City of Dreams Manila operates own rooftop herb garden

Angelo G. Garcia

Posted at Apr 25 2019 01:30 PM

COD Manila landscape manager Cirilo Alerta tending to the herbs at the greenhouse nursery. Handout

MANILA -- As more countries, governments, businesses, and households shift to sustainable practices, going green has now clearly become a necessity. 

“You know, you've got to be careful about sustainability. You don't want it to become just a trendy word because there's a lot of people who see it as trendy, but I think it's becoming a necessity,” said Michael Ziemer, vice president of hotels and F&B (food and beverage) at City of Dreams Manila. 

The use of metal straws, reusable water bottles, and reusable shopping bags are not just mere trends but rather essential practices of modern-day living. More people are now refusing to use single-use plastics or man-made non-biodegradable materials that contribute to the plastic pollution problem. 

Businesses are catching up as well. In the case of City of Dreams Manila, an entertainment and resort complex in Parañaque City, the shift to sustainable operations is beginning to take root, figuratively and literally speaking. 

As of March, COD Manila team has harvested about 24 kilos of herbs and about 110 kilos of calamansi. Handout

In October last year, the facility added a new greenhouse garden for herbs. And last February they were able to harvest 28 kilograms of leafy herbs that were supplied to the complex's restaurants and cafeteria. This herb garden is a new addition to the existing greenhouses dedicated to ornamental plants, which was started in 2016.

The greenhouses are located at the rooftop of the parking building. There is likewise a vermicomposting facility that provides organic compost to the herb garden and landscape gardens of the whole complex. The vermicomposting facility uses kitchen scraps, coffee grounds, egg shells, dry leaves, and dead plants to make the organic compost. 

COD Manila's vermicomposting facility. Handout
COD Manila's vermicomposting facility turns waste materials into organic fertilizers for herbs and ornamental plants. Handout

“The herb garden, is relatively new. We started last year, but it's really this year that we're starting to ramp up. I'd like to put bee hives up there, if I could. I would love to,” Ziemer said.

“It (rooftop) wasn't designed to have a roof garden and such. But I think where the chefs are working at the moment, is to look at what we can grow upstairs and what we can use. The problem that I have is that we're such a big complex, that I have to grow a lot,” he added. 

WORKING WITH LOCAL FARMERS

Growing an herb garden on the rooftop is just one part of COD Manila's sustainable operations. According to Ziemer, the garden is a complement to the supply chain and the ultimate plan is to work with more local farmers for their produce needs. 
 
“First of all, what I can manage up there are the herbs, small plants but I think long term, what I would like to do is I've got this vision that I want to work with some local farmers in some of these villages where they need help. So we can offer financial support. We can absolutely grow vegetables and fruits, and they can supply us directly. So to me, it's cultivating that. We call it, community spirit, giving back,” he said. 

Some of the herbs they currently grow in the garden include: kaffir lime, curry plant, holy basil, coriander, mint, and many more. 

COD Manila executive chef Audi Budiman and Red Ginger restaurant chef de cuisine Kin Hue Sam. Handout

According to Ziemer, Melco Group, the company that owns and operates COD Manila, plans to become fully sustainable by 2030. Aside from the herb garden, the complex has likewise removed the use of single-use plastics. 

The complex has three hotels, a casino, a theme park, several restaurants, and retail stores. Before single-use plastics were stopped, the complex go through about 10,000 water bottles a day and 250,000 plastic straws in a month. 

“So you go in the Garage (food hall) and one of the selling points is everything in there have to be sustainable. Everything. So from the plates to the cutlery, the straws everything. And we've achieved that. The challenge you have though, is finding the right company that can produce something that is sustainable,” Ziemer said. 

They also work with a third party company that collects and segregates waste. The complex is also certified by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources for being environmentally compliant. COD Manila has its own sewage treatment plant.

COD Manila's greenhouse nursery for ornamental plants. Handout

The hotels are also slowly adapting sustainable practices like the use of cloth bags instead of plastic bags for dry cleaning services. The hotels are also searching for suppliers of biodegradable containers for their customized bathroom toiletries. 

“Sustainability is not just about removing plastic, it's about getting back to the community and the community be part of what we're doing. Once you get that right, there's so many things you can do. We've taken a very holistic approach to sustainability. Overall, what can we do?” he said.