About Us | Contact Us

What it’s like to stay at Kauai’s first zero-waste hotel to promote sustainable tourism in Hawaii

The six-part “Green Travel” series focuses on what it means to be a sustainable traveller, how the travel industry is advancing greener initiatives, and how tourists may lessen their carbon footprint while travelling. You can click here to complete this short form if you’d want to share your experience as a source and help shape our future reporting.

KAUAI – Kauai is appropriately referred to as the Garden Isle. It is home to Mount Waialeale, known as the “wettest location on earth” and the source of the seven rivers that make up the island. The abundance of tumbling waterfalls between the mountain ridges and Kauai’s wonderfully lush scenery are fed by this network of rivers. The island of Kauai’s natural splendour is on full display in Hanalei Bay, one of the wetter, greener regions of the island where passing showers of rain are commonplace.

The 1 Hotel Hanalei Bay, Kauai’s newest hotel with a view of the bay, aims to capture this.

The goal of the open-air hotel is to meld the indoor and outside spaces seamlessly to create a sanctuary (which requires less lighting). When visitors enter the site, they are greeted by native and tropical plants, which require less water and upkeep because this is their natural habitat.

To lessen light pollution and integrate into the surroundings without attracting birds, the structure itself was painted a muted green instead of its previous brilliant white colour. Indigenous plants that can withstand drought, such pili grass, are used on green roofs to cut back on the demand for air conditioning. Even the workout center’s flooring is made of recycled rubber.

Over the course of my two nights at 1 Hotel Hanalei Bay, I just once encountered plastic. The switch to zero waste elsewhere felt rather easy. Corinne Hanson, the sustainability director for 1 Hotel, stated that thinking about waste is not something you should do while enjoying a luxurious experience.

The hotel is 1 Hotel’s flagship establishment and was designed to fully realise the hospitality company’s purpose of honouring nature and serving as a platform for sustainability and change through its opulent properties like New York, West Hollywood, and London.

What can visitors anticipate from a stay at a zero-waste hotel?

The objective is especially important for Kauai, an island that is a part of the world’s most remote archipelago and where sustainability is an urgent issue that calls for rapid action – and support from the hospitality sector. The island is serviced by a single landfill, which is rapidly reaching its capacity.

The hotel is on course to become the first TRUE Zero Waste hotel in the state, meaning 90% or more of its garbage will be diverted from landfills, in addition to being LEED-certified and 100% CarbonNeutral-certified.

For visitors, some sustainable features included:

Paper towels were absent from all public restrooms in favour of hand towels.
Toiletries in the room were wrapped in paper rather than plastic.
In the shower, there were glass dispensers with bulk shampoo and conditioner instead of those tiny plastic bottles.
Little jars of snacks were offered every day.
The eatery used linen napkins.
The to-go utensils and straws were compostable.
There were recycling and trash containers in every hotel room, and I saw composting bins all over the place.
The fact that each room has a separate tap for filtered drinking water was my favourite feature because it eliminated the need to search the hallways late at night for a water refill station.

The hotel is targeting a growing segment of tourists. According to Booking.com’s Sustainable Travel Report 2022, nearly three out of every four consumers desire to travel in a more environmentally friendly way than they did in 2021. And over 78% of individuals wish to book at least one sustainable accommodation in the upcoming year.

How wasteful are hotels really?

According to a 2019 Skift analysis, the hospitality sector heavily relies on single-use plastic since it’s affordable and readily available, even if more hotels are figuring out how to be more sustainable.

Recall your most recent hotel experience. Very likely, your room had plastic coffee cups and toiletries. You might have received a reusable water bottle to fill up while exploring the grounds.

Some industries made more progress towards sustainability than the hotel and real estate sectors, according to Hanson. “Hotels are more difficult to convert because of their established infrastructure, and there are numerous partners involved in choosing sustainable practises. You’re advancing a glacier that is quite enormous. It’s challenging to complete.

Food waste is another issue, and since food is continually being produced, it is a particularly serious issue for all-inclusive resorts or hotels with buffets. When food is thrown away, the water, energy, and other resources used to produce it are also wasted. Hawaii wastes food worth more than $1 billion annually.

When I was cleaning up my cafe table after breakfast (the one time I did use plastic), I wasn’t sure what to put in the recycling bin or the garbage. It would have been beneficial to have established some rules. Staff will accurately sort your garbage on the back end even if you make a mistake.

For an island chain like Hawaii, food has a close relationship to sustainability. Hawaii imports almost 90% of its food, which is expensive and requires energy to transport. Local food uses less energy to get to your plate and supports Hawaii’s farmers and economy. 1 Hotel Hanalei Bay purchases 50% of its protein and 95% of its food locally, right down to the rice grains, which come from Jerry’s Rice Farm in Kauai.

Towards the end of my stay, I was satisfied with the fact that I generated little to no garbage and that the hotel had made it so simple to do so.

According to Hanson, 1 Hotel hopes to serve as a “resource for other” hotels so they may put more sustainable practises into place.

How can you tell if your hotel is waste-free?

According to Hanson, a facility must divert 90% or more of its total waste into secondary streams for a period of 12 months in order to become TRUE Zero Waste certified. Although it just opened, 1 Hotel Hanalei Bay won’t be certified until at least February 2024, but it is on schedule.

Teams carefully collaborated with neighbourhood associations, small companies, and even Native Hawaiian intelligence to determine what best matches Kauai’s resources and needs.

If we hadn’t established the appropriate partnerships, this would not have been conceivable, according to Hanson.

Leave a Comment