Caterer & Hotelkeeper, July 2001 By Corinne Hitching
As more becomes known about the environmental damage being done
to our planet, and with the Climate Change Levy looming, more and more hotels
are taking steps to reduce the impact of their business on the environment.
Staying ahead of regulations is just one reason why managers are
making these changes, but they are also saving significant sums of money and attracting
more guests into the bargain.
In 1999, the Marriott Worsley Park Hotel & Country Club, in Manchester,
was one of the first hotels in Europe to gain environmental certification – and
it has been counting the benefits ever since.
Even before the four-star hotel was built, general manager Peter
Bech decided that the hotel would be as environmentally friendly as possible.
This was particularly important, as the hotel was being built on a 200-acre Greenfield
site and therefore had attracted heated local opposition.
By working with English Heritage and Green Globe, the environmental
certification programme for the travel and tourism industry, Bech ensured that
the hotel blended into the surrounding countryside, creating a wildlife haven
in the process, while striving to minimize the impact on neighbors.
“Having a sound environmental management approach to running
a business is absolutely necessary,” Bech says. “There are also good economic
reasons why every business should take this approach.” For instance, the Marriott
saved about £60,000 in its first full year of operation simply by cutting down
on consumption of water, gas and electricity.
How did the hotel manage this? One way was to involve every member
of staff in the scheme, nominating a champion for each department and holding
regular meetings to ensure that all parts of the plan were monitored and tested.
“It’s just a question of getting everyone into the right frame
of mind,” Bech says. “Chefs traditionally turn everything on as soon as they enter
the kitchen, whether they need the equipment or not. With a little education on
the damage being done to the environment, let alone the savings to be made, this
practice can be stopped.”
Environmental action is not limited to larger hotels – small sites
can be equally successful at cutting costs. Strattons, a small, seven-bedroom,
family-owned hotel in Swaffham, Norfolk, has rigorously pursued a policy of environmental
awareness and managed to win several high-profile awards for its efforts – including
the coveted British Airways Tourism for Tomorrow Award and the Queen’s Award for
outstanding environmental achievement.
Owned by Les and Vanessa Scott, Strattons has a mission statement
to “reduce, reuse, recycle, rethink, rework and recover”. With their two children,
three cats, two dogs, 20 chickens, two rabbits – and a staff of nine – the Scotts
manage to recycle, reuse or compost virtually all of the hotel’s waste – so much
so that it produces only half a wheelie-bin fill of rubbish each week.
Many hotels pay lip service to environmental preservation by asking
their guests to reuse towels to save washing, but this is just the tip of a very
big iceberg. With a little thought and organization, far more action can happen
behind the scenes.
Replacing standard light bulbs with energy-efficient ones, for
example, makes significant savings that greatly outweigh the initial outlay. Monitoring
of energy consumers such as boilers, chillers and cooling towers ensures that
they remain at their most efficient. The installation of a combined heat and power
system may be costly but it will significantly reduce harmful emissions, while
making use of the heat produced to generate more heat and electricity. Savings
from the installation of such a device can be in the region of £50,000 a year.
To be considered truly environmentally aware, companies must also
work with local communities and contribute to the local economy. The Marriott
Worsley Park, for example, works with nearby schools, providing math lessons during
which pupils cook a meal in the hotel’s kitchen and then cost it out. London’s
Mayfair Inter-Continental supports a local homeless centre by donating old furniture
and used soaps. Hotels in the Caribbean organize beach clean-up days, while Eco-resorts
in Kenya sponsors safaris for a local orphanage.
Many businesses that have improved their environmental credentials
have also found that they receive much higher exposure in the marketplace. “Customers
are pleasantly surprised when they first learn about what we are doing,” says
Bech. “They then become interested and, before long, you have a committed clientele
who reward you with their custom.”
This contention is being borne out by the number of blue-chip
companies actively seeking hotels with environmental practices – Volvo and the
Co-op Bank are just two.
Of course, all hotels have to balance environmental measures with
customer service and the requirements of their shareholders. The Marriott Worsley
Park is acutely aware of this dilemma. Despite its array of environmental measures,
staff still change bedding every day, and don’t use tiny bottles of shampoo in
the rooms as that may seem stingy. Likewise, lights in public areas are not set
on timers, as the hotel believes that this practice would not be appropriate for
the image of a four-star, full-service hotel.
Hotels that have been integrated environmental responsibility
into their core business practices are likely to be in favor with their shareholders,
anyway. As Bech says: “Every pound you save converts directly to profit” – which
is a reason as good as any to latch on to the environmental trend.