Sustainable Luxury: a Winvian Value

Last month The New York Times spoke with Winvian’s managing director Heather Smith Winkelmann about one of the unique obstacles facing luxury resorts working toward greater sustainability: the demand for disposable slippers. As Heather observed, many visitors come to resorts expecting amenities such as slippers or take-home toiletries, presenting a challenge to resorts attempting to implement more environmentally savvy hospitality practices.

Winvian’s Sustainability Council formed to address this challenge. It includes representatives from each core pillar of the resort: The Spa at Winvian, dining, maintenance, and housekeeping. This week we sat down with Alexander Huizenga, Winvian’s Housekeeping Manager and Sustainability Council leader, to learn more about how Winvian is improving sustainability without sacrificing the luxury experience that garners the resort Five Diamond status.

Low-waste for better taste

Alexander describes environmental efforts at Winvian as pervasive and ongoing. Chef Eddy’s seed-to-table food philosophy allows Winvian to grow 70% of the food enjoyed by guests. A changing menu that reflects the current offerings from the farm and greenhouses not only cuts down food waste, it also draws rave reviews from guests who can taste the uniquely seasonal freshness in each bite. In The Restaurant, a Vero filtration system offers both still and sparkling water, served in reusable glasses, eliminating the need for single use bottles. Boxed lunches come in reusable containers, and the Council hopes to start using bamboo cutlery for to-go orders, further lowering the environmental impact of the fine-dining experience at Winvian.

Energy-efficient comfort

Property-wide, maintenance is in the process of converting traditional HVAC systems to heat pumps, an energy efficient take on heating and cooling that does not rely on fossil fuels. While heat pumps cost more upfront, these systems lower energy bills longterm, and their reduced carbon emissions make them a natural investment for Winvian—lowering Winvian’s carbon footprint without asking guests to sacrifice comfort.

Many guests choose eco-friendly transportation methods during their stay—whether heading to the pool on a cottage bike, or venturing to the spa or restaurant on foot. If driving is a must, Winvian has partnered with eco-conscious Volvo to offer guests exclusive access to a 2023 Volvo by request. You might see Winvian staff using a Club Car, a U.S. built electric golf cart, for quick trips around the property. Increasingly, guests arrive in electric vehicles of their own, and Winvian is equipped with chargers for a wide range of EVs, including Teslas.

Reusable elegance

Within the cottages, guests have praised Winvian’s move from single use toiletries to refillable bottles from Molton Brown, a London-based luxury brand with a longstanding interest in sustainability. In an ideal world, Alexander says, Winvian would find a local partner for these amenities, but, at present, it is difficult to find refillable products that meet the Winvian standard. Next up for Winvian is moving away from disposable napkins for drying hands, and toward plush reusable towels. This choice feels both eco-friendly and high-end, offering the next level of luxury. Of course, reusable towels mean more water for laundry, but Winvian is already working to lower water use by changing linens every three days on extended stays, a schedule that also prolongs the softness of their sheets. Guests can always request more frequent changes, but Alexander notes that guests have been valuable partners in Winvian’s sustainability efforts. All cottages are now equipped with recycling containers and guests have done an excellent job of using these, allowing Winvian to recycle everything from paper products to single use containers.

The beauty of staying local

In landscaping, Winvian’s floriculturist Claudia maintains the seasonal plantings that give Winvian its signature beauty. Going above and beyond, she is working on a system to start every plant from seed onsite, eventually forming a sort of seed-library that mirrors the restaurant’s garden, reflecting Winvian’s conservationist mindset and respect for the local environment.

This focus on relationship to the surrounding community sets Winvian apart from more corporate luxury resorts. Employing local businesses for everything from event supplies to maintenance, Winvian also offers classes with local artists and showcases their work in many places on the property. One clear example of how Winvian believes in taking care of people through locally-focused sustainability practices is the tradition of the staff meal. Alexander details how the kitchen uses imperfect produce—fruits and vegetables that are delicious, but nearing the end of their shelf life, or not as aesthetically uniform as fine dining requires—to prepare a meal that everyone on staff can enjoy. This not only cuts down on food waste, it connects the tight-knit team that feels more like family.

While Alexander acknowledges that his dream of a carbon-neutral Winvian is still in the future, present-day Winvian continues to grow its sustainability efforts while honoring its commitment to providing guests with a luxurious escape they can feel good about.


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