Sustainability, in general, means being able to keep doing something without exhausting key resources over time. Environmentally-speaking, per the triple bottom line, these resources are people, planet, and profit, with eco-sustainability lying at the intersection.
In 2018, the United Nations (UN) World Tourism Organization stated that, “The growth of tourism in recent years confirms that the sector is today one of the most powerful drivers of economic growth and development.”1 For this reason, the economic effects of the tourism industry can have broader repercussions on decisions made in other industries, as well as a country’s overall economic wellbeing.
Due to this understanding, the International Tourism Partnership mandated that, in order to meet climate temperature targets, the “global hotel industry will need to reduce its greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions per room per year by 66% from 2010 levels by 2030, and 90% by 2050.”2 This will require focused efforts across the hospitality industry.
Yet, such focus on sustainability is not only moral, but is also an economic decision, since more consumers than ever are concerned with going green when they travel. A survey of 1,300 US travelers by TripAdvisor.com showed 62% often or always consider the environment when choosing hotels, transportation and meals, and 69% plan to make more eco-friendly choices in the future.
Climate-urgency, growing public demand, and business realism calls for an operational definition of hotel sustainability that can be used across the industry to standardize practices and set attainable goals. Areas for consideration in the assessment of an operational definition of sustainability include standards for soap and amenities usage, towel and linen reuse, energy usage, as well as effective training for housekeepers in these areas and others.
Housekeeping and related labor should play an essential role in reaching industry goals for sustainability due to the importance housekeepers play in any hotel environment. The American Hotel and Lodging Association (AHLA) explains that by sheer number of employees, housekeeping is often the largest department in a hotel. For this reason, housekeepers can have a huge impact on a hotel’s ability to meet sustainability goals.
Soap and Amenities
One area where hotels can have an immediate effect on sustainability goals is in soap and amenities usage. The lodging industry historically throws away almost a million small amenity bottles annually. The installation of refillable amenities in guest bathrooms can lower expenses for a hotel and, in turn, have a significant environmental impact. This is because liquid bulk soaps and lotions are less costly and use less packaging, and guests will not be able to take the dispensers home with them, allowing housekeeping to no longer need to continuously replace amenity bottles.
AHLA explains that “a hotel will save $.16 per guest room per day in water, labor and product costs by replacing amenities in individual bottles or wrappers with two refillable amenity dispensers per guest bathroom: one each for the shower and sink areas.”3 This savings per guest room adds up over time to a significant economic benefit for hotels.
Towel and Linen Reuse Program
With a towel and linen reuse program, a 300-room hotel can lower annual water use by almost 52,000 gallons and reduce detergent use by 346 gallons. With 72% occupancy and 22% guest involvement, yearly savings from towel and linen reuse are $10,400 and $13,900 respectively.4 Towel and linen reuse also reduces electricity, labor, and wastewater disposal costs, while extending the life of textiles.
There are three steps housekeeping teams can take to support a sustainable towel and linen reuse program:
- Communicate with guests by placing signage that states: “Please hang towels that do not need laundering.”
- Train housekeepers to then follow the program by leaving towels that are hanging and not replacing them.
- Take steps to verify that all staff are following the policy consistently.
There are several ways to ensure the lowering of energy usage in a hotel without needing to invest in new infrastructure in a building. Firstly, in rooms with exterior windows, having staff open the blinds to allow natural light to enter the room during cleaning instead of turning on lights can help to save energy whenever such a method is possible.
Secondly, encouraging teamwork when staff approach daily tasks can reduce work times, which can, in turn, save on electricity usage while also simultaneously preventing staff injuries. A two-person team can reduce cleaning times by more than half, which can lessen ergonomic stress—a major cause of on the job injury.
Finally, by providing housekeepers with tools to remove rather than redistribute soil and dust, it becomes possible to shorten labor times. For example, by choosing vacuums that are chamber-tested for indoor air quality, administration can ensure that staff are not redistributing dust in the room while cleaning. Airborne dust is a health-hazard and resettles on furnishings, which then requires additional labor to remove.
It is important to post the floor safety procedure policy where all housekeepers can see it. This can help to prevent slips, trips, and falls; outline worker training, weather planning, safe footwear, effective floor cleaning, and other preventative steps; and detail how to perform―and document― floor care and maintenance to prevent injuries. Furthermore, posting such a policy shows due diligence not negligence so that the hotel is not left open to attack from staff injury lawsuits.
The 2017 Hospitality Institute report examined general liability claims totaling $10 million by more than 7,000 hotels. The report found that slip, trip and fall claims were the biggest share, totaling 40% of the overall claims. Non-bathroom slips were 12% of this number, while bathroom slips and falls were 11 percent of claims. These numbers highlight the importance of a clearly visible floor safety procedure policy so that all staff are made aware of how to avoid injuries, and the hotel is not liable for any such incidents.
