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by Nicolas Dubrocard, Former Wild Asia Project Director, auditor for Travelife and Green Globe, and Director of Audit Diagnostic Solutions Tourism

Nicolas Dubrocard

 

I started my path on sustainable tourism exactly ten years ago in Morocco where I was supporting small accommodations and hotels to obtain the Green Key international eco label and to save water through Travel Foundation’s programme called Every Drop Counts.

From the beginning of this journey I discovered that there was an area where it is easy to implement changes with huge environmental positive impacts: the bathroom.

The reasons were obvious: more efficient showerheads and taps save substantial amounts of water and energy (used to heat the water or pump it around the building) as well as limits the volume of grey water to be treated. A showerhead is easy to change, low in cost and has a payback of a few months if the original one is very inefficient. I visited hotels with shower water flows between 20 and 22 litres per minute, which is twice the amount recommended by international eco labels!

One can only imagine the amount of water and energy that could be saved annually!?

A quick calculation: let’s consider that a new showerhead can reduce the flow by ten litres per minute and the guest uses it only once a day for ten minutes (already a low figure) — the savings would be around thirty six cubic meters per year per room permanently occupied!

Most of the decision makers consider that this is not an interesting area for cost savings because water is cheap; they do not consider the real cost of water, including pumping, treatment, heating (keeping in mind that a hotel needs to heat a third of its water needs).

The financial savings is so considerable that it becomes ridiculous. It’s even inconceivable to still find that these older devices are still place, especially in destinations where the water resources are at risk; massive water wastage will lead to more tension between local communities and hotels.

So the first step for hotel managers, hotel engineering directors and even at home is to monitor and control the water flow in the shower. Don’t wait, do it now!

This part of the business is so easy, it should be mandatory and it’s a shame if a hotel’s owner or managing company is not following the sustainability experts advice during the hotel’s building phase; they would save so much time, money and natural resources!

After the technical aspects, I also had a look at the communication in the bathroom: the famous towel reuse programme. Again, the positive impacts are immense: water, energy, labour and chemicals are embedded in the towel cleaning.

Photo: Nicolas Dubrocard

Photo: Nicolas Dubrocard

What has happened over the past ten years? The initial situation was simple: no one cared about reusing towels. At some point, some hotels started to communicate about it, asking the guests to participate to the towel reuse programme. Then, every hotel started to create its own communication. Most hotels, at the time, believed they were doing something cool and positive but they have mostly been using guilt as a leverage: “Save the planet”, “Help save the environment”, “Do you know how much chemicals we use to clean your towels”… highlighting the negative aspects of having new towel every day. This kind of wording was analysed and there are now much better ways to engage the clients to participate, such as using social norms[2]. In a few years the messages to reuse the towel have flourished in bathrooms like Caulerpa Taxifolia in Mediterranean Sea. Looking at this trend, it is amazing to realize that the industry at large did make a move – but is it really a change?

I’m afraid it’s not.

Let’s look at one more aspect: the staff training. This is the Achilles’ heel of most hotels. It is very complicated to change the way housekeepers are working – what they have learned and even their sense of ethics (which dictates to change all towels in the bathroom). One can also not forget the limited amount of time to clean each room which really means that a housekeeper should not lose any time making a decision regarding the towels. As a consequence, it happens that towels meant to be reused are replaced, making the client very angry. Imagine that you already took time to review all the documentation (sometimes written so small that you need magnifying glass to read it!), to understand finally where to hang your towel and now very proud of yourself, you realize that these very towels have been replaced, destroying all your efforts to save the planet, to reduce the use of a significant amount of chemicals, while on vacation…you will feel bad, betrayed… It is enough to write a negative online comment!

And what should guests think about the resort hotels asking them to reuse the bathroom towel while offering a free flow of 2m X 1m beach towels?

I had the chance during my career to adapt and implement over a period of two years a programme called “Kuoni Water Champion” in Thailand, aiming to help 26 hotels to reduce their water consumption[3]. During this action we emphasized as much as possible towel reuse and we tried to introduce a new approach following the Make A Green Choice programme initiated by Starwood in Europe, Africa, Middle East division in 2015.

This programme has three advantages; firstly, by giving guests the choice to decline housekeeping services, housekeepers do not have to make the decision regarding towels in a room; secondly, it is rewarding guests who participate in the action (via a voucher, loyalty points or donation) therefore diminishing the feeling that when participating to a towel reuse programme the biggest winner is the hotel; and thirdly, it also means that there is real monitoring and follow up where guests are encouraged to participate in and are made aware of the programme upon their arrival. There are certainly some downsides to this system; it may in a mid or long term reduce the need for housekeepers and contribute to unemployment; however, at least there is an alternative to the towel reuse communication.

For each problem in the hotel industry, there is a solution. Some chains or individual hotels are really committing and doing their best. However, there is still a majority of industry players refusing to embrace the sustainability topics, keeping closed eyes on potential sources of revenue or cost efficiencies.

Photo: Nicolas Dubrocard

Photo: Nicolas Dubrocard

When will the hoteliers and hotel owners understand that sustainability is not a gadget but the best way to manage a hotel and increase their benefits? When will the architects stop building inefficient buildings?

Should we wait another ten years to realize that we could actually shape right now – with a little investment, repeated trainings and a lot of good will – a more sustainable industry where the hotels will not be seen as energy and water squanderer and where tensions with local communities are avoided?

