WWe’ve all seen this sign in hotels encouraging us to reuse our towels for the good of the planet. It’s often just lip service. But what if this idea was taken even further – to make your entire hotel sustainable?
That’s the premise Room 2 in Chiswick, west London, to be the world’s first net-zero ‘hometel’. It’s said to be 89% more energy efficient than a typical UK hotel and features a host of sustainable measures, from solar panels to recycled furniture, zero food waste and a wildflower roof.
It’s the brainchild of owner Robert Godwin, who is passionate about driving cultural change in an industry where sustainability is often an afterthought.
I didn’t think that staying in a hotel would make me think about climate change, but here it does, and not in a preachy way. The employees are all on board and proud of their sustainable goals – and all the little details add up.
One bedroom in room2 hotel. Sustainable measures include recycled furniture
When we arrive, someone is picking up an order Too good to take away, an app that connects people to restaurants and shops that have a food surplus, and the lobby is packed with plants and upcycled furniture.
Another welcome feature is the flexibility: check-in is from 2pm, as is check-out, giving you a full 24 hours to make the most of your stay.
Each room has a kitchenette – hence the Hometel nickname – so ideal for those wanting to keep costs down with self-catering. Coffee and delicious food are available in the Boca restaurant on the ground floor – more on that later.
Robert Godwin, owner of room2 hotel: “We are expected to be 89% more energy efficient than a typical UK hotel”
Our studio is flooded with light from large Crittall windows and offers everything you would expect from a boutique stay: large comfortable bed with crisp linens, Roberts radio, soothing color scheme and a fully equipped kitchen.
I never thought I would be so excited about rubbish, but having the 3-in-1 bin in the room – for food waste, mixed recycling and general waste – makes us really aware of what we use. Godwin tells us he looked at 200 trash cans from around the world, couldn’t find one that matched his ethos, and came up with this design.
“We needed the right ones to encourage our guests to recycle the right way,” says Godwin. “All waste is separated and sent to different facilities for mixed use or renewable energy. And all food waste gets a new life.”
There are natural textures throughout: hardwood floors, a blue-and-white striped fabric headboard, rattan chairs, and a cork bench. A wooden “do not disturb” sign, post-it notes made from recycled paper, and pens and pencils that guests are asked to leave after use for future guests are nice touches.
There is a green roof with 75,000 bees and wildflowers for biodiversity and isolation
Elements such as the bespoke marble-print wallpaper in the bathroom and the handcrafted Dali-style mirrors were inspired by Chiswick’s Arts and Crafts heritage. And any carbon emissions from unavoidable items like the big screen TV are offset through a tree-planting program with its reforestation partner in Nicaragua.
The energy-efficient shower – said to use 40% less water – is huge and powerful enough for any extended stay. Bath towels are generously sized and heavenly smelling shower gels and shampoos are available in dispensers from vegan brand Doers of London. Carpets in the corridors are made from recycled fishing nets, and there’s a 24-hour laundry facility and gym in the basement with Peloton bikes, weights, and yoga mats.
The room2 hotel’s energy-efficient showers use 40% less water than other hotels
The real behind-the-scenes savings, according to Godwin, are in energy consumption. “We are projected to be 89% more energy efficient than a typical UK hotel and this is largely due to minimizing heat and energy loss. We are designed for new regulations and overall it is a massive improvement.”
These improvements include a geothermal heat pump, solar panels, motion sensors in the rooms, a green roof with 75,000 bees and wildflowers for biodiversity and insulation, and a blue roof to capture rainwater and minimize local flooding. Additional electricity is obtained from solar, wind and hydroelectric sources. Two laboratory rooms monitor the efficiency of the building and how guests use electricity and energy in their rooms.
Why is the hotel industry lagging behind when it comes to sustainability? “I think it’s a lack of will, and that comes from a lack of knowledge,” says Godwin, whose epiphany came after a trip to South Africa in 2019, where he saw firsthand the effects of climate change in droughts and collapsing food chains saw . Today he is considered a pioneer and is consulted by large hotel chains such as Hilton.
