By Kaitlin Dunn, Writer, Hospitality Sales & Marketing Association International (HSMAI)
There are many small changes that hotel companies can implement that can make a big difference in terms of being more sustainable. HSMAI’s Rising Sales Leader Council (RSLC) discussed how their hotels are promoting sustainability on a recent call. Here are a few of their best ideas for how hotels can be more sustainable —and why it’s important.
Food is one of the largest categories of waste that gets generated from hotels, especially with banquets and meetings, RSLC members said. They suggested combatting this via composting and donating food to local charities.
“Align with an organization that you can donate food to,” one RSLC member said. “We can’t serve something to guests that expired a day ago or the day-old bagels that didn’t get eaten at breakfast, but that doesn’t mean that another organization won’t take it. There’s a lot to be done from a food waste standpoint.”
Another member said that at their hotels, recently expired food or food that didn’t get eaten at an event gets put out for staff to take advantage of, so it doesn’t go to waste.
While many of us throw our cans and bottles in a recycling bin in most places without thinking, not every hotel prioritizes recycling. In fact, several RSLC members said that they know of hotels that don’t recycle at all. However, others pointed out that recycling can be an easy way to reduce waste and should be a priority.
“We used to send out daily or weekly tips on recycling to educate everyone on what we should or shouldn’t put in the recycling bin,” one RSLC member said. “It was really engaging and made everyone more cognizant of what we should put in the recycling bin.”
One common change that RSLC members see being implemented is reducing plastic by getting rid of individual mini bottles of bathroom products. Several members brought up outfitting bathrooms with large dispensers of shampoo and shower gel that guests can pump out instead of using individual bottles. “The tiny plastic bottles are completely wasted, and you can’t reuse them,” one RSLC member said.
Another member said that while their hotels tried to implement shared containers of shower necessities, guests felt uncomfortable with them because of the pandemic, so the hotels unfortunately went back to individual bottles. But it’s still possible to use them sustainably. Members noted that they have programs to properly dispose of individual bathroom products, including donating leftover shampoo bottles to developing countries and remaking leftover soap into new soap.
Disposable water bottles are a huge contributor to waste, even if they’re recycled. A much more sustainable option is a reusable water bottle, which several RSLC members said they were trying to get guests to use instead of purchasing multiple disposables or even using paper cups, which also produce waste.
“We actually purchased logoed plastic reusable water bottles and charged them to the meeting,” one member said. “We put out water stations so people can refill them. It’s more expensive to begin with, but if you put out a water station, people are willing to pay more.”
Another member said: “I think it would be great to have a refill station near the front desk for people checking in. You have that in airports, but you rarely see it in hotels.”
Many hotels are still not cleaning rooms daily unless requested — a new policy implemented at the start of the pandemic — which has resulted in less laundry and less money and water wasted. “There is a significant number of travelers that complain that they can’t get their sheets washed every day,” one RSLC member said. “But if we’re cleaning sheets every day, we’re basically washing clean sheets and wasting so much water.”
Another RSLC member said that hotels should market the environmental benefits as a reason for guests not to choose daily housekeeping service. “If we could communicate that we aren’t cleaning rooms to be more about how it’s better for the environment, I think it might go over better for some guests,” the member said.
CONSUMER INTERST IN SUSTAINABILITY
Even though most people can agree that sustainability is important, just how much do customers expect from hotels? RSLC members have had mixed experiences.
“When I personally go to hotels, I expect they follow brand standards for sustainability, which are basically the bare minimum,” one RSLC member said. “If they do anything above and beyond that it’s a pleasant surprise and a good selling point, but not an expectation.”
“It’s definitely a topic with planners, but it doesn’t seem to be at the forefront of individual travers’ minds,” another member added.
When it comes to RFPs, members said that it’s a good idea to mention any sustainability initiatives, because they’re important to many organizations. “A lot of companies want this right now,” one member said. “They are really serious about the sustainability piece. I think it will become a bigger deciding factor as we go along.”