Erik Stuebe
Erik Stuebe

A current megatrend in the hospitality and tourism sector is “going green”. More and more pressure is being applied to businesses to reduce the environmental impact of their operations. This is attracting the attention of regulators as well as becoming a factor used by customers when making their travel and accommodation choices. As a result, business now has the opportunity to take action and turn these pressures into a competitive advantage.

By thinking beyond the mere re-use of towels and saving water, we can deliver on environmental values, increasing the sense of concern perceived by customers, improving reputation and enhancing bottom line sales.

New builds
Before starting construction, consider the environmental initiatives that can be incorporated into the building. Double glazed glass, dual flush toilets and car park ventilation should all be standard. Go further with a design maximising natural lighting and airflow, and incorporate motion sensor lighting.

Consider environmentally friendly alternatives to concrete and use sustainable bamboo over other timber floorings. Include systems for recycling construction waste during the building process. The environmental impact begins with the first turn of the soil so plan for a green outcome from the start.

Green hotels should be about more than just towels.

Existing buildings
It is harder to boost the green credentials of an existing hotel but there is still plenty which can be done. Consider installing solar panels and using biomass, geothermal and other renewable energies.

When negotiating with suppliers, insist on eco-friendly packaging for bathroom products, eco-friendly bed linen, energy efficient lighting for common areas and timers in common areas for air conditioning. Also review cleaning materials and water usage of contract cleaners.

Reforestation programs
Another great way to make a positive impact is to become involved in a reforestation program. There are many hotels participating in international reforestation projects supported by the United Nations.

There are even opportunities to sponsor greening programs, community garden projects or beehive co-operatives to increase profile and support local community. These also make great talking points for promotional and social media driven campaigns.

Economic support for local communities
Fostering local communities by protecting and educating children has an indirect positive impact on environmental protection and is a beacon of corporate social responsibility. Ensuring kids get a sound education allows them to foster economic independence, which, in turn, paves the way for them to help preserve and foster concern for environmental issues.

Targets for reducing carbon emissions
Most countries now have some independent standards for measuring environmental rankings of businesses or buildings. Find out the system in your area and measure how you rate, before setting about improving it by taking some of the initiatives outlined above to reduce emissions. Be sure to record and broadcast improvements to customers and other businesses. Hotels are now monitoring their energy consumption and acting upon any issues to ensure optimal equipment settings.

Increasing the use of renewable energy
At the same time as taking steps to reduce your emissions output, look to draw on the increased use of renewable energy. Where possible, defer to power supply from your principal power supplier that has been obtained from renewable sources.

Electric cars
The National Convention Centre, Canberra, is the first conference centre in Australia to pioneer the installation of electric car charge spots. It has installed two permanent charge spots in its car park for electric car drivers to use.

Forward thinking hotels are now incorporating more car parking spaces for electric cars, offering free parking for electric cars and discounted car parking for hybrids.

Green meetings
Operating a green hotel is not just about the products used in suites. There are numerous ways to “green” the business of doing business for corporations and events. Create a program to compensate for CO2 emissions resulting from the meeting. Provide equipment for use such as digital alternatives to flip charts or printed handout materials (for instance, offer to put the conference materials onto a password protected webpage for attendees to access online).

Meals and snack can be sourced from environmentally conscious suppliers. Using local or sustainably grown produce will also reduce the carbon footprint of the event even further.

Finally, make sure you have systems in place to allow adequate recycling of all waste generated by the conference. Use glasses and jugs instead of water bottles and set yourself apart by placing stylish multi-bins for different types of waste in every meeting room.

Anthony LoGiusto, general manager of Yarra Valley Hotel and Lodge says, “Establishing green credentials has to be part of your culture and not just about increasing your appeal to generate business. To participate in this space means aligning the interests of all stakeholders in your business; owners, management company, employees and guests.”

The greening of businesses is a trend that will continue to gain momentum. This is the time to get ahead of the wave and be an industry leader, rather than a reluctant follower. By investing in the future of the environment, you will also be investing in the future of your business.

Erik Stuebe is managing director of Austpac Hotels and Resorts. He has worked in the hospitality and tourism sector for over 30 years.

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  1. Definitely a focus for our hotel, Yarra Valley Lodge. It would be fabulous if a environmental awareness and impact component was factored into university degrees in Hotel Management – the next generation of hotel managers will be well equipped and enthusiastic to make their mark.

  2. Its good to see the tourism sector alive with these activities. Its always amazed me that the river and ocean cruise operators don’t do more. They rely on the rivers and seas and yet I have come across no efforts to protect them or improve their management. I would certainly support such efforts.
    Matthew Reddy.

  3. I agree that in new builds a Green focus is essential, but we all face the challenge of adopted Green Policies into our business, firstly for the environment, secondly to attract companies with a Green focus and finally to hopefully reduce cost.
    Unfortunately the later is not usually the case, maybe the government can offer more incentives. The biggest saving is definitely paper and cardboard waste because gone are the days when we should be charged for something being recycled that we provide and sort for free.
    Some other areas we have implemented change was adopting the Government Lighting initiative – this one was a good idea however the compact fluoros used in the first round have turned out to be NOT crash hot with multiple failures so keep clear of those. The second round was much more successful with the use of LED lights, but beware MOOD and ambience is never quite the same when you remove those halogens which work well on the dimmers. Subsequently because we could not recreate the mood we went back to the good old halogens in the restaurant.
    We to have decided to embrace the Electric Car market and have just installed a dedicated connection in our underground carpark. Although the market is small it should hopefully gain more momentum in coming years – Nissan in particular have strong focus of developing this market.
    Malcolm Mathie – General Manager The Hills Lodge Grand Mercure

  4. Definitely agree Erik, hotels need to be more proactive in their approach and we need the financial controllers to understand that we will reap the rewards down the track – commitment now will pay future dividends in what already is becoming a competitive space.