Thursday, June 13, 2024
Thursday, June 13, 2024
HomeFeaturesTransforming the hotel industry one green step at a time

Transforming the hotel industry one green step at a time

The challenges facing the hospitality industry are well documented – from energy costs to the price of produce – and this is perhaps one of the reasons that greener practices are now becoming an everyday tool in the industry to keep costs down, as well as providing a marketing tool to attract guests who research shows are more invested in environmental issues and businesses that operate ethically.

Research by Booking.com found that over 70% of travellers want to try to travel more sustainably in the next year and some 78% intend to stay in sustainable accommodation. This clearly demonstrates an opportunity for tourism businesses to cater for this growing market.

Visit Scotland have launched a new Climate Action guide to support hospitality businesses to position sustainability at the heart of their recovery and ensure their offering will make it easier for visitors to make environmentally conscious travel decisions. The Action guide aims to help businesses appreciate the impact of the net-zero transition on businesses, communities, and the environment with guidance on how businesses can assess their emissions, identify opportunities, and plan their response, ultimately fostering resilience and positive environmental impact.

The guide takes businesses through a step-by-step process that includes topics such as identifying and measuring carbon emissions, adapting to unavoidable climate change, supporting nature-based solutions and communicating with stakeholders.

From identifying emission types – predominantly direct and indirect. Direct emissions include items like the boilers used to heat premises, refrigeration systems (any leakage), re-gassing air conditioning systems, and the use of gas (in cooking) to looking at Indirect emissions, which comprise a significant portion of a hotel’s carbon footprint, can be attributed to factors such as purchased electricity or heating systems.

The most substantial contributors to emissions—accounting for 75%-95% of the total—originate from generated waste, staff commutes, and, most importantly, the sourcing and nature of goods and services purchased. It is these latter factors that have become the primary focus of the hotel sector’s sustainability efforts.

Consequently, hotels worldwide have begun to prioritise sustainability initiatives that not only lessen their ecological footprint but also enhance guest satisfaction and bolster brand reputation. And they are learning to shout about it.

For instance Ten Hill Place in Edinburgh, which has held a Gold Green Tourism Award since 2008 has just announced it will contribute towards ecological initiatives every time a guest opts out of room cleaning during a two-or-more night stay.

Contributions made by the hotel, which is owned by the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh, when guests abstain from housekeeping will offset an estimated half a tonne of CO2 equivalent a night. The new initiative follows a major carbon audit on every aspect of the hotel’s operations.

The audit by Carbon Futures Ltd and Business Energy Scotland has already resulted in rolling out daylight sensors and helped set the plans for plant equipment upgrades that would help the Old Town hotel introduce its own energy sources.

Mark McKenzie, General Manager at Surgeons Quarter which operates the 129-bedroom hotel, said, “It’s very important to us that we make decisions which positively impact the environment and ensure this is at the heart of all of our operations – while also actively encouraging guests to minimise their effects on the environment.

“Ten Hill Place Hotel is a good choice for conscious consumers as we are committed to doing our bit for the planet. With more and more people looking to live a greener life at home it makes sense to stay at a hotel with similar ambitions.

“However, we’re still mindful of the effects that travel and the tourism industry have on our planet which has been reflected into how we fulfil all our green commitments and continue the highest standards possible.”

One of the most significant challenges faced by the hotel industry is reducing energy consumption (and costs) and many hotels in Scotland are taking up the challenge. Solar panels are becoming the norm rather than the exception – for instance Dakota at Eurocentral have just installed more than 400. And at Apex in Dundee solar provides up to 20% of its energy needs.

In fact Apex has also switching to 100% renewable electricity from Scottish wind farms. Energy management systems are also key. If you are not already on the path you are definitely missing a trick.

A building management system such as the one that Apex uses monitors energy usage, and the group has also introduced Energy Saving Key cards in bedrooms which means rooms don’t use energy when unoccupied. Apex are also currently trialling an IOT/ Smart building initiative with the introduction of smart room and public area sensors to help reduce energy use throughout the hotel. Apex also introduced its own laundry a few years ago – Hospitality Linen Services.

The 15th century Rushton Hall in Northampton has not only installed a biomass boiler for all their heating and energy use, but they also installed an on-premise laundry so they could wash all their own towels. There are also linen ranges which offer energy savings such as the SmartSoft range from BG Software.

This range say the company offers 70% energy savings and drys 31% faster.

