At the Somerset Palace Seoul, a serviced residence in the heart of Seoul, we decided, among various adaptations towards “going green,” to do away with the takeout disposable cups in the Residents’ Lounge.

While there were some minor comments initially, residents quickly agreed that it was for the best since the disposable cups were creating so much garbage. After about a month, no one even notices. Everyone is happy with the reusable mugs and the porcelain coffee cups that we provide. Coffee and tea taste so much better in those.

This is just a small contribution and one of the ways that we at The Ascott Limited try to make our environment cleaner and safer and help save it.

The Earth, our only home, has been sustaining life in a unique cycle of self-renewal for so long that we often take it for granted.

But the Earth is under severe threat. Its resources are being depleted faster than they can be replenished, and it is suffering the ravages of imprudent use and abuse. The only way we can slow down, and perhaps even reverse, the damage that has already been done is to transform our business practices and cultivate a green mindset.

The Earth needs more than just our understanding. It needs us to take action; we need to be responsible for the Earth because quite simply it is the only one we have.

Corporate responsibility

We constantly try to provide valuable information about the environment and its protection to guests because they are the ones who make a difference. Here is some information as well as tips on how you can take simple actions to make your life and our Earth’s better.

Did you know? For every ton of paper you recycle, you save 7,000 gallons of water, 380 gallons of oil, and enough electricity to power an average house for six months.

The energy saved from one recycled aluminum can will operate a television for three hours. The energy saved from recycling one glass bottle will light a 100-watt light bulb for four hours.

Recycling a glass bottle causes 20 percent less air pollution and 50 percent less water pollution than when a new bottle is made from raw materials.

Recycled paper produces 73 percent less air pollution than if it were made from raw materials.

The hospitality industry is among those with a significant environmental footprint, and we believe we have to act responsibly. As the world’s largest international serviced residence owner-operator with a presence in over 20 countries across more than 70 cities, we believe we are uniquely positioned to play an active role in transforming business practices and employee mindsets to make them more eco-friendly.

Going green is not just an investment for the long term. With more breakthroughs in green technology and practices, and more products available, we can be green while maintaining our characteristic excellent quality of service. In fact, being part of the experience makes us all direct beneficiaries of green creativity and innovation.

Going green also opens up new opportunities to work with other eco-minded associates and clients who would otherwise not have crossed our paths. This widens everyone’s network and increases relationships.

Of course, being green goes perfectly with our ultimate commitment to people. We show we care for people by showing our care for the very Earth we all share.

Green vision

Climate change is happening right now and experts agree that is a phenomenon of global concern. Global warming will affect how we live, work, play and do business.

As the leading international serviced residence owner-operator, we, at Ascott, believe it is our responsibility to do our part to help our hurting Earth wherever we have a presence.

We have set a target to achieve 15 percent savings in water and energy consumption by 2015, using 2008 as the base year. In 2011, Ascott consumed 9 percent less water and energy compared with 2008.

To help us stay focused in implementing our green vision, Ascott has developed a five-point framework that maps out areas that we can focus on to bring about change. A set of tools has also been developed to help us move forward together as a green serviced residence company.

The Five-point Framework lets us track our green efforts and identifies concrete targets that can be measured so we can monitor performance in the following targets:

Ascott will incorporate green elements into all new properties to be built or renovated to create sustainable serviced residences that are both comfortable and resource and energy efficient. This includes the use of sustainable building materials or products that are locally sourced, more energy efficient and more durable, which consequently have less impact on the environment.

At Somerset Palace Seoul, we have installed a rooftop garden that is fascinating from the perspective that it sits high in the heart of downtown Seoul. Enormous efforts were made for the creation of the garden which houses more than 300 species of plants and trees.

Our aim is to contribute to the well-being and success of the people who choose to stay with us when they live and work away from home. By incorporating green elements to our buildings, we are creating sustainable residences that are both comfortable and energy efficient. These translate to cost benefits as well as resources and operational efficiencies.

Ascott has put in place comprehensive environment, health and safety (EHS) procedures across its serviced residences. EHS practices are implemented across our properties to minimize pollution, and health and safety risks.

EHS is a key element in the Five-Point Framework. It is important that the staff embrace these practices in their day-to-day work to minimize pollution and health and safety risks.

