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BIG INTERVIEW: President of 1Hotels

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1 Hotels is a collection of three hotels in the US with sustainability at its core. With an ethos and business model that is built on a drive to run greener hotels and inspire innovation for change, the group is leading the way when it comes to eco-tourism. We sat down with president Arash Azarbarzin to find out more.

1 Hotels is an extraordinary example of a hospitality business built on sustainability. Right at the very core of the collection is a ‘green’ mentality, with every innovation and decision made based on how processes and practices can be kinder on the environment.

The group comprises three hotels in the US – South Beach, Brooklyn Bridge and Central Park – with ‘1 vision’ to ensure the future of the world and the future of hospitality are one in the same. 1 Hotels sets out to be a platform to spark conversations between innovators and guests and shake up the traditional hotel industry, becoming an advocate for change and advancement.

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From energy saving and environmental design, to volunteer activities, educational initiatives and food and beverage miles, 1 Hotels strives to be sustainable across every aspect of business.

Health and human wellbeing is also a top priority for the group, from the air and water filtration systems, to biophilic design principles and the use of natural materials.

Programmes are continuously rolled out and new ways of working are created to reduce each hotel’s impact on the environment, with initiatives such as plastic reduction project and electric car activations taking effect.

This intriguing hotel model is a blueprint for the future and we were keen to find out the secrets behind the success of 1 Hotels. Arash Azarbarzin, president of 1 Hotels, details the history of the brand and how education is a key driver for change and sustainability innovation.

Can you tell me why sustainability is such a key part of the business model at 1 Hotels?

1 Hotels started off as a mission driven organisation. Barry Sternlicht, our CEO, really started with a mission of needing and wanting to make change in the world and the product that came out of that was 1 Hotels. We start with looking for local vendors, purveyors, and artisans. Sustainability means supporting our local community and our materials should represent both the supplies and the people surrounding our property. We also try to use recycled and reused materials where possible. Tools like the LEED rating system, material red lists, and other rating systems help us navigate how to select materials that align with our brand. All of our efforts require radical transparency between us and our partners.

Can you list the sustainability practices that you roll out at each hotel?

All properties are LEED certified. Each property features state-of-the-art, energy efficient heating and cooling systems and low-energy lightbulbs throughout the hotel. We give our guests access to Tesla premium electric vehicle for complimentary rides within a radius of the hotels. Water and energy use at all properties is monitored in real-time to reduce waste. Recycling and compost rates are assessed monthly with targeted reduction goals. We use filtered water in all taps, sinks, and showers. Each property features living green elements like preserved moss and greenery throughout each guest room. We use custom bath products featuring naturally-derived ingredients with crisp, fresh scents of nature. Our beds are eco-conscious Keetsa mattress with 100% organic cotton bedding in each guest room. Guest rooms have 5-minute shower timers to gently encourage guests to be mindful of their water use. We utilize green cleaning solvents to clean rooms and linens. Each of our chefs and beverage directors focus on reducing food waste with the aim of reducing overall carbon/climate impact.

In Brooklyn, water is filtered from the base-building water line and used by HVAC systems and for potable water use in-room. This filtration improves energy efficiency and the life of building equipment, in addition to providing even cleaner water to guests and additional safety measures against biological contamination. This filtration allows guests to use reusable containers and glasses, thereby reducing the hotel’s dependency on single-use plastic waste from disposable water bottles. The hotel has a water reclamation system that collects rainwater and is used in the adjacent Brooklyn Bridge Park for irrigation.

In South Beach, the pools use the DEL Ozone system for safe, reliable ozonation, and Accu-Tab system used for water chlorination, combining specially-engineered chlorinators with quality-controlled calcium hypochlorite tablets to kill bacteria, control algae and maintain required pH balances without the safety concerns normally associated with chlorination systems.

How do you decide which suppliers to work with to comply with your ethos? 

For us, it’s important to take a look at a company not just from a functional standpoint. We look at the wrapping to aesthetics to its carbon footprint and more. Brand alignment is super important for us whether we are looking at a water company or our waste management system. 

How do you decide on your partners?

In each city, we strive to connect with local partners who follow best practices and are making an impact in their communities. It’s important for us to support the local community and integrate them in hotel programming and offerings.

Do you continuously look for new ways to be even more sustainable? 

We’re always on the hunt for more ways to innovate. Our team members care about learning new practices and truly apply them to everyday life. In turn, we’ve learned from them as well. Education and spreading awareness are core components to our sustainability initiative. For this reason, our People Ops team is a key component of our sustainability program and we value their input in finding new ways to practice sustainability.

How has the business performed since its conception?

Business has really strong and the brand is continuing to grow and evolve with new locations across the United States and internationally. People are really excited by the idea of reconnecting with nature and our hotels give them a great platform for them to do it.

What sustainability initiatives have worked particularly well for the hotels?

Our water collection program at 1 Hotel Brooklyn Bridge is a successful program that we’re proud of. The hotel has a water reclamation system that collects rainwater and is used in the adjacent Brooklyn Bridge Park for irrigation. The pipe runs right through the lobby, literally showing guests that water we are collecting is going to help water the Brooklyn Bridge Park.

How do you work with your local communities?

We strive to make local connections with each of our properties, starting with design elements. Our properties bring nature indoors through local, contextual design. Our Brooklyn location utilizes reclaimed materials, including original heart pine beams from the former Domino Sugar Factory and walnut from the Brooklyn Botanical Gardens, as well as Brooklyn artisans including Uhuru, Bien Hecho, Harrison Green, and Danielle Trofe to incorporate native greenery and reclaimed materials for dynamic art pieces throughout hotel.

Are more and more people looking to travel more responsibly? And are you benefitting from this?

Yes, we’re seeing that while people want to travel the world, they want to leave less of an impact while doing so. Increasingly, people are starting to understand that we all have a responsibility to reduce our carbon footprint and we have the ability to do this in various aspects of our lives, including travel.

What are your plans for expansion in the future?

We opened 1 Hotel West Hollywood on May 6th. We will also be opening 1 Hotels in Sanya (China), Cabo, Sunnyvale, Princeville, Mission Bay and Melbourne.

Sustainability innovations

At 1 Hotels…

  • All hangers are made from 100% post-consumer recycled materials, with notes on them as to where they have come from.
  • Bedrooms are full of reclaimed materials.
  • Room keys come in five different types of recycled wood.
  • Shower timers in the rooms are ‘gentle reminder’ that a few minutes can be saved and make a big difference.
  • Seasonal fruits and vegetables on sale to guests on the lobby farm stand – sourced from local farms.
  • All rooms have yoga mats for use inside or outside of the hotel.
  • All hotels are home to thousan­­­­­­­ds of different plants.
  • Dog (and cat!) friendly.
  • Reclaimed chalkboard in each room for notes and doodles.
  • Partners with more than 20 like-minded brands and companies all striving towards a greener future.

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Zoe Monk

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