3 Sustainability Efforts That Are On the Rise in the Hospitality Industry


ore and more, travelers are choosing lodging that aligns with their values, and one of the most important is sustainability. In fact, a recent study showed that as many as 81 percent of global travelers say that environmentally sustainable travel is important – that’s not a number that any hotelier can ignore.

And while “going green” isn’t by any stretch a new concept, what it means in 2023 looks different than it did in the movement’s early years. Pressure from both the traveling public and the competition is on the upswing, leading many properties to change from offering eco-friendly basics to planning full strategies around sustainability.

The hotels leading the charge are going all in, with some even making their way toward net-zero emissions. What can you do to make sure you’re staying ahead of the game? Here’s what’s trending:

1. Renewable Energy

This is a big step toward the goal of carbon neutrality. Forward-thinking properties are researching and investing in this evolving technology, and it may not be as cost-prohibitive as you imagine. The options for renewable energy are growing beyond the traditional solar and wind power to include power sources like:

  • Geothermal Heating and Cooling: Geothermal energy utilizes the Earth’s natural heat to provide efficient heating and cooling solutions. Hotels can use geothermal systems for space heating, water heating, and air conditioning. And because the entire system is buried beneath the ground, it doesn’t create any aesthetic challenges.
  • Hydropower: Hotels situated near bodies of water can explore hydropower options, such as small-scale hydroelectric generators, to produce electricity from flowing water. Imagine an old-timey grist mill with a working water wheel to power the machinery, times a million.
  • Biomass and Biofuels: Some hotels use biomass, such as wood chips or agricultural waste, to generate heat or electricity. Additionally, biofuels, such as biodiesel or ethanol, can be used in hotel vehicles or backup generators. (Cue the Willie Nelson music!)
  • Combined Heat and Power (CHP) Systems: These innovative systems, also known as cogeneration systems, produce both electricity and useful heat at the same time, all from a single energy source. At hotels, CHPs can be used to generate electricity while utilizing waste heat for space heating or hot water.
  • Energy Storage: Hotels may invest in energy storage solutions, such as batteries, to store excess energy generated from renewable sources. Stored energy can be used during peak demand times or when renewable energy generation is low.
  • Off-Grid Solutions: Some properties’ main amenity is their out-of-the-way location, which can make renewable energy a challenge. However, some hotels are getting around connectivity issues with off-grid solutions that combine renewable energy sources, like solar and wind, with energy storage and backup generators to ensure a reliable power supply.
  • Green Power Purchase Agreements (PPAs): Much like hosted internet service or website maintenance, you can enter into agreements to purchase renewable energy from third-party providers. This provides an opportunity to support renewable energy projects and reduce your hotel’s carbon footprint, especially if you don’t have the technology to generate renewable energy on-site.
  • Innovative Designs: Some hotels are incorporating sustainability into their aesthetic with innovative architectural and design elements that optimize renewable energy generation. Some recent trends include incorporating passive solar design principles or building-integrated photovoltaics, or BIPV. (Click the links to delve into technical explanations for each.)

2. Plastic Reduction and Elimination

This growing trend can bring substantial relief to our oceans and landfills. Most commonly, the calls to action for waste reduction include discontinuing single-use plastics, replacing single-use shampoo bottles with reusable pumps, investing in low-flush toilets, and laundering linens less often. But are there other ways to reduce your footprint? Here are some strategies to consider:

  • Water Filtration: One way to eliminate the need for plastic water bottles is to install water filtration systems in guest rooms and common areas to ensure safe and clean drinking water. As a bonus amenity, you can even provide your guests with reusable bottles at check-in.
  • Composting and Recycling: If you want your guests and staff to recycle as often as possible, make it as easy as possible. Set up effective, clearly defined waste separation systems for composting and recycling, train staff, educate guests about proper waste disposal practices, and then offer incentives like restaurant discounts to encourage participation.
  • Food and Beverage Service: Ditch your traditional single-use dinnerware for reusable or biodegradable plates, to-go containers, and utensils. You can even take it a step further by opting for bulk options when it comes to individually packaged condiments.
  • Plastic-Free Packaging: Beyond the products actually used by guests and staff, you can also help reduce plastic by sourcing products that come in plastic-free packaging. (This strategy can be a double win for the environment if your vendors switch to this type of packaging to remain competitive.)

3. Linen Rental

Outsourcing your property’s inventory and maintenance of bed linens, towels, cloth napkins, and other textile products may seem counterintuitive at first, but partnering with a third party to provide a steady supply of clean, high-quality linens comes with a number of environmental benefits:

  • Water Conservation: Linen rental services typically use industrial-sized washing machines that are more water-efficient than smaller, in-house laundry machines. This process reduces the overall water consumption required for cleaning hotel linens.
  • Energy Efficiency: Industrial laundry facilities are designed for energy efficiency, so they use advanced technology and larger loads to reduce energy consumption vs. traditional hotel laundry operations.
  • Chemical Use Reduction: Professional linen rental services often employ advanced laundry techniques and chemicals optimized for cleaning and stain removal. This can lead to a reduction in the overall use of detergents and harsh chemicals, which is better for both the environment and the health of staff.
  • Reduced Waste: Linen rental services typically have better control over inventory management, leading to reduced linen waste and a longer lifespan for linens. This minimizes the need for constant replacement, saving resources and reducing waste.
  • Collaboration with Sustainable Suppliers: Many linen rental companies offer eco-friendly options, such as organic cotton or recycled materials, allowing hotels to align their linen choices with their sustainability goals.
  • Certifications and Standards: Reputable linen rental companies likely adhere to environmental standards and certifications, giving hotels the assurance that their linens are being cleaned and maintained in an environmentally responsible manner.

It’s true that some of these projects require a significant investment up front, or just aren’t possible due to a hotel’s location or available resources. When determining whether one of these strategies is right for you, it’s important to weigh the initial cost against the long-term benefits, like improved energy security, enhanced brand reputation, and making a positive impact on local communities and ecosystems.

At Hawthorn Creative, we have a team of strategists and consultants with years of experience in the hospitality industry to help you make the best decisions for your property.


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