Rasa Sayang goes another shade greener

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Cementing its position further as champion of the environment, the award-winning Rasa Sayang Resort & Spa adds another notch to its green belt by opening a bottling plant.

“Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) is our way of life,” stated Elaine Yue, general manager of Shangri-La’s Rasa Sayang Resort & Spa, Penang, when asked about their latest green initiative. “The resort is glad to be able to achieve positive results in all the 'green' projects that we have planned, including the bottling plant.”

As the first resort in Penang to be accorded a bottling license, the plant will serve both Shangri-La’s Rasa Sayang Resort & Spa, as well as its sister property, Golden Sands Resort just next door. (Rasa Sayang’s sister properties in Sabah, Tanjung Aru Resort and Rasa Ria Resort, were the first in the country to do this.)

Certainly when it comes to environmental issues, time is of the essence and though most conservation efforts are rather retrospective in nature, any attempt at reducing carbon emission is better late than never.

Sustainable steps

Washing and sterilising.

Filling water.

As forerunners in adopting and implementing environmentally friendly measures within the hospitality industry, the Shangri-La property has been observing green practices in its daily operations since the mid 1990s.

“We started off by placing a card in the rooms to give guests the option of changing their towels and linens every day or opting to go green and changing both items less during their stay with us,” said CSR executive Amelia Lim. “We encourage guests to recycle their bed sheets and towels in guestrooms to support water conservation.”

With water consumption reaching 45,000m³ during high room occupancy periods, water conservation has always been a priority with the resort. “Our engineering team and CSR executives offset (waste) by running an in-house water-saving campaign among the staff,” Lim added. "We have also implemented the usage of rain sensors for garden-watering purposes since 2010. When there is rain, our garden sprinklers will stop.”

Sealing.

Tagging date.

Finished bottle.

At last count, there were over 100 Best Practices for management and employees, with the resort’s management and staff continuously evaluating and exploring new techniques that can be adapted to follow a path of ecological preservation.

“We are currently using heat produced by chillers to heat water for the guestrooms at our resorts. We also use insulated pipes to reduce energy consumption at the resort,” Lim revealed. These heat pumps are also used to generate cold air for certain areas in the back office, which helps to reduce further energy consumption.

Leading by example

As encouraging as the hotel’s practices may be, it is still just one hotel. Will other hotels follow Rasa Sayang’s example? Yue certainly hopes so. “We hope our projects will influence other hotels to do the same to help save the environment. We inspire others to operate in a sustainable manner.” So far, Rasa Sayang says it has already received inquiries from hotels in other states that are keen to set up similar facilities.

This begs the question: Why would a hotel or resort – whose main function is to provide comfortable lodgings, meals and leisure services for travellers – deem it necessary to install a bottling plant on their premises?

“Having one on our premises will help reduce transportation and delivery costs as we utilise our own space and labour to man the plant,” Yue explained. The answer may sound like a simple logistic and cost effective measure but the immediate respite to the environment is quite astounding.

These two hotels lying on the popular tourist stretch of Batu Feringghi are aiming to eliminate 800,000 plastic bottles (4,708kg) that are sent for recycling every year. (They, as well as fellow sister hotel Traders Hotel in George Town, consume some 1.65 million plastic bottles of mineral water a year.) The plastic bottles will be replaced with 1-litre glass bottles with water sourced from the Penang Water Supply Corporation. Two bottles (one still water, one carbonated) will be placed in each resort room for the guests’ daily consumption throughout their stay.

Message in a bottle

But it was not an easy venture to begin with. The project was more than two years in the making, and the hotel needed to overcome several hurdles, mainly licensing and compliance issues. The new bottling facility had to be set up in accordance with the Ministry of Health’s Packaged Drinking Water licensing requirements and in compliance with the Food Hygiene Regulations 2009.

“In Malaysia, both packaged mineral water and drinking water for commercial use require a license before production,” clarified Area Hygiene & Sanitation manager, Khoh Soo Oon. “A license number will be issued once approved and it should be displayed on each bottle.”

On the other hand, the Food Hygiene Regulations 2009 is applicable to food industries, including restaurants and hawker stalls. It states all the facility requirements; from food handlers up till finished products. “Since Rasa Sayang Resort is a HAACP certified resort, all things are covered,” Khoh confirmed.

The machinery, which was brought in from the UK, is straightforward enough with its three-step system: filter, sterilise and fill. It’s not necessarily the most practical system though, as the bottles still need to be filled manually. But that’s okay. “In the long run,” Khoh stressed, “we are saving the Earth and protecting future generations.” The bottles are also provided by the same supplier from the UK.

Recognised efforts

Adding to its collection of accolades and awards, Shangri-La’s Rasa Sayang Resort & Spa was bestowed the Asean Green Hotel Award 2012-2014 for the fourth consecutive year at the Asean Tourism Forum in Manado, Indonesia earlier this year. The resort also boasts an ISO 14001 certification for best environmental practices.

Being a leader in corporate citizenship and sustainable development while having your diverse stakeholders’ best interests in mind can be a difficult line to toe. But as Lim said, “We do not really face challenges per se as CSR is part of our corporate identity. As managers, we have to set an example and ensure that everyone remains passionate and committed to CSR.”

Eleanor Lopez is a freelance writer and activist at heart.



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