By Sharon Hirschowitz
Six Senses Bhutan’s dedicated approach to wellness, sustainability and out-of-the-ordinary experiences mirror the Himalayan Kingdom of Bhutan’s Gross National Happiness philosophy. Sally Baughen elaborates on how Six Senses achieved this, the challenges, and how guests can commune with nature and reconnect with their spirituality.
Your commitment to sustainability is sincere, incorporating the four pillars of Bhutan's Gross National Happiness philosophy: Sustainable Development, Environmental Protection, Cultural Preservation, and Good Governance, into the design, operations and identity of Six Senses Bhutan. Can you elaborate on how you have done this?
Six Senses sustainability platform aligns beautifully with the key pillars of Bhutan’s GNH (Gross National Happiness).
- SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT
All materials used in construction were sourced from within Bhutan. Our lodges feature internal walls, ceilings and floors of oak, hemlock and champ wood. With Bhutan’s 71% forestry cover, a major reason for the country’s negative carbon status and its commitment to sustainable forestry we love that one of our key design features also supports our sustainable focus. Before installation, all wood was carefully seasoned to enhance the colour while also increasing the strength. This will ultimately reduce the time and costs associated with maintenance.
Extra wood left-over from the construction of our lodges has been repurposed to build structures in our nearby farming project in Paro as well as our destination dining facilities in Thimphu, Punakha and Paro.All stones, sand and slates are locally sourced.
We are committed to local employment, sourcing of products, and supporting the local economy. For example by working with local farmers to help them develop new organic products.
Our guest itineraries are carefully curated to highlight and embrace Bhutanese tradition and culture. Archery, darts, dancing, temple and monastery visits, organic farms, textile weaving, Astrology readings, hiking and cycling the phenomenal landscapes in each valley along with many activities specific to each lodge location.
Bhutanese Cuisine is highlighted on all menus.
Six Senses Bhutan, whenever possible and feasible, employs local residents by generating meaningful employment opportunities, sourcing of local products and services which results in the elimination of adverse effects for our lodge operational activities, viability and environmental and social impacts.
- ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION
We have a separate sustainability account where 0.5% of total revenues are collected to support specific community, wildlife and environmental conservation projects in each of our lodge valleys.
All wastewater is treated on-site, solid waste is sorted and sent for recycling as much as possible, and organic waste is composted
Six Senses Bhutan was designed specifically to reduce energy usage and leverage renewable energy sources.
Our heated swimming pools in three lodges: Six Senses Thimphu, Punakha and Paro use heat pumps, which require less energy and have a longer lifespan than typical gas-powered pool heaters.
Low power pool filtration is used in all lodge pools. By monitoring the energy and chemicals used for the pools, the resort ensures low environmental impact.
Our floor to ceiling feature windows throughout all lodges is argon double glazed. Argon has a 34 percent lower thermal conductivity than air, which is excellent for increasing energy efficiency. Furthermore, the large windows ensure natural light flows through rooms and public areas.
LED lighting and landscape lighting timers are used to provide additional energy savings. The landscape lighting timers save approximately 15-20 percent on average.
Wastewater is collected and treated onsite providing water for crop and garden irrigation.
Greywater is recycled. A stream has been constructed to flow through the Six Senses Thimphu lodge using water supply from a mixture of excess rainwater and treated water. Storm drains installed along our lodge paths capture the rainwater and then pump it back into the stream. Water is collected and treated on-site in a dedicated plant before being reused. Excess water provides irrigation to the adjacent apple orchards and walnut trees.
In line with all Six Senses resorts, still drinking water is produced and bottled onsite. Drinking water is treated to the highest international standards, purified, mineralized and bottled in Six Senses glass bottles. This can potentially eliminate over a million plastic bottles a year.
Each lodge has a recycling corner to segregate different types of waste. All waste that can be composted is sent to our individual lodge composting sites.
A glass crusher is used for all glass that is non-recyclable.
- GOOD GOVERNANCE
Taking a holistic approach, the Human Resource department consistently focuses on providing a happy and healthy working environment. As with all Six Senses resorts employees are referred to as hosts.
The ‘hosts’ take a confidential wellness survey each year by which the happiness of our hosts can be measured and their results used to ensure Six Senses Bhutan is reaching its promise for Good Governance.
We have just launched a program called “Mission Wellness” which comprises 8 dimensions of wellness; emotional, environmental, physical, intellectual, occupational, financial, social and spiritual.
All energy, water, and waste consumption of our five lodges are tracked and reported on a monthly basis towards the goal of reducing our impacts on the environment
Operational Guidelines provide direction for environmental and social performance, and compliance with those guidelines is measured and managed via audits from Six Senses Home Office
Are there some sustainability efforts that guests can participate in?
Yes, our guests can take a tour of our lodge organic gardens and also participate in tree plantation programs with hiking to our less visited monasteries in each valley.
The word Pliking is a portmanteau of “hiking and plastic”. We collect rubbish throughout the walking and hiking trails in each of our valley locations. We always encourage our guests to join us.
They are also welcome to visit firms like Lifechanger and Bhutan Foundation, two of our key NGO partners.
What have been some of the challenges of developing a resort with such integrity towards its environment?
Forest clearing, cable trenching, landslides and air pollution because of construction, and water sourcing and protection.
What are some of the programs you offer the guest who is looking for a unique experience
World of Wellness, where we have our Resident Doctor who is available for guest Wellness Screenings, Learning more about Sustainability which details Six Senses’ efforts to help protect our Planet and our people in our dedicated Earth Lab, and visits to our Eco Farm in Paro and our Organic Farm in Punakha as well as visits to local monasteries, which we support. Guests can also Sleep with Six Senses, Eat with Six Senses and Grow with Six Senses (a program specifically designed for our younger guests).
On the lighter side, sunset cocktail martinis by the Punakha riverside at Punakha Six Senses, traditional Bhutanese afternoon tea at Lungsigang at Thimphu Six Senses, NimNub cocktails at Thimphu Six Senses, and Chubjikha regale ruins dinner at Paro Six Senses.
How have you dealt with technology? Is it under wraps or does it work with you on providing a personalised experience?
Technology has been an additional benefit to Six Senses because with the help of technology we are able to provide many enhanced services to the guests. For instance, wellness screening for both our guests and hosts. This service has helped us to understand and monitor physical wellbeing.
Our water bottling systems use reverse osmosis filtration to produce drinking water of the highest quality, which we ensure via monthly routine water quality testing. Glass bottles are cleaned by a bottle cleaning machine and reused again and again, and if they do get chipped we crush the glass and use it to make new products like paving stones (a future project, which is not yet in place at Six Senses Bhutan). Our water bottling systems allow us to eliminate thousands of plastic water bottles otherwise entering Bhutan each year, plus the carbon emissions that come with shipping water over distances.