Hotel Carbon Footprinting
By Eric Ricaurte Principal, Greenview | June 17, 2012
A clear best practice and principal of hotel sustainable development is knowing the carbon footprint of your hotel. In the future, hoteliers may be able to recite their hotel's carbon footprint on cue, just as they can occupancy and RevPAR. Though sustainability has been nebulous and daunting to those unfamiliar with it, common metrics and straightforward calculation have emerged for the hotel industry, making intricate carbon footprinting accessible to even non-sustainability professionals.
This article aims to provide a quick background on carbon footprinting, why it is relevant to the hotel executive, and how hoteliers can calculate the carbon footprint of a room night and meeting space.
A greenhouse gas (GHG) is defined as a gas that when released into the atmosphere contributes to global warming and its effects on climate change. Each GHG is weighted for its Global Warming Potential (GWP) using carbon dioxide as the base value of 1 per unit. Methane, for example, is another GHG and has a GWP of around 25 for being 25 times more potent in terms of its contribution to the greenhouse effect in comparison to carbon dioxide (which we now shorten to "carbon").
Gases such as carbon dioxide and methane are released into the air when fossil fuels are burned and can increase when environmental changes occur such as cutting down forests (which would otherwise absorb and process carbon dioxide).
A carbon footprint has thus been defined as "the total set of greenhouse gas emissions caused by an organization, event, product or person."(1) It has its roots in the more ambitious concept of an ecological footprint, which is an attempt at calculating the footprint people, cities, and society leave on the environment. The "footprint" refers to land use and consumption in relation to Earth's ability to replenish its resources and provide humans with the systems necessary for life (all of which have been upgraded to the encompassing term "Ecosystem Services").
While the background on sustainable development, its science, and its terminology are complex, the managerial implication for hoteliers is simple: the energy consumed to provide electricity and HVAC in hotel operations has a carbon footprint, and that footprint contributes to the greenhouse effect in quantifiable terms. Calculating the carbon footprint of a hotel will become routine in the coming years, as will demonstrating what steps have been taken to reduce that carbon footprint.
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