These days, traveling doesn’t have to mean saying goodbye to your normal eco-friendly ways. Happily, a growing number of hotels around the world are catering to the changing tastes and priorities of the environmentally-aware and savvy traveller. As the Sunshine Coast in Australia gets ready to host the 2013 Global Ecotourism Conference in November (where leading players from across the world examine best practices in ecotourism), it’s a fitting time to look at what constitutes a sustainable accommodation. If you’d like to get a better idea of how to choose the most eco-friendly hotel on your next holiday or business trip, then read on for the top five things to consider.
- Energy One of the most important things to consider when you search for hotel accommodation is the energy consumption of the lodging. Hotels in Australia actually use around 0.5 per cent of the total energy consumption in the country, so it is obvious how great the effects of certain energy improvements could be. The best solution for hotels to reduce their energy usage is through operational changes and improvements. Converting to solar power is one of the most effective ways to save on energy consumption, and the hotel industry has taken notice — solar powered hotels are on the rise. Other changes that green hotels can put in place to save on power are the use of more eco-friendly light bulbs, motion sensor and timer-operated lighting, low-energy appliances and the introduction of key cards in rooms that need to be inserted before power is available. With the amount of resources used by an average hotel in seven days being comparable to the energy used by 100 families in a whole year, you can see why it’s time for hotels to investigate energy consumption changes today.
- Waste Hotels that want to tread more lightly on the earth should look at cutting back their exorbitant consumption of resources and work to send far less waste to landfills. Eco-friendly hotels can offer recycling and compost bins as part of their facilities, and additional menu planning can reduce waste in the hotel restaurants. For example, if very few customers order a certain menu item, it might be wise to take it off the menu rather than throw away unused or expired ingredients each day or week. Accommodation providers can also look at reducing the waste created from excessive disposable items such as toiletries. Hotels can replace individual cakes of soap with liquid dispensers and opt for all-in-one shampoo/conditioner/body-wash products rather than separate bottles. Any leftover waste produced by the hotel should then be recycled, composted or given away to the homeless.
- Water With the amount of linen cleaning done in hotels, it’s no wonder that the hospitality industry is known for its huge water-usage rates. Hotels looking to receive their eco credentials should encourage guests who are staying more than one night to re-use towels and sheets rather than having them changed every day. It’s also important to ensure that the property does not contain any leaking taps or toilet cisterns. Hotels can also save water by installing reduced-flush or twin-flushing toilets and water-saving shower heads
- Materials Hotels should carefully consider all the materials used in their day-to-day operations and even in the hotel build. New accommodation offerings can take advantage of more modern, sustainable design practices and even utilize eco-friendly building materials such as recycled timbers and fast-growing bamboo. Hotels can also ensure that they purchase towels, bed linens, napery and bathroom amenities that are made from natural, organic or recycled materials. Hotel kitchens can buy local and/or organic produce (or grow it themselves) rather than opting for imported ingredients. Cleaning staff can be supplied with non-toxic, chemical-free cleaners that don’t compromise the environment and also are better for the health of staff and customers. There are even more natural pool cleaners on the market these days, which means hotels can switch from nasty chlorine to mineral alternatives instead.
- Continuous Improvement Last but not least, travelers searching for the best eco-friendly hotel options around the globe should keep an eye out for providers who are committed to continuous improvement. As technologies change there will always be better and newer sustainable practices that can be put into place. Hotels that keep up with these improvements are likely to become the more sustainable hotel options on the market.
About the Author: Kerry Hill is a blogger and travel writer with a passion for sustainability, organic cuisine and holistic medicine.