Sustainability in Hotels: Creating a Greener Future for Hospitality

Bryan Michalis
Bryan Michalis
May 14, 2024
August 18, 2023
Sustainability in Hotels: Creating a Greener Future for Hospitality

Sustainability is becoming a non-negotiable for travelers, which means event planners, corporate travel managers and hoteliers must also respond in kind. And with the hotel industry contributing 1% of the world’s carbon emissions, it’s time for hotels to ramp up sustainability measures.

Sustainable hotel practices are not just about giving back to nature. According to a survey, 74% of travelers say they want travel companies to offer more sustainable travel choices, and 43% are willing to pay more to support certified sustainable travel options. Adopting more eco-friendly business practices could mean more business in the long run.

Whether you implement a recycling program, plant more pollinator-friendly flowers or install solar panels, travelers will appreciate your efforts.

How Can Hotels Reduce Their Carbon Footprint?

Acknowledging the hospitality industry’s significant environmental impact is the first step to achieving environmental and economic sustainability in your hotel. This means you can save money while doing your part for the environment.

If you’re considering implementing sustainable practices in hotel operations, here are four areas in which you can focus your efforts:

Energy Conservation

Enviromental impact aside, energy is one of the biggest expenditures for hotels. Conserving energy saves you money and increases your bottom line while also reducing your carbon footprint.

Use of renewable energy sources: Solar, wind, and geothermal energy, can provide a consistent and reliable source of energy. And while the upfront costs of installing renewable energy systems might be higher than traditional energy sources, the long-term savings can be substantial. Plus, renewable energy sources are better for the environment because they produce little to no greenhouse gas emissions and don’t pollute like fossil fuels.

Energy-efficient lighting and appliances: Something as simple asreplacing light bulbs with LEDs can reduce energy usage by 75%.

Energy-efficient lighting and appliances with high ENERGY STAR ratings consume significantly less energy than traditional alternatives, lasting up to 25 times longer than regular bulbs. This leads to lower electricity bills for hotels and less maintenance requirements.

Smart building automation and controls: Smart building systems leverage AI to connect your HVAC, lighting, and security systems to a monitoring system. When regulated, these systems help hotels optimize operations and reduce consumption. Another benefit is improved guest comfort. Smart building automation systems can remember guest preferences for lighting, temperature, and other settings, which guests can control via a mobile app or in-room tablet.

Water Conservation

Water conservation isn’t just about saving the energy required to heat, pump, or treat water. It also benefits the environment by keeping water within our rivers, bays, and estuaries. Here are a few Innovative water solutions for green initiatives in the hotel industry:

Low-flow fixtures and toilets help you conserve water and reduce costs within your hotel.

Hotels with water-efficient fixtures are more likely to meet the requirements for various environmental certifications, such as LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design), Green Key, or other sustainability standards.

Greywater recycling systems recycle and reuse water that has been used for \bathing, laundry, and handwashing. These systems treat and filter greywater, making it suitable for non-potable purposes within the hotel, ultimately reducing the amount of wastewater discharged into the sewer system or natural water bodies. And because many municipalities charge fees based on the volume of water that enters the sewer system, you can reduce sewer fees by recycling greywater.

Rainwater harvesting systems collect rainwater from roofs, which can be stored and used for non-potable purposes such as irrigation, toilet flushing, and cooling systems. In the same way that recycling greywater saves money and reduces waste, rainwater systems allow you to repurpose water and minimize your environmental impact.

Waste Management

Proper waste management helps reduce waste generation, promote recycling, and ensure responsible waste disposal.

Composting programs: According to the EPA, Food waste is the most common material landfilled and incinerated in the United States. And more than 85% of greenhouse gas emissions result from activities before disposal. Composting programs minimize food waste by turning natural waste into fertile soil that can be used to grow plants and crops. Composting programs are particularly useful for hotels with gardens.

