of their business plan, Capella has been able to apply the ‘reduce, reuse, recycle’ principle to every detail from check-in to checkout, without compromising on luxury.
Activities combining community outreach with tangible sustainability efforts are the tip of the eco-conscious iceberg at Capella. Read on to discover the many creative ways in which they are making a difference.
1) TRANSFORMING SINGLE-USE PLASTICS INTO LASTING OBJECTS
The time spent between factory and landfill feels increasingly negligible for most plastic products. Capella Bangkok is hoping to change that by turning what little single-use plastic arrives on its grounds into something that guests can appreciate for years to come. The hotel has teamed up with an international group called Precious Plastic to offer a unique on-site recycling experience. What happens? Guests sort through bottle caps, which are then chipped down, melted and molded into new forms like coasters and vases. The result? A souvenir that captures the spirit of the brand, while inspiring participants to think more about waste.
“The kids in particular love the Precious Plastic activity,” Tucker said. “I think sometimes we can be sustainable and environmentally friendly while still having fun with it as well.”
Thinking way outside the box, Capella also donates plastic cups and aluminum cans to an organization that turns plastic waste into prosthetic parts like limbs.
2) REDUCING CARBON FOOTPRINT WHILE CULTIVATING COMMUNITY
A big contributor to every hotel’s carbon footprint is the environmental cost of transportation. Capella tries to work with local suppliers as much as possible, or to use their own resources altogether.
In an increasingly popular move of even city hotels, they’ve allocated an expansive area of the ground floor to the Greenhouse, where chefs grow their own vegetables, fruits and herbs, cutting down on transportation while providing guests with fresh, daily picked food. To ensure their farming methods are correctly organic, Capella has partnered with Go-Organics — and the hotel delivers their food waste to the organization to compost at their location off-property.
It should be little surprise that nearly 100-percent of the ingredients on chef Wichian “Lek” Trirattanavatin’s Thai menu at Phra Nakhon restaurant are local, but executive chef Antony Scholtmeyer has even begun curing and crafting authentic-tasting charcuterie with domestic meats.
The hotel’s shop, which is still in the works, will also feature textiles and craftsmanship by Thai artisans to promote local traditional arts.
3) ELIMINATING PLASTIC FROM EVERY TOUCH POINT
“For us, zero plastic is the baseline,” Tucker said. Capella Bangkok will soon be rolling out a reusable water bottle (stylishly self-branded, of course) to give every guest upon check-in. You’ll be able to refill them throughout the grounds, and eventually within the neighborhood, at stations that will be mapped out on an app called ‘Refill not Landfill.’
When it comes to in-room amenities and offerings, Capella also ensures that there are no single-use plastics in sight. Their bath products come in bottles of aluminum — a material that can be endlessly recycled — and they use wooden and bamboo alternatives for toiletries such as brushes and toothbrushes, a standard that’s being adopted by many hotels today. Even the typical single-use shower cap has been replaced with a cute, high-quality, custom cap that can then be taken home and re-used.
Capella’s restaurants have also done their part by banning plastic packaging, and suppliers are required to follow a strict green policy, too. The hope is that the least amount of plastic allowed to reach the hotel grounds will have a knock-on effect on the supply chain.
4) TURNING TRASH INTO TREASURE
Some shortcuts just can’t be taken when you’re running a five-star hotel. Linens, for instance, have to be in tip-top shape, and uniforms must be crisp and clean — no exceptions. When a compromise truly can’t be made, Capella still finds a silver lining. Surplus linen, uniforms and soap are donated to foundations that distribute them to local people in need.
And when there’s an excess of raw ingredients, the team works with Scholars of Sustenance on their meal donation experience, preparing and distributing meals to low-income communities — an activity that guests can participate in. By the time check-out rolls around, guests will leave with a clear mind — and a full heart.