As we mark World Earth Day on 22 April, we acknowledge the impact we are having on our planet, as well as the responsibility we have as individuals to tackle environmental impact in our day to day life.
he public have increasingly begun to factor in sustainability when they consider a purchase, and this isn’t limited to their weekly shop. Guests expect hotels to do their bit for the environment too, so much so that there is a dedicated Eco Hotel of the Year category at the annual AA Hospitality Awards. There are a number of ways in which hotels can make efforts to be more green, many of which have additional benefits for businesses, their guests and the environment alike.
A significant portion of businesses’ environmental impact comes from their carbon footprint, and transporting food contributes to this. Where possible, buying and supporting local, whether it be from regional markets or producers, will help reduce environmental impact, and many hotels have supplemented this approach by developing their own kitchen gardens.
Our Eco Hotel of the Year 2017, Oakley Court, even went so far as to build beehives to produce honey for their kitchens. Not only does this approach cut emissions linked to your food usage, it creates stronger links with your community, supports local businesses, and provides fresher, in season food, which can only be a good thing.
Most businesses already do some recycling, but it’s easy to think outside the box to do more. Fairmont St Andrews, AA Eco Hotel of the Year 2018–19, is a fantastic example of this, recycling approximately 250kg of bathroom soaps and hygiene products per month, donating these leftover resources to humanitarian organisations through the “Clean the World” initiative. Even items that cannot be traditionally recycled can have second lives – many animal shelters take donations of old towels and bedding for their dogs and cats, while larger charity stores will collect unwanted furniture directly from your hotel. Researching recycling initiatives in your local area is a way of seeing what can be donated nearby, helping your waste levels to plummet.
Environmental efforts extend beyond the hotel walls too. We often think of gardens and grounds as something to be kept neat and visually appealing, without remembering their importance as green spaces and animal habitats. Committing to regular landscape cleaning and conservation is a great way to ensure that the environment surrounding your hotel is healthy and prosperous, and can be done in a number of ways.
Fairmont St Andrews cleans nearby beaches four times a year to give back to their surrounding environment, while Eco Hotel of the Year 2015, The Savoy, adopted a portion of the nearby Thames, regularly clearing litter in an effort to improve water quality. No matter how big or small your efforts to clean your green environment, regular litter clearing will benefit wildlife, as well as having the knock-on benefit of beautifying the area for guests.
Of course, the responsibility to be green does not end with business-owners. Asking guests to join in being more environmentally friendly is a great way to extend the reach of green policies, and also lets them know that sustainability is important to the place they are staying. Requests can be as subtle as reminding guests to turn off lights when leaving their room to implementing policies where towels will not be replaced daily unless explicitly requested. By engaging with guests, you make sure that everything that happens in your hotel is done with an eye towards the environment.
Finally, it’s important to keep sustainability in mind whenever new policies are created within a business that wants to be known for its environmental outlook. Speaking with staff and encouraging them to suggest ways in which your standard business behaviour could be made greener is a way of securing buy-in from teams. We all have a responsibility to be sustainable and staff may well have useful insights into how their everyday duties could be made more environmentally friendly. Brainstorming will allow you to finesse your green policies, keep staff informed and onboard with new sustainable initiatives and increase the likelihood of their succeeding, by ensuring that environmental efforts are feasible day to day.
Through this combination of local sourcing, smart recycling, awareness of surroundings and engagement with guests and staff, hotels can help the planet, while continuing to provide guests with an excellent experience, and ultimately ensuring customers are keen to return, in the knowledge that the business is sustainable.
By Simon Numphud, managing director at AA Hotel and Hospitality Services