The Importance Of Sustainability In Hotels

Human activities over the past centuries have affected the earth’s ecosystem. Today, the negative consequences of human actions can be noticed everywhere. Being one of the larger industries in the world, the hospitality industry is an important contributor to these problems.

In this report, I’ll be focusing on what impacts humans have on the eco-system. Defining what sustainability truly is. How hotels can benefit from practicing sustainability and what they could do to be sustainable with references.

Human Impacts on the Planet

To understand the magnitude of human impacts on the environment, economies, cultures, and society, we must first understand the history of hotels and contributions to the travel and tourism sectors. Travel and tourism are one of the largest industries in the world, which is responsible for creating jobs, increasing a country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP), generating revenue worldwide, and many more. It comes with positive and negative effects. “In 2008, there were 922 million international tourist arrivals with tourism receipts of US$944 billion. It is estimated that the global travel and tourism industry contributed 9.6 percent of global GDP and 7.9 percent of worldwide employment in 2008.” Tourism and travel is also a vector of climate change, accounting for approximately 5 percent of global carbon dioxide emissions.

Our human footprint on the earth is disrupting the biogeochemical cycle that has remained unchanged for millions of years. Lavish cities built on deserts irresponsibly waste our limited water supply and fragment habitats. Hotels wasting huge amounts of energy, water, and food after being built upon habitats that contain life necessary to the biogeochemical cycle such as photoautotrophs and other primary producers. Excessive amounts of food are both consumed and wasted beyond our human needs. Another consequence of human activity is the changing climate. Human activity has caused increases in the concentration of greenhouse gases, which have led to increases in air and ocean temperatures, and global sea levels.

As our planet’s natural resources become depleted, man is urged to become more responsible in their usage of non-renewable resources and look for other renewable resources either in the form of energy, water, or raw materials.

UNWTO’s definition of sustainability is:

Sustainability principles refer to the environmental, economic, and socio-cultural aspects of tourism development, and a suitable balance must be established between these three dimensions to guarantee its long-term sustainability.

In simple terms, sustainability means: things can keep going, can sustain themselves, can continue into the future, and go on forever. From a human perspective, sustainability for our planet means that it can continue to do what it was designed to do; provide fresh air, clean water, produce food and have a high quality of life. Unsustainability means that it cannot and that is where we are now. The growth of the Hotel Industry in India is vast.

There are four basic principles to follow to achieve sustainability. These could be seen as the ‘care’ instructions for our planet.

Reduce our dependence on fossil fuels and heavy metals.

Reduce our dependence on synthetic chemicals that persist in nature.

Reduce our destruction of nature.

Ensure we are not stopping people globally on meeting their needs.

Demand for the earth services: air, water, and food increases as the population increases and living standards rise. But the earth’s ability to provide these services is declining because of the way we are living. In our search for prosperity, growth, and success, we are destroying the system that we as humans are completely dependent on, nature. We humans have become a threat to our own way of life. The earth is a system and everything is connected, society, environment, and economy. To live sustainably, we need to follow the four ‘care’ instructions and apply them to everything we do at home and at work.

Sustainable operation in hospitality can be defined as “a hospitality operation that manages its resources in such a way that social, economic, and environmental benefits are maximized in order to meet the need of the present generation while protecting and enhancing opportunities for future generations.”

Many hotels today have recognized the negative effects their business activities have had on the environment and have taken steps to minimize or prevent those impacts from happening.

Today, the term ‘green hotels’ describes “hotels that achieve to be more environmentally friendly through the efficient use of energy, water, and materials while providing quality services [10].” Green hotels conserve and preserve by saving water, reducing energy use, and reducing solid waste. “They have seen benefits such as reduced costs and liabilities, high return and low-risk investments, increased profits, and positive cash flows.” Identifying these benefits and incentives has allowed the popularity of green hotels to grow.

Using the Orchard Garden Hotel, San Francisco, as an example, what is so different about this hotel? Why is it ‘green’? The answer truly is that it’s green from the inside out. The concrete of the basement and all the walls and floors have recycled contents in them. The carpet backing is 100 percent recycled. The drapes, the sheets, curtains, and bedspreads in the hotel are washable. This is very important because they do not have to use chemicals to keep them clean. 

The wood that Orchard Garden uses throughout the hotel is actually Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certified maple and all the guestroom furniture is made out of that material. The beautiful wood paneling that you could see in the restaurant, lobby, and hallway is actually recycled particleboard. Another unique feature of the hotel is the key card management control system. Simply by slotting the key in a switch right by the front door in the guestroom will enable all the light switches, air-conditioning, and heating. 

Orchard Garden also encourages its staff to implement green business practices. These are the things that you can truly do and it shows that it does not necessarily cost more money to go green.

Hotels are one of the largest consumers of energy, which provide guests with high levels of comfort, services, facilities, and amenities. Tour package history gives an in-depth view to create sustainable development in the hotel sector.

On average, America’s 47,000 hotels spend $2,196 per available room each year on energy. This represents about 6 percent of all operating costs. Through a strategic approach to energy efficiency, a 10 percent reduction in energy consumption would have the same financial effect as increasing the average daily room rate by $0.62 in limited-service hotels and by $1.35 in full-service hotels.

Hotels are aware of their costly consumption of non-renewable energy, huge generation of wastes, and excessive use of water, and are taking measures to be greener.

“According to the US Environmental Protection Agency, there are 47,000 hotels that spend $2,196 per available room each year on energy which represents about 6 percent of all operating costs.” Utilities make up 20 percent of the average US hotel’s operating costs – a huge percentage with a major impact on the bottom line and the environment. Inefficient use of lights, heating, and air conditioning is one of the major culprits in this waste of resources.

The solid waste generated by hotels comes in many sizes and forms. “Wastes from 25 hotels were examined. The statistics showed that from 1991-1993 the hotel waste consisted of 46% food waste, 25.3% paper, 11.7% cardboard, 6.7% plastics, 5.6% glass, and 4.5% metals [10].” This gives a clear indication of the various forms of waste that a small number of hotels can be produced in a city.

“It is estimated that by 2010, water use will increase to approximately 475 gallons per day for each room in high luxury facilities [10].” This will continue to put more stress on an already stressed environment. The use of water will always be a vital part of the guest’s experience. However, hotels must take the initiative to inform guests of the impacts their actions would have on the environment.