Green Inspiration at the Biohotel Rupertus Leogang
Mark Bibby Jackson stays at the Biohotel Rupertus Leogang, Austria and emerges totally reinvigorated.
“To us organic is not a trend or a buzzword, rather it is a way of life,” Nadja Blumenkamp, co-owner of Biohotel Rupertus explains to me via zoom. “This is not just a greenwashing thing, it’s really meant.”
A few weeks earlier, I was fortunate enough to stay at Nadja’s family-run hotel in Leogang, Austria. Her father Gotfred picked me up in their electric car from the station. Nadja was on holiday at the time so it is only now that we manage to catch up and for her to explain the philosophy of the Biohotel Rupertus.
“Our main goal is to be part of the change, and the change has to happen now,” she explains referring to our need to act to avert climate catastrophe. “It’s our generation’s responsibility.”
An Organic Hotel
Nadja and her family have always been ahead of trend. They opened the Rupertus as an organic hotel in 1977.
“Organic was not yet a concept,” she explains. After all this was the time of Saturday Night Fever and Staying Alive – perhaps a fitting tagline for the current climate situation.
For Nadja, being organic goes much further than having an organic kitchen, using ingredients from their own organic garden. It extends to the suppliers and the materials they use. She specifically chooses local suppliers over those across the globe, and aims for partnerships with like-minded companies that value both the environment and their staff.
In 2015, the hotel was declared a certified organic hotel. It has also received the Austrian Eco-label and is part of Bio Hotels, an association of like-minded, family-run European hotels, which are 100% organic.
Climate Neutral Biohotel Rupertus
In addition to being organic, Rupertus is also net carbon neutral.
Sustainability consultancy Fokus Zukunft has calculated the hotel’s total emission as 345 tonnes of CO², adopting the Greenhouse Gas Protocol guidelines. This averages out as 2.41 kg CO²e per overnight stay. In 2017, it was 8.74 kg CO². A conventional hotel would average between is 20 to 40 kg CO² per guest/day.
To achieve this Nadja and her team have implemented a series of measures, in addition to using local products and suppliers to reduce their CO² emissions. These include reducing the quantity of drinking water from taps, using environmentally friendly detergents, implementing mechanical cleaning which avoids the use of chemicals, and installing energy-saving lighting, especially LED lighting, and adopting a conscious use of energy.
Rupertus gets its energy from three sources. Most of its needs are provided by its own photovoltaic panels, the rest come from the community biogas power plant and green hydro energy from Salzburg AG. The hotel offsets twice the amount of its greenhouse gas emissions for 2021-2022 through purchasing 1,380 certificates from VCS + CCBS Forest Conservation and Reforestation projects in Peru and Uruguay.
Caring for Staff and Community
Despite implementing all these measures, Nadja is not one to rest on her green laurels.
“Fifteen years ago, the idea was to become 100% organic and sustainable, now the social element is more important,” she says, stressing the need for a new way of leadership which involves us thinking “more human”.
For her, social responsibility is as important as environmental. The focus is now on how they treat both suppliers and staff. For instance, the latter are allowed to use the spa area and gym, join in yoga sessions and even take their breakfast in the restaurant when not working.
Rupertus is also at the heart of the local community. The non-profit biogas company, Hackschnitzel Heizwerk Asitz, which is managed by her husband Olaf and uses local wood chips, is just one example of how the community works together. Rupertus also donates to a local organisation that supports those in need in the village.
Proof of the Pudding
Of course, none of all this matters if Rupertus does not make a profit – environmental, social and economic sustainability are inevitably intertwined.
So, what did I think of the Rupertus during my stay?
The first thing to state is that the Rupertus is a wonderful place to relax. Last year, Nadja and her family invested heavily in the spa area. This included creating a new panorama spa with views of the surrounding mountains, and adding a pool which allows you to swim 365 days a year. In June 2023, it won the Spa Star Award.
During my stay I find myself repeat visiting the spa area. The Rupertus feels a lot like the Kamalaya Resort in Koh Samui where I enjoyed a wellness retreat a few years ago. Or perhaps that is how I feel like. Certainly, my skin feels wonderful, and I am totally relaxed.
The food is amazing. The restaurant has daily rotating vegan and non-vegan menus, where you can interchange dishes. Naturally, all is organic. But more than the food it is the setting that overwhelms me.
On my first night, I was politely informed I had to sit inside the restaurant as I had not booked a table outside. It was a beautiful summer’s evening and my heart was set on al fresco dining. Within minutes the wonderful staff had set a table outside for me on the grass, which I occupied on following nights. From here, I could see the local deer make their evening pilgrimage down the slope for grazing.
I start with a carrot salad which tastes fresh and wholesome, with an excellent organic beer from Salzburg. I follow with a rice wrap, which tastes very much like a Germanic spring roll with cabbage inside. I really like it, especially it’s chewy texture. Then, I have a creamy cashew nut soup, which is absolutely delightful. It’s quite refreshing almost like a sorbet. My main was salmon served with pasta shells and tomato on a bed of radish and avocado in a cream sauce. I tend to find fish overcooked making it dry and hard. This was anything but. Delightful. I finish with a chocolate torte served with a berry sorbet.
Throughout my stay, the food was consistently excellent, and constantly surprising. It became a feature of my day to anticipate what treats were in store for me.
It really is quite impossible not to feel relaxed and rejuvenated after a stay at the Biohotel Rupertus, especially with the spectacular walks and bike rides in the area.
Ponting the Way for the Future
At the end of my stay, Gotfred returns like Mr Ben to take me back to the railway station. I am sad to leave, but can relive my stay when catching up with Nadja.
I end our conversation, as always, asking her about her future plans.
She says that they need to replace the existing façade – it seemed fine to me. She wants to replace it with a new covering that can generate green energy itself. This is her ‘mission’ but she accepts it is a challenge. In this way she hopes that not only will the Rupertus become self-sufficient in energy, but it might ultimately become a net provider of energy to the local community.
“We are always on a journey,” she says. Hers is one that others in the travel sector should be minded to follow.
BioHotel Rupertus Leogang
All photos by Mark Bibby Jackson.