Every organization – large or small – has an opportunity to make the environment a better place to live, whether it’s decreasing waste, conserving energy or reducing your carbon footprint. Hotels, in particular, are uniquely positioned as prime candidates for getting involved in more environmentally friendly practices, and for the last few decades, we’ve seen evidence of that.
Many now participate in towel reuse programs, allowing guest to use towels more than once by simply hanging it on rack. This one action saves on water, soap and electricity, resulting in greater cost savings and less impact on the environment. Other partners in the hospitality industry have been investing in energy management systems, such as using LED lights that help lower energy consumption.
Beyond the more visible changes, many opportunities exist to dig deeper into the operations of your property to find methods and processes that can make a large impact. Consider the food and beverage side of your hotel and the various steps that can be taken to reduce waste and focus on sustainability. Last year, the executive team at The Chase Park Plaza Royal Sonesta Hotel in St. Louis decided to take part in an organic food waste program. Currently, that program is reducing the hotel’s overall waste by 40 to 50 percent.
Each month, the hotel diverts an average of 9,800 pounds of waste from the landfill and is on track to reach 58 tons by the end of the year. Further adding to that, The Chase buys back an average of 40 pounds of nutrient-rich compost per month for our kitchen’s micro-greeneries. These micro-greeneries are used to grow basil, arugula, bulls blood (beets), chives, radish, and mizuna, as well as larger plants including lettuce, kale and mustard greens. All greens harvested from the micro-greeneries are used in dishes prepared for the hotel’s restaurants.
Another green initiative that’s come out of our food and beverage department has been an effort to support the honeybee population, which has taken a sharp decline in recent years. According to Smithsonian Magazine, bee abundance declined across 23% of U.S. land area between 2008 and 2013.
In efforts to combat that decline, our chefs built, painted and installed two rooftop hives, each containing 10,000 honeybees. It is estimated that the hives now contain 80,000-100,000 honeybees which is expected to produce 15 gallons of fresh organic local Forest Park honey by this fall. The honey harvested from the hives will be used in the hotel’s restaurants and offered to guests.
Our hotel is also engaged with the “Skip the Straw” initiative where our restaurants and bars are only providing paper straws in drinks upon request in efforts to preserve marine life. According to the National Park Service, more than 500 million straws are used each day in the U.S., enough to circle the planet 2.5 times. Furthermore, plastic straws are proving to be deadly and are now one of the top 10 marine debris items found on beaches.
Finally, we have taken additional steps to ensure our recycling program is working at full capacity. We currently recycle an average of 1,000 tons per month, which equates to 12,000 tons per year. With the recent addition of recycling bins in each of our nearly 400 guestrooms, we estimate that the amount we currently recycle will increase 30 percent year over year.
A simple effort such as eliminating, or just reducing, can go a long way, not only in helping protect the environment, but in communicating the importance of being an eco-conscious business to your guests.
As more of today’s travelers say that hotels that preserve the environment play a role in their destination decision, consider the follow ideas that have been implemented by our Sonesta sister properties to help your hotel become more sustainable and environmentally friendly:
- Use compact fluorescent lighting in guestrooms.
- Install low-flow faucets, showerheads and toilets
- Identify cleaning products that do not include hazardous chemicals for use in the housekeeping department
- Transition from offering small bottled amenities to in-shower dispenser amenities systems to eliminate the product and plastic waste associated with single serving amenities
- Purchase wood-based bed frames made from sustainably harvested forests, under the Forest Certification Encouragement Program
- Host an annual Earth Day neighborhood cleanup and partner with organizations that support green initiatives
Remember, once you launch your green initiatives and practices, be sure to share them with your staff and your guests. Also, take advantage of programs that help promote hotels that preserve the environment, like TripAdvisor’s Green Leaders program. Green Leaders helps travelers around the world plan greener trips by highlighting hotels and bed and breakfasts engaging in environmentally friendly practices.
Properties that “make the green grade” have met a set of environmental standards that were developed for TripAdvisor by a leading environmental consulting firm. The more green practices a hotel has in place, the higher its GreenLeader level. The level is then highlighted on the property’s TripAdvisor listing.
The TripAdvisor GreenLeaders program was developed in consultation with the United Nations Environment Programme, the U.S. Green Building Council, ENERGY STAR, and the International Center for Responsible Tourism Canada, among other leading environmental organizations.