What You Should Know to be Eco Friendly

By Cary Tyler Schirmer Chief Executive Officer, The Higgins Group | August 07, 2010

While we all enjoy a luxurious night in a hotel, we rarely think about how it might impact the environment. According to California's Waste Management Board, the average hotel purchases more products in one week than one hundred families typically do in a year. One room can produce up to 30 pounds of waste per day. With numbers like those, we're happy to see a trend of more hotels going green and implementing eco-friendly practices that can significantly reduce global pollution.

Environmentally-friendly hotels aren't just businesses that meet the government's regulations - they also apply their own practices to prevent pollution and conserve resources. Simply put, green businesses do as much as possible to decrease their consumption of natural resources, goods and energy. For some eco-friendly hotels, that starts while developing the property. The site is chosen with environmentally sensitive zones and erosion control in mind. In addition to using temperature-efficient building materials, some hotels even install solar panels to harness the sun's natural power to generate electricity and heat water.

What you can do

But for most hoteliers, going green doesn't mean you have to tear down your existing property and start from scratch. Here are a few tips that will help your hotel spare the environment, and spare your bottom line:

  • Switch to energy efficient lighting and fixtures.
    The EPA's Energy Star program has opened the door to luxuriously-styled, decorative lighting fixtures that use 1/3 the energy consumed by standard fixtures. By using less energy, we release less green house gas emissions. Combine those fixtures with compact fluorescent light bulbs that use 2/3 less energy than regular incandescent bulbs and you have a lot of savings. These light bulbs, now available in both warm and cool spectrums, generate 70% less heat-a significant reduction in cooling costs.

  • Install low-flow, water-conservative shower heads and aerators.
    "Low-flow shower head" used to mean standing under a few drips-not an option for luxury hotels. In the last several years, manufacturers have stifled critics by designing chic fixtures that control water flow effectively and comfortably. Instead of just blocking flow, modern shower heads focus the stream and increase the water force with air to create a more enjoyable, more pleasurable shower-experience. Not only do low-flow shower heads and aerators help conserve water, using water-efficient fixtures can also reduce water and sewer bills by 25-30%.

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Eco-Friendly Practices: Corporate Social Responsibility

The hotel industry has undertaken a long-term effort to build more responsible and socially conscious businesses. What began with small efforts to reduce waste - such as paperless checkouts and refillable soap dispensers - has evolved into an international movement toward implementing sustainable development practices. In addition to establishing themselves as good corporate citizens, adopting eco-friendly practices is sound business for hotels. According to a recent report from Deloitte, 95% of business travelers believe the hotel industry should be undertaking “green” initiatives, and Millennials are twice as likely to support brands with strong management of environmental and social issues. Given these conclusions, hotels are continuing to innovate in the areas of environmental sustainability. For example, one leading hotel chain has designed special elevators that collect kinetic energy from the moving lift and in the process, they have reduced their energy consumption by 50%  over conventional elevators. Also, they installed an advanced air conditioning system which employs a magnetic mechanical system that makes them more energy efficient. Other hotels are installing Intelligent Building Systems which monitor and control temperatures in rooms, common areas and swimming pools, as well as ventilation and cold water systems. Some hotels are installing Electric Vehicle charging stations, planting rooftop gardens, implementing stringent recycling programs, and insisting on the use of biodegradable materials. Another trend is the creation of Green Teams within a hotel's operation that are tasked to implement earth-friendly practices and manage budgets for green projects. Some hotels have even gone so far as to curtail or eliminate room service, believing that keeping the kitchen open 24/7 isn't terribly sustainable. The May issue of the Hotel Business Review will document what some hotels are doing to integrate sustainable practices into their operations and how they are benefiting from them.