Good looks, green soul

  • TEXT HANNE HANSEN
  • PHOTOS GULLIVER THEIS

Alila Seminyak on Bali is a resort with a bold green dream of producing zero waste, minimizing its ­environmental footprint.

Your first encounter with this resort’s philosophy is when you walk into the Alila Seminyak and touch the wooden walls and elements, letting your fingers absorb the history of the chocolate-colored ironwood. All the wood used in this hotel has a past – as railway sleepers, telephone poles or house stilts.
From there, your next stop should be the spacious beach terrace of the Seasalt restaurant, the perfect place to enjoy a La Mer cocktail, served in a shell-shaped ceramic cup. Sipped like an oyster, it tastes like the perfect vodka martini but with an unexpected salty sea tang, courtesy of ground-up oyster shells that have spent two days soaking in Martini Bianco. In the kitchen, what would otherwise end up in the bin is reused imaginatively, one of the small details that reveal the bold concept of this luxury beach hotel: zero waste. Alila wastes nothing: Food, building materials, water, plastic, paper or fabric – everything is consumed, recycled or reused.

 

Vertikales Grün verduns­tet Wasser und kühlt die Hauswände.

Water evaporates from the vertical garden, cooling the walls

Green support system: Stefan Zich, the manager of the Alila resort, among the plants flourishing on the rooftop terrace

We make sure that our guests use as little energy as possible 


 

 This resort in the chic beach town of Seminyak aims to do its bit toward preventing Bali from suffocating in waste. In the past few years, visitor numbers have boomed, a welcome development, but one which also increases the amount of waste the island has to deal with. More and more plastic-packaged western products are being imported, and drinking water is available exclusively in plastic bottles. Some garbage is simply dumped in the countryside and then washed out to sea by the rain. Around the hotels, Bali’s beaches look as pristine as ever, but the ocean is brimming with plastic. Private projects have been set up to tackle the issue, and the Alila Seminyak resort has chosen to lead by example. Stefan Zich, the hotel’s Austrian manager with plenty of international experience, buzzes with ideas and a positive approach. “We are all part of the problem,” he says. “So that means that we’re also part of the solution.”

The gods smile on fragrant flowers in non-plastic bowls

Green Team meeting in the garden

Garden waste is shredded and composted

 A stroll around the hotel shows that this isn’t merely lip service: The resort has its own wastewater treatment plant, collects rainwater to irrigate the garden, and cooperates with small regional producers. Creepers cover the outside walls, an attractive detail that also serves a purpose: Water evaporates from the plants, cooling the building and reducing the need for air conditioning inside. The tons of waste produced in the restaurants and 175 rooms are carefully sorted: The plastic packaging is taken by two Indonesian companies, who use it to make pallets and benches; paper is collected by recycling experts; organic waste from the restaurants is composted and used to fertilize the hotel’s gardens.

Not that the guests notice what goes on behind the scenes as they gaze out over the ocean from their bathrooms, breathing in the scent of sandalwood, orange, ginger and rosemary. The fine organic soap, shower gel and shampoo are all made locally; the plastic bottles are refilled when empty. Toothbrushes and shaving items are packed in stylish, recyclable paper bags and are presented like costly gifts in handcrafted boxes made of local wood. The air conditioning switches off whenever one of the floor-to-ceiling balcony doors is opened, something most guests don’t notice. “We don’t want anyone to feel constrained,” says Stefan Zich. “We make sure that our guests produce as little garbage and use as little energy as possible – that for us is the more elegant solution.”

Not everything is quite the way the hotel boss would like it – yet. For instance, the disposable slippers provided in the bedrooms. The new prototypes sit on the desk in Zich’s office: 20 pairs of slippers made of jute, coconut and sugarcane fiber, rice straw, cotton and recycled rubber. “We’re still working on making our organic slippers as attractive and comfortable as the synthetic ones.” They will definitely be more expensive, but Zich is looking at the bigger picture. “Ultimately, all it takes is a little effort and awareness to help protect the environment.”

Outside the lobby, the beach beckons

 

Almost as an afterthought, Zich mentions that as well as a number of other projects, the resort supports a Balinese children’s charity and sponsors gifted but disadvantaged schoolchildren. Last summer, the first recipients of the Alila scholarship started at a tourism college, did internships at the resort and will be employed by the hotel after graduating. Zich’s office is deep down in the hotel’s basement, like all the administration and technical services. All over, in even the smallest niche, staff have installed small Hindu altars, as is customary on Bali. Fresh offerings – intricate flower arrangements and sweets on banana leaves – are left every day for the gods. Incense sticks, often perfumed with jasmine, burn in the morning. Zich is allergic, but still happy: “There used to be biscuits wrapped in plastic on the altars, but that has stopped now!”

The 450 people who work at the resort no longer bring plastic to work, and all drinks come in thermos flasks or glass bottles. The employees have fully embraced the green mindset, even outside work. Contests are held in the WhatsApp group: Who’s the first to post that they’re going shopping with a Tupperware box? The people behind this are the Green Team – ten employees who voluntarily attend weekly training sessions with an external environmental consultant. The Green Team motivates colleagues to hold litter collection drives in their home villages and spread the green message. In their free time, many employees have started teaching environmental protection in local primary schools. Their pupils will be the first generation of Balinese who learn recycling as naturally as their ABC.

In the evening, freshly baked bread and hand-harvested Balinese sea salt is served on the restaurant terrace. And as the sun sets spectacularly, a syrup of pineapple skin and leaves is bubbling away on the stove in the kitchen – ready for the next zero waste cocktail.

alilahotels.com/seminyak

Dream retreat: The view from the Alila over lush greenery and one of the most beautiful beaches on Bali


GETTING THERE

Lufthansa is offering one daily flight from Frankfurt (FRA) and up to six weekly flights from Munich (MUC) to Singapore (SIN) in November. Continue to Bali with a regional airline. Use the app to calculate your miles: miles-and-more.com/app