Training for Sustainability
Training housekeeping staff regularly can not only help with cleaning proficiency but can also have a positive impact on the hotel’s business and sustainability goals.
One effective training technique is to have efficient housekeepers train less efficient ones, which can help to break down communication barriers. Furthermore, this technique can allow for workers to train each other in their native tongue, which can ensure comprehension of the appropriate techniques by all staff.
This method also promotes teamwork, which is important for the effective implementation of any sustainability program. Dr. W. Edwards Deming teaches a teamwork technique that uses systems of reward that recognize superior team performance, innovation, caring and commitment over solely recognizing an individual team member’s achievements. Deming explains, “The aim should be to help people to optimize the system [or team] so that everybody will gain.”
By regularly training staff, using the buddy system, and giving the team, not individuals, regular praise, a hotel can be sure to effectively implement a sustainability program that addresses standards that will help the hotel industry reach its greenhouse gas emissions goals for the future.
By Michael Patterson, MNA, MESRE, Executive Director, International Executive Housekeepers Association (IEHA)
The Seventh Generation Principle of the Iroquois
The term “sustainability” has been used questionably throughout the years, sometimes being used by companies as a marketing ploy rather than an objective or ideology. According to the UN’s Commission on Environment and Development, sustainable development “meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.”5
In some ways, perhaps a more meaningful (and longstanding) benchmark for sustainable development was established by the Native American tribe of the Iroquois back in about 1142 CE. The Seventh Generation Principle of the Iroquois mandated that a leader consider the impact of their decisions upon the seven generations yet to come.6
Ultimately, sustainable practices ensure that the actions we take now will allow us to remain good ancestors to those generations who follow us. With this in mind, in hospitality, sustainable practices are those that support the ecological, human and economic health and vitality of the hotel’s environment, its guests, employees and the community in which it resides.
These considerations are the cornerstone for a sustainable hospitality cleaning program that ensures guest loyalty, retains employees, and supports the health and wellness of the surrounding community and environment, allowing for a more sustainable future for generations to come.
By George Clarke, CEO, UMF Corporation
Implementing a Sustainability Program in an Eco-Friendly Resort
Today, there is an ever-increasing focus on how, when, and where to implement eco-friendly programs to reduce waste. In hotels and resorts, all individual properties play a vital role in combating quotidian scenarios that lead to rising sea levels, increasing carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere, and more plastic waste in our oceans. Guests not only want to see the efforts of hotels and resorts implemented but may also ask about a company’s green initiatives when making decisions regarding travel plans.
The success of any eco-friendly program depends on staff participation—which doesn’t just happen overnight. Proper education and training are essential to show employees the impacts affiliated with positive results. By creating incentive programs centered on results that meet the property’s sustainability goals, administration can help to create a feeling of engagement among employees.
A special committee or group designated to implementing a company’s sustainability program can help to pave the way to the future success for a green program. At Wyndham Hotels & Resorts, properties have started just that; named the “Green Team,” the committee is comprised of managers and supervisors who have made the commitment to actively engage with the company’s sustainability goals. At the Wyndham Grand Clearwater Beach property, I am honored to have been chosen as a Green Team representative.
Green Team Initiatives
As a part of the Green Team at Wyndham Hotels & Resorts, we have made sure that Guest Services is at the front lines of sustainability initiatives, allowing them to have all relevant information at their fingertips regarding the resort’s eco- friendly measures. This ensures Guest Services is able to accurately answer any questions that guests may have regarding the sustainability efforts of a property.
One initiative that we have instilled at our property is using paper shredding bins. These bins are not only for the confidentiality of documents, but they also allow us to easily and efficiently recycle paper waste, which is then able to return to the property in the form of a box of delivered goods made up of post- recycled materials.
Last year, Wyndham Grand Clearwater Beach also eliminated traditional room keycards and replaced them with wristband bracelets. These bands act like any other keycard that provides guests with not only access to their rooms, but also access to the pool, fitness center, and common exit doors. These bands can be worn in the ocean or pool without being damaged and are re-washable so that we are able to disinfect them and use them several more times thereafter.
As the flagship property for the Wyndham Grand brand, we are fortunate to also participate in pilot programs, which, once fine-tuned, are rolled out to our sister properties around the world. We are currently equipping our guest room bathrooms with bulk amenity dispensers, which are then refilled with a unique quality product for the guest to enjoy. This removes plastic waste from mini bottles while also being more convenient.
The Housekeeping department at Wyndham Grand Clearwater Beach covers a wide range of areas when it comes to sustainability. From using recycled garbage cans, certified green cleaning chemicals, recycled products for guest amenities, and substitution options for the cleaning processes, the Housekeeping team has made a conscious effort to support the sustainability efforts of Wyndham Hotels & Resorts.
The Engineering team plays a huge role in our water conservation efforts and our reduction of electricity usage. For example, auto shut-off lights in closets have been installed at our property to turn off lighting when a room or area is not in use. We’ve also invested in appliances that use less energy than standard ones, such as our new guest room HVAC systems which shut down automatically when sliding room balcony doors are left open.
