Hotels have been greening their operations for years now, and practices such as installing energy-saving features and reducing water consumption are increasingly commonplace. To build an even greener future, hotels are taking a deeper dive into sustainability by making bolder commitments to energy, water and waste reduction; getting more involved in local communities; and looking at technology’s role in reducing environmental impacts.
Marriott International is one hotel company with aggressive goals to reduce its environmental footprint. Last November, Marriott launched a new global sustainability-and-social-impact initiative called Serve 360. On the sustainability front, Marriott’s goal is to reduce its global water usage by 15 per cent (20 per cent in Canada) by 2025, its carbon footprint by 30 per cent (35 per cent in Canada), the amount of waste going to landfills by 45 per cent and food waste by 50 per cent.
“We’ve always had sustainability goals, but there’s a desire by our company, at its most senior leadership, to really up the game here,” says Don Cleary, president of Marriott Canada. “These are bold goals that we’re going to have to be very focused on to achieve. So, in that regard, we hope we can move the dial.”
To achieve its goals in Canada specifically, Marriott is increasing its usage of low-flow showerheads, dual-flush toilets and high-efficiency lighting; and expanding its recycling programs, Cleary explains. There’s also a big push for sustainability certification and LEED certification, which will further reduce water and energy use. For example, by 2025, 100 per cent of the company’s global properties will be certified to a recognized sustainability standard and 650 hotels (including eight in Canada) will pursue LEED certification or equivalent.
On the social impact side, Marriott’s Serve 360 program focuses on community engagement, employee empowerment and advancing human rights. For example, by 2025, 100 per cent of Marriott employees will have completed human-rights training, including human-trafficking awareness Marriott is also committing to 15-million hours of volunteer work from staff globally, including 510,000 hours in Canada.
“Businesses now play an increasingly [significant] role in the world’s most critical environmental and social issues,” says Cleary. “Given our large footprint, we think we have both a greater responsibility and a unique obligation to minimize our environmental footprint and make a positive social impact.”
Calgary-based Bellstar Hotels & Resorts, which manages destination resorts across Western Canada, has also made a commitment to both environmental and social responsibility. This past February, the company launched its new Stay-Green program, which asks guests to donate $2, with a portion of the funds going to environmental grants for community and charitable organizations. Under Bellstar’s previous program, called EcoStay, guests were asked to donate $2 towards purchasing carbon offsets.
“The problem with [purchasing carbon offsets] is it’s so esoteric that nobody can relate to it,” says Ian Thornley, vice-president of Sales & Marketing at Bellstar Hotels & Resorts. “It’s a great idea, but it doesn’t really make an impact [with guests]. When people are at our resorts, they’re in beautiful, iconic destinations and they want to contribute to that environment. So, we wanted to change the program to allow funding to go back into the local communities.”
Thornley says the company plans to allocate more than $100,000 to grants annually. The first grant ($12,000) was given to Golden, B.C.’s Rotary Club for its Light up the Rotary Trails project, which involves purchasing solar lights for a 10-km trail in the community.
Pacific Gateway Hotel at Vancouver Airport has also upped its efforts on the green front. Dan Morin, the hotel’s chief engineer, says the property has reduced its water consumption by nearly 25 per cent, in line with Metro Vancouver’s goal of reducing water consumption by 30 per cent by 2020. The hotel, which already has dual-flush toilets and low-flow aerators in guestrooms, plans to reach its goal by installing low-flow showerheads, replacing its 13L-flush public-area toilets with 4L-flush models and installing a glycol-refrigeration cooling system to replace its existing once-through system.
Last year, Pacific Gateway Hotel partnered with Toronto-based Bullfrog Power to provide green electricity for all the hotel’s meeting spaces and renewable natural gas for its Pier 73 Restaurant. Through the agreement, Bullfrog Power puts green power onto the grid to match the amount of conventional electricity used by the hotel’s meeting spaces. Pacific Gateway is also a certified 5-Green Key meetings venue and 4-Green Key hotel under Green Key Global’s Eco-Rating program and has achieved Gold Green Tourism Award status.
Morin says the hotel’s green efforts are a good way to attract the meetings business. “Many companies book meeting space [with us] because our sustainability and social responsibility policies are matched to theirs — that’s what they’re looking for in companies they partner with,” he says. “[Having green programs] is just a good business practice and, in today’s world, it’s not an option not to.”
For global hotel companies, going green can have a huge impact on the bottom line. Hilton Hotels and Resorts’ sustainability efforts — which focus on energy, water and waste reduction, as well as responsible sourcing — have saved the company nearly US$1 billion since 2009. “That speaks to, not only the commitment we have around operating responsibly, but the fact that these are smart things to do,” says Daniella Foster, senior director of Global Responsibility at Hilton Hotels and Resorts.
Hilton continues to have bold goals to reduce its environmental impact, including its 2025 water-stewardship commitment. Working with the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), Hilton is working to further protect the water supply in the regions it serves and adopt water-stewardship strategies to ensure water is managed sustainably. Innovation is also playing a big role in Hilton’s green efforts. This year, the company will roll out its “connected-room” platform, which allows guests to control every aspect of their room — including lighting and temperature — via their mobile devices. “That may sound like it has no sustainability correlation, but it’s quite significant,” says Caitlin McKenna, senior director, Customer Experience & Innovation. “On the back end, the connected room allows for the hotel to power-down devices like the lights or HVAC when the rooms are not occupied, which dramatically reduces energy consumption.”
In addition, Hilton recently opened an Innovation Gallery — an incubator to explore new products and solutions for all aspects of the business. One element is the “darkroom,” a progressive model guestroom that showcases material technologies that help guestrooms be more sustainable. For example, there’s a rug made with recycled paper and a self-sustaining “living wall” that cleans the air, reduces noise, reduces allergens and brings nature inside. “We’ve identified a number of potential products that can have real value in the hospitality industry,” says McKenna. “They all have either a really cool technology or sustainability angle that is worth contemplation.”
Similarly, Marriott International launched its IoT Guestroom Lab at its corporate headquarters in Bethesda, Md., last year. The lab, developed in partnership with Samsung and Legrand, explores concepts that have the potential to elevate the guest experience, create more efficient room design and construction and contribute to Marriott’s sustainability efforts. “It would be a more expensive room to build, but we believe that there is a good ROI on the reduction and the usage of energy,” says Cleary.
Whether green efforts are high tech or not, Cleary believes sustainability is important to customers. “It’s increasingly something we’re asked about and it’s valued by the customers,” he says. “Our [corporate clients] and customers have their own sustainability goals. So, it’s not just the right thing to do, it’s good for business, too.”
Written By Rebecca Harris