The Charles Hotel Takes Home Grown to Heart

7/30/2006 By Glenn Hasek

CAMBRIDGE, MASS.—Henrietta’s Table, the award-winning restaurant at the Charles Hotel here, has staked its claim as one of the most environmentally friendly restaurants in America—and for good reason. Executive chef Peter Davis strongly advocates the purchase of local, organically grown vegetables, meat produced by farmers who practice humane animal husbandry, and seafood produced by well-managed fisheries. In 2005, Henrietta’s Table purchased close to $100,000 in food products directly from local farmers.

As a member of the Boston-based Chefs Collaborative, a national nonprofit organization that promotes sustainable cuisine, chef Davis supports local farmers by buying as much organic produce as he can, as well as other items that are grown in a sustainable manner.

“It does not have to be organic to be good,” Davis says.

Davis, who has been honored by The James Beard Foundation as one of “The Best Hotel Chefs in America,” says that prior to implementing his “local” initiative, he spoke with representatives from the local U.S. Department of Agriculture, got involved with the Chefs Collaborative and did other networking to identify local farmers who shared his approach.

To help promote the fact that menu ingredients are bought locally, the hotel distributes “Know Your Farmer” baseball-type cards. They include details on where the food comes from and are distributed with check-stuffers in the restaurant. The cards earned the hotel publicity in national publications such as “USA Today.” Complete card sets are sold in the market at Henrietta’s Table. Proceeds from the cards benefit The Farm School in Athol, Mass., a family run farm.

“The farm school has an organic food apprenticeship program,” Davis says. “It offers summer camp and school camp for children in fourth through eighth grade. They actually get to work the farm.”

Earlier this year, the Charles Hotel held a fundraiser called the “Big Pig Gig” to raise money for The Farm School. More than $140,000 was raised.

In the kitchen of the restaurant, associates sort disposable items such as cans and bottles for recycling and collect food waste for composting. The compost containers are hauled away by a local business—Herb’s Disposal—each month at a cost of $750.

Engineering, Housekeeping Participate

In addition to its efforts in the kitchen, the Charles Hotel has taken steps to conserve water and energy in the engineering and housekeeping departments. The hotel recently installed variable speed drives (VFDs) on air handling units to control static pressure, and on cooling towers to slow down the control fan motors which cool the water that is used at the hotel. The VFDs help to slow the drive motors by reducing electricity going to the motor, and therefore reduce the amount of consumed kilowatts.

Four energy-efficient motors were recently installed on the hotel’s chilled water and condenser water loops, which have helped to save 2,000 kwh per year. The director of engineering has expanded The Charles Hotel’s energy management program by incorporating additional equipment, utilizing energy-efficient light bulbs in all public spaces and adding additional employees to overnight shifts in order to shut down equipment during off hours.

The engineering and housekeeping departments have implemented a green room program to conserve water and reduce the amount of detergent phosphors being released back into the water system. This program allows guests to choose whether their bed linens are laundered daily or every other day, therefore saving water and electricity, and eliminating pollutants as well.

For its efforts at Henrietta’s Table and for projects in the engineering and housekeeping departments, the 293-room Charles Hotel recently was awarded the Good Earthkeeping award in the large property category at the American Hotel & Lodging Association’s Stars of the Industry Awards breakfast in Denver.

Glenn Hasek can be reached at greenlodgingnews@aol.com.


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