Sustainability, Sandton Sun style

Enjoy cocktails at sunset on the deck

Enjoy cocktails at sunset on the deck (© Sandton Sun)

In the past they were hunter-gatherers, living off the land yet posing no threat to wildlife and vegetation… the San people lived, and some still do today, in harmony with nature, living largely off game, honey and the roots and fruits of plants. Their semi-nomadic existence governed by the seasons and the movement of game. Such is the ethos behind the Sandton Sun’s 6th level gastronomic emporium, an elegant and contemporary space to meet, play and eat.

The entire sixth level of the legendary Sandton Sun has had a face lift – a reconstruction to be precise. Exterior walls were bashed out to let the natural light stream in, and an outside deck area was created with breathtaking views over Sandton and spectacular Joburg sunsets – just the place to enjoy a cocktail. An earthy feel is created through the use of natural elements including wood, sandstone, water and fire as well as the use of indigenous plants. A striking design element is the use of hundreds of characteristically South African photographs, printed on aluminium, which highlight the home-grown atmosphere of the space.

The attention to detail goes beyond the aesthetic to include a number of behind-the-scenes environmental and community initiatives. The extent of these initiatives becomes obvious when chatting with Garth Shnier, Executive Chef and the man who has been at the helm of this project, “I have travelled extensively around the country to source the freshest, seasonal produce for the restaurants and found 11 small privately owned farms within a 100 kilometer radius of the hotel. Even our drinking water is going to be bottled at the hotel to avoid any contamination, whilst our own newly refurbished bakery on site promises delectable delicacies on a daily basis.” The objective was to ensure that sustainability be kept top-of-mind, from sourcing and delivery to kitchen practices.

Garth’s concept of sourcing ‘from farm to table’ has meant that menus highlight local South African produce, and are likely to change at least three times a year so that they are seasonal – certain items change more regularly depending on the availability of fresh local produce.  The trout on the menu comes from a local trout farmer and all seafood is SASSI certified as sustainable.  All suppliers go through stringent checks to ascertain traceability of their products.

The beautiful exclusively designed range of crockery that graces the tables at both the San and Vin mmx restaurants was produced by Chasm Ceramics in HoutBay. Chasm Ceramics is a skills development project which was started 12 years ago, in order to create jobs for the local community. Thirty young and previously disadvantaged people were trained in ceramic making and design, and are currently employed with Chasm Ceramics. The Sandton Sun project was one of their largest projects, whereby 15 staff members were employed for a total of four months and working closely with Garth Shnier, created the stylish range of crockery. The techniques for these ceramics were completely different to what they usually did and required a certain degree of experimentation, which allowed staff members to further their training and skills. Chasm Ceramics places a lot of importance on education and is committed to raising funds and organising education sponsors for any child of a staff member. 

The glasses in San are also hand crafted by New Moon Africa, based in Honeydew, Johannesburg. Making use of recycled wine bottles, the glass have been designed to fit with the contemporary feel of the overall design. Literally cut in half and undergoing polishing, these wine bottles are sourced and collected by a group of homeless people who are employed by the company in the area. In addition, the team approached local restaurant owners and encouraged them to let their staff bring in bottles, thereby paying them (and not the restaurant) directly. Being the first hotel in New Moon Africa’s client portfoilio, they have had to increase the number of people sourcing the bottles for recycling substantially, employing over 30 extra people in the past few months. Their aim is to empower the community at a grassroots level, paying on average between 4 and 5 times more for recycled glass than any other green glass company.

San’s Show Kitchen is committed to being a carbon emission-free zone, with all products and waste within the kitchen being recycled where possible. Water is being bottled at the hotel to save on transport costs and vehicle emissions and kitchen units, fridges and ovens use less energy than previous models. A technological ‘silver roof’ was specially sourced (yes, imported, but transported by sea to keep the carbon footprint as low as possible) and installed to deal with kitchen pollutants.  The innovative system extracts air and breaks the pollutants down through an infra red process and the ‘fresh air’ is then expelled back into the atmosphere pollutant free – as Garth pointed out, the benefits far out-weighed the disadvantages. Another environmental initiative is the use of bio-degradable take-away containers in the San Market, a retail space that sells just-out-of-the-oven, freshly made sandwiches and salads, as well as take-away coffees, teas and smoothies – an ideal stop for busy on-the-go individuals.

The Sandton Sun, with its links to both the Sandton Convention Centre and Sandton City Shopping Centre, combines business services, contemporary dining and fashionable shopping, appealing to both leisure and business travellers. Located in the heart of Sandton CBD and just 900m from the Gautrain Station (using public transport does reduce your carbon footprint) the hotel offers convenience and easy access to the city’s finest amenities. And it’s not only the stylish 6th level that is committed to environmental initiatives, the entire hotel has recently undergone an environmental audit and is proud to have achieved Silver Heritage Status for environmentally responsible tourism, as certified by the Heritage Environmental Rating Programme.

Our stay at the Sandton Sun was summed up by our waiter’s comment ‘the San people made use of everything in their environment, without wasting or damaging the earth, we do the same here’ – and he wasn’t the only employee to be proud of these new initiatives, and to have understood and bought into the ethos of sustainability. Says General Manager Peter Davidson ‘Our mission as we take the Sandton Sun into the future is to not only entrench it as THE meeting place in Sandton, but to start heading towards a sustainable future that gives back to the environment’.

Words – Tessa Buhrmann / pics – Sandton Sun

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