Being Green in 2019: Sustainable Hotel Trends Now
- Posted by Todd A. Vines
- On March 15, 2019
It’s not easy being green.
Committing to an environmentally sensitive ethos marks a fundamental shift for many hotel and resort teams. The transition, however, is a growing expectation among travelers.
More than two-thirds of tourists prefer eco-friendly accommodations according to Green Key Global, an international environmental certification body that offers standardized programs and resources for the hotel and meetings industries. And it’s not just leisure that leans green. Some 60% of business travelers say they actively seek environmentally friendly hotels.
The good news is that many hotel teams are discovering that adopting an environmentally sensitive ethos – when done right – can be both cost effective and marketable.
Here’s how hotels and resorts are reducing their carbon footprint, saving money, increasing occupancy as a result.
The Last Straw
Hospitality is joining the greater food service industry in moving toward the elimination of one-time use plastic items. Yes, that includes straws, but toothpicks, stir sticks, condiment containers and other similar plastic items are on also the endangered list.
The shift toward paper straws – or no straw at all – was one of nine food and beverage trends for 2019 recently featured by Screen Pilot, as plastic straws in particular have an enormous impact on our environment. An estimated 500 million currently being used each day.
Benchmark Global Hospitality, Four Seasons, Hyatt, Hilton and Marriott International are among the biggest hospitality brands that have banned plastic straws outright, and countless independent properties are following suit. For guests that request one, biodegradable paper straws are the earth-friendly alternative.
Beyond the vilified straw, Styrofoam cups and packaging have been on their way out for a few years, with many hotels going “old school” and offering glassware or reusable plastic cups in-room. Marriott, Hilton, Hyatt and other hotels with meeting space are offering glassware and water in pitchers over individual plastic water bottles, which take 450 years or more to decompose.
It was once something of a challenge to source eco-friendly, non-toxic cleaning supplies that actually worked well, but not anymore.
Brands such as Fairmont, Ritz-Carlton and Four Seasons have all become pretty adept at keeping rooms clean and fresh with such products, and using cotton and microfiber cloths rather than paper products that immediately become waste. There are plenty of more modest-sized brands making the shift, as well, including The Bardessono Hotel, an eco-friendly property in California’s Napa Valley, proudly uses only organic, non-toxic cleaning products.
Not only is the practice good for the environment, it’s good for employees. Some traditional products can release chemicals that have been linked to respiratory issues.
Already using non-toxic cleaners? Find a subtle way to make guests aware of the practice.
The Shape of Water
On average, roughly 17% of a hotel’s water use goes to cleaning towels and linens. Hotels have invited guests to reuse towels for years. Smaller hotels and B&Bs have adopted a policy of changing bedding will be changed every two days, or only after guests depart, all in an effort to conserve water and power.
Hilton has reclamation systems in place at larger properties where gray water is reclaimed, with some 85% ready for reuse in laundry facilities, as well as shifting toward more energy-efficient washers and dryers to curtail cost. Less washing also prolongs the lifespan of towels and bedding.
Some hotels and resorts in wetter climates are actively engaging in rainwater harvesting, the accumulation and storage of rainwater for uses including irrigation, washing, indoor heating and even drinking water.
The EPA sponsors the H2O Challenge for water conservation to save energy and our most important natural resource. Hotels are encouraged to install WaterSense fixtures that include showerheads, toilets, and faucets. Less use of water is important in dry areas and it leads to less waste in sewers and septic systems.
Need more green inspiration? The Alliance for Water Efficiency outlines multiple ways that a hotel can conserve water, relevant to property location.
Notes asking guests to turn off lights, the television and other electronics when they leave their room are friendly reminders of the hotel’s effort to save energy. Room lights triggered by the use of room key cards are more and more popular.
Fluorescent and LED lights are replacing incandescent lights in many hotels. Hallways and restrooms may use sensor lights. Some hotels recommend the most efficient HVAC settings for guests with small cards by the HVAC temperature settings.
Other properties such as the Intercontinental Barclays in New York have installed new energy-efficient windows. The Radisson Blu in Frankfurt is experimenting with fuel cell technology to create its own power and lower carbon emissions.
“Zero waste” typically outlines the designing and managing of products and processes to systematically avoid and eliminate the volume and toxicity of waste and materials. The goal is to conserve and recover all resources rather than burning or burying them, eliminating all discharges to land, water or air that are a threat to planetary, human, animal or plant health.
Admittedly, this is a stretch goal for any business, though Hyatt, Starwood, and other big-name chains are taking a hard charge at the challenge.
If it all sounds overwhelming, think about starting small.
“Zero food waste” is one of the biggest trends in hotel F&B this year.
Restaurants, by their very nature, make a ton of trash. Many are finding creative ways to limit food waste, from utilizing items one would traditionally toss (think strawberry tops or lemon peel) to offering guests entrées in incremental portion sizes. Several hotels in Hawaii even send their scraps to local pig farmers.
It’s a trend that can not only help a restaurant align its offerings with customer values, but it can also ultimately help the company save money.
For further reading, here are the US Green Building Council’s suggested waste practices for hotels and restaurants, as defined by the International Alliance for Zero Waste.
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