4 Ways to Prioritize Energy Efficiency Without Interrupting Your Operations
By Dave Llorens CEO, EverWatt Lights | December 01, 2019
Over the past few decades, the environmental movement in the U.S. has gained more momentum and impacted more facets of everyday life. Spurred on by the interconnectivity of the internet and social media, consumers are demanding that their favorite companies echo their own social and environmental values.
To prioritize the energy efficiency that consumers demand, companies will need to make some major changes. While overhauling your organization to be more environmentally friendly sounds daunting, these changes don't need to interrupt daily operations or break the bank.
Greater Incentives to Go Green
Back in 2007, I was jumping through the necessary hoops to get the city of San Francisco to designate my old solar company as a "San Francisco Green Business. " It wasn't easy, and it required a hefty upfront investment - but it was a milestone for the company that later created significant financial benefits. In particular, the business no longer had to pay a local payroll tax in addition to our Federal payroll tax.
There are many rebates and incentives available that make sustainability a viable priority for hotels. DSIRE, a website operated by N.C. State University and funded by the U.S. Department of Energy, offers a comprehensive list of available rebates and incentives for products and programs focused on energy efficiency. This database allows business leaders to research all available options quickly.
Because hotels use significant resources such as water and consumable goods, they have an opportunity to make a significant impact on the environment. Far from sacrificing the guest experience for the sake of sustainability, the right initiatives can enhance it.
The Rise of Environmentally Conscious Consumers
Millennials frequently get credit for pushing companies to adopt more environmentally friendly practices. Consumers vote with their wallets, and Accenture predicts Millennial spending power in the U.S. to reach $1.4 trillion per year (30% of retail sales) by 2020. For any businesses looking to get a slice of that pie, it pays to take note of Millennial preferences. According to a study by The Shelton Group, 70% of Millennials consider a brand's focus on sustainability when making purchasing decisions.
The importance of catering to Millennial preferences is amplified in the hospitality industry because this generation tends to shell out the most money for travel. About one-third of Millennials are willing to spend $5,000 or more on vacation, and they travel an average of 35 days each year.
Millennials might be leading the trend, but they aren't the only ones who value sustainability. Baby Boomers and Generation X both report being more environmentally conscious than they were in their 20s, according to a survey by MIT's AgeLab; 57% of those generations say they're concerned about environmental protection, and 68% say those concerns have increased since their youth.
Some companies have taken notice of these trends. The Four Seasons brand, for example, is catering to environmentalists while celebrating its 50th anniversary with its 10 Million Trees Initiative - the company aims to plant 10 million trees in 34 different countries to slow deforestation and global warming. The company no doubt will enjoy increased loyalty among Millennials, who generally are slow to embrace traditional loyalty programs.
Trending Toward Sustainability
The World Travel & Tourism Council recently banded together with the International Tourism Partnership and 12 of the world's largest hotel chains to launch the Hotel Carbon Measurement Initiative. The initiative is designed to help hotels measure, market, and reduce their carbon footprints. With big names such as Hilton and Marriott participating, environmental issues are present in the lobbies of hotels of all sizes. To ensure your own business is on the right side of this trend, take the following four steps to improve your energy efficiency.
1. Consider Opting for Solar
It wasn't that long ago that solar energy could only offset a small part of the energy use in a high-consumption building like a hotel. Today, pioneers such as High Hotels are proving that solar is here to stay. The family-owned Marriott subsidiary is installing a $1.5 million solar array on an existing hotel that will generate 100% of the building's electricity demand, making it the first hotel powered entirely by solar energy.
The hotel will fit right in as part of the Greenfield Corporate Center, which has a decadeslong history of prioritizing sustainability. Details such as free charging stations for electric vehicles, efficient lighting solutions, and state-of-the-art building insulation demonstrate what sustainable mixed-use campuses will look like in the future. Whether a $1.5 million array is in the development budget at your hotel, you can still take advantage of the growing capabilities of solar power. Grants from state and local governments can reduce the costs of solar projects - in the above example, they took $504,900 off the purchase price.
As solar technology improves, the average price per watt has decreased from $8.50 in 2009 to $3.05 today. With the price of solar falling by 60% over 10 years, there's little doubt that solar will continue to gain momentum. In energy-intense applications like the hotel industry, the technology can offset expensive utility bills and attract environmentally conscious consumers.
2. Modernize Your Lighting
The older your lights, the more electricity they use (and the more they cost you to power). Updating your dated fixtures is a great way to improve safety, increase efficiency, and enhance aesthetics. Adding in motion detectors or light-sensing photocells can decrease the payoff time even more because it ensures you're only paying for electricity when the lights are actually in use.
When leaders at the Chatwal Hotel in New York decided to retrofit 1,300 lamps, the upgrade ended up saving around 410,000 kilowatt-hours of electricity, which meant a 90% reduction in lighting costs. In more easily digestible terms, the hotel saved almost $125,000 in only a year.
Instead of replacing every light at once, focus your budget on the areas where upgrades make the most sense. Hallways and common areas such as lobbies run lights 24 hours a day, so they use the most electricity and derive the most benefit from energy-efficient bulbs. After you make those upgrades, you can slowly start replacing the rest of the lighting in the building as your budget allows.
3. Take Advantage of Occupancy Sensors
Occupancy sensors are a great way to reduce energy consumption without affecting guest comfort. Sensors can automatically turn lights on when guests enter a room or turn them off to conserve energy when occupants leave, but lighting is only the beginning. Combining occupancy sensors with heating and cooling systems can help hotel owners achieve far more substantial savings.
Smart thermostats can revolutionize energy savings by analyzing several factors to help determine temperature. By examining past settings, local weather patterns, and peak demand loads, smart energy systems can lower costs by as much as 20% and pay for themselves in as little as one or two years - one of the shortest payback times of any potential investment in your hotel.
4. Find Ways to Reduce Water Waste
Hotels use a massive quantity of water, so it's an area where even small improvements can make a tremendous difference. According to data from the Environmental Protection Agency, the hospitality industry is responsible for about 15% of total commercial water use in the U.S. If you assume the pool or the spa uses most of that water, you might be surprised to learn that these uses account for less than 1% of hotel water consumption. Bathrooms account for about 30% of that water use, and laundry operations and landscaping add another 16% each to the total.
In other words, the small cards telling guests to leave their towels on the floor if they want fresh ones can make a big difference. When customers hang their towels and opt to reuse them, the seemingly minimal amount of water they save quickly adds up. Environmentally conscious customers appreciate the option to minimize their impact on the world around them.
Other decisions that hotel management can make include installing low-flow showerheads and sink aerators. The former can reduce water consumption per minute by nearly 30%, and the latter can curb water use by 50% to 100% - depending on the previous hardware. By pursuing these initiatives, hotel chain Caesars estimates that the company's Nevada locations save an estimated 50.5 million gallons of water per year.
Hotel executives are no longer forced to choose between people and the planet. With Millennials demonstrating preferences for both travel and environmentally conscious brands, it will become increasingly important for hotels to demonstrate a commitment to those same values. Ultimately, the businesses that lead the charge will win over patrons who are willing to pay more to use less.
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