A back-of-the-house tour is one of the most interesting parts of my job, but the tour I took of The Breakers Palm Beach and its off-site facilities could qualify as eco-tourism.
I had the opportunity to hear about the hotel’s eco-minded initiatives from the man behind many of the programs: Richard Hawkins, director of materials management. While the list of green-minded changes at the hotel is long, I’ve outlined the ones I saw first-hand.
|Paper collection and cardboard baler on site.
Several of the recycling initiatives are housed in the delivery area, where you can see the following not-so-glamorous but significant processes:
-The collection of aluminum, plastic and glass for recycling.
-Baling cardboard so it can be hauled and sold.
-The collection of office paper to be sold for newspaper manufacturing.
-The containment of waste cooking oil to be sold to make biodiesel fuel.
“We keep everything as local as possible,” Hawkins said, noting many local companies buy back these materials.
This philosophy also applies to the hotel’s landscaping and purchasing approaches.
Native drought-tolerant vegetation has replaced more exotic flora. Many trees had fallen after storms made the process somewhat quicker, Hawkins said.
|The organic garden is a joint effort of The Breakers' chefs, landscapers and procurement staff.
An on-site organic herb and vegetable garden, established in 2007 as an expansion of the existing garden, provides the hotel’s restaurants with fresh organic produce. It’s a 1,000-square-foot laboratory of natural process fertilization methods.
Given the resort is 140 acres of Palm Beach island, it takes a vehicle to see some of the most significant initiatives that will never be seen by guests. The reverse-osmosis plant and 1,100-foot-deep well treats unusable salt water to be used for irrigation of The Ocean Golf Course. The system can produce 500,000 gallons per day.
In mid-July, the area was in the midst of six-month drought.
“It gets worse every year,” Hawkins said.
|The composter is temporarily stationed at the groundskeeping work area.
Perhaps the crown jewel of the hotel’s sustainability program is an aerobic composter, which is housed in the same corner as the water treatment facility. The composter, a trial model rented with a grant from the Environmental Protection Agency given to the South Dade Soil & Water Conservation District, produces an organic sterile soil amendment in six days with the help of a bacteria additive. The test container holds about three yards of food waste, and the hotel is outputting about four yards of product a week. The material can fetch about US$17 a yard, and it also eliminates waste disposal costs and reduces the cost of buying soil amendments.
Fifty percent of the hotel’s waste is from food production, Hawkins said. The Breakers likely will purchase a larger, permanent composter in the future, he said.
To learn more about the hotel’s environmental initiatives, visit www.thebreakers.com/floridagreenlodging.
Hawkins also co-founded Localecopia, an independent non-profit organization that encourages local sustainable business and food sourcing by serving as a “matchmaker” between food producers and chefs, restaurateurs and hospitality operators.