Hotel Terra in Wyoming is set on the edge of Grand Teton National Park and south of Yellowstone National Park, with some of the most breathtaking scenery you’ll find anywhere on the United States. It’s no wonder, then, that guests of the upscale 132-room hotel appreciate nature and choose an experience that helps to protect it – and that’s why there are so many ecofriendly features available.
The hotel is silver LEED-certified, and was built with 80 percent recycled steel, which saves 2,500 pounds of iron ore, 100 pounds of coal and 40 pounds of limestone per ton. The roof shingles, the glass, the Ecodomo leather tiles in the elevators all reflect the thoughtful design decisions. So do the water and ventilation systems, the fluorescent lights, and the purchase of renewable-energy offsets for all power.
The Hotel Terra clientele might not always care about the iron ore inputs, but they’re connected to the experience with organic Terra Bed mattresses and linens, and reusable aluminum water bottles to use. The entire facility showcases a trend seen across the hospitality industry as boutique hotels and chains alike (Hotel Terra is owned by Seattle-based Noble House) look for ways to reduce the carbon footprint.
“It’s a defining moment for the industry, and hotels are rising to the occasion on customer expectations but also because it’s just smart business,” said Colin McIntosh, the CEO and founder of Sheets & Giggles, a Colorado-based producer of sheets made with natural eucalyptus fibers. “They’re reducing pollution, protecting resources and lowering emissions while choosing products that promise optimal experience.”
Eucalyptus sheets, for example, have been embraced by hotel chains because the products don’t wear out as quickly as traditional sheet sets. The natural dyes are nontoxic, and the eucalyptus-based sheets require 95 percent less water than cotton per sheet – less than 200 liters, versus over 4,000 liters for traditional cotton. Bamboo also is popular, while high-quality cotton remains a top industry choice.
On the other hand, ecofriendly practices need to be meaningful to make a difference. Consultant Dean Minnett, writing recently for hospitalitynet.org, points out that the obsession with sheets and boasting about astronomical thread counts is one of three top “misguided trends” in the hospitality industry. If it doesn’t make for a measurable difference – or, as in the case of hotel technology, a smooth end-user experience rather than increased frustration – then there’s little point in touting it as an improvement.
Fortunately, trade associations and organizations like the British Green Tourism initiative offer insights on how to create ecofriendly experiences. They certify more than 2,000 accommodations providers in countries including Canada and Zimbabwe, and offer advice and support to hotels and their owners. Among them is Draycott Hotel in London, which boasts its “Green Tourism Gold” award on its website.
There are 150 different measures in the program, ranging from utility use, to cleaning products or the hotel’s ability to champion walking and biking as a way to see the sights. As with many hotels today, the Draycott initiates the simplest action with a linens policy that foregoes changing and washing each day. Now they’re adding more water-saving goals, using recycled paper for brochures, choosing organic and seasonal locally-grown produce for their kitchens, and deepening their engagement in the community.
In 2017, the Green Tourism board said its members operated at 30 percent more efficiency since 2010, with an average CO2 footprint of 17.3 kilograms per night. Similar stories are told by the International Tourism Partnership, which recently participated in the Green Hotelier Awards 2018, a program offered by the magazine with its award criteria aligned to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals espoused by the tourism organization. This year, the awards – for reducing carbon, managing waste, protecting water resources and more – went to hotels in countries as diverse as Scotland and Indonesia. Mercure Convention Center Ancol in Jakarta, the overall winner, also won in the water-saving category.
So there’s no question that the hospitality industry has emerged as a leader in building a sustainable future, and no shortage of resources available for boosting that success. What the most environmentally friendly hotels are doing, though, is enlisting the help of their guests and engaging them in the process. That’s a marketing and positioning decision tapping into what today’s travelers want, but it’s also a smart bottom line move that protects the profitability of the business while protecting the planet.
With so much focus on plastic pollution, for example, there’s a new “Make Holidays Greener” initiative that begins in June. “This past year has seen a tipping point in public awareness on the damage plastics can have on the environment – and businesses can use this to drive forward a change in their approach internally, as well as with suppliers and destinations,” said Nikki White, the Director of Destinations and Sustainability for the ABTA travel-agent trade group in the UK.
“Almost 70 percent of consumers now think travel companies should ensure their holidays help the local people and economy,” she said. Fortunately, companies in the hospitality industry now care about their impacts as much as their customers do, and the synergies between hotel and guest are driving action on climate change.
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Dan Blacharski is a thought leader, advisor, industry observer and author of the book Dotcloud Boom. He has been widely published on subjects relating to customer-facing technology, fintech, cloud computing and crowdsourcing, and he is editor of NewsOrg.Org. Follow @Dan_Blacharski