We’re very proud that our Birmingham serviced apartments have been reaccredited under the Green Tourism scheme as Gold Award accommodation, up from Silver. From our beginnings in 2007, Staying Cool has made positive decisions that put the environment over profit, so this is the culmination of years of hard work. We’ve now joined the ranks of stellar Green Tourism Gold Award holders such as Edinburgh Zoo, Tate Liverpool and The Ritz!
The hospitality industry has a big impact on the environment. Green Tourism was set up over 20 years ago as a not-for-profit organisation to encourage and enable people to make sustainable choices that reduce their impact on the planet. The accreditation process is rigorous.
How Did We Do It?
We’ve always been pretty green since we opened a decade ago but each year we try and do even more.
FOOD AND DRINK
- We provide fresh milk for our guests. This year, we switched from plastic cartons (that were recycled) to glass bottles
- Salt, pepper and balsamic vinegar are sourced from The Clean Kilo, which has two zero-waste supermarkets in Birmingham. This may not sound like much but we have 35 apartments with very high occupancy rates, so it adds up – and we can walk there!
- Our new, very popular Tuck Boxes contain only locally-sourced treats from within 20km of Birmingham
- We launched the Staying Cool app so that we could cut down on printing guest guides and included green tips for guests
- We switched from a national cereal brand with plastic wrappers to Staying Cool branded cereal using biodegradable packaging and cereals sourced in the Midlands.
- Locally-roasted coffee is now provided for guests in the same biodegradable packaging as our new cereal
- We joined the Refill scheme offering free water refills to all members of the public to reduce the use of plastic bottles. We appear on the Refill App, which you can download here
- Bath-tap aerators were introduced to reduce water waste. All other taps were already covered
- Cool for Kids (a free package for young guests) has been completely redesigned with the environment in mind. Among other things, they get to play in a teepee, have a warm/cool bean bag for comfort and picture books to enjoy (including this one by Yummy Brummie chef Glynn Purnell)
RAISING AWARENESS OF GREEN TOURISM
- To celebrate Earth Day, we gifted seed packs to all guests and spread the word on social media
- Plants have been introduced to the larger apartments and the trial has been so successful that we are rolling them out to Minis too. These were purchased from an independent business and they are shade tolerant, so require minimal watering. If you want more greenery at the heart of the city, then check out our blog about green spaces in Birmingham
- We dressed up for Christmas Jumper Day and donated 10% of all sales to Birmingham Children’s Hospital. This was just one of the ways we supported local charities – big and small – over the year
- We’re proud members of Independent Birmingham and all guests find an IB card on their key fobs so that they can save money with our fellow indies while they are in the city. We also use our online presence to big up other small, independent companies by promoting them on our social media accounts and writing blogs on topics such as 48 Hours With Birmingham Independents
IN THE BEGINNING
We opened our first apartment back in August 2005. Back then, eco-tourism was something that seemed to be more popular with rural locations. However, our co-founders (Tracey and Paul) really wanted Staying Cool to reflect their own beliefs and ethics (and still do).
We began with what Tracey and Paul always wanted to find in accommodation when they were traveling:
- Locally-sourced, organic (or free-range) fresh/store-cupboard ingredients
- GM-free foods
- Recycled and recyclable paper goods, such as toilet rolls
- Fairtrade goods such as teas, coffee, hot chocolate and sugar
- Environmentally-friendly household products (such Ecover washing up liquid, laundry tablets, and dishwasher tablets)
WORKING TOWARDS A GREEN TOURISM AWARD
We’ve developed the eco-tourism aspect of our business organically (aptly enough!) over the past 12 years. We tried hard to keep the environment in mind while we were establishing our serviced apartment business in Birmingham. We even have a team member who acts as our ‘Green Tsar’ to focus our minds if we are at risk of making the wrong decisions! Our commitments include:
- Providing hand-blended, aromatherapy based toiletries that are free of SLS’s and parabens since Dec 2007. To avoid the vast quantities of plastic waste created by the tiny bottles most hotels use, we’ve always purchased them directly from the maker in large bottles. The containers are biodegradable and we refill them until we need to recycle them
- Eco-tourism doesn’t equal dull design! Our fabulous sofas are built from wood from a sustainable source by the very environmentally-friendly British company, Naughtone, which is in Harrogate. We love to salvage items and restore them to their former glory. We use a mix of original furniture from the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s as well as bespoke commissioned pieces
- Loose produce is our choice whenever possible. For example, we source the juicing oranges we supply for guests from our local market. At first, this was leading to us using more plastic carrier bags to transport them, but we came up with the idea of having our old curtains made into fabric Morbags, so that problem was solved!
- We’re digital! Printing is kept an absolute minimum by, for instance, requesting electronic invoices only from our suppliers. Staying Cool switched to a cloud-based accountancy package in 2013 and have followed that up with housekeeping and maintenance software. Everything that staff need to know is accessed online too.
- We want to provide sparkling clean apartments for our guests, but avoid the use of harmful chemicals. We take our green-tourism aims really seriously, so we invested in a cleaning system called liquid ozone in 2014. This is a 100% natural cleaning process that also kills bacteria. Our housekeepers call it magic water! The team also cut up damaged linen to use as cleaning cloths
- Last sell-by-date foodstuffs go to a local charity in Birmingham and ex-stock bedding to a shelter
- We are very good at recycling in the office, but recycled waste from the apartments wasn’t at the same level. We re-jigged our apartment guide and added in-house prompts to encourage guests to recycle their waste during the stay. Failing that, the housekeeping team takes care of it.
- Cards (printed on recycled card) are put out with the towels, robes, and bedding. These encourage guests to set aside all unwanted items
- We’re in a fantastic city-center location close to Birmingham’s two main train stations. Whenever possible, we walk or take public transport. We don’t pay mileage costs to staff for journeys that could be made by train. The maximum reclaimable sum is the advance purchase rail fare, which acts as a deterrent to using a car
- Gentle nudging encourages guests to use public transport in the city or walk. We provide maps of Birmingham and links to maps for smartphones and tablets. Brompton Bike Hire is available just a couple of minutes away, so guests can also whizz about on two wheels
- We have been charging separately for car parking since January 2008. It is now an option rather than the default. This is a positive way to encourage guests to leave their cars at home
- We keep the apartment as temperate as possible on arrival (except in very cold spells). Guests can easily increase the temperature if they prefer things warmer
- Bye-bye, standby! Hello, eco-tourism! Non-essential goods such as washing machines, dishwashers, and TVs are always switched off at the mains until guests need them
- All of our lightbulbs are energy-saving and have been since 2010
- Our housekeeping supervisor goes into apartments when guests check out to turn off appliances. This saves about two hours‘ energy usage per apartment per day
Do Come and stay!
We hope that you’ve enjoyed finding out what we did to achieve our Green Tourism Gold Award. We’ll continue working hard to hold on to Gold ar out next assessment.
Why not come and stay with us in and enjoy some of the most stylish eco-tourism accommodation in the UK? We have 35 chic apartments ranging from funky Mini studios to a one-bedroom Clubmans to two-bedroom Maxis and Roadster penthouses. All apartments enjoy wonderful views over Birmingham from the top floors of the Rotunda building.
Stay at the heart of the city. Rates start at just £99 per night per apartment.