It is no secret that the hospitality industry puts increased pressure on the environment and is demanding natural resources. However, the industry also relies on the same natural and cultural resources – forests, unspoiled landscapes, pristine sandy beaches, turquoise waters, picturesque waterfalls, thriving coral reefs, and flora & fauna; all of which serve as great tourist attractions and reason for travel. Therefore, conserving resources and sustainability is not only important for the generations to come but also for the very survival and growth of the hospitality industry.
Besides mandates from governments and regulators to adopt sustainable practices, the hospitality industry is also pushed by its customers and investors alike to embrace sustainability and make it an integral part of the way they operate. Today’s traveller is very aware of the negative impact tourism can have on the environment and expects hotels to assume responsibility and conduct their business sustainably. The industry has been quick to respond to these changes in expectations from its customers and investors and is progressively turning ‘green’. Several players in the industry are now focused on reducing waste and recycling, reducing water consumption, conserving energy, minimizing the use of single-use plastics, and reducing the overall carbon footprint.
However, sustainability is more than just going ‘green’ and managing the impact on the environment, it is also about economic progress and social development. Social concerns such as inclusivity, providing equal opportunities, work-life balance, promoting employees’ health and wellbeing, sourcing supplies locally, encouraging entrepreneurship, and encouraging diversity in the workforce are all part of the sustainability agenda.
To stand out and demonstrate their commitment to sustainability, hospitality companies can focus on these few key aspects:
Conservation The cost of energy is one of the highest in hotels. It is imperative to reduce energy consumption, without compromising the overall guest experience to save cost and the environment. To achieve this, hotels can consider adopting technologies that enhance efficiency while conservating it. Energy-saving LED bulbs, smart thermostats, smart climate control, lighting, etc. are some of the technologies that can help hotels conserve energy.
I believe energy conservation is a behaviour that results in using less energy. For instance, taking the stairs instead of elevators or walking whenever possible instead of using vehicles, or switching off lights or appliances when not in use. It is the responsibility of everyone towards the planet and the environment as well to be mindful of utilising energy.
Hotels must consider adopting smart building technologies to improve energy efficiency. Simple changes in hotel operations can hugely impact the environment and even boost profitability.
Sourcing electricity from renewable resources Though energy generation using renewable resources is gaining momentum, the majority of the world’s electricity is still generated using fossil fuels; we all know the greenhouse gas emissions that accompany many forms of energy generation (using fossil fuels for electricity) and their impact on our planet. Hotels must endeavour to source their electricity from sources that use renewable resources like solar, wind, hydro, biofuels & geothermal instead of fossil fuels.
Water Management With constant fluctuations in rainfall patterns, it is important to preserve water. Moreover, increasing population and industrialisation have led to the depletion of freshwater reserves. It is estimated that more than 600 million people in India suffer from acute water shortages. As per projections by NITI Aayog, the water demand will increase by 50% by 2030. Thus, to meet such increasing demands for water in the coming future, water conservation is important at the micro and macro level.
Minimising Consumption Water conservation is now a priority for the hospitality industry. The industry is seen striving to strike a fine balance between providing luxury and comfort to its guests without impacting the environment negatively. Simple solutions such as installing aerators in all taps, encouraging waterless urinals and short flushing options, as well as drip irrigation systems in lawns & gardens can reduce water consumption in hotels. Simultaneously, it is necessary to train and educate staff about measures that can be undertaken to preserve water at their end. This could include basic daily activities like minimizing the usage of water while cleaning rooms and public places within the hotel, laundry and gardening services, water leakages, etc. Additionally, creating awareness of the initiatives undertaken by the hotel to conserve water will also encourage guests to participate and take efforts from their end to reduce the consumption of water. In recent times, consumers have become more eco-conscious, they prefer staying at hotels that are environment friendly. This indicates the importance for the hospitality sector to understand consumer sentiments and consider sustainable practices in the design and operation of its hotels.
