Hospitality accommodations, including bed and breakfast inns, are increasingly participating in green initiatives. However, what is right for one inn may not be right — or achievable — for others. Of course, implementing green initiatives take time. What matters is continuing to make progress and effectively communicating improvements to your guests.
If you’re interested in winning business by going green, we share tips and strategies to bring sustainable best-practices to your properties. First, let's understand what sustainability means and why it matters for the hospitality industry.
Environmental sustainability is responsibly interacting with our planet to maintain natural resources, not jeopardize the ability for future generations to meet their needs. Sustainable hospitality accommodations are businesses that significantly reduce their environmental impact through green best-practices. The core elements revolve around reducing waste, saving energy, and cutting down on water usage.
There are many steps hospitality owners can take to move toward sustainability. Some of them are major capital expenditures, such as replacement of the HVAC system; others are easy to implement and even low-cost.
Benefits of Green Initiatives
When accommodations go green, they do less damage to the environment, lower costs, and win goodwill from guests. Sustainability in the business world is essential to achieving growth and satisfying customers. Increasingly, consumers seek out green businesses and pay more for eco-friendly products and services.
TripAdvisor, for example, has developed its GreenLeaders Program, which showcases accommodations with environmentally-friendly best practices to conscientious travelers, such as hotels and inns going green with LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design).
Accommodations can also expect to save a lot of green by going green. Moving toward sustainability means reducing your energy and water consumption, as well as staffing for maintenance and guest services.
Green Initiatives and Staffing
Make your staff eco-friendly. Ask employees to participate in a green team to take the lead in suggesting eco-friendly best practices in their area. This gives these employees a sense of ownership of green strategies, and more commitment to long-term adoption.
Make the hiring and training process green. Use phone calls for initial interviews, instead of asking candidates to swing by — thus cutting down on fossil fuels — and use Skype or Zoom for face-to-face interviews. Instead of printing lengthy employee manuals or hiring forms, provide new employees with links to documentation in electronic format, or provide computer access on-site for those without home computers. Steer new applicants to online employment portals, rather than requesting hard copy resumes. Highlight your inn’s sustainability efforts in hiring materials, so all new additions to your staff understand its priority in daily operations.
Make food services eco-friendly. Reduce waste during events. Cut down on the number of trash receptacles at your event venue, while increasing the amount of recycling options to force attendees to dispose of their waste thoughtfully. Make it easy for guests to recycle by clearly marking and positioning recyclable containers for paper, aluminum cans, and plastic bottles.
Ensure waste management is sustainable. Do not use plastic water bottles. Among the most environmentally damaging products on the planet, plastic water bottles take up a ton of space and often get intermingled with garbage during disposal. It’s not difficult to move away from bottled water and toward filtered water dispensers, refillable bottles, and water pitchers for guests and event attendees.
Make recycling options easy to spot. Replace outdated bins with worn recycling symbols.
Incorporate reusable dishes, silverware, glasses and mugs. This cuts down on the use of straws, plastic serving-ware, and paper plates at your facility. You’ll also save money in lower supply costs and waste management (the less your inn throws out, the lower the cost for trash hauling).
Composting & Donating Food
Compost and donate food from your kitchen. Establish processes to compost waste, which can in turn support sustainable gardening practices. Additionally, unused or leftover food can be donated to various local and national food banks and programs, like Feeding America.
Replace plastic bags for compostable bags or convenient reusable ones that can be returned to the desk or placed in drop boxes. Install a composting bin. There are many benefits of breaking down organic material into nutrient-rich soil and fertilizer:
- Reducing the amount of trash being hauled away to landfills
- Keeping pests away from your trash (less trash, less pests)
- Promoting healthy organic growing in your hotel kitchen operations
- Reducing plant diseases/require less pesticides
- Helping soil drain properly to help cut down on runoff
- Speeding-up the composting process
- You don’t even have to worry about hiding the composting bin — knowledgeable guests will notice and appreciate the effort.
Compost whenever possible. By now, you probably understand that composting is an important sustainability practice. According to the World Food Programme, one-third of the food produced in the world for human consumption every year gets lost or wasted before it can be consumed.
You may compost some waste on your property, but you’ll probably also need to participate in a composting program to divert compostable materials away from landfills. Train your staff to separate compostable waste for efficient pickup. You can also offer your coffee grounds to the public for use as fertilizer.
Landscaping & Gardening
Create landscaping and gardening that's eco-friendly. Cut down on runoff. The excess water from storms, irrigation, and snow that doesn’t evaporate or get absorbed into groundwater is a silent assassin in the environment. It’s especially tricky on the grounds, with lots of asphalt parking and concrete outdoor patios. Combat this by planting a rain garden and water detention ponds to collect drainage, in addition to using previous pavement whenever possible.
