If there’s one thing we can learn from COVID-19, it’s the importance of working together to solve the problems of our world. We all live on this planet together, and it is going to take a combined commitment from every sector to keep it healthy and vital.
Historically, the hospitality industry has left a pretty big ecological footprint. But perspectives and policies within the industry have been changing. Sustainable thinking has been on the rise in the last decade or so and is now widely regarded as key to any successful business.
Here are ways that you can do your part to care for the planet we all call home:
Utilizing bioclimatic architecture
Maintaining a comfortable internal environment can be extremely energy intensive. Heating systems, air conditioners, and lighting features require incredible amounts of energy to counteract the external conditions. Bioclimatic construction alleviates much of this demand by considering the local climate during the building process. Instead of fighting nature, this approach uses knowledge of wind patterns, sunlight exposure, and other environmental characteristics in the design process. Coupled with the right construction materials, design elements, and building orientation, it’s possible to create buildings that passively regulate their own internal temperature with little-if-any-energy input.
Water scarcity affects every continent on earth. We all need to be doing what we can to reduce our water usage. Lodging operators can install low-flow faucets and shower heads, introduce a linen reuse program to cut down on laundering, and even look into grey water recycling and rainwater harvesting programs. It can also be a big help to encourage guests to be mindful of their own water usage. Hostelling International USA has even implemented “smart showers” which have colorful LED lights to alert guests when time is up on their seven-minute shower.
Reducing the amount of waste produced is, of course, a key tenet of sustainability. This can be achieved in the hospitality industry by eliminating single-use plastics from your business (try refillable dispensers for bath products, and reusable linen laundry bags), going paperless, and finding creative solutions for dealing with food waste. The Spector Hotel in Charleston, S.C., uses a food-waste diversion program that turns left-behind food into reusable water through the use of a digester. In the last two years they have diverted 11,234 pounds of food and created 944 gallons of water.
Energy consumption can be reduced in a variety of ways. Simple habits from your staff, like turning off lights and unused electronics and opening and closing drapes to reduce heating costs, is a great first step. You should also consider installing energy-efficient light bulbs, and room control systems that automatically turn off lights and AC when guests are not in their rooms.
There are a lot of reasons you should consider sourcing products and materials locally. For one, your business depends on the local economy. Putting money directly into your own community helps maintain the vibrant local culture that ultimately draws guests to your region. It’s also important to note that consumers today are prioritizing local products and will be pleased to find accommodation that aligns with their values. But the biggest reason to shop local is for the benefit of the environment. Buying from local vendors eliminates the massive fuel emissions associated with long-distance transport. The shortened supply chain between producer and consumer also typically means less processing, freezing and waste associated with the entire operation.
Progress is made when minds are changed. New perspectives and habits adopted by a large cohort of people are ultimately what will be required to make meaningful sustainability gains. Be a positive role model by promoting sustainability to your guests and in your community. Include recycling bins on-site, encourage guests to use refillable water bottles when they are going out to explore, provide information about public transportation, educate guests about the ecosystems in your area, and get involved in local conservation efforts.
Looking for a little inspiration? Arlo Hotels has created an entire sustainability platform within their business referred to as “Arlo Cares.” In addition to organizing beach cleanups and hosting a green-focused weekend festival, the hotel group puts on free monthly talks about sustainability in order to help form a community of eco-conscious travelers.
As with many aspects of life, the best policies and practices surrounding sustainability can be made easier and more effective with the right technology. A powerful cloud-based property management system with paperless check-in capabilities and integrations for mobile keys and other smart room technology streamlines operations and significantly cuts back on paper, plastic, and energy use.
It’s up to all of us to make changes for the betterment of the planet. Do what you can to make your lodging operation a little more eco-friendly. And if you want to become officially recognized as a green property, here’s a complete list of green-certifying bodies for hotels.