Responsible operations and high standards – no need to compromise!

Results of the first visit to Orchards Executive Accommodation

With 21 bedrooms, two meeting rooms for up to 110 delegates, a bar, a restaurant and large gardens, Orchards Executive is one of the bigger establishments participating in the GeePee Responsible Tourism challenge. It is also four-star graded by the Tourism Grading Council of South Africa.

Because of its size, its range of facilities and its high standard, running The Orchards is resource-heavy and at the end of the day resource consumption (and related utility bills) reflect this.  However, we were happy to note that there were already many measures in place to reduce the amount of water and electricity used in the business. No doubt the co-owner, savvy businesswoman Salome, realised how these measures would save the business money. Be sure to look out for the many measures that Salome and her team have taken in the next post.

But we would like to mention how Orchards supplies and heats water in guest bathrooms. Firstly, we should point out that that there are bathtubs in 16 out of 21 guest rooms, which presents an opportunity for future improvement; showers are far better than baths in terms of water consumption, particularly when fitted with low-flow showerheads. A full bath uses up to 80 litres of water whereas a five-minute shower with a low-flow showerhead uses 35 litres of water!

On the positive side, however, most of the showers do have low-flow showerheads fitted already and some of the taps have tap aerators. Aerators mix air with water coming out the tap, reducing water flow but not reducing water pressure or water temperature. So you don’t need to worry about compromising on quality. This is a good start from Orchards, but the long term plan should be to replace baths with showers and install water-saving devices in all bathrooms. We acknowledge that this is often a tricky one for businesses as some guests may prefer to have baths. We do, however, strongly encourage businesses to take a close look at whether offering baths is essential to their businesses and, if not, phase them out as possible.

Heating water is most often the biggest electricity user in both homes and accommodation establishments. Some businesses participating in this project manually turn off their geysers for several hours a day, but this isn’t always a good idea because if the water in the geyser cools down too much, it takes much more energy to heat it up to high enough temperatures and you may not be saving electricity at all. Turning off geysers to save electricity is less effective if the geyser is old because older geysers are less insulated and lose heat quicker.

The Orchards has found a solution around this. Since they have  fitted all their old geysers with geyser blankets (newer ones have insulation built in already), water remains hot in geysers for a while after they are turned off.  This means that less electricity is needed to heat the water again when the geyser is turned on again. In addition to this, Orchards have even insulated the longer runs of hot water pipes to ensure that minimal heat is lost between the geyser and the point at which it is used. Then they have installed geyser timers that are set to provide hot water only at peak times.  Using a geyser timer is a more reliable and consistent way of ensuring that your guests get hot water but that you don’t keep geysers on longer than is necessary.

Finally, guests are given information about saving water and, together with the other measures taken, Orchards has made a good start towards reducing water and electricity usage in guest bathrooms.

We used a technical sheet to record what responsible practices The Orchards Executive Accommodation were involved in when we did the first site visit. You can view the full results of this first visit in the next blog post.

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