Sustainable Hotel Ideas: 25 Ways to Go Green

August 19, 2021 5 min read

Sustainable Hotel Ideas: 25 Ways to Go Green

Hotels around the world are rolling out a plethora of green initiatives like smart showers, solar power installations, and waste diversion. But what’s right for one hotel may not be right — or achievable — for others. 

If you’re interested in winning business by going green, we’ve got you covered with a rundown of tips and strategies to bring sustainable best-practices to your properties. Let’s start by understanding what sustainability means and why it matters for the hotel industry.  

What are sustainable, eco-friendly hotels?

Sustainable hotels are businesses that significantly reduce their environmental impact through green best-practices in maintenance, services, logistics, products, and supplies. The core elements revolve around reducing waste, saving energy, and cutting down on water usage.

There are many steps a hotel can take to move toward sustainability. Some of them are major capital expenditures, such as replacement of the HVAC system; others are easy to implement and even low-cost. 

Why should hotels go green?

When hotels go green, they do less damage to the environment, lower costs, and win goodwill from guests. 

Sustainability in the business world is essential to achieving growth and satisfying customers. Increasingly, consumers seek out green businesses and pay more for eco-friendly products and services. One in three consumers prefer sustainable brands, and the travel industry is taking note. TripAdvisor, for example, has developed its GreenLeaders Programme showcasing hotels with environmentally-friendly best practices to conscientious travellers, such as hotels going green with LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design).

Sustainable efficiency is possible with the right technology

Hotels can also expect to save a good deal of green by going green. Moving toward sustainability means reducing your energy and water consumption, as well as staffing for things like maintenance and guest services.

Here are 25 tips for sustainability across the many different areas of your hotel operation, with examples of specific eco-friendly best practices to consider.

Explore eco-friendly hotel ideas:

Make your staff eco-friendly

1. Create a green team.

Ask interested employees in each department to participate in a ‘green team’ to take the lead in suggesting eco-friendly best practices in their area. This gives these employees a sense of ownership of green strategies, and more commitment to long-term adoption. Don’t forget to acknowledge their efforts, such as with a small stipend, a special lunch, or gift cards.

2. Target low-hanging fruit to start.

Chances are your hotel or hotel group already has eco-friendly programmes, but there is almost always room for improvement. Some ideas to consider: 

  • Cut down on the use of plastic water bottles by offering hotel reward programme members a reusable branded bottle.

  • Add a water-bottle filling station in the lobby.

  • Install additional towel racks in bathrooms to make it easy for guests to reuse towels. Create a sign encouraging reuse.

  • Make recycling options easy to spot. Replace outdated bins with worn recycling symbols and add bins near elevator banks so that guests pass them frequently. 

3. Make the hiring and training process green.

Use phone calls for initial interviews instead of asking candidates to swing by — thus cutting down on fossil fuels — and use Skype or Facetime for face-to-face interviews. Instead of printing-out lengthy employee manuals or hiring forms, provide new employees with links to documentation in electronic format, or provide computer access on-site for those without home computers. Steer new applicants to online employment portals rather than requesting hard copy resumes. And be sure to highlight your hotel’s sustainability efforts in hiring materials so all new additions to your staff understand its priority in daily operations.

Ensure guest services are eco-friendly

4. Focus on efficiency. 

This is the name of the game when it comes to a green corporate culture. Services ranging from remote check-in/check-out to keyless entry cut down on lost plastic key cards, reduces paper usage, and can even help minimise overstaffing — and the additional carbon emissions it causes.

5. Upgrade your transportation offerings and services with sustainability in mind.

Add electric vehicle charging stations for guests with electric or hybrid cars. Consider eBike and eScooter rental options to promote sustainable transportation (be sure to provide helmets for guests). Provide group shuttles (using hybrid or electric vehicles) to public transit hubs to cut down on the number of low-occupancy car trips to and from your hotel.

Make guest rooms more green 

6. Automate conservation.

Sustainability efforts in guest rooms have evolved beyond cards reminding guests to reuse towels, turn off the AC, or hit the light switch on the way out. Today, many hotels are taking the guesswork out with technology: 

  • Smart showers limit the length of showers to a pre-set time, alerting users when their time is almost over.

  • Room sensors automatically detect light levels, increasing and reducing the bulb brightness.

  • Thermostats with occupancy sensors adjust heating and AC temperatures. Utilising Internet of Things (IoT) technology, these same room amenities can be connected to apps so guests can change settings remotely. 

7. Furnish rooms sustainably.

In addition to smart technology, make smart choices in furnishing guest rooms with natural fiber sheets and furniture made of sustainable materials. Stock the room with reusable coffee mugs and glasses rather than plasticware, paper, or styrofoam. In the bathroom, provide natural and organic free-trade soaps and shampoos from certified green manufacturers in biodegradable packaging.

Make food services eco-friendly

8. Reduce waste during events.

Cut down on the number of trash receptacles at your event venue while increasing the amount of recycling options to force attendees to dispose of their waste thoughtfully. Make it easy for guests to recycle by clearly marking and positioning recyclable containers for paper, aluminum cans, and plastic bottles. 

9. Incorporate reusable dishes, silverware, glasses and mugs.

This cuts down on the use of straws, plastic serving-ware, and paper plates at your facility. You’ll also save money in lower supply costs and waste management (the less your hotel throws out, the lower the cost for trash hauling). Replace single portions of cereal, yogurt, and jam at your breakfast bar with glass containers to further minimise waste. 

10. Shop local.

Source from nearby growers and food providers. It’s a great way to support area farmers while also reducing the carbon emissions caused when you truck-in food from a distance. Menu selections should incorporate sustainable offerings, including vegetarian and vegan items that take fewer resources to produce than meat. 

11. Compost and donate food from your kitchen.

Establish processes to compost waste, which can in turn support sustainable gardening practices. Additionally, unused or leftover food can be donated to various local and national food banks and programmes.

Make the gift shop green

12. Stock-up with sustainable items.

When choosing which products to sell, or which manufacturers to use for branded apparel and gifts, look at green certified businesses. Explore ethical clothing companies, fair trade accessories, and even ethical travel gear.

13. Operate with efficiency.

In terms of gift shop operations, monitoring occupancy levels at your hotel will help staff the shop properly, cutting down on staff transportation emissions. Sensor lights can automatically dim and brighten at different times of the day, and sensor thermostats can keep the shop comfortable.

For display cases, sensors on doors can brighten interiors when opened, and there are environmentally-friendly point of sale systems that cut down on electricity and paper for receipts.

And by all means, ditch plastic bags for compostable bags or convenient reusable ones that can be returned to the desk or placed in drop boxes.

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