During my recent stay in Berlin (where I discovered the Buchstabenmuseum), I was lodged at the Circus Hotel in Mitte, a very affordable place (doubles from 80€) that cares about the environment in a down to earth way. And it gets its guests excited about local food and products, and about not having new bathroom amenities every day. For the third year since it opened, the Circus Hotel has won different Tripadvisor Traveller’s Choice Awards and is probably one of the only non 5-star hotels in Berlin to do so. Here is why.
Chatting to co-owner and founder Andreas Becker, he admitted that their customers are not kings. He is happy that his guests understand what they want to do and even participate. “Here at the hotel, people have to deal with things” he tells me. For example, you will not find small bottles of shampoo and shower gel in the bathroom every day, but instead, you take only what you need for free at the reception desk, in order to avoid unnecessary waste. The NYTimes writer must have missed this when he wrote: “The only annoyance was a rather selfish one: there were no toiletries for me to steal, just the hand-soap pump.”
The breakfast buffet, Andreas tells me, is limited to a small amount of high quality, locally available foods, rather than piles of food from anywhere that afterwards most likely end up going to waste. Andreas believes we do not need everything in abundance, and that guests should realise that food is a limited resource. Even though I agree, this got me a bit worried about breakfast but the next day I did not find the buffet limited at all; deliciously fresh German products made a great start to the day.
This hotel does not want to be an 'eco' hotel, nor is it a luxury hotel despite becoming number 1 on Tripadvisor. Affordability is important to them, as well as common sense in order to do things well. The hotel refuses to put air conditioning into the rooms because the Germany climate only comes with a few hot weeks every summer, when fans combined with sun-blocking curtains do the trick. Manager Katrin Schönig admitted that a few (American) guests left because of the lack of air conditioning, but that most people appreciate the hotel's approach. It doesn't have a swimming pool either and encourages guests to visit the local pool around the corner.
The hotel is not doing anything out of the ordinary to reduce its impact, but it is doing everything it should to do so: reduce its water and energy consumption, and waste production. You can read the details about the Circus Hotel's approach to sustainability here. Although these are all features any hotel could get, few hotels take such a holistic approach to going green, and do it in such a humble way.