I decided to treat my mom to a few days in the city before heading over to the Island for some down time. No run ‘o the mill box inside a box was going to do for our city escapade. I was determined to find a luxurious-within-financial-reason diamond among the monotonous beige masquerading as homes away from home for our time in Vancouver. And, of course, it had to be someplace that was making an effort to improve their ecological footprint.
Folks, an hotel stating that it lets you use your towel more than once and has hooked their energy efficient lights into a system that turns off when you leave the room is not making an effort. I lost track of the number of times I got my hopes up thinking, ‘This will be the one,’ clicking on a link leading to a hotel’s website listed on Google’s first page for whatever variety of ‘green’ criteria I tried to type into the search field. Those hopes were swiftly dashed to pieces, thrown over the edge of a steep cliff built from propaganda and exaggerations onto a rocky shore lined with razor sharp outcroppings of ‘you’ve got to be kidding me’ nonsense.
Then I finally found The Listel. Quite honestly, I cannot even remember what I typed into Google that led me there, I was grasping at straws by that point. But, what made me pause was their 100% zero waste policy. On their environment matters page they state that they compost, reuse and recycle, and turn the rest into energy. All of it. From everything disposed of by patrons in their rooms to light bulbs, beds, batteries and small appliances.
So, what does this look like in practice? Not much really, kind of like at home, except I didn’t have to bring out the recycling or turn the compost myself. There is the regular, black plastic trash bin, a box for recyclables such as paper and plastics, and a little compost bucket. I think that may be the happiest I have ever been to see a receptacle for rotting food. I have a vague recollection of squealing an exclamation of, ‘Oh! You’re so cute!’ Yeah, yeah, I know, garden geek.
Another perk that eventually led me to booking a room was the local and sustainable focus of Forage, the hotel’s restaurant. We ended up eating there for almost every meal due to a fortunate booking mistake on my part, resulting in $300 worth of gift certificates. I can assure you that the food is divine, and the service outstanding, but it was the cheese puff desert soaked in elderflower syrup (I think … it was definitely a flower, with an unexpectedly phenomenal flavour) and surrounded by ‘unruly gin-spiked blueberries’ that had me wondering if the chef was open to the idea of being locked in my kitchen for the next few years.
On top of the work towards reducing their eco footprint, the folks at Listel have made this artist happy by covering the walls with original and limited edition art pieces. Of course I was going to book an Artist Series Suite. They have created a partnership with the Museum of Anthropology, meaning I got to ogle First Nations carvings and paintings in my rooms without having to bus all the way out to UBC.
There are only a couple of things I want to gripe about. When I asked for details about the zero waste policy, how all those non-recyclables were turned into electricity, no one at the front desk was able to educate me. I was reassured that the 100% figure was accurate, and given a printout of a pdf found on the hotel’s website. I think what the company is doing is pretty cool, but the lukewarm response by the publicly accessible employees was unfortunate and as a result I felt a bit embarrassed about asking for more information. Thick-skinned, fact finding reporter I am not.
Secondly, I really wanted to see the rooftop garden. Even just a peek. But nope, it turns out access is restricted due to the bees. This made me smile. I was told that it was because of concern for the safety of the hotel’s visitors. In my head I painted a picture of a gardener fearlessly brandishing a spade protecting the hardworking insects. Perhaps there is flexibility to convert one of the artist suites into a garden suite? Filled with photographs giving a glimpse of the green space, a few still life paintings commissioned from local artists, a menu of teas that could be freshly prepared from the herbs and flowers grown there …
For me, the Listel has come the closest to creating a home away from home experience within a city hotel. I am grateful for their efforts, and look forward to visiting again to see how they continue to reduce the negative impact created by their day to day business and even by their guests.