Sustainability Showcase: Spier

In partnership with fanute hospitality solutions we bring you the fourth in a series of articles that highlight sustainable practices in the hospitality sector around the globe.

In the fourth in our series on sustainable properties, we’re looking at the Spier Estate. The historic wine estate was established in 1692, and today it’s a multi-faceted operation, with wine just one part of the business. The farm has a hotel, spa, conference facilities, numerous restaurants, and offers a range of leisure activities such as picnics, Segway tours, eagle encounters, wine tasting and an artisan studio.

The farm also rears free-roaming livestock and chickens in its pastures, without the use of antibiotics and hormones, and fruits, vegetables and vines grow without artificial fertiliser or pesticides. Extensive tracts of alien vegetation have been removed, and more than a million indigenous plants replanted. Spier also invests in people through a range of learning initiatives that empower communities to make positive social and environmental change, called Growing for Good.

Spier Hotel
Eerste River running through Spier

However, its Spier’s policies of Water and Waste management that are particularly impressive: 100% of black- and grey-water, and more than 98% of solid waste is recycled. We chatted with Spier’s Sustainability Director Heidi Newton-King to find out more about Spier’s Sustainability journey.

Spier’s current focus on sustainability came to the fore over two decades ago, when the current shareholders purchased the farm. “The trajectory on which we find ourselves… is one of innovation and thought leadership,” says Heidi Newton King, Spier’s Sustainability Director. “From inception, the leadership teams at Spier were tasked to build a business that nurtured and protected the heritage and environmental characteristics of our site whilst building a business that would be an agent for change.”

In the earlier years, Spier’s approach was project-based, but that all changed in 2003 when Spier appointed a Director of Sustainability – “A pioneering step at the time for a business of its size and industry.  His task, amongst others, was to define a set of key indicators that measure performance against financial, environmental and social criteria,” says Heidi. “Today, the operational team takes full responsibility for all these goals that are reviewed on a monthly, quarterly and annual basis.”

Heidi Newton-King

Water management is something that is taken very seriously on the property. 400 water-saving devices have been installed on showers, basins and toilets throughout its 153-room hotel, conference centre, restaurants and public spaces. Water that is used is fed through Spier’s own treatment plant: “Our commitment to conserving water dates back to 2007 when we set ourselves the goal of halving our municipal water consumption. This is constantly monitored and measured (even on a per-guest basis). We changed the way we look at waste-water; seeing this as a renewable resource which has immense value.  As such, we developed a centralised eco-friendly wastewater treatment plant, which recycles 100% of our black and grey water for re-use.”

The Spier black and grey wastewater treatment plant has the capacity to process up to 1 million litres at any time, and produces 50 million litres of clean water annually, which is used for flushing in the washrooms and to irrigate gardens and lawns on the property. At the time of installation in 2007, this treatment plant was the first of its kind in South Africa. “It combines environmentally-friendly cleansing and natural ‘healing’ techniques to bring life and energy back to the water,” explains Newton-King. After initial treatment through an activated-sludge process and in a bioreactor, the water passes through a reed bed into a yin-yang shaped pond where it is driven through a number of ‘flow forms’ before being transported to a nearby irrigation dam.

When looking at water conservation in the Spier Hotel, the sustainability focus also includes re-use opportunities and new water sources. Guests and staff are encouraged to consciously make water-wise decisions, and technical solutions such as aerators, flush buddies, waterless urinals and sensor taps have all played a part in reducing water consumption “Partnering with our guests and staff has been crucial to these conservation strategies,” says Heidi. “We have worked hard to educate our team and raise guest awareness on ways they can save water. We believe that behavioural change is key to ensuring long-term success in reducing our water footprint.”

Spier Hotel’s guests are encouraged to be sustainable in other ways as well – the Pack for a Purpose initiative encourages visitors to pack donations for local schools, libraries and retirement homes in their spare luggage space. “Sustainability is a journey and we have been privileged to learn as much from our visitors as our partners. With our visitors being able to partner with us and sort their waste or contribute to local projects through ‘pack for purpose’ we are continually challenged to improve and learn more,” says Heidi.

Tree-preneurs – one of the community projects that Spier supports
Indigenous tree seedlings from Tree-preneurs

Heidi believes that waste management is critical, and the results are impressive: From June 2016 to May 2017, just 1.75% (5 812 kg) of Spier’s solid waste – the equivalent to slightly less than 6 bakkie loads was sent to landfill. “Each section of the business sorts its waste individually, with waste storage and categories differing before it’s taken to the farm’s sorting facility and sorted a second time to make absolutely sure the waste can’t be recycled and to help us identify any new non-recyclable items in the waste stream.”

“Personally, on this journey, I have been most inspired by what we can achieve collectively,” says Heidi on what the most rewarding aspect of Spier’s sustainability journey has been for her. “Collaboration and partnerships and the opportunities these provide to achieve more collectively fuel me on a daily basis.”

Heidi’s advice for those establishments that want to embrace sustainability is for them to first focus on the context in which they operate and clarify their business intent. “Once you have all of this clear then finding the specific strategies that you would like to focus on become clearer and have a firm place in creating a business as an agent for change. One which puts more back into society, the environment and the economy than it takes out.”

How are you embracing sustainability in your establishment? We’d love to hear your stories! Send an email to sarah@augmentcreative.com and tell us more.

More about fanute

fanute is a specialist hospitality solutions company. We believe that by being innovative in our thinking and adventurous in our actions, we can provide valuable services to the market, and in just a small way, help to save our ailing planet.

We are not afraid of being first or in being the only player in a space – because we love starting with a blank piece of paper and designing our own future.

We’re obsessed with sustainability, simply, because we are all stewards of our environment – and for us this includes our beautiful land, our people and culture and our very scarce natural resources.

We help because our linen rental business drives scale in the short-term lettings industry, which means no more washing linen with domestic machines or walk-in laundromats, which consume huge amounts of water and energy.

And our near-waterless industrial laundry systems deliver meaningful savings of those same scarce resources, offering the only real innovation in laundry in over 60 years.

For more information, visit the fanute website.

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