Water wisely. Smart irrigation systems can cut down on unnecessary water use with timed watering. You can also reduce water requirements by planting drought-resistant native plants and ground cover instead of just grass. This change also reduces the need for pesticides and fertilizers.
Keep things shady. It may sound simple, but keeping the sun off your walls and windows can reduce energy use. Plant trees or install awnings and overhangs — these are relatively inexpensive projects with long shelf lives.
Grow your own produce. You can also shop local. Source from nearby growers and food providers. It’s a great way to support area farmers, while also reducing carbon emissions caused when you truck-in food from a distance. Menu selections should incorporate sustainable offerings, including vegetarian and vegan items that take fewer resources to produce than meat.
Using Certified Green Appliances
Shop for certified green appliances. How much money is your inn wasting on inefficient appliances? Look to replace your existing lineup with energy-saving appliances like commercial fryers and griddles, ice machines, ovens, dishwashers, freezers, and refrigerators. Pay close attention to older-model washing machines, which should be swapped out as soon as possible with models that conserve energy and water.
Electronic Vehicles, Bikes, & Scooters
Upgrade your transportation offerings and services with sustainability in mind. Add electric vehicle charging stations for guests with electric or hybrid cars. Consider eBike and eScooter rental options to promote sustainable transportation (be sure to provide helmets for guests). Group shuttles (using hybrid or electric vehicles) to public transit hubs cut down on low-occupancy car trips to and from your inn.
Making Your Guest Rooms Greener
Install additional towel racks in bathrooms to make it easy for guests to reuse towels. Create a sign encouraging reuse. Sustainability efforts in guest rooms have evolved beyond cards reminding guests to reuse towels, turn off the AC, or hit the light switch on the way out. Today, many accommodations are taking the guesswork out with technology:
- Thermostats with occupancy sensors adjust heating and AC temperatures. Utilizing Internet of Things (IoT) technology, these same room amenities can be connected to apps so guests can change settings remotely.
- Automate water and energy conservation. Use aerators on bathroom sinks to reduce water usage, and replace standard toilets with low flow or dual flush versions. Swap out traditional lights with energy-saving lighting, with sensors to automatically turn them on or off, or brighten and dim.
- In addition to smart technology, make smart choices in furnishing guest rooms with natural fiber sheets and furniture made of sustainable materials. Stock the room with reusable coffee mugs and glasses, rather than plastic, paper, or styrofoam. In the bathroom, provide natural and organic free-trade soaps and shampoos from certified green manufacturers in biodegradable packaging.
Maintenance & Systems
Invest in green infrastructure. Big-ticket items available to hoteliers interested in long-term sustainability ROI include: solar panel installations, Energy Star-rated heating and cooling systems, Geothermal cooling towers, and water recovery and recycling systems.
Make your accommodations maintenance green. Give your operations a check-up. Regularly, be sure to conduct an audit of equipment to ensure they are using the right amount of power — when in use, as well as in standby mode. Your audit will assess your current energy use, identify energy-saving opportunities, and help you quantify potential short- and long-term savings.
Keep an eye on your systems. Monitoring sensors are available for most equipment types in your hotel, from HVAC systems to furnaces to generators. These easy-to-use systems come with wireless reporting systems for predictive maintenance. Track and analyze energy waste over a given period and create improvement plans.
Developing Green Best Practices
As more accommodations work to incorporate sustainable principles into their meetings, events, and guest services, more and more guests expect many of today’s eco-friendly innovations as standard amenities. Developing green best practices now to address these expectations is the key to boosting your bottom line and saving the planet.
Go green for purchasing. Make green decisions. Opt for biodegradable, non-toxic products in sustainable packaging as much as possible. A sustainable purchasing policy is relatively easy to establish, and should incorporate items like:
- Cleaning supplies, sanitizers, and adhesives
- Light bulbs
- Office supplies, writing pads, and pens
- Paper products
Promoting Your Green Initiatives
Share the good news about your sustainable accommodations. As you take steps to improve sustainability, it’s critical to get the word out about your positive practices.
Social media is popular with environmentally-conscious consumers. There are many social communities you can reach with hashtags like #zerowaste and #sustainablebusiness to get your inn's sustainability story circulating with target audiences.
Incorporate your sustainability business practices into your search engine optimization (SEO) marketing efforts to rank higher in Google search results. Do your research ahead of time to see which keywords are trending with guests searching for green bed and breakfast inns, ecotourism, sustainable lodging, and ecotels.
Email marketing is another key tool in sharing your news. Sustainability is a topic your guests are likely passionate about.
Rob Sales is an experienced, licensed realtor specializing in bed and breakfast real estate. Moreover, he and his wife Jane were the owners and innkeepers of successful B&B inns. Contact Rob today, for a complimentary consultation. If you are thinking of buying or selling your bed and breakfast, or you would like to learn about ways to enhance your inn's profitability, you owe it to yourself to get the answers you're looking for.