Today's hotel guests aren't just looking for a place to rest their heads at night and the majority of travelers want to stay somewhere that reflects their own habits and values.
At the forefront of their minds is sustainability, and these guests will put their money where their mouths are. To prove that point, consider this statistic – a whopping 79% of them will consider a hotel's eco-friendly practices when selecting somewhere to stay.
That statistic alone is enough to give hotel owners and staff pause. Still, not everyone knows the tenets of sustainable design off the top of their heads — in fact, you might not know what it is at all. Here's what you need to know:
What is Sustainable Design?
As you can imagine, sustainable design seeks to reduce the negative environmental impacts that a structure has on the environment surrounding it. In a perfect world, such a method would be in mind during the structure's conception, carry on through its construction and remain with the building throughout the duration of its life. And, in choosing sustainable materials and systems, the building makes life more comfortable and safer for its inhabitants, too.
Even if you've already got a hotel building, you can still update it to adhere to many of the sustainable design must-haves that are present from inception in new builds. For instance, a newly constructed hotel would likely have a more holistic aesthetic, using local design and materials so that it fits in better with the environment. You probably can't restructure your hotel so that it uses the land more effectively or respects its surrounding environment more. But you can update the interior so that it's sustainable.
How Can a Hotel Be Sustainable?
Fortunately, there are a slew of ways to make a hotel more sustainable, both with interior updates and with the actions of hotel staff and even guests.
In terms of the former, you have seemingly countless options for updating your hotel to make it eco-friendlier. For starters, think about the way you light common spaces. You'll probably need the lobby lit around the clock since guests come and go all day long. But communal areas, such as the fitness center or conference rooms, won't always have people using them. As such, they don't need to be lit up 24-7. Installing motion sensors can save electricity and ensure you're only using the lights when necessary.
Guestrooms could also use some updating. Swapping out regular showerheads and toilets for low-flow versions would save a stunning amount of water. Plus, you can reduce your hotel's reliance on single-use plastics by foregoing tiny, travel-sized bottles of shampoo, conditioner, lotion and soap. Install permanent dispensers in each room and refill them instead. Switch out any plastic drinking cups or to-go coffee cups for their recyclable, sustainable versions.
Consider the furniture in the guest rooms, too. A smaller boutique hotel might be able to get away with reusing and repurposing pre-existing pieces from vintage shops, thrift stores or other sources. Reusing furniture instead of buying new is a form of recycling, thus making it an eco-friendly practice. If you do buy new, make sure it's high-quality — hardwood furniture lasts for decades without showing wear and tear like composite wood products do.
The hotel's grounds might require a lot of water to maintain, so make that practice eco-friendly, too. Collect rainwater to use to quench flowerbeds and gardens. Greywater systems collect the gently used water from sinks, showers, washing machines and tubs. Landscapers can also use this water to keep gardens and grass alive. Food waste from the hotel can become compost for the garden, too.
If your hotel serves food, it, too, can come with eco-friendly flair. Challenge the hotel chef to come up with new recipes that incorporate local and organic fare. That way, your kitchen uses fewer resources and fuel to ship in its ingredients. You might even contemplate breaking ground on a hotel garden, where you grow fresh fruit and vegetables to serve in the kitchen.
To that end, hotel staff can chip in to your hotel's eco-friendliness, too. Arm the cleaning crew with sustainable cleaning products — some chemically based solutions cause damage to the environment and linger in the air, making it unsafe to breathe.
Guests can do their part, too. Create signage for the bathroom that explains how much water's used to wash hotel towels every day. Then, give your guests the option to reuse their linens or request clean ones. After reading the statistics, eco-minded lodgers will probably choose to reuse their towels for longer, thus saving water and energy.
What's the Payoff?
Obviously, drawing in eco-friendly travelers counts as one huge bonus of making your hotel sustainable. Every hotelier wants to bring in more guests and boost occupancy rates, and green practices can do that.
The hotel will benefit from its sustainable switch-ups, too. Using fewer resources makes it less expensive to run such a business — utility bills will be lower when you cut down on water and electricity usage.
But most importantly, you can feel good about your business and the service you provide. Leaving a smaller footprint on the earth means that generations to come will enjoy it just as much as you and your guests do now, and that's a great legacy for your hotel to have.
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Kacey Bradley is the blogger behind The Drifter Collective, an eclectic lifestyle blog that expresses various forms of style through the influence of culture and the world around us. Kacey graduated with a degree in Communications while working for a lifestyle magazine. She has been able to fully embrace herself with the knowledge of nature, the power of exploring other locations and cultures, all while portraying her love for the world around her through her visually pleasing, culturally embracing and inspiring posts. Along with writing for her blog, she has written for sites like U.S. News, SUCCESS, Ruffled, and more!