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World Environment Day: Shruti Shibulal Has Her Bets On Sustainability

On World Environment Day, CEO and director, Tamara Leisure Experiences, says that to be sustainable, being thoughtful comes first.

Priyadarshini Nandy

As far as hospitality and tourism is concerned, India is the fourth largest carbon footprint gnerator in the world. ANd  And while some of the leading players in the industry are doing everything they can to keep their carbon emissions low and have instated a rigid sustainability policy in place. However, when it comes to the rest of the country, most hospitality players are barely getting started. But the time is now, and every little step counts. 

The first thing one has to do, in order to even take the tiniest of steps towards being sustainable in the hospitality industry, is to start by measuring basic things like water, energy and waste, begins Shruti Shibulal, CEO and director of Tamara Leisure Experiences.

As a brand, Tamara is known for its luxury resort in Coorg. But despite being in that segment, it takes its responsibility towards being earth-friendly quite seriously, and even as Shibulal says that they are of course not perfect, the company has a system in place that makes sure that certain measures are put in place to be as sustainable as possible.

“If you can measure how much you’re using and wasting in your kitchen, that’s a start,” she says. “If you run a hotel, take all of your various kitchens, your staff cafeteria and measure the volume of raw material that is being used vis-à-vis being consumed. One of the simplest ways to control wastage is to plan your menus intelligently. Educate yourself and your staff. Take only what you are going to eat, be conscious of wasting food.”

Start small

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Coorg Tamara

For that need to be popular, talked about etc, most food and beverage outlets across the country end up adding scores of dishes to their menu but what most don’t take into consideration is the fact that this is exactly what leads to excessive wastage. “As it is our industry generates volumes of wastage. How you design your menu is extremely important. Dishes that don’t do well, take them off the menu. Dishes that get ordered once in a while need to be reconsidered," Shibulal further adds.

Shibulal explains how it is entirely possible to be sustainable and profitable at the same time. “Resources are becoming more expensive by the day. What I always believe is that to be sustainable, it requires a degree of thoughtfulness. It’s not rocket science but more of common sense. You use less. You waste less. You save money. It’s not just about sustainability but as a business it’s an opportunity as well. Recycle, upcycle, do what it takes, and you can always start small.”

Technology does play a role here. Additions such as energy-saving lights in hotel room, motion sensor water taps, these things go a long way. Shibulal also says that she is cognisant of the fact that not all hotels can have everything in place. It costs money and requires big budgets. But initiatives such as controlling waste don’t.

“For instance, at Tamara, we don’t have tubs in all the rooms or hot springs. That requires us to store about three times as much of water. So we took a conscious decision not to,” Shibulal explains. 

She further adds, “When it comes to water and energy, we operate our laundry services during off-peak hours. This helps to generate the body to reduce load and we also get power at a less rate. e have automated the bigger exhaust hoods automatically in such a way the controller will activate exhaust fan depends on Heat and smoke only.  This will drastically reduce consumption. We are soon going to change our diesel-operated generator for laundry to IoT based system to reduce consumption. Plus there's solar panelling. For water, we used rainwater harvesting, which is not a new thing. We are also planning to introduce  IoT based building management system to make our properties smart and efficient. At Tamara Coorg, we have reduced water generation by about 34 per cent in the main kitchen and 20 per cent in the staff cafeteria. At Kodaikanal, Tamara has achieved reduction in food waste generation in the main kitchen by approximately 29 per cent.” 

Less plastic, more alternatives

The other product Shibulal wishes could be done away with is plastic. “At our property, we have a water processing plant and we place glass bottles in the room. We also don’t keep bottles of shampoos and lotions in our bathrooms. We have placed refillable dispensers that saves us from having to throw away all the unused small bottles, even when one has only used a tiny bit,” she says. Even toothbrushes can be replaced with ones with wooden handles. In a nutshell, Shibulal says that “every bit counts”.

One step Tamara Leisures has taken is install a solar project in their mid-segment hotel Lilac in Bengaluru. “The cost of energy is going up. We ran a solar pilot project. It worked. There is a huge number of solar financing options out there; these finances allow you to pay back over time. The eco-system is working, one just has to take advantage of it,” she says.

Expectations v/s deliverables

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Coorg Kodaikanal

“I think most people assume that to be sustainable you have to at one extreme end. You cannot really be 100 per cent sustainable in the hospitality industry. But if you start with tangible expectations and meet those expectations, you are doing the planet a huge service,” Shibulal avers.

For instance, getting certified as a “sustainable property” is expensive and is an arduous process. But if you set your own goals and met them, you are already being true to the cause, she explains. “At Tamara, we are on a journey as well. What you can do and how you do it changes from time to time and place to place. A lot will depend on where you are located. Tamara Coorg is set on a 180-acre coffee plantation, there are hills, we get rain. Now compare that with Bengaluru where water is a concern. Set your sustainability goals accordingly,” she adds.

The system of sustainability

“I keep reiterating that being sustainable also needs to make business sense. You don’t have to sacrifice one for the other. If companies educated themselves on how to run a good business and question status quo, there is a huge opportunity right there. Of course, we need changes in policies too,” Shibulal says. 

When asked about if transparency was an issue, Shibulal said that there is not really a clear benchmarking. “One of my asks from the larger organisations is to share more information on the basic metrics I had talked about earlier (wastage, water, energy etc), something that allows the rest of us to benchmark against. Of course there some guidelines and standards and there are a few agencies that set these guidelines and at Tamara we follow one of those. But if hotels reported their sustainability practices the way we have to share our financials, especially if you’re a public company, everyone can learn. I don’t know who’s hiring locally, what is the per room consumption of water of a large business hotel in average, etc. I can ask, but there is nothing out there. There is not necessarily any accountability,” she expands. 

Putting minds to work

“I work with the Global Futures Council and we are putting together a paper on responsible tourism (which is something that is the need of the hour). And this paper is going to be backed by science that policy makers really need to look into. The wealth of knowledge within people who have a lot of experience in creating sustainable destinations. Now if this became a policy, any destination could pick it up and follow the 10 practical things you can do to make your destination sustainable,” Shibulal explains.

She goes on to add how the intellect behind this paper does not come only from the tourism section. “There are people from academia, airlines, cruises, non-profit and we are all working on this together. The knowledge is there, we need to harness it and influence policy makers,” she adds.

Being accountable is the need of the hour and it starts from the ground all the way to the top, whether you are a consumer or a whole industry. And the time to start is now. “Not enough is being done, we are nowhere near our goals, but I can only hope that we will get there. There definitely is a movement towards sustainability,” Shibulal signs off. 

Photo: Tamara Leisure
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