Visitors choosing between hotels in Hong Kong already have plenty to consider. But there is now one extra factor to think about. The Regal iClub Hotel in Wan Chai, which opened earlier this year, is the city's first carbon-neutral hotel and, as such, is aiming to promote environmental awareness and set an example for the industry. "Offering customers a carbon-neutral stay is in line with our goal of providing the best contemporary services and [showing that] we care for the well-being of the planet," says Yoland Perras, the hotel's general manager.
The scheme was put together with technical support and advice from specialist consultant Carbon Care Asia (CCA). Its team of auditors and management experts came up with recommendations to measure, reduce and offset the hotel's carbon footprint. The starting point was to look at direct and indirect emissions relating to the use of gas, electricity and other fuels, which typically account for 70 to 80 per cent of the total. A third phase of the preliminary study considered the impact of activities including waste disposal, water consumption, and even how staff commute to work.
"We took the most professional path by calculating our carbon footprint according to internationally accepted standards," Perras says.
The assessment and measurement was based on the ISO 14064 standard and the Greenhouse Gas Protocol.
"It took several days for us to conduct the initial site visit and inspection," says Trini Leung, CCA's executive director. "We work with the client to define the boundaries and scope of the project and collect operational data for calculation and assessment."
A carbon audit is usually based on information for a full year's operating cycle, but there is flexibility to use best estimate figures in the case of newer facilities. Once calculations are complete, the next step is to implement recommendations and reduce emissions through various energy-saving measures.
"Most clients can reduce by more than 10 per cent almost immediately," Leung says.
But the real crux of the scheme is the offset mechanism. In the hotel's case, this involves the purchase of "certified emission reduction" carbon credits linked to a reforestation project in Sichuan province. The project is registered and validated under the UN's Clean Development Mechanism and received the necessary certification last year. The price paid for the offset varies by project and standard, but here it is HK$160 per tonne of carbon emissions.
"We have the worldwide marketing rights," Leung says. "Clients pay us and we deal directly with the owner, with revenues going to promotion and project development costs."
She adds that pairing clients with offset schemes is simple. The choice of certified projects includes an increasing number of wind, hydropower and greening initiatives, and companies can decide whether to pay monthly or yearly.
Hotel hopes to inspire action for carbon reduction among the wider community
Organising information leaflets and awareness seminars to explain principles to guests and the general public
Fully involving employees in support of the initiative