The Spier Hotel has everything and more you’d expect from a four-star hotel: 153 rooms, conference centres, restaurants, an artists’ studio and expansive gardens… The décor is stylish while not intimidating, and contemporary South African art is displayed throughout the hotel complex. I especially like the absence of wall-to-wall carpeting. It’s a relief to not be thinking about what might be lurking between the threads of such matting. But none of this impressed me more than the fact that the Spier hotel and wine estate sends only 3% of its waste to landfill.

For an organisation that employs 500 and hosts an average of 9000 guests and conference delegates a month (excluding day trippers), this is remarkable. Heidi Newton King, head of sustainability at Spier, says that ever since it opened on the banks of the Eerste River in Stellenbosch 18 years ago, “the thinking behind everything we do is to drive change. It’s a beautiful concept, done well.”

The process is not about compliance it’s about finding ways to move forward

Spier was one of the first five hotels to be certified by Fair Trade Tourism, a non-profit organization promoting best-practice responsible tourism in Africa. “They cover environment, social and business aspects of a business, assessing current status and suggesting improvements,” says Heidi. “It’s been a wonderful journey of sharing information and collaborating with other Fair Trade businesses. There is ongoing auditing that happens, but the process is not about compliance it’s about finding ways to move forward,” says Heidi.

Designed as a village-style complex, the hotel consists of a single-storey building with reception rooms, a shop, swimming pool, bar and restaurant. From here it’s a short walk through the garden to the double-storey accommodation units. Rooms are tasteful, equipped with everything you may need for a comfortable stay. The look and feel is farm-style chic. When you walk, shuttle or take a Segway from the hotel, towards the Stellenbosch mountains, you will find more restaurants, conference rooms, wine tasting and an artists’ studio. There is the Eight Restaurant, Hoghouse or Spier Farm Kitchen. Food served is either grown on the Spier organic farm or sourced from nearby farmers. No chemical fertilisers, pesticides, antibiotics or hormones are used, in keeping with Spier’s sustainability values.

Seeing the rolling green lawns and lush gardens during the Cape’s worst drought in living memory made me feel very uncomfortable. But I was happy to find out that none of this greenery is thanks to municipal water. More than ten years ago, “we installed our wastewater plant which then was pretty progressive. It’s really paid up for us now. All our black and grey water goes into the wastewater treatment plant. And we reuse it in our irrigation,” says Heidi. For other uses Spier uses a combination of municipal water, industrial water on the farm, river and ground water.

There are over 400 water saving devices on site

Spier measures its water, waste and energy usage. “We put a system in place many years ago and we now live monitor our water and electricity usage,” says Heidi. There are over 400 water saving devices on site. Spier does use Eskom and has a few solar installations, but “we’d like to use more solar power”.

The hotel has an on-site sorting and recycling area where hotel waste is managed. The organization has worked hard on recycling, and Heidi believes they’ve managed so well because everyone is on the same journey.

Heidi, who holds the human resources portfolio as well as sustainability at Spier, says, “All staff members are brought on board with a rigorous three-day induction course, which involves visiting a landfill where they learn from the Stellenbosch municipality what the waste issues are. You can’t tell staff what to do. You have to inspire them and give them real experiences.”

It’s really good to see that waste can be reduced at source

In the Western Cape, where we are running out of landfill space according to the minister of environmental affairs, Anton Bredell, it’s really good to see that waste can be reduced at source and how institutions can help reduce the strain on local waste management infrastructure.

If you haven’t already been to Spier, you should visit to experience how a business can be run with attention to people and the planet. Or just go for the wine tasting, a few days of rest and the great art. None of these experiences have been diminished in Spier’s mission to minimise its impact on the environment.

  • Stay at Spier for three nights this winter, and save 20% off your bill. From R915 per person, per night, valid until 30 September. For more details, or to make a booking, call 021 809 1100 or email reservations@spier.co.za
  • All images are supplied.
  • Jackie May was a guest at Spier.