28. September 2021

Hotel Green Solution House

One of the „greenest“ Hotel- and Conference Centers in the world.

Hotel Green Solution House

I was pretty excited.

 

Hotel director Trine Richter from Hotel GSH on the island of Bornholm promised me an interview.

 

This was the highlight of my 1 trip to Denmark to see what the Danish tourism industry understands about sustainability. And it was worth it.

 

 

Trine Richter

I have to admit that I hadn't had this beautiful island "on my radar" until now. All the more for that. Sustainability is a matter of course on the island. It is the business model in the tourism industry - in many cafes, restaurants, guesthouses and hotels. However, the Hotel GSH is THE CHAMPION among champions. Even before the opening in 2015, all sustainability aspects were considered and have been continuously implemented since then. A total of 75 sustainability areas were created in this way and became part of the DNA of the GSH.

Starting with building with wood from local and sustainable forestry (instead of concrete and cement), to green hotel roofs and natural biotopes. They were laid out around the hotel (a total of 65,000 square meters). A variety of native plants feel at home here. Even sheep graze here, keep the plants in check and provide the soil with the best fertilizer.

Hotel balconies and skylights are equipped with photovoltaic cells to produce own electricity.

So it goes without saying that the hotel restaurant serves a 100% organic breakfast with a strong focus on local products. But you are no more papal than the Pope: there is a gourmet restaurant for meeting and conference guests, which also relies heavily on ecological and regional products, but not exclusively. And to form a cycle, food waste is collected and converted into energy in a biogas plant.

 

Trine Richter, hotel director, was there from the start and told me about the beginnings of the GSH, about the visions and stumbling blocks. And what drives them every day to keep going.

 

Over a cup of Bornholm hemp tea, she had interesting stories to tell.

 

 

What big challenges did you face at the beginning?

Trine: There were more than enough challenges in the early days and of course there still are today.

 

To be honest, we didn't know much about the construction industry at the time, nor about sustainable building materials. I myself originally come from the banking industry and had only worked in a hotel for five years at the time. There was also a lot to learn in terms of sustainability, for example how to build and run a sustainable hotel.

 

 

The GSH exists since 2015. How did it all start?

Hotel Green Solution House

Trine: In 2007 a couple of people and I came up with the idea of creating a conference center that is so interesting in terms of sustainability that people come specifically to see and experience it.

 

It quickly became clear that a conference center alone cannot be economical and must offer sleeping facilities in order to earn money.

 

A year later I was hired by the city to do this project. This is how I collected investor funds, which was not an easy job during the financial crisis. But it worked. And so we were able to take over an existing hotel. We renovated the existing property and renovated and added a completely new part of the hotel, the conference center.

How did you overcome the challenges?

Hotel Green Solution House

Trine: I knew what I wanted, but how to get there was kind of a big puzzle that I put together brick by brick.

 

My cluelessness when it comes to sustainable hotels was sometimes a hindrance. At the same time, however, it allowed me to approach many things in an unconventional way. I just put the puzzle together my way. And that was often not so bad and even impressed from time to time.

 

For example, I was able to win over an investor only because he liked the way I cooperated with producers in a completely new way. For example, we work very closely with the company VELUX, which developed windows with photovoltaic cells especially for us. VELUX now uses our hotel as a showroom for their customers. A classic “win-win” situation.

Did your vision come true and guests come mainly to experience your extraordinary sustainability concept?

Trine: Yes, many guests come to us especially for that reason.

 

And I am also very happy to pass on our knowledge and speak e.g. at conferences about our experiences.

 

 

 

 

What drives you every day?

Gallokken Strand Ronne

Trine: Of course I really like running this hotel. But what drives me is the bigger picture behind it.

 

Tourism is the second largest industry on Bornholm after agriculture. Tourism therefore also has a major impact on our jobs on the island.

 

An average of 500,000 tourists come to Bornholm every year. 60% come in the 10 summer weeks in July & August. So, outside of those 10 weeks, we have a lot fewer jobs on the island.

 

It's my job to change that. I want to encourage people to come to the island in other months as well. That would create jobs, not just in our hotel. Instead, many companies on the island would benefit from this, such as bus companies, museums, restaurants, and much more. m.

 

So if we are successful, it will lead to more income for the people. Which in turn would result in higher tax revenues for the island and would allow investment to be made in the island's development.

