22 May 2024

Here’s my confession. I have enough of the word ‘sustainability.’ Every time I came across that dreadful word, I mentally shut down. People are now saying too much of it. But still, we are living in the world that has not enough of it. In Thailand, since January 1, 2020, to my big applause, there has been an official ban on plastic bags in grocery stores and supermarkets. But somehow that issue was turned into a political drama. Everything in Thailand, it seems, can be turned into political dramas, even when, especially on this particular issue, we can all jump in and help, a lot of people still manage to make it a case to show the usual ‘I-am-smarter-than-you’ attitudes.


Natural disasters are everywhere. Devastating fires in California, then in the Amazon, and now in Australia. The imminent droughts in parts of the world, Thailand included, have become more serious than ever. Here in Bangkok, in my downtown condominium, I have been feeling it, tasting it actually, in the water I drink. The brackish aftertaste that is the result of the drought and the rising seawater. But I am counting myself extremely lucky to still have water and place to live.


The more I read about the word ‘sustainable,’ the clearer the conclusion of the issue is for me. To be really sustainable, like every other things in life, one needs to start with the mind. You cannot do anything you do not want to do without putting your mind to it. The right mindset leads to a sound planning. Like always have a folded reusable grocery bag ready in your purse. Like carrying yourself a reusable water bottle. Like skipping straw. Like asking for a drink-in glass at cafe. Like switching off electricity when not used. For many, these are natural. For some, sadly, burdens.

Nature has become the main draw in Southeast Asian destinations, and hospitality industry is now beefing up its back of the house operations with sustainability.


Recently, I had a chance to talk via email with Paul Hutton, Vice President, Operations, Southeast Asia, Hilton—the global luxury hotel chain with over 5,400 operating hotels around the world. Hutton is promoting a greener hospitality by showcasing how Hilton has done it, tangibly since 2008, before upping their game again in 2018 to align the campaign with the United Nations 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda. He said, with all the works planned and to-do lists mapped out, the most important issue is “a changed mindset of the everyone involved and that can be achieved through committed leadership of the changed culture.” That means with all the glories and shiny policies, it takes each of us combined to achieve it, hopefully to turn the situation around, and perhaps to make sure that less turtles and dolphins and all creatures will not die eating plastic. The temperatures might sustain enough to protect the polar ice, enough for human to live peacefully and hopefully gratefully ever after.


Many hotels in Thailand have been promoting greener operations for decades. But of course, their back-of-the-house operations which are the key are not visible to guests. Things like recycling waters has been a norm in places like Phuket where the lush landscapes are the result of those clever planning. Used waters are trapped and reused for such purpose.


Back then, I remember doing a story on the resort island, a luxury hotel chain shared with me the common pushback when guests were encouraged to reuse the plush towels. “Why reuse when we have to pay this much?” was among the frequent questions.


But now, thankfully, things have changed. Hutton quotes consumer findings that almost 90% of global travellers are now concerned and conscious about the environment and sustainable practices. Things have changed, it is now easier than ever to push forward any green measures that can not only help save the environment, but also the operation costs.


At Six Senses Resorts around the world, sustainability has always been the name of the game. Like Hilton, Six Senses resorts are all plastic-free. Single-use plastic items are all replaced with reusable alternatives. Glass bottles, not disposable plastic. Back-of-the-house operations are all about planning, reuse, recycle, and repurpose. Both chains choose to involve in the communities they are at. All eleven Hilton hotels in Thailand are plastic-free, their used soaps recycled, sanitised, and repurposed for charities. Their food surpluses donated to food rescue organisations who relocate them to proper places in Bangkok. Most their logistics are done to reduce wastes, but then everything starts with a sound planning.

A herb garden at one of many Six Senses Resorts in Asia


The Mandarin Oriental Bangkok and Sheraton Grande Sukhumvit are another two hotels that closely monitor their operations for a greener purpose. Their back-of-the-house operations are closely monitored to reduce the energy and water consumption. Environmental-friendly products are opted. Their staff are encouraged to participate in the hotels’ social contribution programs. At the Mandarin Oriental, guests can also donate their unwanted clothes for charities. At the Grand Hyatt Erawan in Bangkok, fishes are sourced from local Thai fishermen and the menus consist of local seafoods, and not much of the imported items. And those are among things that the hospitality people in Thailand are now doing.


As a consumer, I for one prefer to support businesses with a greener heart. Why support those who trash the earth? Cafes that still use plastic glass even the guests are sitting in? No thank you. Restaurants that still mindlessly put straws into your glass? Oftentimes, relive and relearn how to make life simpler by using less can make us all appreciate more. And always, always, reuse, reuse, and reuse.

A food rescue comes to a rescue when it comes to food oversupply.

For me, with our ‘Food Is’ food section, I would like to make January a month of eating wisely. Please stay tuned for more episodes. I will also do Facebook Live on Thursday 9th January 2020 and talk to a food scientist behind a product that can help save the environment.

By : Ohhappybear

Used soaps at all Hilton hotels are gathered for repurposes.


Here are the lists of charities that recycle soaps and foods.

Soap For Hope > https://diversey.com/en/sustainability/soap-for-hope

Scholars of Sustenance > https://www.scholarsofsustenance.org/