The operators of Phnom Penh’s FCC restaurant are going to open a boutique hotel to capitalize on the growing public consciousness of global warming by being completely carbon neutral.
Anthony Alderson, general manager of the FCC, said the 16-room Quay Hotel, which will open on Sisowath Quay in October, was not initially meant to be an experiment in environmentally friendly accommodation.
“We started looking at sustainable power because the price of power is so high in Cambodia and it’s not yet reliable enough,” Alderson said.
The drive to cut electricity costs put Alderson’s company, Food and Beverage Services, in touch with the French NGO Geres, which conducts projects geared at reducing carbon emissions, and the project soon became more extensive.
With Geres’ assistance, the firm began to consider the possibility of creating a hotel that could attract tourists by providing a modern, carbon neutral haven in the midst of Phnom Penh, Alderson said.
“The [hospitality] industry is going to move this way anyway; we’re just trying to get ahead of everyone,” he added. Rooms at the Quay hotel are slated to cost between $80 and $150 per night.
Global warming is attributed to the release of carbon-based gases into the atmosphere, particularly carbon dioxide and methane. Those gases essentially create a blanket in the atmosphere that retains solar heat reflected by the earth.
To go carbon neutral, an institution or individual needs to first calculate how much carbon they release into the atmosphere on a regular basis—this would include everything from using electricity, to driving a vehicle, to cooking meals over an open flame.
The next step is to work to reduce emissions as much as possible, say by walking instead of driving. The final step is to offset those emissions you cannot reduce further by buying carbon credits, which are sold by organizations who are cutting emissions of their own.
Alderson said that in order to reduce the hotel’s carbon footprint he had Geres perform an audit of the hotel’s emissions.
“Your audit goes right down to your rubbish bin…how your water is treated,” he said, adding that it also takes into account the transport of products and business travel of staff.
As an example, he noted that his firm’s restaurants serve wine imported from Spain, so the diesel used by the cargo ship carrying the wine needs to be taken into consideration.
In order to cut emissions at the Quay, solar panels were installed on the roof to heat the hotel’s water and more efficient air conditioners have been installed, Alderson said. The installation of these and other emission reducing equipment has increased the cost of building the hotel by about five times per room and pushed back the opening by months, he said.
“It’s not necessarily a profit issue, its an environmental issue,” Alderson said, adding that it is hoped that as a result of spending more at the outset of the hotel’s construction the Quay should be able to cut around 20 percent off its monthly electricity bill.
But now matter how much one tries to go completely carbon neutral, it is sometimes impossible to do so on one’s own. To go that last part of the way one has to purchase carbon credits.
In Food and Beverage Services’ case, they are purchasing their credits from Geres, to ensure that the money spent on the credits stays in Cambodia, Alderson said.
He added that the hotel will also give guests the option of purchasing credits if they want to offset their carbon usage during their stay in Cambodia.
An institution can earn carbon credits by having an independent auditor determine the extent of its carbon emissions and how it differs from “business as usual”—a state which is also determined by an auditor. A credit is earned for every ton of carbon dioxide not released into the atmosphere.
That credit can then be sold to offset the emissions of companies or individuals who cannot reduce their emissions as far as they would like, or are required by law to do so.
Kimberley Buss, a carbon offset analyst with Geres, said her NGO has earned thousands of credits because of its “New Lao Stove Project”-a stove that uses 30 percent less charcoal than typical models and has 20,000 users around the country. The NGO was determined in May to have prevented the release of 139,000 tons of carbon dioxide into the air.
Samuel Bryan, a technology analyst for Geres, said that the NGO sells its credits for $10 to $20 depending on the volume purchased. The proceeds of the sales go back into promoting the stove project. He added that Geres is the only entity in Cambodia that currently has carbon credits for sale.
Alderson and Geres said they hope that the Quay will also serve as a pilot for a rating system to let travelers know how devoted a hotel is to combating global warming. The idea is to set up a system like the “stars” that are currently used to rate how luxurious hotels are, only in this system they will use leaves.
Buss said that Geres has a draft methodology for the hotel rating system drawn up and hopes to have it ready by the time the Quay opens.
She added that even though the rating system is still in development, word of it has spread and hotels from Vietnam and Singapore have already been making inquiries.