As one of Australia’s largest entertainment groups, Crown operates in a glamorous and fast-paced industry. However, it’s the things happening behind the scenes from a sustainability standpoint that may just be the resort group’s most exciting story.

 An international resort group with entertainment complexes in Melbourne, Perth, London and soon to be Sydney, Crown offers some of the largest integrated resorts in the southern hemisphere. 

Here, the focus truly is on the word integrated, with each resort comprising a casino, hotels, events rooms, restaurants, bars, shopping trips and other entertainment facilities. 

They’re exciting places to visit and experience, but for Jonathan Wood, these resorts represent a treasure trove of opportunity to make a positive impact on the environment.

As Crown’s Group Manager – Sustainability, Wood manages a range of both short term and long tem projects that aim to manage and reduce the group’s environmental footprint.

“Someone told me there’s between one and two million light bulbs in each Crown complex,” Wood says, “so it’s definitely a comprehensive job!”

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Having been in the role for six years, Wood has overseen the development of Crown Melbourne’s CROWNEARTH, launched in 2015 as a way of both recognising and uniting the work the group has been doing in environmental sustainability since 2010. 

CROWNEARTH encompasses a policy, strategy, plan, actions and outcomes that signify and reinforce the group’s commitment to the environment in all aspects of operations, from choosing suppliers to emptying rubbish bins.

“My overall objective is to minimise Crown’s environmental footprint and to make us one of the leading integrated resorts in the world, when it comes to environmental sustainability,” Wood says. “This boils down to four key areas: energy, water, waste, and a sustainable supply chain. My day-to-day role is managing those elements.”

Currently, Crown has two new projects under development – Sydney is in the early design stage and a new hotel complex in Melbourne has gone through planning – while in Western Australia, a new six-star hotel is under construction to complement the existing Crown Perth.

These new developments represent a ‘clean slate’ from a sustainability perspective, as Wood and his team can implement solutions in the design phase.

“In Perth, we’ve been able to implement a number of advanced strategies that tap into existing recycling streams and sustainable procurement processes, such as LED lighting and water efficient fixtures and fittings,” Wood says.

“But we’re also able to implement quite an advanced room control system for the hotel, which basically monitors the room to see when people are present or not, using motion sensors. This helps to optimise the use of lighting and HVAC but it’s also customer focused. By monitoring whether the customer is present or not, it can tailor the messages the customer receives, schedule maintenance to be performed at optimal times and time the ideal delivery of services.”

Within Crown’s existing premises, the team is forced to think a little more creatively to find sustainable solutions that can be introduced retrospectively.

Back to those million-plus lightbulbs, for instance: when identifying opportunities to reduce energy wastage, the lighting was one of the first areas focused on, alongside heating cooling and ventilation (HVAC). Wood explains that lighting usually accounts for around 10-15 percent of energy usage and HVAC around 50 percent, with the rest being equipment. 

“We’ve replaced around 80 percent of our globes in Melbourne and around 60 percent of them in Perth, moving from incandescent to LED. With advances in technology and the costs coming down, we’re also replacing the fluorescents as well,” Wood adds.

“Since implementing our energy reduction strategies over the last five years we’ve managed to cut our lighting consumption down to around 35 percent of its previous usage, and we’ve reduced HVAC by 20-25 percent.  Travis Jones (HVAC Manager) and Steven Luxford (Building Optimisation Engineer) have been critical in producing these results together with our partners BUENO, Honeywell, Nuvo, EPM&C, AECOM and AE Smith.” 

While these numbers are impressive, they’re only the beginning for Wood, who says his team looks at the supply chain from every angle to ensure it is optimising opportunities to go green.

“We’re not just interested in a better lighting solution: it’s the entire process from A to B that we analyse,” he says.

“This means disposing of fluorescent lights in an environmentally conscious way, which can be problematic. There’s also a lot of junk out there, so we generally spend at least three months trialing each different light solution before we introduce it, to make sure the offering is right.”

Water efficiencies have been achieved through simple but meaningful changes, including turning off all external water fountains, removing all external water features, upgrading all toilets to dual-flush functions, and installing water-efficient fixtures and showerheads in each of the hotel suite bathrooms.

“We even went to water-less woks in our kitchen, which had a surprising but really significant impact. Incredibly, a normal wok in a commercial kitchen will consume 1.4 million litres of water every year! Get rid of that, and you will transform your kitchen.”

They now have rainwater storage capacity of 300,000L , which allows rainwater to be reused through toilets and irrigation systems, and Wood says they are contemplating expanding their water recycling program. 

Meanwhile, waste management has been “our biggest success story in the last 18 months”. 

With no fewer than 22 separate recycling streams, they’ve been able to improve their recycling rates from just 23 percent two years ago up to 70 percent earlier this year.   Paul Humpries and Jeff Niemski from the Environmental Team have put huge amounts of effort into producing this amazing turn-around.

“We’re doing some innovative work in terms of cigarette recycling. We work with Terracycle out of the US, and their motto is to recycle things that no one else wants to. At Crown, cigarette butts are collected and they get converted into plastic moulded products. Ironically, ours are turned into ashtrays.”

Another innovative recycling stream is their comprehensive garment and clothing reuse program, and they also recycle mattresses and electronic waste.

While their results to date are very impressive, Wood believes there is still plenty of room to grow. 

“We’re now recycling 70 percent, which is great, but there are further opportunities to explore. The ultimate target is zero waste and the next waste stream we’re looking at is recycling our gaming cards,” Wood says.

“Across all of our Australian resorts we’re also introducing a building optimisation system that monitors the building’s performance and energy consumption instantaneously, with a number of algorithms in place to see where things can be improved. Instead of using human resources to monitor these processes, it’s automated – so the system might be able to see that someone left a fan on over the weekend in an empty room that should be switched off. This will be taking off in a big way over the next couple of years and we’re looking forward to seeing what we can achieve with this type of ‘building diagnostic’ optimisation.”

As signatories to the Australian Packaging Covenant, they are also always looking for opportunities to leverage a sustainable supply chain, Wood adds. 

“The level we want to go to is: where is the oil generated, to make the wrapping, which goes around the fruit that gets delivered to our restaurants? And where does that wrapper go afterwards? It’s a massive, massive journey and we only really began it in the last year or so. We’re developing a five-year road map and this is just the beginning of our sustainable supply chain journey.”

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