At Victoria’s Parkside Hotel & Spa, every process, product, supplier and team member is connected to their culture of sustainability – from beehives and EV chargers to multi-stream recycling and staff engagement. To take it all in, you have to start in the basement supply closet and worked your way up to the roof. And that’s just where our tour with Trina White, General Manager of Parkside, took us.
In the basement, Trina guided us to the laundry facilities and supply rooms. She explained that shelters and community centres can often take linen donations when in good repair, but that it still leaves much waste headed for a landfill. “There’s a lot of other things they won’t take,” she says, turning to a door rack filled with white fabric bags. “A hotel has to replace their shower curtains probably every two years, so what are you doing with that?” Trina asked. At Parkside, a seamstress transforms the old waffle-print shower curtains and bed linens into tote bags. “Why not find new homes and new lives for it?”
Moving on through the basement, Trina paused at a small pile of brown leather chairs, stacked against a wall. “We’re refurbishing the hotel, so we just took out 550 dining room chairs,” she explained. “This is all we have left, staff chairs. Everything else was given a new home.” During the renovations, an industry partner had connected Trina to a publically run seniors facility. “They actually had five seniors centres with game rooms and common areas, so they took all of it. Their furniture was 20 years old and falling apart.”
We passed by a bank of EV charging spots, and approached a set of double doors, Trina smiled, “We call it the Recycling Room, not the Garbage Room.” Inside, a large pile of beer bottles, pop cans, and other beverage containers leaned against a wall. This seemed out of place for a hotel with no food service area. “This is just what the guests bring in,” she explained. “We donate 100% of our bottle refunds to Our Place,” an inner-city community centre serving Greater Victoria’s most vulnerable citizens. “In the last year and a half to two years, we’ve donated approximately $25,000 to them in cash, just from our bottles.”
The rest of the room is a well-organized recycling system, for everything from soft plastics and cardboard to metal and organic waste. Clear and descriptive signage guides the process, and it’s an integral part of Parkside’s staff training. “We are actually at about 78-79% of all our waste being diverted from landfill now.”
On the floors above, they’re making the housekeeping carts plastic-free. “If you look at a traditional housekeeping cart, they are full of plastic,” Trina explained. “They’re full of one-time-use products, little bottles for the rooms, …plastic bags to put garbage in. We used to take clean recycling from guestrooms and put it in plastic bags, and then we’d dispose of the plastic bags.” But as reusable, fabric options replace plastic bags, and tiny bottles of shampoo are done away with, Parkside moves closer to its goal.
The rooms themselves are AC-free. Lots of open windows, thermal insulation drapes, and special heat-reflective glass keep the rooms at the optimal temperature. Beautifully mounted dispenser bottles in bathrooms remove the need for single-use mini bottles. And the coffee station is an excellent example of a sustainable supply chain.
“We didn’t want to do the Keurig thing; we didn’t want to have that waste,” Trina said as she held up a single serving coffee packet. “So, I worked with my supplier, who’s great, and told him that I wanted something totally compostable, and they worked their networks, and that’s exactly what we have now. Tea, too.”
She points to the dual-cup coffee brewer. “Even our appliances like this, we used to have one that just kept breaking. But, again, I worked with my supplier, and we were able to get these in. They’ll last much, much longer, and create less waste in the long-run.”
There are a few notable features of the roof at the Parkside Hotel. The first you notice is the beehives. “We have two beehives with about 10,000 bees,” Trina explained as we headed towards the green hives. “And under here,” she paused and gestured to the patio stones, “we collect rainwater into our grey-water system.” The remaining rooftops at Parkside all feature either a solar-reflective white roof or a rooftop garden.
On our way down, Trina spoke about connecting the culture of sustainability to team members’ work and personal lives. “We just had a workshop this morning, and we had about 15 to 17 team members come. And they all made pledges towards sustainability. Like, Jenna, she wants to walk to work more, chat with more clients about our green practices,” Trina read from her bulletin.
“Todd, he cycles to work and has actually started growing his own food at home in his apartment. Janelle, she wants us to get electronic banquet signs outside of our meeting rooms to cut down on paper. At home, she’s focusing on using less plastic and composting more. Emily purchased her first carbon offset for her last vacation,” she continued. “These are the types of things we do to engage staff inside and outside of work. These are the conversations we’re having.”