“When sourcing sustainable food, you have to consider source, distance to travel, organically grown, quality, selection, and price,” St. Onge said. “It can be a difficult balance.”
One of the Brown Palace’s most unique sustainable food practices is its Bee Royalty Initiative. The hotel’s roof is home to five beehives, and the honey is used in the hotel’s lobby tea service, incorporated into its spa products, brewed into a local beer, and infused into a Brown Palace Bourbon.
“This summer, we are hoping to start an organic garden on the roof next to our honey bees and incorporate our organic rooftop veggies into signature dishes and cocktails in our venues,” St. Onge said.
Community response to Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide’s Eat Local, Think Global initiative also has been “overwhelmingly positive,” according to Christoph Leu, executive chef, operations at Starwood. The policy promotes sourcing locally and sustainably to minimize the use of over-harvested endangered animals, seafood, and plants. (The company also recently announced a ban on shark fin in all of its hotels and restaurants worldwide, beginning July 2014.) Starwood has integrated these principles into its core business strategy by providing divisional and regional guidelines for its properties to adapt depending on their location.
“Local and regional artisans, including farmers, cheese makers, or fishermen, are excited about us making use of their products across our menu offerings,” Leu said.
At first, kitchen teams were anxious about more frequent seasonal menu changes, but now they enjoy learning about locally grown food that often increases nutritional value and enhances flavor. The teams also are enthusiastic about lowering the hotels’ carbon footprint through shorter transportation and cold storage needs due to less reliance on menu items that must be shipped from far away.
“At Starwood, we believe that sourcing locally and sustainably improves the environment along with having a positive social-economic impact throughout the communities in which we operate,” Leu said. “Equally, we believe that stronger local communities support our goal in further enhancing guest experiences when they travel and stay in our locations around the globe.”
Hotel administrators who want to develop purchasing policies that support social and environmental responsibility can find resources at www.sustainablefoodpolicy.org.