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China's first carbon-neutral hotel

08-01-2010 13:59 BJT

China's rapid economic development has attracted the attention of the world's top hotel chains. Today we visit an out-of-the-ordinary 5-star hotel in Shanghai. URBN is China's first carbon-neutral hotel, promoting sustainability and green luxury. The hotel offsets its carbon emissions by purchasing credits and investing in projects to help restore the environment and reduce carbon dioxide. This green marketing strategy has boosted the hotel's reputation, as well as increasing profits. Founder Scott Barrack has lived in China for over 10 years, and understands the market well. His hotel is not on a bustling main street but hidden in a small alley, in the heart of old Shanghai.

This was not an overnight idea

The decision to open China's first carbon neutral hotel wasn't an overnight idea. Scott was born in the southern U.S. and his family was involved in the real-estate business. 10 years ago, Scott moved to China.

He gradually became a specialist in renovating Shanghai's old houses. After the birth of his daughter, Scott realized he was becoming more and more concerned about the environment. He was worried about Shanghai's air and water quality, and the environment as a whole. It got him thinking about what he could do to make a difference.

Scott Barrack said "I know there's pollution in every big city. But whether or not that pollution is threatening  people’s safety makes a difference. So I realized that I needed to take this into account when I do business in the future. Everyone wants to live in a place that is environmentally friendly, with good air and water."

As it happened, around that time Scott ran into an old friend, Jules Kwan. Jules shared his interest in environmental protection. He was also quite familiar with the construction industry. At that time, the world's first carbon neutral hotel was being built in Canada. This got Scott and Jules thinking about building their own carbon neutral hotel in China.

Shanghai is one of China's fastest growing cities. Here you can find every kind of hotel, from boutique hotels to international chains. Although they vary in style, 5-star hotels have some things in common. They're usually all large buildings, luxuriously decorated with lobbies lit 24-hours by sparkling crystal chandeliers. They are symbolic of Shanghai's booming development, but they also put a great deal of pressure on Shanghai's environment and resources. Scott hoped that his carbon neutral hotel would be a prototype that would change the industry.

Barrack's idea was a logical one, as the hotel industry is a very high energy consumption industry. Under China's hotel standard, a five-star hotel consumes more than 60 kilograms of coal per square meter each year. A four-star hotel uses an average of 47 kilograms each year, while a three-star one consumes over 40 kilograms. China's National Tourism Bureau has pledged to reduced the energy consumption of the country's hotels and tourism attractions. It has set a target of a 20 percent reduction in electricity and water usage by 2015.

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