 

This is what drives me every day and gives meaning to my work. And taking care of my immediate environment, i.e. the island, is THE aspect of sustainability for me.

 

 

What about employees? Are there many applications from people who care about a sustainable working environment?

Trine: Oh yes, many. And that's how it was from the start. Employees come to us wanting to be part of the sustainable agenda. And across the board-receptionists as well as cooks who want to work with organic and regional products.

How did you come to know about sustainability?

Hotel Green Solution House

Trine: We developed the ideas for the building together with the architects from 3XN, the GXN design specialists and with many producers.

 

It certainly wasn't easy, but it gave us a direction to follow.

 

However, it is one thing to build a sustainable hotel. However, running the hotel after construction is a completely different matter. That's very complex. After all, what exactly is sustainability? Where do you start and where do you stop?

Is this a mission?

Trine: There are many people who are fanatical about sustainability. I am not.

I don't think we're the best or the biggest when it comes to sustainability. We simply chose a direction that is now part of our DNA.

 

Whenever I have to decide on a product or a way of doing something, I try to analyze what is possible today. In doing so, I take into account economic aspects, but also aesthetic aspects and, for example, certificates. This is a lot of research work and a never-ending task.

And how do you go about your research?

Hotel Green Solution House

Trine: An elderly lady from the island once asked me what is the most sustainable thing we do here in the hotel? And I told her that she definitely knows a lot more about sustainability than I do.
The way the people of her generation lived back then was more than sustainable.

In those days, strawberries from Israel were not eaten. And leftovers were used up the next day. Organic waste was fed to the chickens or composted.

 

We take up this knowledge again in the GSH. For example, our food waste is turned into energy in a biogas plant instead of paying to have it collected and incinerated.

 

This is just an example to illustrate what I mean by using common sense. Sounds easy, but it isn't. But we do our best. Without being fanatical about it.

Which aspect of sustainability is particularly important to you?

Trine: When we think about sustainability, we often first come to topics such as sustainable buildings or energy.

 

But for me, natural daylight in hotels also has a lot to do with sustainability. It's simply better for us humans if we spend a lot of time in natural daylight than in artificial light. It is better for our employees, for myself and also for our guests.

 

For example, we asked our conference guests as part of a university study: "How do you feel when you have a meeting at the GSH"? And the guests replied that they were much more alert and concentrated at the GSH than at other conferences. This is due to the amount of daylight.

What advice do you have for people who want to start a sustainable restaurant or hotel?

Hotel Green Solution House

Trine: Talk to people who have already had experience with it. People who can save you from making mistakes.

 

That is why we are very happy to share our experiences. I believe that people generally think so, especially when it comes to sustainability.

 

For example, we cooperate with a sustainable hotel chain, Guldsmeden Hotels, and do not see them as competition but as an asset. This hotel chain benefits e.g. B. from our knowledge about the use of existing buildings, with all the official requirements etc. that have to be observed there. And we use their specially developed cosmetic products like soap, shampoo & conditioner in our hotel rooms, which are great.

 

So my advice to newcomers is to help yourself where possible and to benefit from the experience of others.

Let's talk about money. Is a sustainable concept economical?

Trine: Leading by example is unfortunately expensive. But I still think it's right and important to do that. Let's take the example of shampoo again. Of course we could use a shampoo that makes economic sense, i.e. is cheap. But I personally don't like these shampoos. They don't feel good in the hair and often have ingredients that we don't want in our hair or in our waste water. That's why I decided on a more expensive, but better alternative in terms of well-being.

 

My advice is to wait until you can afford the right product before making any purchasing decisions. Just like we do in private life.
So: earn money and save it until you can afford the right product.

What's next for the GSH?

Trine: We are currently building 24 rooms and a conference room for 30 people. And on the roof there will be an oasis for guests, with a sauna and a relaxation zone. The building is a wooden structure and some furniture will be made from wood waste from the woodwork.

 

Otherwise, no new construction projects are planned for the time being. However, we would like to continue to work on improving step by step. The journey continues and I look forward to it.

***

I learned SO MUCH from the conversation with Trine Richter! Not just a large number of sustainability ideas that have already been successfully implemented there and that work.

But in particular what is possible if you have a clear vision and mission of your daily work. And what cooperation can achieve.


So: Go ahead and cooperate as much as you can. Especially with people who have similar values to you!

 

Your Sandra

DAS HELDEN-ATELIER

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