ritz carlton kapalua
Maui, United States

I have to be honest, when I heard that the Ritz Carlton Kapalua wanted to show me their hotel garden I was a bit suspicious this would be a case of “garden washing.” I mean sure I expect a luxury experience from them with great food, but I thought it would be a 10×10 plot of land with a few herbs.

 

Per usual I was wrong.

 

I don’t usually write about hotels because eventually they all start to look the same. Sure the service here is top-notch, but you expect that from a luxury hotel. Honestly every hotel says they are about their community, the environment and the local culture. I come from marketing, I know those are all the right things to say. But this garden and their plans for the future made me think again about the Ritz Carlton.

 

Let me start from the beginning.

 

This garden didn’t start out as an altruistic effort and I’m okay with that. Nearly six years ago the hotel was spending a fortune on herbs that were being shipped over from the main land and were terrible quality. Let’s face it, if you are the Ritz Carlton, you can’t have limp greens.

Ritz Carlton Maui

hotel garden

The kitchen decided they needed to start growing them if they wanted quality food. The problem is that most kitchens have staff that work so hard they have little time to devote to other projects so for a few years they kept it going but struggled trying to figure out how to make things more efficient.

Finally last year everyone agreed they needed to bring someone in; fortunately at the same time Frank, a retiree from the business world, wanted to take on a new challenge.

This is where the real story begins.

With a commitment to the garden it really began to thrive. Frank started with simply reviving the orchids that were dying in people’s rooms. Then he moved onto planting more herbs, vegetables and fruit including local species of things I have never seen before like a version of spinach that grows like a bush.

 

 

But here is what blew me away.

 

Now they save over $30,000 alone in herbs in the hotel garden. They are ripping out the tennis courts and planning to grow an orchard and there is a desire to figure out how they can introduce beehives to benefit the garden. They are also looking at how they can expand their greenhouse so there are more tomatoes and other plants and then bring solar-powered lights for dinners at night.

kale garden

hotel garden

maui garden

But in all my travels this is what I am starting to learn: if big businesses would just start to take risks like this they can create programs that are good for their bottom line and what travelers really want. Sure you can eat in some grand dining room but that’s not what you are going to tell your friends and family about. but spend a night in a garden surrounded by the smell of fresh lemongrass and kaffir lime leaves and you’ll never forget it.

And when they succeed others will follow.

I’m okay with businesses doing the “right thing” for profit and I admire them when they actually admit that’s why they are doing it. I know there is always a level of people wanting to make change for the better but this program actually shows that it can be a smart business move to go local and organic. I am so tired of the argument that local/organic is too expensive and for a loss of profit and I really hope the hotel expands because I know the staff want it to work on a philosophical level.

Some days I wish more people could see that sustainability is win-win for everyone.

 

 

 

Disclosure: I was a guest of the Maui Visitors Bureau. They did not request that I write a favourable review or think that the smoothie that Chef April Marie Lower Matsumoto created with herbs from the garden was so good that I wished she lived in Toronto.

 

 

 

8 Comments

  1. Cassie on the May 13, 2013 remarked #

    Thanks for sharing this story. More businesses need to see that fostering sustainability is better for everyone and can often save them money.
    Cassie recently posted..Springtime in London’s Parks and Public Spaces

  2. Laurence on the May 13, 2013 remarked #

    Wow – that’s brilliant. And the savings are what businesses should focus on, pretty incredible stuff.
    Laurence recently posted..Instagram tips: an Interview with Larry Closs

  3. Kieu ~ GQ trippin on the May 13, 2013 remarked #

    I think more and more people are turning a new leaf on investing in sustainability. :)
    Kieu ~ GQ trippin recently posted..Where To Stay: Thailand

  4. Megan on the May 14, 2013 remarked #

    It’s great that they’re transparent about the initial reasons for starting the garden. It bums me out that talking about profit is often seen as a faux pas- this sort of rational appeal will, hopefully, inspire other businesses to think more sustainably. Plus, these types of projects seem to create happier/more engaged staff. Win-win-win.
    Megan recently posted..How to Make Beging Mugged or Robbed Suck Less

  5. Carmie on the May 14, 2013 remarked #

    They may not have asked you to write a favourable review but it doesn’t get much better than this.

  6. Richard on the May 14, 2013 remarked #

    Wow! What a win/win for business and consumers. Who doesn’t enjoy fresh smells of herbs and veggies. I would hope more Hospitality businesses adapt to this positive and cost savings initiative.

  7. jenny@discoverydiscovery on the May 14, 2013 remarked #

    Great stuff. I love to read stories like this about big businesses realising that we all need to get invovled in helping the planet out

  8. mark thomas on the May 20, 2013 remarked #

    love the article, this kind of piece shows that business and the environment can coexist together

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