Due to the work of the Engineering team, we also were able to install low flow shower heads that regulate water usage in order to allow for less wasted water. Furthermore, we installed an ongoing preventive maintenance program that routinely catches toilet flappers that are leaking, as they control the water flow of each toilet. Soon, with the help of our engineers, we hope to install solar panels for the roof tops in order to capture some of Florida’s natural sunshine rays and convert them into a source of energy.
Going Green in 2020
Looking forward, our main goal in 2020 is to remove plastic water bottles from guest rooms entirely and replace them with an in-room water filtration system. Our public areas and back of house have already replaced standard water fountains with the new style. These areas have a water container filler in the back showing a digital odometer measuring gallons dispensed. Reaching our goal of removing plastic water bottles from guest rooms should allow our property to effectively reduce the amount of plastic waste that we generate.
For Wyndham Hotels & Resorts, it’s not enough to make a commitment to sustainability, as it is also necessary to follow through on that commitment. Wyndham Grand Clearwater Beach actively works to commit to going green, and we understand that every department on the property should be engaged in the effort to recycle, reuse, and maintain our earth’s natural resources.
By Tobin Leibin, Director of Housekeeping, Wyndham Grand Clearwater Beach
Certifying the Sustainable Health & Wellness of Hotel Guests
Green Seal certification for hotels supports health and sustainability goals
Today, 70% of global travelers report that they are more likely to book a green accommodation, reflecting a new generation of sustainability-minded consumers. At the same time, the Global Wellness Institute reports that wellness tourism is growing twice as fast as tourism overall, reaching a $639 billion market in 2017. However, contrary to popular belief, relatively few wellness trips are to destination spas or meditation retreats: Nearly 90 percent of wellness trips are in fact regular leisure or business trips where the travelers choose to participate in wellness experiences during their normal activities.
Several health-related features already are mainstream at hotels worldwide. According to Greenview’s 2018 Green Lodging Trends Report, the majority of hotels now use low-VOC or VOC-free paints in renovations and additions, provide eco-conscious amenities for guests, and conduct annual carbon monoxide and radon testing. A growing number of hotels also are evaluating suppliers in human rights areas, providing portable air purifiers, and designating more than 90% of guestrooms as non-smoking.
“Having green-friendly practices and wellness services and amenities are no longer a ‘nice to have’—they are an expectation,” said Dant Hirsh, the former general manager of the Dominick Hotel, an independent luxury hotel located in New York City’s SoHo neighborhood.
Dominick Hotel underscored its commitment to health and sustainability by earning a Green Seal Bronze-level certification in 2018, meeting rigorous benchmarks in areas including preventing pollution, minimizing waste, managing water resources and using cleaning products that are free of harmful chemicals that can exacerbate asthma and other health conditions. For wellness travelers, the Dominick also offers partnerships with local fitness boutiques and an on-site fitness center with Peloton bikes, as well as a spa with custom amenities that appeal to the fitness and wellness traveler.
However, hotels don’t need to offer expensive spa services to facilitate wellness for their guests—many are promoting a wellness environment through purchasing decisions that keep guests and staff safe from allergy and asthma triggers and reduce their exposure to the harmful chemicals in common household and personal care products. Since an average-size hotel purchases more products in one week than 100 families do in a year, the choice to use greener, more responsible cleaning and personal care products offers properties a significant opportunity for leadership.
Hotels are increasingly using the UN Sustainable Development Goals as guidance for incorporating sustainable purchasing into their operations. Global lodging companies including Marriott-Starwood, Wyndham Worldwide, Hilton International, and InterContinental Hotels Group are among those working to implement the Sustainable Development Goals, which include a goal for “responsible consumption and reduction” that targets sustainable procurement.
A number of these hotel groups have certified properties with Green Seal, leveraging our purchasing experts and leadership standard to achieve their sustainability goals. These hotels report significant water, energy and cost savings, increases in corporate bookings, and higher staff morale, which reinforces the triple-bottom- line benefits of leading on sustainability.
By Taryn Tuss, Vice President of Marketing & Communications, Green Seal
1 International Tourist Arrivals Reach 1.4 billion Two Years Ahead of Forecasts. (2018, January 5). Retrieved February 7, 2020, from https://www.unwto.org/global/press-release/2019-01-21/international-tourist-arrivals-reach-14-billion-two-years-ahead-forecasts
2 ITP carbon report provides hotel sector’s goal to mitigate climate change. (2017, November 2). Retrieved February 7, 2020, from https://www.tourismpartnership.org/blog/itp-carbon-report-provides-hotel-sectors-goal-mitigate-climate-change/
3 Green Guidelines: Refillable Amenities. (n.d.). Retrieved February 7, 2020, from https://www.ahla.com/resources/green-guidelines-refillable-amenities-4
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