Let's be honest: The argument over whether "going green" should really be a priority for the hospitality industry is over. It is a priority and it has to be a priority for a number of reasons, including customer loyalty, cost savings, and most importantly, environmental impact.
There are more than 50,000 hotels and hospitality properties in the US, and anywhere between 200,000 and 400,000 globally. Collectively they are a huge source of resource consumption and waste, and while an individual hotel's green initiatives may not make a measurable difference in the grand scheme of things, think about what could happen if each one of those properties made even one of the changes listed below.
Exciting, isn't it? Your hotel can genuinely play a part in saving the environment, and here are some of the ways to do it:
1. Install Energy Saving Technologies
It has been estimated that 75% of hotels' environmental impacts can be directly related to excessive consumption—including energy consumption. Installing energy-efficient technologies such as appliances, lighting, and heating and cooling systems can make a difference for both the environment and your hotel's bottom line.
2. Embrace Recycling
Another huge impact the hospitality industry has on the environment is due to the amount of waste hotels create. It's time to embrace recycling, and we're not just talking about using cloth napkins instead of paper.
According to the Green Hotels Association, a hotel in Toronto is recycling stained tablecloths into napkins, chef's aprons, and neckties, while other hotels are making cloth laundry bags from retired sheets. These are the sort of initiatives that can make a long term difference when put into practice.
3. Encourage Guests to be Green
Put cards in each room asking guests to turn out the lights when they leave, or reuse towels if possible. Make recycling bins readily available to guests and be sure that they are aware of your green programs. When guests see that your hotel is making an effort to help the environment, they will generally want to do their part as well.
4. Start Composting
An increasing number of hotels are realising the benefits of composting food waste rather than throwing it out. Not only is it a popular and well-known green initiative that will impress your guests, it can save your hotel money on landscaping since composted waste can be used as organic fertiliser.
5. Save Water
There are so many ways hotels can save water: Installing toilet tank fill diverters in older toilets can save about 3/4 of a gallon of water per flush. Transitioning to low water laundry machines can save up to 80% of hotel water usage. Making water stations available to guests can discourage the use of bottled water. Follow the examples from other hotels that have implemented water-saving initiatives.
For example, in California, hotels are responding to drought conditions by making immediate efforts to conserve more water.
6. Plant a Garden
If you're considering expanding your outdoor offerings for guests, consider adding a garden rather than simply extending your patio or pool area. The Green Hotels Association notes that one Pennsylvania property has a 400-foot garden and produces organically-grown vegetables for its restaurant.
Now you don't have to go that far, but even a small garden (perhaps even on the rooftop for those of you with city properties) can help counteract your hotel's carbon footprint. Raised beds can be installed almost anywhere, and placing benches—made from recycled materials—around a garden can make for a wonderful guest experience.
7. Support Local, Sustainable Businesses
Hotels can help reduce their environmental impact by making smart purchasing choices as well. A hotel can reduce waste generation by making an effort to only purchase environmentally-friendly products, and purchasing locally can also reduce the impact on the environment and benefit the community.
You may also want to consider promoting other environmentally-friendly businesses to guests, such as local farm-to-table restaurants.
8. Implement Alternative Energy Sources
A number of hotels have switched at least portions of their energy usage to alternative sources, with great results. The Willard Intercontinental in Washington D.C. is now running on 100% wind energy power, resulting in a 12% decline in energy consumption, according to the Green Hotels and Responsible Tourism Initiative. Other hotels, particularly those in warmer climates, are making use of solar energy for signage and water heating. And as the market for alternative energy increases, more solutions will arise.
9. Take Care of Your Linens
We already mentioned recycling linens as a way to limit waste, but what about extending the life of those linens in the first place? Using laundry processes that limit the wear and tear on your linens can keep replacement costs, and your hotel's environmental impact, down.
10. Practice What You Preach
As you implement green initiatives at your hotel, make sure you're keeping all employees informed about the changes and what they can do to help. Approach these efforts as a team, and perhaps the green practices will carry over into your staff's personal lives as well—making an even bigger difference for our planet.