July 14, 2010

Guests Help Copenhagen Hotel Go Green

A hotel in Copenhagen is offering guests perks for using its stationary bikes in order to help produce the building's energy.

Ruediger Spaetel, while staying at the Copenhagen Crowne Plaza hotel on a business trip from Munich, told AFP that curiosity led him to mount one of the two bikes parked in the hotel lobby after checking in.

"A bit more sweat and I'll have pedaled enough for a free meal!" Spaetel told AFP.

The energy produced by the pedaling guests is stocked in a battery before being injected into the hotel's power supply.

"This allows us to help reduce our carbon footprint in a healthy way," he tells AFP, adding that he is thrilled by the concept.

The hotel brands itself as "100 percent green," and uses 12 minutes of its guests' sweat to help produce 10 watt-hours of electricity.  This much electricity earns a guest a $33 dollar voucher for the hotel restaurant.

Frederikke Toemmergaard, communication director for the hotel, estimates that the establishment has offered a free lunch or dinner to over 200 guests since the one-year experiment started in April.

The hotel opened last November, just in time for the UN Climate summit hosted in Copenhagen.

The Crowne's Plaza's concrete and steel tower is covered in about 1,500 solar panels that produce 170,000 kilowatt-hours of electricity, which is enough to power 55 households.

In the basement of the 232-feet skyscraper there is a geothermal well that covers the hotel's heating and air-conditioning needs, helping to cut its energy bill by about 90 percent.

In each of the 366 rooms, personal care accessories are biodegradable, taps are equipped with water-saving devices and all light bulbs are low-energy.

However, that does not mean that the Intercontinental chain's first "all-eco" hotel has clients roughing it.

"Everything was thought out with technologies respectful of the environment, without sacrificing quality, comfort, and the feeling of being at a four-star hotel," spokeswoman Toemmergaard insists.

Everything from the wall coverings to the feet of the design furniture are made from recycled materials and are guaranteed not to contain chemical products, while the computers have power-saving screens.

The guests who redeem their electricity-production vouchers dine on organic food, and the high-tech kitchen grinds all its garbage and sends it to a local biogas center in order to be transformed into fuel.

Toemmergaard said that the eco-paradise was not an easy sell to the slightly skeptical Intercontinental chain.

"Often, when people think environmentally friendly, they think of smaller organic products that are less appealing than traditional offerings," she says, adding that there had been a real fight "to convince the chain we had made the right choice."

Toemmergaard says that in the end, the chain's owners agreed to carry the project through because they believed Copenhagen needed a hotel that reflected its green ambitions.

She said that the bicycle-filled capital is "one of the world's showcases for the environment and quality of life and wants to become the first emission-free capital in 2025, should have a hotel that fits that image."

The carbon-dioxide neutral hotel cost about $156 million to build and is about five percent more expensive to run than a normal hotel.  However, the owners expect to make up the difference.

Toemmergaard says "In five or six years we will have a return on our investment that shows that it pays to make an effort for the environment."

Oliver Tham, the chief executive of Indonesian company Tanjung Lesung Waterfront Developments, is inspecting the stationary bikes.

He says he heard about the hotel back home and checked in because he was curious what a hotel committed to fighting climate change was like.

"I'd like to import the concept to Indonesia," he told AFP.

He said that it feels good "to participate in polluting Mother Earth a little less."


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