Did you know that the average hotel consumes the same amount of resources in a week that a family does in a year? Yup, the hotel industry uses a massive amount of energy and is a key area to focus on for environmental change. In this post I take a look at what hotels can do to become more eco-friendly and how doing so can benefit them.
Do green hotels get more guests?
Not only does the environment profit from eco-friendly procedures, but so does the hotel itself. Studies have shown that green hotels typically get more exposure in the press and are easier to market. They also attract a new type of guest, one that only supports environmental companies. According to Inuit, between 2009 and 2010 there was a 7.5% increase in customers “who researched and booked green accommodation”. I’m sure this figure is even higher now.
Another epic win is that guests staying at a green hotel are likely to have a more positive overall perception of the hotel. Accommodation provider HotelClub Hong Kong has found that a higher percentage of guests award eco-friendly hotels the highest 5-star rating than they do non eco-friendly ones.
And don’t forget that guests may also implement a more environmentally-conscious lifestyle when they get back home, as a result of exposure to green practices.
How can I tell if my hotel is eco-friendly?
There are several global accreditors out there who audit green businesses to determine how well they are doing. This certification acts as a trust signal to the customer, showing them that a hotel is genuinely doing its bit for the environment and not just greenwashing its guests.
In Hong Kong, the most widely-recognised certification in the travel and tourism sector is EarthCheck. Based out of Australia, EarthCheck monitors the environmental sustainability practices of 1300 members worldwide in over 70 countries.
It does this through annual benchmarking and regular audits with hotels receiving Gold, Silver or Bronze certification. Benchmarking looks at water and waste management, energy consumption and social responsibility. After ten years of continuous reporting, hotels can receive the prestigious Platinum Certification.
Currently, there are 15 hotels in Hong Kong with EarthCheck certification, including InterContinental Hong Kong, Eaton Hong Kong, Langham Place Mongkok, The Cityview and the Regal chain.
I’m sure there are many smaller hotels that have eco-friendly procedures in place but no accreditation, though. Still, the small number surprises me.
What can hotels do to be eco-friendly?
There are plenty of steps a hotel can take to help the environment, and they can be broken down into three main types: conserving energy, conserving water and reducing waste. Here are the most important:
- Sourcing furniture made from reclaimed wood and donating old furniture to charity
- Placing recycling bins in guest bedrooms
- Recycling everything that can be recycled (e.g. converting food waste into fertiliser)
- Replacing mini bottles of shampoo and shower gel with larger dispensers to reduce packaging
- Collecting rain water in buckets which can be used to water plants around the hotel
- Only serving drinking water at the request of guests
- Low-flow toilets and shower heads
- Installing solar panels to heat water used in bathrooms and swimming pools
- Replacing old electrical appliances like dishwashers, microwaves and washing machines with newer energy-efficient ones
- Using hybrid vehicles to transport guests to and from the airport
- Offering bike hire to save using motorised transport
- Replacing traditional light bulbs with halogen or LED ones
- Sourcing local produce to reduce food miles
- Installing timers and motion sensors on lighting in hallways
- Washing linen on colder, more economical cycles
Other steps include using non-toxic cleaning products and serving organic food that’s free from hormones, preservatives and chemicals. There are always other ways to make your business greener, too. For example, InterContinental Hong Kong organised a Green Day this April which included guest speakers and a video contest.
I hope this post has given you an insight into the world of green hotels. Keep an eye out for more businesses doing their bit – hopefully we’ll see a steady increase over the next few years.
By Matt Lindley, follow him on Twitter @MattELindley