Global Leadership Summit

Exploring sustainability in Berlin & at the Estrel complex

There’s no shortage of reasons to visit Berlin. (The history. The art. The pretzels!) But when choosing a location for EF’s Global Leadership Summits—extraordinary student events meant to find solutions to the world’s most pressing challenges—we selected Germany’s capital for one main reason: its focus on sustainability. In Berlin, recycling initiatives and second-hand shops are fully woven into the (eco-friendly) fabric of the city. Vegan and vegetarian eats are just as easy to find as wiener schnitzel. And a plethora of parks and excellent public transportation means green spaces are always accessible.

Because of all this, it was clear Berliners were the sustainability wieners—er, winners—so our next step was choosing the perfect venue within the city. Once we visited the Estrel, a hotel and convention complex leading the charge in corporate sustainability practices, we knew we’d found our Summit’s new home.

I love this change from competition to co-creation. That’s the future.

It wasn’t just that the Estrel’s focus on sustainability perfectly aligned with EF’s global-conscious mission. We also saw parallels in how the Estrel and EF aim to achieve sustainability: by fostering an environment of creative collaboration and innovation. At EF Summits, students ideate together and learn from one another to create change. Similarly, the Estrel shares its vision for sustainability with other businesses, encouraging them to act responsibly, too. “I love this change from competition to co-creation,” says Mihaela D., the Estrel’s Sustainability Manager. “That’s the future.”

The Estrel has floor-to-ceiling windows to let in lots of natural light. (Talk about a bright idea.)

While the Estrel proved to be the perfect homebase for several EF Summits, it was especially well-suited for our 2023 event focused on Creating a Sustainable Future. In addition to participating in workshops and hearing from experts in the field, students got an up-close look at some of the Estrel’s sustainability practices. For example, the convention complex’s escalators don’t run at full-speed until somebody actually steps onto them. “It’s a simple way to save energy that seems so obvious once you experience it,” says Amanda B., an EF staff member who attended the Summit. “But I never would have thought of it before coming to the Estrel because I’d never seen anything like it back home.” Lightbulb moments like these are exactly why we travel: to help people open their minds to the endless opportunities that already exist in other parts of the world, and to inspire them to imagine all the possibilities that could come next.

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Three paths to a better world

The theme of EF’s 2023 Summit, Creating a Sustainable Future, focused on three different pillars: preserving our planet, protecting people, and promoting peace. Coincidentally, the Estrel was working on ways to support these initiatives long before they teamed up with EF. However, what we love most about them is their commitment to continuously evolving the ways they give back. As Mihaela says, “Although we already do a lot, it is by no means enough. We are working on this every day and always looking to improve.”

We can’t wait to see what these savvy sustainability supporters come up with next. Until then, let’s take a look at the areas they’re focused on right now.

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    Preserving our planet

    Let’s start from the top (literally) with the Estrel’s rooftop, which is specifically designed to support wildlife protection as well as food and energy production. On some parts of the roof, greenery is planted to capture pollution particles, work as a natural climate regulator, and provide a home for insects. On a different section, a 42-square-meter greenhouse grows all the hotel’s vegetables and herbs. The rooftop gets another (green) thumbs up for its integrated photovoltaic* system that produces electricity for the hotel. As responsible travel advocates, these are the kinds of innovative initiatives that make us proud to partner with the Estrel.

    * Photovoltaic means “relating to the production of electric current at the junction of two substances exposed to light.” Keep that in your pocket for trivia night!

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    Protecting people

    If you want to create a better future, you need to focus on people’s well-being today. That’s why the Estrel supports its employees by offering flexible work schedules, delivering fair wages, and providing professional development opportunities. The Estrel also promotes sustainable commuter options (which is a big focus in Berlin) by offering employees discounted rates on public transportation tickets or access to company bikes.

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    Promoting peace

    At the 2023 Summit, EF asked students to consider how we can overcome conflict in order to build more peaceful, just, and inclusive societies. The Estrel’s answer is to support a diverse array of community service projects and provide donations to places ranging from children’s homes to organizations that build schools. Additionally, when the Estrel has surplus food, they either make it available to their employees free of charge or donate it to local charities.

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Inspire what’s next at an EF Summit

We’ve only scratched the surface when it comes to the ways you’ll learn about sustainability in Berlin when you stay at the Estrel. We didn’t even mention the venue’s greywater plumbing system, so it’s a good thing we’re heading back to the Estrel for our 2024 Summit on The Impact of Water on Society. If you’re already signed up for this sold-out event, we can’t wait to see you there! And if not, there’s still time to secure your spot at the 2025 Summit focusing on Future Readiness in a Changing World. Together, we can discover even more ways to make the world a better place—both now and for years to come.

Learn more

Sarah McLaughlin

Sarah is a senior copywriter at EF Education First. When she isn’t writing, you can find her browsing through bookshops, trying to cook, or going to improv class (which is basically just an excuse for adults to play make-believe).

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