Monaco looks like it fell from the giant postcard in the sky. It’s little wonder this picturesque principality on the French Mediterranean coastline is widely regarded as the “jewel in the F1 crown”. The scenic street circuit runs by the French Riviera and meanders through a maze of upscale casinos, luxury resorts and historic landmarks.
Not many know this, but since 2014, Monaco has played host to the eco-friendly version of the Formula 1 called the F.I.A. Formula E. The difference? Only electric-powered cars blitz through its amazing city race track.
But Monaco, the second smallest country in the world — it’s tinier than New York’s Central Park — is betting big on sustainability.
The ruler of Monaco, Prince Albert II, is determined to turn the state into a clean and sustainable haven for the world’s billionaires. An eco-warrior, he champions electric cars and drives a Tesla himself. Calling electric cars the future, he once said, “Electric cars have had to make a giant leap, becoming more attractive, sexy, and competitive with the existing car market.”
The “plugged-in Prince” vowed to reduce greenhouse gasses by 50 percent by 2030, with the aim to be carbon-neutral by 2050. The monarchy has competition from Dubai, the Monaco of the Middle East. The oil-producing nation aspires to have the smallest carbon footprint in the world by 2050.
It’s comforting to know that Monaco is playing for keeps. The microstate is a fixture in Bond flicks and heist films through the ages — Ocean’s 12 (2004) and Alfred Hitchcock’s 1955 classic To Catch a Thief, starring Prince Albert II’s mother, Grace Kelly.
American actors Cary Grant and Grace Kelly at the French Riviera during the filming of the Alfred Hitchcock thriller ‘To Catch A Thief’. Photo by Getty Images
The reel backdrop is pretty close to reality. Monaco is the gilded playground of the rich and famous. Monaco’s expansive marinas are clogged with sought-after superyachts, and her spotless streets are lined with Lamborghinis and Porsches. A tax haven for its ultra-high net worth residents, more than a third of its 38,000 strong population are millionaires or billionaires.
Even though tourism is one of the main pillars of its economy, the Prince values eco-wellness over tourism spend. When throngs of tourists descend upon its shores, Monaco entertains its visitors in sustainably chich fashion.
In May, Monaco’s tourism authority unveiled its new mantra, “Green is the new glam”. Luxury and eco-friendly may not seem like natural bedfellows, but trust the Monegasque to go green with finesse.
Ms Corinne Kiabski, Press Officer of the Monaco Tourism Authority, says: “Sustainable development is often perceived as a constraint, something unpleasing and purely technical — certifications do not sound very glamorous — should now be presented as a trendy lifestyle, a source of innovation, as the one true luxury of tomorrow. We need to set the tone and give the example. Our success depends on it.”
Luxury hotels are on board with sustainability initiatives. Hotel Monte-Carlo Bay saved a month’s worth of electricity per year after replacing over 800 conventional bulbs to LED lights. Fairmont Monte-Carlo’s entire central heating and air-conditioning system are powered by four underground heat pumps, a renewable energy source which draws heat from the seawater.
Cocktails are served with biodegradable straws at Hotel Metropole Monte-Carlo. Photo Courtesy of Hotel Metropole Monte-Carlo
The hotel started using BMW Hybrid cars for airport transfers in January 2018.
It is the first hotel in Monaco to join the #banthestraw movement. Plastic straws have not been used in the hotel since June 2018. But if you really cannot do without sipping on a straw, the hotel provides biodegradable straws, which are served with certain cocktails.
Plastic caps of bottled soda, milk and water are recycled for a good cause. Over the past decade, the hotel donated 52kg of caps to the Bouchons d’Amour, a charity which sells the caps to a manufacturer of recyclable plastic pallets. For every 6,000 caps, the association can buy a wheelchair for the disabled.
Until recently, Monaco imported all of its fruits and vegetables. The heavily urbanised country lacks arable land for agriculture. But Swiss-born Jessica Sbaraglia thought otherwise.
The urban farming evangelist saw potential in the many building rooftops in the densely populated city. She became the first farmer to grow fruits and vegetable in Monaco in 2016, producing more than 10 tons of organic produce since then.
The former model supplies leafy greens and fresh fruits to several award-winning chefs’ restaurants. She started off with a modest garden — the size of a presidential suite — at the Monte Carlo Bay hotel, 50 steps away from the chef Marcel Ravin’s Blue Bay restaurant.
The farm-to-table concept reduces carbon footprint, says Sbaraglia, founder of urban agriculture company Terre de Monaco, which is French for Earth of Monaco. She says: “Zero transport, zero packaging, zero storage.”
She is living proof that no effort goes wasted. As Prince Albert said: “Even if you are a small country, as we are, that doesn’t prevent you from having big aspirations.”