It’s all about water usage. Laundry and kitchen operations alone account for around 40% of the water used in hotels. That’s why it pays to put in modern, efficient washers which can help reduce labour and utility costs while consuming less water compared to older units.

There has been some murmers recently that the UK Government plans to introduce bans on power showers and dual-flush toilets which although when used correctly save two-thirds more water than a conventional toilet – but apparently frequent leaks and users being confused by what the buttons actually mean, in some cases, they use more – leaking toilets account for wastage of 88 million litres of water.  While powerful showers can use up to 15 litres a minute.

The governments aim is to get people to use less than 110 litres a day of water. – but lower power showers may not go down all that well with hotel guests certainly to begin with. But there are other ways of saving water too.

The Fairmont St. Andrews uses recycled rainwater across its grounds and golf courses. A network of drainage pipes installed throughout the courses directs water into irrigation ponds, effectively reducing the need for borehole usage by 75%.

In 2019, the hotel’s conservation efforts were even more successful, as the borehole was not required for topping up the irrigation ponds, resulting in an even lower usage of the borehole that year. It has also replaced disposable water bottles in its 212 guestrooms with specially designed refillable glass bottles – a move that will see a saving of 55,000 plastic bottles per year.

The Radisson Blu Hotel in Edinburgh has installed low-flow showerheads and taps, as well as water-efficient appliances, and the group has set a target of reducing their water footprint by 30% by 2026.

Surveys estimate that each hotel guest, on average, produces one kilo of waste per day and that approximately 30% of the waste a hotel produces can be diverted through reuse and recycling. That is why waste reduction initiatives, such as recycling programs, composting, using biodegradable products and of course food waste reduction is key.

Apex Hotels has a zero-landfill policy. For instance it recycles Nespresso coffee capsules and collects waste oil for conversion into renewable energy. The hotel has pledged to eliminate all single-use plastics in guest rooms by 2023, and room amenity packaging is made from previously ocean-bound materials, which are intercepted and recycled.

The Gleneagles Hotel in Perthshire not only mixes all of their coffee waste with their own compost to use it across the estate, but also keeps their horses warm with rugs that use 50% less energy to produce. Its two-legged guests can also enjoy a new range of bathroom amenities that have been developed that come in refillable bottles featuring natural ingredients found on the estate while the bathroom essentials packs uses 100% recycled material.

Once again APEX are on the ball too – it uses recycled paper when possible, receives invoices electronically, and offers a paperless check-in process for guests. The housekeeping team has transitioned from paper-based communication to using an app that shares room information for arrivals, stays, and departures. In-room information and menus have been replaced with QR codes to further reduce paper usage. Waste management is carefully structured, with items like used uniforms and bedding being responsibly disposed of. The hotel aims to increase recycling at the source to 60% of total waste, and no products are sent to landfill. General waste is collected and converted into refuse-derived fuel (RDF).

Scottish hoteliers have also had to contend with a ban on single use plastics which came in last summer., and which is expected to be extended to cover other items. Some suppliers have been quick off the mark. For instance, milk company Delamere has created mini milk glass bottles designed to replace jiggers and sticks in hotel rooms. The mini milks offer 3-4 servings of milk which can be served and stored at room temperature.

Ed Salt, MD at Delamere Dairy said, “One of our main aims as a company is to leave a legacy for future generations. We have all been frustrated when trying to open a milk jigger or sachet only for it to end up all over the worktop, the mini milk bottles are convenient, easy to open and reduce plastic waste.”

Sustainable food practices too are well in hand in many hotels with many focusing on local and organic food sourcing, and the inclusion of plant-based menus. There is certainly a growing trend of hotels sourcing food from their own gardens or nearby local farms. Helped by the increasing popularity of farm-to-table dining experiences, and the desire by chefs to provide fresher, healthier, and more unique dishes to guests.

oth The Torridon in Wester Ross and Monachyle Mhor in Balquhidder are just two which grow their own produce in an on-site kitchen garden but there are many more hotels embracing the practice.

There is also a positive when it comes to shouting about what you are doing environmentally. There is strong evidence that as well as reducing costs in the medium to long term, environmental practices can also drive guest visits and help with recruitment.

A survey by the Governance and Accountability Institute in the US found that 40% of millennial respondents chose their employer because of their sustainability performance while 70% of millennials are more likely to stay with a company with a strong environmental reputation and policy. These figures are likely to be similar here – another good reason to embrace sustainability.

Next month we will take a look at EV Charging and focus on one hotel’s sustainability journey. 

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