Reduction of single-use plastics: Single-use plastics are hard to escape in hotels. Straws, coffee cup lids, bags, shampoo bottles: they all end up in the bin eventually and this is costly for our environment. In landfills, plastic breaks down into microplastics and pollutes our soil and waterways. To cut back on plastics, more hotels are opting for  refillable dispensers of shampoo, hand soap, and shower gel.

Recycling programs: In addition to cutting down on single-use plastics, recycling programs can help divert a larger percentage of plastics from landfills. If you’re worried guests won’t take to recycling programs, reports that 45% of travelers already recycle their waste when traveling.

Guest involvement and awareness

When it comes to implementing sustainable practices in the hotel industry, one effective tactic is to promote your sustainable hotel practices to guests. Educating guests and getting their buy-in is an important step in becoming more sustainable. Fortunately, 43% of travelers say that they are knowledgeable about sustainability. This increases the likelihood that they’ll understand the importance of your commitment to sustainability and commend you for it.

Before guests arrive on site, and during their stay, tell guests how they can contribute to your green initiatives. This could be done via a welcome letter or in-room signage.

Use email or guest messaging technology to provide information and links to useful resources. These might include tips on eco-friendly activities, local markets, and events.

Organize workshops, seminars, or presentations on sustainability topics, such as reducing plastic use, responsible tourism, and local environmental efforts. You could also offer eco-friendly guided tours that educate guests about local ecosystems, wildlife conservation, or sustainable farming practices.

The Undeniable Benefits of Sustainability in Hotels

Sustainability initiatives — like energy and water conservation, waste management and guest involvement and awareness — often help hotels cut costs. But with more travelers favoring sustainable businesses, implementing hotel sustainability trends on your property can lead to profit increases, too! This is because sustainability often leads to greater brand awareness and preferred guest preferences.

1. Greater Financial Performance

While some sustainable hotel practices may require upfront investments, many of thm generate long-term financial benefits. Here are a few ways sustainability in the hospitality industry helps you save money:

  • Reduced utility bills: Implementing energy-efficient lighting, HVAC systems, and appliances can significantly lower electricity and gas bills over time.
  • Operational optimization: Monitoring energy usage and making adjustments based on data can lead to efficient operations and reduced energy waste.
  • Lower water bills and sewer fees: Water-efficient fixtures, low-flow toilets, and rainwater harvesting systems can result in substantial water savings and decreased water expenses. Reduced water consumption often leads to lower sewer fees charged by municipalities.
  • Lower disposal costs: Implementing recycling and composting programs can lead to decreased waste disposal costs by diverting materials from landfills.
  • Reduced purchases: Opting for bulk amenities, refillable dispensers, and reusable products can reduce the need to purchase single-use items.

2. Better Brand Reputation and Competitive Advantage

Implementing sustainable measures, like becoming LEED certified, for example, can greatly impact how your brand is perceived. With the rising demand for sustainability, these measures can help you meet customer expectations and preferences.

Promoting sustainable initiatives can also attract eco-conscious travelers, setting you apart from your competitors. Here are a few ways sustainability can boost your brand reputation and give you a competitive advantage:

  • Ethical image: Embracing sustainability portrays your hotel as an ethical and responsible organization that cares about the environment, communities, and future generations.
  • Trust and transparency: Guests appreciate transparency in sustainable practices, increasing trust in your brand.
  • Unique selling point: Sustainability becomes a unique selling point that sets you apart from competitors in a crowded market.
  • Value proposition: Today’s guests want eco-friendly accommodations. Your sustainability efforts can be a significant factor in their decision-making process.

3. Long-term Viability and Resilience

No one knows what will happen in the future. But with climate change and global warming, sustainability can help you mitigate risks, and adapt to changing regulations and consumer demands. Here are a few ways sustainability plays a role in long-term viability and resilience:

  • Climate resilience: Sustainable measures improve your resilience to climate-related risks like flooding or extreme temperatures.
  • Resource availability: Efficient resource use ensures your hotel can operate during resource shortages, minimizing disruptions.
  • Crisis management: A positive public image as a responsible and sustainable hotel can help mitigate reputational damage during crises.
  • Strategic investment: Sustainability initiatives are part of a long-term investment strategy that yields long-term benefits.
  • Staff engagement: Sustainable initiatives can enhance employee satisfaction and morale, leading to a more dedicated workforce.

