by Siobhan O’Neill, Editor, Green Hotelier
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How can hotels offer guests a luxury experience but also make rooms sustainable?
The drive to increase sustainability in hotels is growing year on year. The responsibility case for properties to demonstrate good environmental practice has been proved beyond argument and now they have the bottom line figures to prove the business case as well. But focus is invariably on good energy, water and waste stewardship whilst preserving the guest’s in-room experience. Going forward, if hotels want to continue to reap the rewards of sustainable practice, they may have to build it into the fabric of their rooms.
The dilemma for hoteliers as ever is how to negotiate the balance between greater sustainability and a high quality, if not luxury experience for the guest. How can the two exist side by side? At Green Hotelier we’ve discovered more hotels are finding ingenious ways to reduce the environmental footprint of their rooms, meanwhile guests are increasingly environmentally conscious whilst still maintaining a good eye for aesthetic design.
With manufacturers beginning to consider product lifecycle within their designs, and a push for a more circular economy, it’s becoming easier for hotels to offer guests all the comfort, design and technology they demand, whilst still improving their environmental credentials.
Building sustainability from the ground up
Of course the best way to ensure rooms have a low environmental footprint is to build it into the design. Green Hotelier aims to be a free resource to property owners, GMs and hoteliers seeking to improve the sustainability of their property, and we offer downloads of our popular manuals including those on hotel sustainability management, and hotel environmental siting and design. There are also Know How Guides on a range of issues, but perhaps our most useful and interesting resources are our best practice case studies where hoteliers around the world describe for us how they made –and continue to make – their hotels as sustainable as they can be. It’s a great place to find ideas and inspiration.
For example, Hotel Verde in South Africa deployed recycled plastic balls in the construction of their building, which dramatically reduced the amount of concrete they poured. Measures like this, as well as being able to build in state of the art plumbing, heating and air conditioning systems can pay dividends in terms of reducing water and energy consumption and operational overheads, and are often cheaper than having to retrofit at a later stage. Incorporating low-impact interiors can help hoteliers cut operating costs and meet the rigorous standards required to achieve accreditation from one of the internationally recognised green building certification schemes, such as BREEAM (the Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Method) or the US Building Council’s LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design).
It’s important during the design stage to consider the ethics and sustainability of your supply chain, as well as considering the lifecycle of furnishings, fixtures and fittings. Ideally a hotel’s interior style should also blend with the local environment like the Hyatt Regency Minneapolis USA which commissioned local artists to produce room art and lobby features from resources the city is renowned for including logging, local stone and 3M tape.
The good news for hoteliers is that the choice of good quality, stylish and low-impact products is greater than ever, with everything from 100% recycled glass tiles and counter tops to hemp rugs and organic carpet tiles, vinyl-free Forest Stewardship Council (FSC)-certified ground-paper-pulp wallpaper. It’s no longer difficult to source more environmentally friendly furnishings like Hotel Skyler in Syracuse USA which used organic fabrics, low-emission carpets and upholstery and specialist low emission finishes. They sourced 20% of their materials locally and salvaged lumber from a local warehouse to create the lobby bar, as well as stained glass from a local church.
In addition there are now charities which will happily take old mattresses if it’s time for rooms to receive a bedding boost.
Upcycle your design
One eye-catching way to offer unique design features in your rooms that will appeal to guests’ sense of fun, aesthetics and their environmental awareness is to investigate upcycling. A whole industry is shooting up that plays to the re-use, recycle messages of waste reduction and finds new applications for products that would otherwise have been thrown away. Now rooms can be fitted with designer stools made from scrap metal and lamps created out of salvaged timber.
Boutiquehotel Stadthalle in Vienna was the winner of the Green Hotelier Awards 2015 in Europe and has strong links with local universities and schools. One project they worked on with the University of Applied Arts was decorating their seven upcycling rooms; creating furniture out of everyday objects, such as bedside tables from books, or hooks from cutlery. It’s a great creative way to engage young people on reducing waste and sustainability for the future, as well as raising the issue for hotel guests.
Bathrooms are often some of the least sustainable elements of a guest stay with many admitting they use more water and behave less responsibly with resources than they do at home. Many hotels like to offer luxury amenities but the little bottles of toiletries are very environmentally unfriendly. Some balk at offering amenities in dispensers but a beautiful pottery pump dispenser can actually enhance a bathroom. If this is not an option several charities will now collect partially used soaps and shampoos for redistribution.
The technological answer
If there’s one thing guests love to bring with them and to make use of in-room which is often poorly rated in sustainability, it’s technology. TVs, consuls and in-room entertainment don’t have great longevity or circular economy opportunities. But even here, things are beginning to change. Pop mogul Will.i.am recently teamed up with Starwood Hotels & Resorts alongside Coca Cola to roll out the EKOCYCLE brand which re-uses cola bottles and turns them into bed linen.
In addition the chain is introducing a new device to their nightstands. The Mobile Charger and Accessory Valet (MCAV), is a USB charging device, jewellery/watch stand and an alarm clock. Developed by Miniwiz, an emerging engineering firm from Taipei focused exclusively on post-consumer recycled material design applications, the MCAV is partially created out of three recycled plastic bottles and is available in six colours, including gold, red, hot pink, black, white and silver.
Initiatives like this offer fantastic practical and stylish solutions to ensure good sustainable interior design in hotels, as well as engaging guests – and particularly young people – in the issues surrounding sustainability and tourism. Going forward the next generation of hotel guests will need to play their part in ensuring hotels continue to meet high environmental standards, and design and technology along with high profile branding will all play a part.
Interior design is often a low sustainability priority for hotels, but solutions exist which prove it doesn’t need to be, and it all helps ensure the industry continues to strive for better environmental standards.
Green Hotelier is a programme of the International Tourism Partnership and is the leading voice for sustainability in the hotels industry, and a provider of high quality free resources for hoteliers seeking to improve their environmental performance.