Recycle Water – Zero Discharge As per regulation mandates, it is necessary to install Sewage Treatment Plants in hotels to recycle sewage above a certain capacity. The obtained water from recycling is then used for horticulture. At most of Chalet properties, we have installed ultra-filtration systems in addition to the STP, to further improve the water quality, which can then be used for flushing systems and cooling towers besides watering the lawns.
Rainwater harvesting The Indian mainland receives abundant rainfall, with an annual rainfall of 400 million hectares. Most of the water from this rainfall is lost into the ocean, leaving India to use only 10-20 percent. This is very alarming since this water can be used to recharge the groundwater through rainwater harvesting.
By rainwater harvesting (RWH), the consumption of groundwater is reduced. Rainwater can be easily stored and used for all purposes. Traditional and sustainable, rainwater harvesting could be used in hotels for potable and non-potable purposes. Rainwater harvesting systems also serve as a secondary source of water. At Chalet Hotels, all our properties are equipped with rainwater harvesting systems.
Waste management Hotels generate large amounts of waste broadly categorised into wet waste, dry waste, and e-waste. In the era of a green economy and green strategies, recycling would benefit not only the hotel but the overall environment. It is essential for the hospitality industry to have an effective waste management system that focuses on reducing waste, reusing, and recycling materials and finally disposing of waste as per the prescribed methods.
Food & beverage services account for a large part of a hotel’s revenue; hence hotels generate large quantities of food waste which has to be managed well. Tracking and managing food waste, as well as having a food waste audit in place will help give hotels a better idea about where the largest source of waste is and how this can be reduced. It is also equally important to have the entire team on board to implement the prevention of food waste strategy. To curb food waste, the hospitality sector can educate the staff about adjusting portions as per the need of the guests. Moreover, the waste can be recycled by converting into compost and mixing it into the soil.
While plastics might not represent the single largest waste stream for hotels, it has been the target of many operators’ sustainability efforts. Several hotel chains across the world including Chalet’s brand partners Accor & Marriott have begun taking important steps by minimizing single-use plastics; for example, plastic straws are completely banned from all our properties, and single-use guest toiletries in rooms have been replaced with multi-use bulk amenities (soap/shampoo/conditioner) in guest rooms thereby reducing plastic waste. Chalet hotels is in process of installing water bottling plants on its properties, replacing single-use plastic water bottles with reusable glass bottles. Some hotels have also started investing in technological solutions such as replacing plastic key cards with mobile apps to open guest-room doors.
Similarly, e-waste or electronic waste is a matter of concern as improper disposal of hazardous e-waste such as dead batteries, old remote controls, damaged or non-useful gadgets, e-toys, old and non-functional mobile phones, computers, and chargers, or any such electronic waste that is out of repair can lead to adverse effects on the health of humans and environment. Hence, it is equally important to dispose of it through the proper process and certified channels as well as recycle it for further use. Leveraging technology to reduce waste is a common solution and we are likely to see more of this as sustainable waste management for hotels becomes the norm.
Increase diversity in the workforce The hospitality industry generates huge employment opportunities and employs diverse workforce. While the hospitality industry continues to grow, it is seen making efforts in becoming more inclusive. Hotel companies need to further widen the scope of ‘diversity’ in workforce and employ more members from the LGBTQ+ community, persons with disabilities, mothers returning to work post sabbatical, people from different socio-economic & educational backgrounds besides increasing the number of women in workforce.
Social responsibility Through CSR initiatives hospitality industry makes efforts to give back to society and even inspire others to do so. While the benefits of ‘doing good’ outweighs all, it also helps make the world a better place to live.
Local sourcing Local sourcing has been high priority among hotel companies. While local or regional food and cuisines have always been part of the menu cards, hotels are now open to local chefs and workforce, and are sourcing all operational requirements at the local level. This not just helps in cost-saving but also helps promote sustainable tourism and reduces the overall carbon footprint as goods do not have to be transported over large distances.
The author is COO, Chalet Hotels.