Its no secret hotels are energy hogs. In fact, the average 150-room hotel contributes three tonnes of greenhouse gases to our global environment every day, and, in one month, a 150-room hotel can save more than 22,714 litres of water and 151 litres of detergent if guests employ a simple linen and towel reuse program — that’s according to EcoStay, a Oakville, Ont.-based program that helps North American hotel operators take an active role in combating climate change.
While it’s clear eco-friendly initiatives benefit a hotel’s bottom line, the Ottawa-based Hotel Association of Canada’s 2013 “Canadian Travel Intentions” Survey reveals 44 per cent of business travellers said environmental initiatives such as recycling and energy efficiency are important to them — up eight per cent from 2009. And, a hotel grounded in solid environmentally friendly policies isn’t just trendy, it’s cost-effective. To find out more, keep reading for a list of seven ways to “green” a hotel.
Join an organization that rates a hotel’s sustainable practices then set the bar higher. An assess-ment from a key organization such as the Hotel-Association-of-Canada-developed Green Key Eco-Rating program provides a comprehensive environmental assessment that could potentially be promoted to guests. The one- to five-key rating is made based on a hotel’s practices in areas such as energy and water conservation, solid- and hazardous-waste management, indoor air quality and land use.
Approximately 3,074 Canadian hotels are registered in the Green Key Program. “That number is increasing by an average of two to three hotels per week,” says Andrea Myers, director of Program Development at HAC. “The public appreciates transparency on the part of the hotel as to what certifications they have and what environmental initiatives they’re taking.” Small changes can make a big difference, adds Myers, who suggests hoteliers advertise eco campaigns in places such as the lobby or the elevator to encourage guests to become active participants in energy-saving initiatives.
“The commitment to solar energy is changing the face of the contemporary, eco-friendly hotel, whether that translates into small- or large-scale usage,” explains Tony Pollard, president of HAC.
The management team at the Comfort Inn & Suites in Red Deer, Alta. recently spent $1.4 million on a network of solar rooftop panels as an alternative energy source for heating and cooling the entire hotel, including its indoor pool, water slide and indoor Jacuzzis. According to the hotel’s website, those eco features save tons of carbon dioxide from being released into the atmosphere annually — the equivalent of approximately 115 cars.
ELECTRIC VEHICLE CHARGING STATIONS
Although the idea of electric vehicle charging stations is relatively new to Canada’s hotel industry, guests in Western Canada are warming up to the idea, in line with B.C. Hydro’s prediction that ap-proximately 100,000 electric vehicles will be on the road by 2022. Case in point, The Best Western Plus Kelowna Hotel & Suites installed its third charging station this summer. “We thought they might take longer to catch on,” says Brenda Rayburn, director of Sales and Marketing. But, the first station was used regularly each week before two more were added. The operators of the Ambassador Hotel & Conference Centre in Kingston, Ont. are equally excited about the special stations. “We’ve always had an eye on energy conservation,” explains Rose Bertoia, the hotel’s marketing manager. “That’s why I think our property [has been] one of the few leading the way in terms of integrating the electric vehicle charging station when the need first began.” The launch of this electric vehicle charging station brought Kingston’s glitterati out: even the mayor showed up to charge his Volt.
HYPER LOCAL INITIATIVES
Once the domain of hippie farmers, beekeeping has infiltrated the hotel industry. More than 20 Fairmont hotels in Canada and abroad host bee colonies on site or nearby, and the Hôtel du Vieux in Quebec City maintains two hives that produce 120 pounds of honey each. The liquid gold is used in the hotel’s restaurant and given away as a promotion. Paired with a jungle-like rooftop garden, the beehives attract environmentally aware clientele to stay at the hotel, even though the honey centres are not available for public tour. “It’s more of a personal philosophy for us. But a huge plus to the garden and beehives that we didn’t expect was how cool it made the hotel in the summer,” says Justin Keating, GM. The 15-degree drop in temperature means the hotel’s air conditioners don’t have to be cranked in the summer. “And, on the flip side, the heat in the winter stays longer — it’s the best insulation,” says the GM.
MOTION DETECTORS IN PUBLIC SPACES
While many hotels regulate lighting with guestroom motion detector on/off switches, bringing the technology to public spaces has become the latest trend. It would be a safety concern to remove hallway or lobby lighting, but The Hampton Inn & Suites by Hilton in Halifax has recently outfitted its other public spaces with motion detectors. “The fitness room, meeting rooms, conference rooms and other public spaces are now on motion detectors,” says Norman, who added that the savings are “quite significant.” What’s more, guests aren’t inconvenienced or irritated; in fact, it’s quite the opposite. “The guests ask for it,” explains the hotelier. “Halifax has quite an active municipality, and the community pushes for businesses to be environmentally conscious.”
UNIQUE RECYCLING INITIATIVES
While a good recycling program has become standard in most hotel settings, some operators are taking it to the next level. For example, the team at the Hampton Inn & Suites by Hilton in Halifax recently began using Enviroware for its catering containers. The eco-friendly product is comprised of a uniquely formulated, clear plastic that looks identical to other restaurant containers but requires significantly less fossil fuels and releases fewer greenhouse gases. “It’s biodegradable,” enthuses Rick Norman, GM. “So, less stuff is headed for the landfill.”
The phrase ‘carbon footprint’ is often bandied about quite casually these days, but what does it really mean? To summarize, it relates to carbon emissions released as a result of human activity. To reduce a hotel’s carbon footprint, one must assess how much carbon dioxide is being released into the air on an annual basis. It can get complicated, but it doesn’t take a science degree to know too much carbon output has a disastrous impact on the environment. Still, a simple plan, such as encouraging guests to reuse their towels and sheets for one night, can reduce energy and water, which in turn reduces a hotel’s carbon footprint.
The team at Delta Hotels & Resorts is tracking its carbon footprint and setting goals towards its reduction, with plans to cut overall waste by 10 per cent. The team also follows a “sustainable pur-chasing policy” that prohibits the purchase of detergents with excessive packaging or containers that are non-recyclable. And, by making its two- and five-year carbon emission goals public on its website, the hotel management rallies support from staff and guests who contribute in the hotel’s eco-friendly vision.
“Now, more than ever, there’s a push to engage employees in a hotel’s ‘green’ philosophy,” ex-plains the Green Key’s Myers. “It’s no longer about dictating to staff instructions about how they should do laundry or how to recycle. Education and training helps employees view themselves for what they are — part of a team contributing to an environmental vision that’s larger than any one individual.” After all, the green movement is about small changes that provide big impacts.