True story: I spotted someone in t-shirt and shorts. In London. In February.

The idea of climate change was first brought to light in 1896 by Svante Arrhenius. However, the reality of the situation and the urgency to deter further damage to our environment has never been more prevalent than in 2019.  According to a report by TSA, drastic de-consumption must happen in the next 10 years or we risk reaching the point of no-return, causing dire consequences for our descendants.

The younger generation has begun to take action, including the young Swedish activist Greta Thunberg, who has launched the “School Strike for Climate.” However, it is the responsibility of every generation to go-forth with the changes – it is in our power to have a positive impact on the environment.

Practically all tourist activities have an ecological impact on the host destination. In rural destinations, activities such as hiking, trekking, kayaking, bird watching, wildlife safaris, surfing, snorkelling, and scuba-diving  affect local ecology the most.  In urban locations, the increasing arrival of tourists worsens air pollution, noise distortion and water pollution and may lead to shortfall of natural resources, such as water.  The European Environment Agency estimates that a tourist consumes three or four times more water per day than a permanent resident.

Undeniably, things have to change. Let’s see what actions we, as hoteliers, can implement to ensure the longevity of our planet.


If you’re not convinced yet, know that running a responsible business is something employees increasingly say is important to them.  Paul Snyder, former VP of Corporate Responsibility for IHG, explained: “As you go down through the generations, X, Y and millennials, they have a very intense need to work for companies they consider good citizens.”

Initiatives have to be put in place to help the environment (and the bottom line) in hotel guestrooms, public spaces and outdoor spaces.


In a typical hotel, 57% of the energy spend is HVAC and Domestic Hot Water, and 25% of this is typically wasted energy. To remedy that, metering systems that report a room’s energy usage have been around for some time. For a quick way to identify ways of saving power, Schneider or EPT offers expertise and solutions to minimise waste energy and ensure that facilities are running as efficiently as they can with minimal capital expenditure.  Although these might seem like heavy investments, “an increasing number of people are recognising that the cost up front for these bigger expenses is significant, but so is the ROI” declares Andrea Myers, Director of Green Key Global, an environmental certification body.

The Hotel du Vieux-Québec in Québec City started their green journey in 2008 by installing water-saving devices in the bathrooms.  Water consumption has been reduced by 40 per cent by installing low-flush toilets and low-flow shower taps in bathrooms.  Additional actions taken include switching to recycled paper products in the bathrooms and offices, transitioning to energy-efficient bulbs and environmentally safe cleaning products. In 2012, by using soap dispensers, they diverted 1,540 pounds of unused soap and beauty products from going to waste.  They have also equipped guests with glass bottles to prevent plastic waste.  All of these changes have the additional advantage of spreading the word about the hotel.  Filtered water dispensers for practical re-filling of bottles can be made available in common areas.  Justin Keating, General Manager of Hotel du Vieux-Québec, which has implemented this system, confirms that “they have proved to be very popular with guests”.


In addition to implementing LED lights and smart timers outdoors, particular care should be taken when choosing decorative vegetation: climate-appropriate foliage is highly recommended, so the greenery is appropriate to the climate and doesn’t need overwatering.  Greywater is the term used for gently used water from the bathroom sinks, showers, tubs and washing machines.  Specific treatment can be put in place to recycle these waters for outside watering uses.  There are processes allowing properties to push greywater through a filtration system that can be used for landscaping. The Holiday Inn Mexico City Plaza Universidad saved 30% to 60% on monthly water consumption by recovering, treating and using greywater and rainwater.

Creating an urban organic garden is another good initiative to implement.  “Our rooftop gardens grow an assortment of organic vegetables, fruits, flowers, herbs and other plants.  The garden keeps the hotel rooftop cooler, thus reducing our air-conditioning costs in the summer.  Of course, the plants also provide a ‘carbon sink’ by breathing in greenhouse gasses and breathing out oxygen” says Keating, while adding that a bee sanctuary on the roof helps fighting the alarming decline in bee populations worldwide and supports pollinisation.  With reduced pesticide used in the city, and none in the garden, bees are provided with a safer habitat.  There are several objectives to this project: the promotion of beehives in areas that are free of insecticides; public education on the importance of bees and the urgent need to protect them, since bees pollinate 70% of the food we consume; increased pollination of urban gardens, since there is a 25% to 30% increase in fruit-and-vegetable production when a beehive is present; and the production of local honey.  Working with the bees and gardening also has a great effect on morale at the hotel.  Staff love getting the produce and honey.  

 Now what?

With all these ideas in mind, what can we do to communicate this to current employees?  It is good to communicate the change to the staff through information sessions and a notice board, but a very effective way that Keating created is to give 20% of the hotel’s profits to staff as a bonus once a year.  Therefore, there is a strong motivation for them to be involved in reducing waste.  By sharing his experience, Keating is spreading best practices: “I would also like to demonstrate that it’s profitable, financially and otherwise, to be environmentally responsible. We’ve seen a 14% increase over the last three years of travellers who respond to our surveys, saying our environmental efforts were key to their decision to stay at Hôtel du Vieux-Québec. I would hope our green initiatives make our guests more aware of environmental issues and that it inspires them to action”.

And, let’s not forget that hotels are for-profit businesses, adds Myers, recognizing that implementing these sustainable initiatives will save money down the line.

My top five tips to help you on your way to a more environmentally friendly hotel operation:

  1. Implement energy metering systems, analyse the data and ensure minimal energy waste.
  2. Save water with low-flush toilet and low-flow shower taps devices and recycle it for landscaping when possible.
  3. Switch to beauty amenities provided via dispenser to reduce plastic packaging and product wastage.
  4. Offer on-site filtered water in glass bottles rather than purchasing it.
  5. Place beehives on the hotel roof to help pollination.

#sustainabilityinhospitality #hotelassetmanagement #hotelmanagement #environmentallyfriendlyhotels #hamiltonhotelpartners #hamiltonhotelinvestors #hamiltonblog


Chloé Charmillot, Analyst @ Hamilton Hotel Partners


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