Integral to our broad plan for a more sustainable future is our mission to eliminate single-use plastic from every one of Red Carnation Hotels. Here, our Managing Director, Jonathan Raggett and Michelle Devlin, General Manager of The Egerton House Hotel, share how we’re succeeding in our goal. Casting aside plastic straws and single-serve breakfast items is but the tip of the iceberg…

Our pledge against plastic

As a global leader in hospitality, The Red Carnation Hotel Collection believes it’s our responsibility to do everything in our power to support sustainability. Social responsibility not only champions the environment, but also makes good business sense. Guests are more likely to choose high-end hotels and restaurants with strong sustainability credentials. As part of The Travel Corporation, we are proud of the global initiative to do all we can to protect the planet.

Rolling out Red Carnation Hotels plan

We have 17 hotels at the moment, by the end of 2020 there will be 20. Our properties are located across the world and there are various local sustainability initiatives in place at each location. However, we have ensured that each is on the same track regarding single-use plastic. Our bartenders no longer mix drinks with plastic stirrers, takeaway beverages are never served in disposable plastic cups, and plastic piping bags are a thing of the past. We have removed from our hotels 30 single-use plastic items, from bin liners and water bottles to pens and toothbrushes.

We are using innovative alternatives to guarantee our signature five-star service, such as biodegradable plastic drinking straws and reusable cocktail stirrers made from glass, metal, stainless steel, and bamboo. Grab a cappuccino-to-go from any Red Carnation Hotel and it will be served in a compostable cup, with the lid made from fermented corn starch.

Gone are the days of single-use jam and butter pots. Red Carnation Hotels’ breakfast buffet has undergone a comprehensive plastic-free makeover. Our cereals and preserves are served in glass jars, while butter is presented artfully in ceramic dishes. A major undertaking, this work has been replicated in our staff areas - and it’s something that households and other hospitality providers can implement too.

Handing out plastic water bottles to guests leaving for a day excursion or going jogging is expected at five-star establishments. But we now provide glass bottles instead and guests returning from a run are invited to rehydrate with freshly squeezed juice at the bar or in their room.

All of the eggs that we use are free-range, which tells a story about the sourcing of our ingredients and our concern for animal welfare. Similarly, The English Grill at The Rubens at The Palace sources its meat from a responsible London-based butcher; enabling our chef to procure the best quality cuts while providing diners with confidence that the meat they are served has been reared in accordance with best farming practice. The largest living wall in London, comprising 10,000 herbaceous plants, has been installed at The Rubens, and we have beehives on the roof of The Chesterfield Mayfair, and a number of other properties to aid the protection of the bee population. Their delicious hand-harvested honey is served at the hotels.

Executing change

To successfully eradicate single-use plastic, the entire process is being led from the top. We believe this is the only way to make a real change, and it cannot be a half-hearted approach. Therefore, staff need to be aware of the reasons for our actions. We take great care to educate our workforce about why we’re taking these steps, so they can then confidently respond to guests’ questions and assist us in achieving our goals.

We have ‘champions’ at each Red Carnation Hotel to audit our in-house practices and ensure we are ‘walking the talk’. These champions train their colleagues, helping us to ensure our sustainability pledge is heard and understood. Moreover, we give each Red Carnation employee two paid days off per year to support a charity or community project of their choosing. It’s a provision offered by very few hospitality companies, but we believe it creates a win-win scenario: our staff feel more energised when they return to work, and it’s another way for us to give back. In an industry that’s subject to a high turnover of staff, we’ve found it to be a programme that nurtures loyalty and provides great motivation within the team.

Guests are interested to learn more and we work hard to share our story; to date their response has been overwhelmingly positive.

While some guests may prefer to have towels and bedding changed daily, guests staying for a number of nights are encouraged to reduce the number of times linens are changed and for those who choose to re-use these items, we donate £1 to charity on their behalf. In the UK, we have now raised more than £1 million for Starlight Children’s Foundation, Great Ormond Street Hospital and other nominated charities.

What the future holds

Currently, one of Red Carnation Hotels’ major priorities is getting to grips with food waste. We have recently partnered with Winnow Solutions, a waste management company who use groundbreaking AI technology, which will help assist us in identifying key waste streams. We will begin utilising their service across our hotels.

We have already trialled a system to measure food wastage at Hotel d’Angleterre in Geneva, who work with Kitro, which has proved to be successful in reducing unused food.

We have partnered with Floris, a bespoke perfumery that is committed to environmental responsibility. In the coming months, we will introduce refillable Floris decanters made entirely from 100% recycled plastic. This will enable us to remove wasteful single-use miniature toiletry bottles from our bathrooms.

Each of Red Carnation Hotels’ beautifully appointed hotels is dedicated to eliminating single-use plastic and supporting environmentally sound approaches to sustainable living.