Behind the Green is all about giving you more insight into the places we feature. Our interviews reveal what happens behind the scenes, tells the stories of the people on the ground, exposes the challenges they face, as well as the communities they impact; essentially the bits you don’t usually hear.
Meet Michael the General Manager of Valsana Hotel & Appartements, who has worked in the Swiss mountains for over 12 years. He runs the hotel together with his wife and loves to go cross country skiing with his 2 energetic kids to enjoy the great outdoors!
Learn more about Valsana Hotel here >
Tell us about the founders of Valsana… Was their vision always to be an eco hotel or did this evolve overtime?“The hotel was originally bought in 1985 by the Tschuggen Hotel Group, back then it didn’t have an eco-approach. In 2015, Tschuggen Hotel Group decided that after more than 100 years, a complete renovation of the hotels’ infrastructure was the most economic solution and the new Valsana was built. The grandchild of the founder of Tschuggen Hotel Group was instrumental in the eco approach we see at Valsana. He wanted to build something new, modern and sustainable as he himself is very passionate about sustainability in his everyday life and believes that sustainable tourism is the future of the hospitality industry. This is how the vision evolved
What green initiative are you most proud of implementing there? And why?“The ice battery of course. It is completely unique and you cannot find it as a source of heating in any other European hotel. It was one of our engineers who came up with the idea. Our Spa and also the supermarket under the hotel produce a lot of waste heat. The ice battery collects this heat and utilises it in combination with the energy of our geothermal probes. The hotel runs on 98% recycled energy using this smart technology so we are very proud of this.”
What would you do differently if you could start over again with Valsana?“There is no major thing we would change. It is better to see it as an on-going process instead of a destination to arrive at, it is always evolving. We continually try new things and ideas, sometimes we fail, then we learn and try again.”
How do you engage guests in being eco-friendly and make them feel part of your efforts there?“What is most important for us is communication with our guests. We inform them personally, but also via the iPads in our rooms and suites. On a regular basis, we do guided tours through the hotel during which we also show them the ice battery. Additionally, people who choose to book directly with us instead of using OTAs (Booking.com, Expedia etc.), can choose from several “goodies”. One of them is that we plant a tree for them. Also, in our rooms, cosmetics such as shampoo or body lotion, are only available in refillable bottles, as we want to reduce single-use plastic.”
Where do you see the biggest area for improvement in making Valsana even more sustainable?“Reducing paper is key for us. We are trying our best to be 100% paperless and we are making positive steps forward all the time. However, I think it will still take another 3-5 years to be completely paperless. In the hotel industry, this mission is very difficult to complete as we continually get sent catalogues by suppliers etc. Our next step towards a paperless hotel is paperless check-in, which we’ll launch this summer.”
What in your opinion is the most challenging aspect of being an eco-friendly hotel?“It all comes down to how far guests are really willing to choose to be more eco-friendly over comfort and convenience. Will the guests take a shorter shower if we tell them that this uses less energy? Let me give some more examples: We stopped running our breakfast buffet when the hotel had less than 20 guests as it created unnecessary food waste. However, some guests didn’t like this change. Also, we have a wine list with 80% Swiss wines to provide local produce which produces less carbon emissions. However, some guests want to see more French wines on the menu. We can be innovative and bring in more green practices but the guests have to be ready for it. This is the biggest challenge.”
What is the latest green practice you have implemented in the hotel?“There are 3 very recent things.
1) We are no longer using plastic straws but offer the ones made from real straw.
2) We do not offer teabags that are packed in plastic, nor plastic pens.
3) We are working with Diversify Care on something called eco-line which is a green collection of cleaning products.”
What’s next for Valsana?“We are re-opening the hotel in June for summer. We plan to enlarge our loading stations so we can accomodate more Tesla electric cars. We are also launching our paperless check-in!”.
Find out more about Valsana Hotel & do your own green checks here.