The Increasing Importance of Sustainability in Hotels

Bryan Michalis
Bryan Michalis
September 22, 2023
August 18, 2023
The Increasing Importance of Sustainability in Hotels

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

It’s not just about giving back to nature. According to a survey, 80% of travelers say sustainability is important to them. And 74% believe people need to act now. Adopting more eco-friendly business practices could mean more business in the long run.

How you act is up to you. Whether you implement a recycling program, plant more pollinator-friendly flowers, or install solar panels, travelers will appreciate the effort you put in.

Environmental Sustainability in Hotels

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.

Energy Conservation

Energy is one of the biggest expenditures for hotels, not to mention the impact it has on the environment. Conserving energy saves you money and increases your bottom line—while reducing your carbon footprint.

  • Use of renewable energy sources

Renewable energy sources, such as 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 compared to traditional energy sources, the long-term savings can be substantial.

Renewable energy also reduces your carbon footprint and minimizes the negative impact on the environment. They produce little to no greenhouse gas emissions and don’t pollute like fossil fuels.

  • Energy-efficient lighting and appliances

Did you know that replacing light bulbs with LEDs can reduce energy usage by 75%, and can last up to 25 times longer than regular bulbs?

Energy-efficient lighting, such as LED bulbs, and appliances that have high Energy Star ratings consume significantly less energy than traditional alternatives. This leads to lower electricity bills for hotels. These types of bulbs or appliances typically have longer lifespans which reduces the need for frequent replacements and maintenance.

Energy-efficient options also produce less heat, leading to reduced air conditioning costs and air quality improvement.

  • Smart building automation systems

A smart building automation system allows you to control a wide range of aspects within your hotel, including water pressure, HVAC, lighting, and temperature. These systems have significant benefits for hotels, including optimized energy consumption and operational efficiency.

Another benefit is improved guest comfort. Smart building automation systems can remember guest preferences for lighting, temperature, and other settings. Guests can control settings via a mobile app or in-room tablet, for example, to change settings to their liking.

Water conservation initiatives

Water conservation isn’t just about saving energy required to heat, pump, or treat it. Saving water also benefits the environment by keeping it within our rivers, bays, and estuaries.

  • Low-flow fixtures and toilets

Low-flow fixtures and toilets help you conserve water and reduce costs within your hotel. They are designed to use significantly less water than traditional fixtures while still providing adequate performance.

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

Greywater recycling systems recycle and reuse water that has been used for activities like bathing, laundry, and handwashing. These systems treat and filter greywater, making it suitable for non-potable purposes within the hotel.

These systems decrease the amount of wastewater that needs to be treated and discharged into the sewer system or natural water bodies. Many municipalities charge fees based on the volume of water that enters the sewer system. By recycling greywater, hotels can reduce their sewer fees.

  • Rainwater harvesting

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.

There are multiple benefits of rainwater harvesting, including:

  • Reduced strain on municipal water supply
  • Less stormwater runoff, helping to prevent erosion, reduce flooding, and mitigate the pollution of natural water bodies.
  • Lower water bills and sewer fees

Waste management strategies

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

  • 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. Instead, hotels should look to composting programs to minimize food waste.

Composting is the process of turning natural waste (such as food and yard trimmings) 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 landfill, plastic breaks down into microplastics and pollutes our soil and waterways.

Reducing your use of single-use plastics can reduce the amount of waste that ends up in landfills and our oceans. Hotels could, for example, opt 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

Educating and getting buy-in from guests 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.

  • Provide information to guests

Before and at the start of your guests’ stays, it’s a good idea to let them know about your sustainability initiatives and how they can contribute during their stay. This could be done via a welcome letter or in-room signage.

  • Digital communication

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.

  • Sustainability 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 Cost-saving Benefits of Sustainability

Sustainability initiatives—like energy and water conservation, waste management, and guest involvement and awareness—can lead to cost savings for hotels.

While some sustainable practices may require upfront investments, many of them generate long-term financial benefits. Here are a few ways sustainability results in cost-savings:

  • 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: Water-efficient fixtures, low-flow toilets, and rainwater harvesting systems can result in substantial water savings and decreased water expenses.
  • Sewer fees: 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.

Brand Reputation and Competitive Advantage

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

Promoting your 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, leading to increased 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: Guests increasingly seek eco-friendly accommodations. Your sustainability efforts can be a significant factor in their decision-making process.

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, such as 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 benefits over time.
  • Staff Engagement: Sustainable initiatives can enhance employee satisfaction and morale, leading to a more dedicated workforce.

Five Examples of Sustainability in Hotels

Days Inn by Wyndham Saskatoon

Days Inn by Wyndham Saskatoon uses Canary Digital Authorizations to help cut down on 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, 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.

Because of their switch to PoE, the hotel estimates that they’ve made a 35% reduction in energy consumption.


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

In short, sustainable initiatives can have a positive impact on the environment, local communities, and your bottom line.

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

Learn How Canary Can Help Your Properties Thrive

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