Five Examples of Sustainability in Hotels

Sustainability in the hotel industry is becoming more widespread — just look at these hotels making big strides in their path to greener pastures.

Days Inn by Wyndham Saskatoon

Days Inn by Wyndham Saskatoon uses Canary Digital Authorizations to help reduce paper waste and chargebacks: “Back when we used paper and PDF forms for credit card authorizations, we experienced a fair amount of chargebacks, and paid for them,” said Wolfe.

“Unfortunately, around $5,000 per year was normal. But after a short demonstration of Canary’s Digital Authorizations solution, we realized there was a way to proactively deal with the issue of chargebacks and decided to sign up.”

Find out how Canary could help you go paperless and reduce fraud.

Hotel Verde, South Africa

Known as "Africa's Greenest Hotel," Hotel Verde in Cape Town features energy-generating gym equipment, greywater recycling, vertical gardens, and a living green roof that provides insulation and reduces energy consumption.

The hotel is LEED Platinum certified—the first hotel to be certified in Africa—and received a platinum certification from the Heritage Environmental Management Program.

Accor's Planet 21 Initiative

Accor's Planet 21 initiative sets specific environmental and social targets for each of its hotels worldwide. This includes goals related to energy and water conservation goals waste reduction, sustainable sourcing of products, and supporting local communities.

The chain created three operational “pillars” to pave the way to Net Zero carbon emissions by 2050:

  • Stay: Reinforcing Sustainable Hotel Operations
  • Eat: Embracing a Sustainable Food Chain
  • Explore: Promoting the Local Ecosystem and New Ways of Traveling

Fairmont's Bee Sustainable Program

The Fairmont’s Bee Sustainable Program aims to “proactively protect their local environments.” Today, the brand has 20 honey bee apiaries and over 20 wild pollinator bee hotels at Fairmont locations worldwide.

According to Sharon Cohen, Vice President, Fairmont: “As the first luxury hotel brand to develop comprehensive onsite bee programming, Fairmont is an industry leader in the support of sustainable practices; the evolution of our continued commitment over the past 10 years with the creation of our Bee Sustainable initiative is no exception.”

The Sinclair, Autograph Collection - Fort Worth, Texas

The Sinclair uses smart technology (power-over-ethernet (PoE) technology) to optimize energy consumption. The hotel employs an AI-driven energy management system to regulate room temperatures and lighting based on occupancy and guest preferences.

The hotel estimates that its energy consumption has been reduced by 35% since switching to PoE.

Measuring Environmental Impact: Metrics for Sustainable Hospitality

As you introduce strategies for sustainable hotel practices at your property, it’s important to regularly measure their impact. These insights can help you optimize further, such as where you need to make additional improvements or the green initiatives guests appreciate most.

  1. Start by setting a base line and target. To monitor sustainability, establish metrics and performance indicators from which progress can be measured. For example, you might set a goal to reduce energy consumption by 10% or partner with three vendors that prioritize social responsibility.
  3. Leverage data analytics. Work with your team to create reporting systems and data trackers you’ll use to track performance over time.
  5. Measure results. Asses performance and make informed decisions using data. For example, by how much did your smart building systems reduce energy bills year-over-year? Did you reduce kilowatt-hours per guest? Using your ratings and reviews, did you see a spike in guest satisfaction after implementing green initiatives?
  7. Communicate improvements. As you receive results, tell the world about your successes via email, on social media and during your booking process. Guests want to support sustainable businesses, and the more they know about your hotel, the more they’ll want to stay with you.


Sustainability is becoming increasingly important forthe hospitality industry by the day. With the frightening results of climate change, travelers are looking for ways to reduce their environmental impact. This means they’re more critical of where they spend money and which businesses they support.

Next up, discover the latest innovative solutions to hotel problems.

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