 

*****

 

[1] For the person interested in monitoring their water flow in the shower, here is a short video in English and Thai

[2] A Room with a Viewpoint: Using Social Norms to Motivate Environmental Conservation in Hotels, by Noah J. Goldstein, Robert B. Cialdini , Vladas Griskevicius

[3] Free manual to download

 

Disclaimer: The views, opinions and positions expressed by the author(s) and those providing comments on these blogs are theirs alone, and do not necessarily reflect the views, opinions or positions of the Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA) or any employee thereof. We make no representations as to accuracy, completeness, timeliness, suitability or validity of any information presented by individual authors and/or commenters on our blogs and will not be liable for any errors, omissions, or delays in this information or any losses, injuries or damages arising from its display or use.

 

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wind energy

In the Netherlands all NS’s 1.200.000 train trips per day are now without any CO2 emissions. A world’s first!


As from 1 January 2017 100% of Dutch electric trains are powered by wind energy.  The Dutch railways company NS is the world’s first railway company that gets 100% of its energy from wind energy.

Dutch railways now 100% powered by wind energy. Source: Facebook BrightVibes

Travelling by train has been the most environmentally friendly way of transportation for a long time already. In the Netherlands they have now taken it to the next level using wind turbines to power all of its electric trains.

The Dutch have a long history of using wind energy to advance. They used windmills to drain land covered by water since the 17th century. By Michiel De Gooijer. Find out more on BrightVibes.

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Solar Heaters

Thermal Solar water heating systems (MonoSun Technology Co.,Ltd. Advanced Solar Power,Phuket)

“The numbers of guests have doubled because thanks to the solar panels, the guest houses have functioning showers and warm water is made available for kitchen use,”says Marie Marku from Theth National Park in Albania.

Solar thermal systems use the sun’s light energy to heat water and can be especially efficient in heating water in areas where sunlight is abundant.  The technologies on the market are efficient and highly reliable, making solar power a simple, cost-effective, and sustainable means of heating water. Not only do solar heaters work well in areas where no other water heating options are available, it can also help to reduce operating costs and increase competitiveness. Many hotels in USA and the UK are using different forms of solar energy, with solar heaters as the most common form.

Using solar heaters can be particularly effective in Small Island States as most islands rely almost entirely on imported liquid fossil fuels for energy generation, with high costs of electricity. UNEP recently published a paper, “Solar Water Heating in the Tourism Industry with a Focus on the Caribbean Region,” highlighting the potential contribution of solar heating to reduce carbon emissions.

Facing increasing pressure to improve environmental performance and sustainability, using solar heating can be an efficient solution. Are you one of the businesses to use solar heaters for sustainability and efficiency purposes? If not, what are you waiting for?

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How Solar Lanterns Are Giving Power to the People

Categories: Africa, Asia, Energy, Entrepreneurship, Recommended Reading
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How Solar Lanterns Are Giving Power to the People

Prashant Mandal flips on a candy-bar-size LED light in the hut he shares with his wife and four children. Instantly hues of canary yellow and ocean blue—reflecting off the plastic tarps that serve as the family’s roof and walls—fill the cramped space where they sleep. Michael Edison Hayden Read more.

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07 April 2015 – There’s a “recycling revolution” happening in Sweden – one that has pushed the country closer to zero waste than ever before. In fact, less than one per cent of Sweden’s household garbage ends up in landfills today. Zi-Ann Lum. Read more.

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A decade from now, a company without an “energy and sustainability” department could be as unusual as one without a human resources department. Either that, or it might be out of business.    The sooner companies begin to understand and actively manage their energy use—and their energy sources, including possible ways to produce their own energy—the faster they’ll enter a more enlightened world, one with the potential for a number of advantages including significant savings, a better bottom line, greater customer loyalty, a cost-edge over competitors, lower business risk, and a company-wide awareness of sustainability that can rein in resource waste across the board.

by Deloitte Center for Energy Solutions

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Every Company is an Energy Company... and if it isn’t, it will be soon

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In responding to global concern over climate change, Queensland is moving to become a world-leading ‘guilt-free’ destination. Tourism Queensland is working towards building sustainable destinations and supporting global best practice in tourism through its Sustainable Regions program. Prepared by EarthCheck, this Final Report signifies the conclusion of the Sustainable Regions pilot program delivered in five regions: Airlie Beach, Magnetic Island, North Stradbroke Island, Pioneer Valley/Cape Hillsborough and Winton.

by EarthCheck

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Cities account for 75% of the world’s energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions. To tackle this, governments increasingly apply legislative measures to reign in carbon emissions and meet internationally agreed targets, while at the same time they commit significant investment towards infrastructure projects that stimulate growth and drive a sustainable global economy.

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This Update paper re-examines likely trends in global emissions in the absence of effective mitigation and in the absence of major feedbacks from climate change to economic growth. It analyses changes in the variables affecting emissions growth (namely population, economic output, energy demand, and the economic and technological factors affecting the choice among sources of energy) in major countries and regions. It also explores the implications of the Great Crash of 2008, which lowered the long-term growth trajectory of developed countries, but did not slow the immense growth momentum of the largest developing countries, nor end the higher growth of the early twenty first century in other developing countries.

by Professor Ross Garnaut

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GARNAUT-CLIMATE-CHANGE-UPDATE-PAPER-3-Global-emissions-trends-1

 

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