Julia Hailes MBE

Sustainability Pioneer


Greening hotels (Apr09)

I stay in hotels all the time. And I quite often give feedback.

Most hotels are incredibly wasteful. Common practices include:

-Leaving lights on in bedrooms when they’re unoccupied
-Double beds with lots of pillows for only one person (resulting in lots of unnecessary laundry)
-Individually wrapped soaps, shampoos and other products
-Over-heating or cooling rooms with no controls to turn the temperature down – or off
-Water-wasting lavatories and baths

And I don’t think I’ve come across a hotel that doesn’t leave the television on stand-by. Another common practice is to have a hugely energy-intensive electric toaster that remains on throughout breakfast even if no-one is using it. You’ll know if I’m around because I turn it off – and I’ve discovered that it will heat up very quickly once it’s turned on again, so this shouldn’t be a problem.

What you may have noticed is that most hotels ask guests to hang their towels up if they don’t want them washed. Quite often the explanation for this is that it will save on detergents. That’s ridiculous – the real issue is that it will save on the amount of energy used to launder the towels. But I find that hanging up my towel doesn’t always prevent it from being washed – that’s really annoying.

Earlier this month, I stayed at a Ramada Hotel in Geneva. I noticed that the extractor fan in the bathroom didn’t go off when I shut the door or turned the light off. I could still hear a continuous whirring noise. I contacted reception and explained the problem thinking that my room may be in need of a maintenance visit. But I discovered that all the other rooms in the hotel also had their extractor fans on all of the time! Just imagine the energy wasted for that.

I waded through a website feedback form for Ramada, expressing my concerns – as well as saying that the breakfast had been exceptionally nice. To my surprise, I got a response – and a swift one. The general manage of the hotel explained that he’d taken 3 years to get to the bottom of this problem but he had just had a meeting with an air treatment company, who he hoped would resolve it. So I hope that if I stay again I won’t have to put a piece of cardboard in front of the fan to reduce the noise.

The Ramada Encore in Geneva is part of Wyndham Hotels, who do appear to have an environmental policy if you look hard enough on the internet. However, my view is that it’s not very apparent in their hotels. I’m hopeful that this may change. The responsive general manager from Geneva said that they may include it on the agenda for their annual conference. Let’s hope this will start the ball rolling.

I can’t remember if I’ve stayed anywhere belonging to the Rezidor Hotel Group. But I did chair a discussion on greening hotels at the the Best of Britain Travel Trade Forum in March, where Rezidor’s business manager, Alexandra Hammond, talked about what they’re doing. The hotel chain has won a number of environmental awards having significantly reduced energy, water and waste from their hotels. Although, Alexandra did admit to having those terrible toasters that are left on all the time.

The other two hotels at the conference were the Bedruthan Steps, a large family hotel in Cornwall and Strattons, a boutique hotel in Norfolk. They were both full of ideas and initiatives although I felt that Bedruthan was a little reticent in promoting their responsible approach to customers.

Hotels are huge energy and water users – and produce a lot of waste. This means that there’s lots of potential for savings. I’m disappointed that to date environmental measures in most hotels are largely tokenistic – the insincere notices about towels – when they should be tackling their impacts across the board. That means laundry, lighting, soaps and kitchen waste to name just a few.

Environmental issues have become mainstream for most of the businesses I work with. My concern is that for the hospitality industry it’s still niche. This has to change.

Comment Section

0 Responses

  1. Surely this is changing with the huge exodus of ‘business travellers’ to ‘budget hotels’ like Travelodge and Premier Inn, which appear to be at the other end of the scale ??

    Or is it just that the ‘economies of scale’ mean that large, wasteful hotels have to be kept full up one way or another, so there is not the motivation to make them kinder to the environment ?

Leave a Reply