Sigiriya - The next time you walk into Hotel Sigiriya at the foot of the famous rock in Dambulla don’t be surprised to find ‘Kalu Gona’, the bull grazing in the garden and munching away.
To the hotel this is the ‘live’ lawn mover that keeps the grass in check, saving on fuel costs and thus protecting the environment from obnoxious fumes (however small it may be).
“We have re-positioned the 80-room property to an exclusive green hotel,” says Abbas Esufally, Group Director at Hemas Group handling hotels and leisure. “We wanted to make it unique and brought in environmental specialist Dr Sriyani Miththapala to come up with a plan to make it environmental friendly, using a lot of clean energy in the process,” he told the Business Times in Colombo.
Indeed the hotel, 150 km north of Colombo, is developing systems where ultimately all its energy or the most part of it would come non-fossil fuels or renewable sources.
At the hotel, its Manager Lakshita Wegodapola takes a Business Times reporter around the property, proudly showing the various ways the hotel has contributed in its own, small effort to reduce the carbon footprint and minimise greenhouse gases.
Guests walking along the airy and open corridors of the lobby will notice the colour-coded switches or energy-savings bulbs that contribute to this effort. Solar energy is used for heating water in the toilets while hotel stewards serve straw-less drinks.
Every attempt has been made to reduce plastic use and waste. The laundry cart is colour coded, fresh flowers and natural oils are used as air freshener and margosa oil as a natural pesticide.
The hotel shop doesn’t sell products from endangered species. Guests can have a fresh meal while strolling through the organic garden where vegetables and greens are instally plucked and cooked or served fresh.
Says Mr Esufally, “We changed the hardware and the software at the hotel. The latter is most difficult as hardware is easy: you invest and change the structure. But software means changing staff attitudes – think green which (in today’s context) makes more commercial sense.”
Water is recycled for use in the garden. Mr Wegodapola walks towards a boiler in the 7-acre, nicely landscaped property, saying that the diesel-fuelled boiler was transformed into a gassifier, bringing down costs by 50 %, with the use of fuelwood.
He said the waste in the kitchen is sent to the piggery. Glass bottles are used as the hotel shuns plastic bottles – again to minimize the use of plastics. Just past the lobby and the public lounge is the Eco Centre where guests can relax on the ground filled with comfortable cushions, read a book on birds, animals or nature, listen to some music or listen to an expert talk on eco issues. “This is the first bird friendly hotel certified by the Field Ornithology Group,” Mr Wegodapola says, walking around the well-lit, circular room. The hotel has won many local and international environmental awards and its Corporate Social Responsibility initiatives extend to helping a nearby village and two schools.
British folk singer Astrid Brook, who was hosted by the hotel during her frequent visits to Sri Lanka to play at the Country Roads charity concerts for needy children, visited kids at the hotel-supported, Diyakepilla village school and was enthralled by the children and the efforts by the hotel to help in their education.
Ms Brook is returning to Sri Lanka again for this year’s Country Roads concert on February 21.
Mr Wegodapitiya says the hotel is also examining the possibility of producing biogas from waste and rainwater harvesting.
“With biogas we could use the energy for the kitchen and considerably save on gas cylinders,” he said.
In Colombo, Mr Esufally said brand positioning of the property is to promote its eco-friendly and environmental sustenance initiatives. “We want to show visitors and outside world that we have an unique, unmatched green product,” he said.