Water, energy, paper, waste reduction

Ascott has implemented green practices to promote the conservation of water, energy and paper as well as to reduce waste.

At the Citadines Trafalgar Square London, we have installed “Save-a-Flush” devices in our water cisterns. “Save-a-Flush” is a bag which is placed at the bottom of the cistern beneath the flush float.

Within six hours, the bag swells up to displace one liter of water so that each time the cistern fills, it needs one liter less water. We save one liter of water per flush which usually uses eight liters. The property saves approximately 12.5 per cent of its previous yearly water consumption.

At Somerset JieFangBei Chongqing, we replaced 800 11-volt lamps with four-volt lamps in public areas. This translates to savings of approximately over 3,500 kilowatt hours per month, which can power up to 25 average-sized refrigerators.

The company as a whole is trying to go as paperless as possible in its corporate work. Since 2009, we developed an electronic version of the Ascottour Serviced Residence Directory, and made it available for download online. This has helped us reduce the number of print copies; saving approximately over 8,160kg of paper per year.

Other examples of sustainability initiatives at Ascott’s properties include offering long-stay residents the option not to have daily housekeeping, the installation of water-saving devices in toilet cisterns, the use of recycling bins and providing reusable eco-bags or shopping trolleys which reduce the use of disposable grocery bags.

Stakeholder engagement

An Ascott Earth Day is held every first Friday of the month at Ascott’s offices and properties worldwide. On this day, our staff and residents are encouraged to dress down while the air-conditioning temperature at the offices and properties is turned down to conserve energy. Similarly, staff and residents in temperate countries are encouraged to wear warmer clothing as the heater temperature is reduced. Ascott’s offices and properties will also switch off beacon and other non-essential lights for 10 hours from 8 p.m.

And how does this work out at the ground “roots” level, you may ask? Let’s revisit our Somerset Palace Seoul and look at some of the green practices we have in place:

– Switching over from regular copy paper to “Forest Stewardship Council” paper. This is not only a commitment to preserving renewable paper sources but also a is source of cost reduction in paper usage

– Promoting electricity efficiency among residents through voluntary programs and competitions, such as: “I am switched off,” whereby residents are encouraged to go green by ensuring all AC units are switched off, when not in the room. In return, a monthly winner is recognized for their efforts, and wins a special gift. Another initiative is for residents to “opt out” of daily towel replenishment and housekeeping cleaning services, voluntarily.

– Installation of high grade eco-friendly amenities, such as shower gels and shampoos from wall-mounted dispensers instead of “little bottles.”

– Implementing the use of eco-friendly housekeeping products, such as water-based non-hazardous and environmenfriendly degreasing and deodorizing enzyme liquids for treatment of drainage pipes and waste water.

– Use of eco-friendly deodorization products, which enables us to clean and clear even the most stubborn odor- related issues in an apartment – effectively and quickly

These are just a handful of initiatives to showcase, and we assure you there’s definitely more to come – it will be just a matter of time before more make this list.

One of the most important necessities in our daily lives is food.

We would not be able to survive without it. And since we consume it every day, it is also the major source of waste. Excess trimmings of meat and vegetables, cooked or uncooked leftovers, fruits, and all of the edible matters that are usually found in our kitchens come in just small quantities.

Hotels, restaurants, food chains, food factories, and big establishments have bigger contributions to add to the mix.

Imagine how much food waste we produce in just a day, and how we produce such each and every day. It just adds up and continuously adding up. Where does all of that go?

Every bit of waste is not worthless if we only realize how we can still make use of it and how it can actually help our environment perform the cycle of life.

Composting is a way of nature to recycle all the biodegradable materials.

It takes place every day of our lives but to shorten the process, we must contribute our efforts to make sure it produces ideal results. The whole society can benefit from that.

Composting food wastes is more extensive than composting other organic matters. We must mix the appropriate ingredient to produce healthy soil good for planting.

Jean Keijdener assumed the role of country manager for the Singapore-based Ascott Limited and general manager for the Somerset Palace Seoul in July 2008. Since his appointment, Keijdener has been active in the impletation of the company’s environmentfriendly program under his responsibility.