Six Senses Duxton: When 'sustainability' is more than just a buzzword

Six Senses Duxton: When 'sustainability' is more than just a buzzword

The future is now

Text: Adibah Isa

Jeffery Smith, vice president of sustainability for Six Senses Hotels Resorts Spa drops some knowledge on the three Rs, what you can do to minimise air travel guilt and saying "no" to plastic

World Environment Day? Snort. Try World Environment Life. You know the drill: A day dedicated to the awareness of just how important it is to save the environment is punctuated by a slew of articles that declare war against the not-so-innocent plastic straw. You post a sad face emoji and share horror stories of what happens when humanity rears its ugly head: On 1 June, a whale was found dead after eating more than 80 plastic bags — talk about a giant wake-up call.

While it's great that such campaigns of awareness exist, activations under Earth Day, World Environment Day and World Ocean Day should extend beyond a dedicated 24 hours. As one of the 7.6 billion people who roam this Earth, what can you do to push for a greater tomorrow for generations to come? The answer's pretty straightforward: By taking a conscious decision in every step.

We've spoken to the likes of model Petra Nemcova on buying less fast fashion, fashion designer Stella McCartney on marine life conservation and Element Suzhou on designing a sustainable home. Now, we're looking towards the folks at Six Senses Hotels Resorts Spa for solutions. They're a fitting brand — last year, CEO Neil Jacobs won the Leader in Sustainability Award granted at the Global Wellness Summit, one that brings together leaders and influencers from the global wellness industry. It's just one of the slew of awards chalked up by the Bangkok-based brand who's been in the luxury hospitality business since their first property in 1995.

If there's a will to soft sell environmentally conscious decision-making, the luxury hospitality industry could claim that responsibility and find a way. A survey by Etihad released in March found that 69% of Singapore-based travellers seek luxurious experiences. Coupled with the knowledge (from a Club Med survey in April) that millennial travellers from Australia, Japan, Korea and Singapore go on a trip at least twice a year, the travel industry can play a vital role in shifting mindsets for the better.

Enter Six Senses Duxton, who's already making waves by being the brand's first foray into a city hotel — joining the ranks of resort brands such as Aman and Capella who have embraced the urban oasis. Six Senses' first property in Singapore (a second, Six Senses Maxwell, is due in the third quarter of the year) trades in virgin forests and Ayurveda consultants for a hip, gentrified hood and a Traditional Chinese Medicine physician. Like most of their properties, they pride themselves in celebrating the local culture and supporting healthy ecosystems without compromising the luxury touch.

Duxton Hill

Skeptics might roll their eyes at what sounds like a well-crafted marketing spiel, but essentially, Six Senses Duxton simply adopts habits that make a huge difference in the long term. Across their 49 guestrooms and suites, public spaces and restaurants, no cut flowers are used for decorative purposes. They ban plastic drinking straws, water bottles and trash bin linings, as well as paper cups. All cardboard and cans are collected separately from normal recycling and passed on to the local karang guni. These practices, in all honesty, are ones guests can adopt in their own homes.

In the hotel's modern Chinese restaurant Yellow Pot, 50% of water sales contribute to the Sustainability Fund, which also gets its proceeds from 0.5% of the property's revenue. Take-away items provided to guests and diners are made of biodegradable material. While Earth Lab has yet to find its feet in Singapore, this initiative launched in August 2017 functions as a space where guests can join activities that promote local produce and ecosystems, like how to make coconut oil and toothpaste. To find out more about how Six Senses Duxton walks the talk, we check in with Jeffery Smith, its vice president of sustainability. Among his many hats, he's responsible for ensuring that projects and concepts adhere guidelines, as well as the redevelopment of Earth Lab.

Six Senses Duxton Pearl Suite

You've committed your education and professional work to sustainability and the environment. When did you first see this need to take things into your own hands and make changes?
I come from a small town in Canada, and was blessed with easy access to pristine natural surroundings growing up. I've always been drawn to nature, and started out on this professional path when I enrolled in Environmental Engineering at University of Waterloo.

What makes a hotel truly sustainable? How has Six Senses kept with the times and what are some updates that have been made to your properties?
All Six Senses hotels and resorts track sustainability metrics like energy, water, and waste, and we benchmark this data by participating in the Cornell University Hotel Sustainability Data Benchmarking program. Most recently for Six Senses properties, we are making a big push to drive even more disposable plastic out of our operations, looking beyond disposable food and beverage items and engaging our supply chains to reduce packaging.

Since we all know that air travel is a big culprit when it comes to this, how do you think luxury travellers can decrease their carbon footprint?
[By] investing in carbon offsets, and simply being more conscious of consumption in our daily lives. For local transport, guests are encouraged to pedal around Singapore on one of the hotel's fashionable Tokyobikes or simply bike share. Even when it comes to dining, the simple act of ordering what is needed will go on a long way to help minimise food waste, which also carries a large carbon footprint.

Who are some of the organic local vendors used in your operations in Six Senses Duxton, and what are some examples that show how they contribute to the environment?
Currently, we are working with Nanyang Sauce, Farm deLight and Kühlbarra Barramundi for the ingredient supply of our Yellow Pot Restaurant. In order to achieve a closed-loop and zero waste management system, we are currently engaging with Insectta — the first urban insect farm in Singapore — to convert our F&B organic waste into natural fertilizer by using Black Soldier Fly larvae. As food waste is a growing environmental issue, the whole composting process by Black Soldier Fly larvae helps in reducing carbon footprint associated with food scraps decay and eventually we will be getting a nutrient rich natural fertilizer for our edible garden in Six Senses Maxwell in the near future. We'll have a one-month trial run with Insectta once all necessary arrangements have been made.

Yellow Pot, a restaurant in Six Senses Duxton
There's a Sustainability Fund for social and environmental projects at a local level. What are the projects that will benefit from Six Senses Duxton's contributions?
Our focus will be supporting worthy local non-profit groups, for example engaging in urban gardening and urban bee keeping.

Six Senses bans the use of plastic drinking straws, plastic water bottles, and paper cups. Have you met with any resistance from guests who insist on using these materials?
Some guests are still surprised when they learn we do not offer these disposable items, but more and more guests arrive at our hotels expecting we will provide high quality, reusable materials. Once we explain why it is so important for us and for future generations to reduce waste and live more sustainably, our guests often join the cause.

Do you plan on growing an Earth Lab here?
Space is quite limited of course in downtown Singapore, although we do plan to practice activities like composting, rooftop gardening, sorting waste, and bottling our own drinking water. When Six Senses Maxwell opens, we hope to have a small Earth Lab location assigned to showcase these efforts and take every opportunity to help guests, our hosts, and community members to reconnect with the natural world.

Lastly, what are three simple steps travellers can do that's more than just about having to reduce, reuse and recycle?

The first step should always be to refuse. We're focusing now on 4 Rs, not just three. Refuse any materials that create unnecessary waste, like single-use plastics.
1) Just say "no thanks" to plastic straws.
2) Carry your own drinking bottle, and say "no thanks" to disposable plastic bottles.
3) Travelling should also be about exploring local culture, and purchasing locally-made products also reduces transportation-related impacts on the environment.

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