Green Thinking By The Sea
Brave New Worlds
Green Thinking By The Sea
Cover: Where we live by Heike Roesel www.heikeroesel.co.uk
The hotel's living roof, courtesy of The Scarlet
Sophie Poklewski Koziell reviews a Cornish hotel that balances luxury and comfort with sustainable and ecological principles.
If and when you visit the Scarlet Hotel at Mawgan Porth, on the Atlantic coast of Cornwall, you will know that you are walking into the undiluted essence of an intensely realised dream. The hotel was born from the imagination of three sisters whose parents ran the Bedruthan Hotel. The sisters – Rebecca, Emma and Debbie Wakefield – were influenced and inspired by their parents’ ecological passion and innovative approach to hospitality, and decided to develop it by setting up a sister hotel. They found a dilapidated hotel on a site close by, and began some deep thinking.
Their dream was to build a luxury hotel with environmental sustainability and ecological principles at its core. For most people the words ‘luxury’ and ‘ecological’ do not go hand in hand: ‘luxury’ brings to mind excess, waste and hedonism. Conversely, for others the idea of an ecological holiday would certainly not include a luxury hotel. However, the creators of the Scarlet stepped outside the usual parameters of environmental debate, and as a result the hotel is inspirational on many levels.
First of all, the nuts and bolts: all of the hotel’s internals and hardwiring have been designed and are continually scrutinised in order to optimise resource use. For instance, the water used in the hotel is passed through aerators, to reduce consumption. The ‘grey’ water subsequently goes through a thorough filtration process before it is used to flush the loos. Towels are made from organic, unbleached cotton and then upcycled and reinvented at the end of their working life by the hotel’s seamstress. Guests’ rubbish is separated and recycled, with close attention to detail – for instance, guests are encouraged to take home the handmade soap provided in the bathrooms, but if they leave it behind it is used as a stain remover in the hotel laundry. The slippers provided (made from recycled plastic bottles) are washed and reused.
Rainwater is collected in an underground tank to water the garden, hose down dirty wellies and wash wetsuits and cars. Rainwater also feeds the outside pool – a deep pond surrounded by a landscaped area of rocks and vegetation, with a reed-bed system that cleans the water. This pool is unheated – and bracing – but the hotel also has a warm indoor pool for a more contemplative swim. Heat for the indoor pool is derived from the solar panels installed on the car park roof, topped up with energy from the biomass boiler.
All the bedrooms have thermostats so that guests can adjust the underfloor heating. The stale air passes through a complex heat exchanger, which helps to heat up incoming fresh air so that there is minimal heat loss. In addition, most of the lighting in the hotel is photo-sensitive and automatically dims or brightens depending on the external conditions.
Interestingly, none of these internal ecological features are bragged about within the hotel. But it is not due to lack of pride, or self-consciousness, for behind the scenes, in the staff quarters, the six flights of stairs from the basement to the top floor are covered wall-to-wall with certificates and awards recognising the hotel’s environmental and sustainability credentials, as well as its hospitality and service culture and the quality and originality of its locally sourced menu.
The prevailing atmosphere of calm at the hotel suggests that concern for wellbeing and relaxation is taken seriously. And although the hotel is deeply cosseting for the visitor, I found its approach simple and understated. When you dig a little into the staff culture, training and development this is not surprising. The staff are passionate about environmental issues, and many of them came to work for the hotel specifically because of its accolades. Others have become committed and passionate about ecology and hospitality through their work. Training is year-round and thoroughly embedded, and the philosophy of the hotel is rolled out way beyond the traditional boundaries of work. Staff are invested in, and the returns are evident.
The Scarlet is a treat, and one well worth saving for. But if none of this has convinced you, just go for the view. The hotel’s design has ensured that every guest room looks out to the west. Stretching your eyes over the wide expanse of Mawgan Porth beach, across the unbridled sea to the horizon, then up to the ever-changing sky brings immense perspective – regardless of whether there’s a howling gale, or a calm summer breeze.
For more information about the Scarlet Hotel visit: www.scarlethotel.co.uk