As advances in technology and travel make the world smaller, tourism has become one of the world’s fastest growing industries.
Many countries have also grown to rely on it as a major source of income and employment for its citizens.
Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership reported that tourism contributes to about 5% of global greenhouse gas emissions. Their team expects this figure to grow by 130% by 2035, based on current trends.
Hotels play a big role in the hospitality industry’s carbon footprint. The International Tourism Partnership states that, for the hotel industry to meet the targets of the Paris Climate Agreement, greenhouse gas emissions would need to be reduced each year by 90% for each room.
Currently, Marriott alone has 6,542 properties with 1.16 million hotel rooms globally, and Wyndham Hotel Group has 8,976 properties. The market size of the global hotel industry was just over $570 billion in 2017.
While “eco-chic” hotels have been gaining traction, large hotel groups still dominate the industry. Their widespread adoption of sustainable practices is what’s needed to meet climate goals.
Fortunately there are some ways these hotels are becoming more eco-friendly:
The Household Name: Hyatt
Most people don’t associate Hyatt with sustainability. But the hospitality conglomerate was actually among the first to pursue sustainable reforms. In 2014 they launched the 2020 Vision, which focused on some pretty ambitious goals:
- reduce water use per guest night by 25-30%,
- reach a 40% waste diversion rate (by recycling rather than sending waste to landfills)
- build in accordance to enhanced sustainable design guidelines
- fund sustainable solutions
In their 2018-2019 report, Hyatt showed that it’s exceeded emissions reduction goals across all major regions and achieved water consumption reduction goals in Europe, Africa, the Middle East, and Southwest Asia. In the Americas and Asia Pacific regions, they’re just shy of their goal by 1-3%.
Roughly 23% of the company’s managed hotels have exceeded the 40% waste diversion rate. Additionally, Hyatt has been collaborating with Food Donation Connection to increase donation of excess food. Other impressive practices include removal of plastic straw use across all global locations and increased use of compostable or recycled food containers and amenity bottles.
Hyatt has also been a long-time partner of World Wildlife Fund [WWF] and sources 23% of its global seafood purchases from sustainable sources. Also, about 90% of the eggs it uses comes from cage-free sources.
41 of Hyatts managed properties are LEED certified, and 27 of its hotels have onsite renewable energy systems, including solar technology. All four Alila Bali hotels are now zero waste to landfill, and Hyatt House Irvine is the first hotel in California to use reclaimed water in all toilets and urinals.
The Boutique Breakthrough: 1 Hotels
This luxury hotel chain is frequently found on the “Best Hotels” lists of New York, Miami and Los Angeles. It’s just as frequently noted for its commitment to sustainability and the progressive practices it abides by.
Barry Sternlicht, 1 Hotel’s CEO & Chairman, identifies the company’s hotels as “a philosophy and a platform for change.”
At the foundation of their design, construction and operational choices are key sustainability measures. 1 Hotels are built with eco-friendly elements like: state-of-the-art heating and cooling systems, rainwater reclamation systems and low-energy lighting. Guests also enjoy features like access to electric cars, Keetsa mattresses, hangers made of 100% recycled materials, room keys made of recycled wood, and regionally sourced produce.
1 Hotels are LEED certified and known to have eliminated single-use plastics from their properties. The company is also partnered with a number of organizations including NRDC, Oceana Global, Forest Stewardship Council and the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation.
The Innovator: Vail Resorts
In 2017 Colorado-based Vail Resorts updated its sustainability goals, setting its sights on across the board zeros. It hopes to achieve zero net emissions and zero waste to landfill by 2030. The company also aims to establish zero operating impact on forests and habitats.
Vail Resorts has enacted a number of initiatives, including investing $25 million in eco-friendly projects such as low-energy snow equipment and green building design. The company also purchases 100% of its energy expenditure in renewable energy offsets. Vail currently has two onsite solar power installations and is looking into adding more onsite renewable power.
The resort currently has a 40% waste diversion rate across operations and is set to hit 50% by 2020.
Making Your Stays More Sustainable
While “greenwashing,” the deceptive use of marketing to create a false perception of eco-friendliness, remains a problem in the hospitality industry, there is still a growing effort to provide sustainable travel options. As more hotels adopt practices that help combat climate change, guests are able to pick up tangible ideas for how they can be more sustainable at home.
For example, 1 Hotels’ paperless rooms and properties free of single-use plastics demonstrate that it’s not only possible to live without these conveniences, but it’s possible to live luxuriously without them. We hope more hotels feel inspired to join the global effort to solve climate change.
What are some ways you’ve seen the hotels you’ve stayed at become eco-friendly?
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