The Fairmont Empress: Sustainable Luxury
September 20, 2022 • 10 min read
Welcome to the intersection of luxury and sustainability…
While the natural biosphere of Vancouver Island is revered for its unrivaled beauty and dense rainforest wonder, the built environment boasts the iconic “Castle on the Coast” a landmark any visitor to Victoria will be well-acquainted with.
The Fairmont Empress is one destination in a long line of historic Canadian lodges (read: palatial hotels) that harken back to the birth of the Canadian railroad and the connection of sea to sea. Recognized as one of the 21 Most Iconic Hotels in the World by National Geographic Traveler, The Empress flanks Victoria’s sparkling harbour front with a regal presence. The grandeur doesn’t just stop at its regality though, as The Empress also just so happens to be one of the most sustainable luxury hotels in all of North America.
You might also like: The Sustainable Guide to Victoria
The Fairmont Hotels, more than just a place to stay for the night, are etched in the history of Canadian travel. Each hotel, unique in its location and architecture, holds a special place in the history of the country. Fairmont Banff Springs was the first grand railway hotel to open in 1888, while Fairmont Château Lake Louise is a former chalet nestled in the forest overlooking the world-famous emerald-hued glacier lake.
The Fairmont Empress, is an Edwardian wonder, sitting just steps away from the Pacific Ocean. From the hotel’s grand façade, sprawling gardens lush with bright flora, and incredible hospitality, the hotel is steeped in an antiquated warmth that is ostensibly, slipping away in this contemporary era. Having opened its doors in 1908, the hotel celebrates its history seamlessly in tandem with all the comforts of modern life.
While many of the Fairmont hotels worldwide are known for their luxury and elegance, The Empress takes things a notch higher with their commitment to sustainability. Long before “sustainability” became the buzzword that it is today, The Fairmont Empress began implementing environmental practices that supported their vision for a tenable future.
Having been a leader in the luxury hotel industry for more than 25 years, The Fairmont Empress has been recognized as having one of the most comprehensive eco-friendly programs in North America, challenging everyone including guests, staff, hotel colleagues, partners and property developers to take measurable actions to help minimize the hotel’s impact on the planet.
Not a stranger to the importance of longevity, The Empress’s focus on long-term sustainability and stewardship for the earth is an integral part of their ethos, as they are well-aware of what it takes to stand the test of ever-changing time.
Accor, the parent company of Fairmont Hotels, has a longstanding history as a leader in environmental stewardship dating back to 1994, when Accor first established its Environment Department.
In 2011, the company introduced Planet 21, which sets objectives and targets in place to meet sustainability goals. This continuously evolving program allows the hotel group to learn from best practices, challenges and trends in order to strengthen the program for true long-term sustainability.
One of The Fairmont’s Planet 21 commitments is to plant 10 million trees, under their project – Plant for the Planet. This project is a tangible expression of their vision of positive hospitality and the reduction of their environmental footprint. By encouraging guests to reuse their towels and linens over the course of their stay, Accor finances tree planting, using half the laundry savings generated from saving water, energy and detergent.
Plant for the Planet has evolved since its conception to include agroforestry projects, which consists of planting trees in agricultural parcels of land to improve their conservation and productivity, and diversify farmers’ incomes.
Bee Sustainable Program
Honeybee conservation goes hand in hand with sustainability, a practice that is vital for the survival of our species. The Fairmont Empress’s Bee Sustainable Program is a bee-focused initiative that aids habitat protection, pollination of gardens and flowers, and helps to support overall honeybee health.
The hotel’s verdant Centennial Garden is abuzz with honeybees, as these beehive colonies help pollinate the diverse variety of flowers on-site, as well as the herbs located on the hotel’s rooftop garden. With over 20 honeybee apiaries and more than 20 wild pollinator bee hotels, the hotel sees around 3,200 pounds of honey a year! This golden bounty is exceptional in taste and quality, and guests are able to enjoy the sweet, amber liquid in various menu items as well as in luxurious spa treatments.
In January 2020, Accor announced their commitment to join the UN Global Tourism Plastics Initiative, with the goal being to remove all single-use plastic items in the guest experience from all hotels by the end of 2022. This means that all plastics – straws, stirrers, and cotton buds, plastic toiletry amenities, cups – will no longer be available in guest rooms, meeting areas, restaurants, and all leisure activities areas such as spas and fitness centers.
With a reverence for the ocean, forests and diverse biosphere of British Columbia, The Empress’s elimination of single-use plastic is a significant step towards earth conservation and preservation.
Renowned for their culinary delights, The Fairmont Empress carefully chooses their offerings based on hand-selected regional ingredients, ensuring that their menu is centered around Pacific Northwest cuisine. With strong partnerships with local farmers, artisans, fishers, and growers, The Empress’s unique dining experiences offer fresh fare with a low food mileage. Choosing to support their local economy and local farms instead of relying on imports, the hotel’s commitment goes beyond sustainability, promoting a rich cultural exchange within the community.
One of the hotel group’s animal welfare commitments is to ensure that only caged-free eggs are used in all restaurants. They plan to completely eliminate caged eggs from their supply chain in hotels worldwide by 2024.
With an on-site rooftop garden, the hotel can rely on their own resources to source fresh herbs and a small variety of vegetables and greens. Sustainably-sourced seafood, traditionally-raised meats, and a wide variety of artisanal offerings are to be found in all their eateries – Q Restaurant and Bar, Tea at The Empress in the Lobby Lounge, and the Veranda.
In December of 2019, the hotel group made a commitment to set carbon reduction targets in line with the Paris Climate Agreement. This means that Accor will actively be working to reduce absolute emissions by 46% by 2030 across all hotels. Accor is also the first international hotel group to make a long-term commitment to reach net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.
Reduce and Recycle
With the recognition that our planet is changing quickly and that every effort makes a difference, The Fairmont Empress is committed to reducing their consumption of energy and water, while also reducing the amount of waste they generate and greenhouse gasses they emit. Their efforts are focused on diverting waste from landfills, recycling where possible, and donating or selling used cooking oil and grease to be turned into biodiesel.
This post was sponsored by The Fairmont Empress. With stringent requirements, I only work with brands whose visions and ethos align with my own. All thoughts and opinions remain my own. The photos on this post are a combination of my own, as well as The Fairmont Empress’s.
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