Where Earth Hour is a 24 hour-a-day occurrence, all year round

Look beyond the luxurious exterior of lavish Hilton, and this hotel is ecologically modest and quietly revolutionary

On Saturday 31 March at exactly 8:30 in the evening all across Copenhagen something special happened. The city went into virtual darkness, as people turned their lights off for one hour to celebrate Earth Hour 2012. In just five years, Earth Hour has become the biggest climate event in the world. Created to raise awareness about the need to tackle climate change, last year a staggering 5,200 cities and towns in over 135 countries took part.

One of the first people to take part in this global event here in Denmark was Claus Steiner, the general manager of the Hilton Copenhagen Airport. Back in 2008, he decided to celebrate Earth Hour by inviting all his staff to a screening of Al Gore’s film ‘An Inconvenient Truth’ in the hotel’s cinema suite.

“This film has had a big impact on my life; I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve seen it now,” said Steiner. “I thought it would be a good idea to show my staff the film to try and create some awareness amongst them.”

His simple idea certainly worked and just recently his forward-thinking hotel was voted by Hilton Worldwide as the most sustainable of all its 3,800 branches. Yet this march towards sustainability has been a quiet yet revolutionary one.

Steiner is not interested in trying to be the ‘greenest hotel in Copenhagen’, contending that labels are easy to demolish, as he thinks the proof is in the actions being taken on a daily basis. He does admit though that it was initially his passion that helped drive and engage his work colleagues into action. After the Al Gore film, a special green team was set up with the aim of empowering the staff into making decisions about how to make the hotel more sustainable.

“Right from the start, the ethos was that any member of staff who had a great idea should come with their proposals. This helped make it an inclusive green team who were open to suggestions,” said Steiner.

“One of the green team recommended that the extractor fan in the main kitchen should be turned off at non-peak hours to stop wasting energy – this initiative has now been rolled out at all Hilton hotels worldwide. Another idea was to send all the excess soap not used by guests to Africa. So it’s simple yet effective small steps that can make a big difference.”

In only four years, the list of achievements are impressive, along with the added bonus of saving money on the hotel’s utility bills.  Last year alone, the hotel made energy savings of 19.6 percent, cut its waste by 14.5 percent, and water consumption by 4.1 percent.

“It’s sometimes a fine balance between making a difference and ensuring all our guests get the comfort they expect from a Hilton hotel, but I believe you can offer top-class hospitality with a conscience,” said Steiner.

The icing on the cake came last year when Al Gore stayed at the hotel. Steiner and his green team were able to show him all the changes that have taken place, since that life-changing cinema date back in 2008. “It was a real honour to show him in person and a once-in-a life-time experience,” he concluded.

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