Many hotels are changing their ways and going green. They are trying to be environmentally safe and also to use less energy. This requires a balance between providing guests the experience they want and expect and incorporating ways to be green in hotel operations and practices. Hotels are not major polluters but they do consume a significant amount of resources. Although the LEED platform and certifications were designed for commercial and institutional projects and not for hotels, hotels are incorporating many green practices in their design, operational practices and housekeeping operations.
In design, hotels are focusing on several areas which can have a significant impact. Many hotels are using solar panels to heat their pools and the pools are cleaned with a saline salt solution instead of chlorine. This decreases energy consumption and chemical pollution. Many hotels, especially in Europe, are incorporating a master switch in all rooms. The master switch works by inserting your room key into a switch inside the room that turns on the electricity, heat and water. When you leave the room, you have to take that room key with you, thus turning off all the appliances. Other energy savings include keeping electricity to a minimum through natural light and the use of compact fluorescent light bulbs, low-flow showers and dual-flush toilets. Some hotels have installed a new roofing material that reflects heat from the sun, so the hotel will not tax its air-conditioning system in the summer. Hotels that offer full-efficiency suites often have kitchens with Energy Star appliances, which use less energy than regular appliances. Water for cooking is filtered as it pours into the sink, and recycle bins are available. The shampoo and conditioner are in bulk dispensers, and in some cases, the art on the walls is crafted from recycled materials like aluminum, paper and car tires. Many hotels, especially in resort areas, offer bikes in addition to taxi service.
Operational and housekeeping practices consistent with LEED standards can vary widely in hotels. Hotels have been pursuing the “Go Green” practice since the 1990s due to an increasingly strong focus on customer service. They have developed many practices to help, some of them being recycling, pollution prevention, and smart energy consumption. Some hotels purchase energy that comes from green sources like wind power or hydroelectric power. Using solar heaters and other renewable energy sources can save energy. Replacing incandescent light bulbs with compact florescent lights in hotel rooms and common areas can save significant costs and energy at hotels. Reusing linens like towels and sheets (at the discretion of the customer of course) can save water, detergent, energy and lower greenhouse gases from washing machines. Some hotels automatically adjust thermostats for heating and cooling several degrees overnight while guests are sleeping to shave energy costs. These practices not only reduce environmental impacts, they also help cut hotel operational costs. There have been multiple cases where using these techniques have saved money. For example, Holiday Inn on King Street in Toronto reports saving $14,852 per year through the installation of low flow showerheads. Engineers keeping up with building maintenance can shave off dollars with ease. The Fairmont Royal York in Toronto invested $25,000 in an energy conservation program to replace leaky steam traps and fix leaks, which resulted in savings over $200,000.
The downside of some of these design and operational practices are the additional startup costs. For example, replacing bathroom hardware, roofing, pool cleaning facilities, etc. all requires capital investment. Brian McGuinness, a vice president at Starwood, notes that the additional cost of going green may deter some hotels. “It’s a 2 to 3 percent premium above the total cost of the building to go the LEED-certified route,” he says, adding that he…