When I recently took a trip to Melbourne to watch the Australian Open, I was thinking about whom, if anyone, would beat Federer this year. I wasn’t expecting to see much green activity at all.

After all, living in Sydney I had been disappointed about how much further behind their council was when it came to recycling compared to where I used to live in Surrey, England. Back in the UK my council provided a bin for the recycling of cardboards, bottles (both plastic and glass), paper, tins, cans, a bin for all food waste including bones and shells, a bin for general waste and a bin for garden waste. All in all, our general waste bin, in which rubbish was destined for landfills, was hardly used expect for the occasional bit of plastic wrapping. However, in Sydney they have three bins – one for general waste, one for general recycling and one for garden waste. This means a lot of their food waste is destined for dreaded landfill sites.

So when I went to Melbourne for the tennis my expectations were low. However, my partner booked us into a hotel that prided itself upon being environmentally friendly. And I am pleased to say to say that at the Alto Hotel on Bourke [], like at Passion for the Planet, they really did walk the talk!

On arrival we were given energy saving key-tags which switch off lighting when you leave your room to save energy. Then instead of complimentary soaps or shampoos, there were dispensers by the sink and shower. This not only saves the hotel money but also prevents the waste caused by unnecessary wrapping.

There was no quadruple quilted rose-smelling wild peach tinted toilet roll – just 100% recycled rolls. A complimentary car park – encouraging petrol emissions you might think? No, no, this car park was free for those with electric or hybrid cars, and offered free re-charging from 100% green energy too!

And how can they claim that they used 100% green energy? Well, the hotel is fully powered by wind energy!
Not only did they manage all of this, but they did it with no compromise on the quality of the hotel whatsoever. The hotel staff were some of friendliest I’ve ever come across, giving useful advice with no lectures on the benefits of sustainability. The food was delicious (the restaurant was a member of Green Table, championing sustainable local produce), the rooms were clean and spacious, the location was perfect. In my mind the Alto on Bourke should be given six stars!

When I went on to research further I later discovered that the Alto is Australia’s first carbon neutral hotel. For a more facts on how the hotel saves on water, electricity and waste see Alto Hotel [].

So many of these tips and ideas can be applied to your home too. For example to conserve water they used water flow restrictors on all showers and taps. Not only will this help the environment and save you money I can vouch that it didn’t affect my showers as I hadn’t even noticed them during my stay! And by heating this water “on demand” the energy saving is so enormous that despite having a commercial kitchen and 57 bathrooms they only hold 630 litres in reserve, contrast this with a normal suburban household which typically uses a tank holding 200 litres in reserve.

And on the days I didn’t spend watching tennis or in the hotel – I am pleased to say Melbourne still kept the standards high for me! As I walked up Bourke Street to the famous shopping malls I noticed that the public bins had one for recycling and one for general waste. Inside the shopping malls themselves they only had hand dryers rather than paper towels.

Another small but fantastic way the local council helped people to cut their carbon emissions was to have Filtered Water refill stations so that shoppers need not keep buying bottle water to stay hydrated in the Australian heat.

So after visiting Melbourne purely for the Australian Open, I have to say I didn’t think that it would be tennis leading me to the green!

About the Author: Helen Chapman is part of the PASSION for the PLANET team

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