An Overview of Environmental Innovations in Five Hospitality Areas

By Arthur Weissman President and CEO, Green Seal, Inc. | April 22, 2012

With all the greening tools and programs that are now available, both property managers and guests are having a harder time discriminating what is really environmentally preferable. To help remedy this, an important principle to consider is: how significant is an activity in reducing the environmental impacts of my property and service? If the reduction is minimal, you might want to look at your operations a little more deeply in some of the areas we present in this article. For each operational aspect listed, we've tried to highlight some of the current trends and tools that are available that are easy to implement, as well as a few that might take a bit more effort. Starting small and working towards achieving the more complex will make your property and services not only more environmentally responsible, but also more efficient, reliable, and enjoyable for clients as well. Is there anything better for your property and brand than that?

The five main aspects of hospitality management where lodging managers and executives can significantly reduce a property's environmental impact include: facility operations, purchasing, housekeeping, food services, and staff engagement and outreach. Through adopting environmentally responsible practices in these operative areas, a hotel chain or property can measurably reduce its impact on human health and the environment.

Facility operations, while one of the broadest aspects of hospitality management, is also one of the more common areas wherein property and chain managers are focusing their efforts. Environmental initiatives to track energy and water efficiency, ensure preventative equipment maintenance plans are implemented, and to divert all or part of the waste stream towards recycling or re-use programs are the most common and easily implemented aspects of facility operations that a hotel chain or property can adopt without a huge expense. Energy, water, and waste diversion can be tracked by hand or by using many of the facility management software platforms currently available. These data can also be used to define environmental goals for a company's environmental team and are frequently used when a hotel chooses to report on its environmental impact to customers. While not an initial cost, facility upgrades are also popular, but often have a greater environmental impact when planned for after the tracking initiatives, preventative maintenance, and waster diversion programs are already implemented.

Environmentally preferable purchasing can also affect a broad range of hospitality operations. By localizing your supply chains, paying attention to the ingredients that make up the products and services you use, and by selecting vendors that use minimal packaging or provide take-back programs for larger packaging, you can help reduce the environmental impact of your properties from transporting goods and services. Sourcing locally can also benefit your operation by increasing the positive local publicity of your facilities and by making your customers' experiences more memorable by incorporating local flavor into their visit. When comparing products and services, you should pay attention to claims made on their labels or literature, the products' expected durability, and potential hazards to air, soil, and water quality when used or if used incorrectly. By purchasing products that are certified by a reputable third-party organization such as Green Seal, you can reduce your property's(ies') environmental footprint while creating a healthier environment for your guests. Purchasing products with minimal packaging (or partnering with a supplier who provides container take-back services) also reduces the amount of time and labor of your staff in processing the extra material. Reducing this clutter can also make back-of-the-house areas safer and healthier for your staff.

In the area of housekeeping, you should try to develop environmentally responsible goals that cover the guest room amenities and maintenance, laundering services, and common area cleaning policies and procedures. It's important that efficient procedures for each of these internal services be documented, read, and frequently reviewed by your staff. Popular and easily adoptable initiatives can include:

  • pre-programmed temperature settings for cleaning and laundering equipment,
  • proper use of dilution control systems for amenities as well as cleaning solutions, and
  • monitoring consumption of amenities and cleaning products. .
Coming up in February 2018...

Social Media: Engagement is Key

There are currently 2.3 billion active users of social media networks and savvy hotel operators have incorporated social media into their marketing mix. There are a few Goliath channels on which one must have a presence (Facebook & Twitter) but there are also several newer upstart channels (Instagram, Snapchat &WeChat, for example) that merit consideration. With its 1.86 billion users, Facebook is a dominant platform where operators can drive brand awareness, facilitate bookings, offer incentives and collect sought-after reviews. Twitter's 284 million users generate 500 million tweets per day, and operators can use its platform for lead generation, building loyalty, and guest interaction. Instagram was originally a small photo-sharing site but it has blown up into a massive photo and video channel. The site can be used to post photos of the hotel property, as well as creating Instagram Stories - personal videos that disappear from the channel after 24 hours. In this regard, Instagram and Snapchat are now in direct competition. WeChat is a Chinese company whose aim is to be the App for Everything - instant messaging, social media, shopping and payment services - all in a single platform. In addition to these channels, blogging continues to be a popular method to establish leadership, enhance reputations, and engage with customers in a direct and personal way. The key to effective use of all social media is to find out where your customers are and then, to the fullest extent possible, engage with them on a personal level. This engagement is what creates a personal connection and sustains brand loyalty. The February Hotel Business Review will explore these issues and examine how some hotels are successfully integrating social media into their operations.