The café-cocktail bar in room 2 Photo: Andrei Botnari
There are no large fryers or extractor hoods in the Boca restaurant’s kitchen, and the menu, created by chef Elisabetta Boi, is adapted to low-energy. Boi tells us she shops locally where she can, bringing a taste of her Italian heritage. Zero waste is the goal here too: potato skins are processed into vodka and all other waste is recycled or available Too good to take away apartment
We’re sampling a few tasters of what’s to come when Boca fully opens on February 1st, and they all have strong flavors. There are delicious homemade focaccia with whole wheat flour, risotto with black truffle and parmesan, and a white radicchio salad with figs and homemade fresh ricotta. Puddings are a tiramisu with mascarpone and a delicious panettone filled with ice cream. Starters start at £8 and mains from £10.50, pretty much the going rate in Chiswick.
The next morning we grab a coffee and head down to Chiswick High Road which is just a few steps away. Parking at room2 is not necessary as public transport is so good. Turnham Green station is a three-minute walk away, from where it’s a 20-minute tube ride into central London. There are regular buses to Kew Gardens or Richmond Park, or you can stroll down to the Thames to admire the homes of leading artisans Emery Walker and William Morris.
Morris urged people not to have anything in their home that is not beautiful or useful. Beauty and utility abound, Room2 shows that net zero doesn’t have to mean compromising on comfort or style.
Double room from £116 room only, room2.com/chiswick
Four sustainable European hotels
Hotel Fljótshlíð is located on a traditional Icelandic horse farm
On a farm in southern Iceland Hotel Fljótshlíð has been certified by Svanurinn, a Nordic eco-label scheme, which means it is one of the most eco-friendly hotels in the area. Its 14 rooms have underfloor heating and a private bathroom, all of which run on renewable energy. Iceland uses 70% hydroelectric power and 30% geothermal energy nationwide. Guests can pay to have trees planted to offset their carbon footprint, and the hotel strives for zero food waste. Local jams, meat, eggs and vegetables can be bought on site or at the restaurant. There are views of the Eyjafjallajökull volcano and guests can go horse riding or visit the working farm.
Double room from £106 B&B, smaratun.is
Aristi Mountain Resort & Villas, Zagori, Greece
In Zagori, Northwest Greece, Aristi Mountain Resort & Villas was built using traditional methods and using only locally available materials. Water consumption is minimized by pressure regulators and waste water is recycled through a high-tech purification system. It is a member of Stay Beyond Green, a hotel network audited according to the UN Sustainable Development Goals. The hotel’s award-winning Salvia restaurant uses fruit and vegetables from their own garden and greenhouse, raises their own chickens and features locally-sourced trout on the menu. The 24 rooms, suites, and villas are spread out to blend into the mountains, and activities include hiking, rafting, horseback riding, and bird watching.
Double room from 178 € B&B, aristi.eu
The ALT Bar at Wren, Dublin makes the most of local distilleries. Photo: Ruth Maria Murphy
Opened last September, the wren in Dublin uses 100% renewable energy and recyclable and biodegradable materials. Aiming to become Ireland’s most sustainable hotel, it makes a conscious effort to limit single-use plastics in its 137 rooms and places a strong emphasis on local. Wonky vegetables are used in the kitchen and waste is reduced by using them Too good to take away. The ALT bar makes the best of local distilleries and breweries, with Irish whiskey, dingle gin, and micro ales on tap. It’s a four-minute walk to Trinity College and Grafton Street, and a 19-minute walk to Connolly, the busiest train station in the country.
Rooms from 129 € room only, wrenhotel.ie
Spa time at Montimerso Skyscape Country House in Portugal
in the Alqueva Dark Sky Reserve, Montimerso Skyscape Country House has 15 rooms, all with contemporary Portuguese furniture and a terrace or balcony. Rainwater is used for irrigation and due to the dark skies, light pollution has been reduced. The staff is mostly from the local Alentejo region and local food suppliers are used wherever possible. The big draw here is the sky – the reserve was the world’s first Unesco-certified starlight tourism destination. Guests can use binoculars to view distant stars and planets from the stargazing deck. Other activities include cycling and wine tasting.
Double room from 200 € B&B, montimerso.pt