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Hotels claim balance-sheet benefits of a lighter carbon footprint

Written by: Alexa Stone

Paris Climate Agreement goals are as clear as they are challenging. Global temperatures must not increase more than 1.5° Celsius (2.7° Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial levels. The consequences are no less clear. They range from storms and rising sea levels to drought and extreme heat. Essential to avoiding those perils, greenhouse gas emission must be reduced to zero.[1]
A hotel industry group, the International Tourism Partnership has determined that annual emissions must be vastly reduced from 2010 levels. They target a 90% per room greenhouse gas reduction by 2050.[2]

What’s being done?

The hospitality industry can reduce its carbon footprint even while more properties are being built and more guests are being accommodated. These strategies brought recognition, guest appreciation, and balance sheet benefit to hotels and resorts in 2019:

  • Resilient renovations

    The recycling and reuse of furnishings limits replacement costs while shrinking the property’s carbon footprint. Fewer purchased goods are transported to the hotel, and less waste is hauled from it.[3]

    A renovation project can create a fresher, healthier guest experience while minimize the property’s carbon footprint. Sustainable choices in fixtures and furniture reduce the off-gassing of volatile organic compounds.[4]

  • Solar-powered properties

    Why bring solar power to a single building, when an entire resort can run on free energy from the sun? A 7.4-acre resort in the Maldives is powered by rooftop solar panels. This led the way for other hotels in the island chain who have installed solar panels at their properties.

    Beyond enjoying cost savings, resorts may sell excess power to their utility companies. Some U.S. states provide tax credits for solar investments. Power Purchase Agreements (PPA) may be available, limiting the capital outlay. With a PPA, a third-party delivers zero-carbon solar power at a contracted price and allows any tax benefits to be passed along. Savings on taxes and utility bills can be redirected to upgrades that enhance the guest experience.[5]

  • Innovative architecture

    A green roof blankets the wintry chill at an underground parking garage for a hotel in Canada. That reduces the need for carbon-powered heating. In summer, the inside temperature is moderated as the living surface absorbs stormwater runoff. Quality of life is improved year-round as pollutants, including noise pollutants, are filtered.[6]

    Modular rooms for a New York City hotel are being prefabricated to minimize waste while dramatically streamlining construction efficiency. When the hotel opens in 2020, the improved insulation between rooms will save energy and provide a quieter space.[7]

  • Smart guest room technology

    A property’s carbon footprint can be reduced when occupancy sensors verify that a checkout is complete. In the vacant room, smart thermostats adjust room temperature and turn off light fixtures and the television. Maintenance and repairs become more efficient, using less energy, when sensors detect electrical and water system problems.[2]

  • Paperless systems

    Less paper means less waste. Fewer trees are felled and a lighter load of supplies is shipped. All of these are steps toward carbon neutrality.

    A truly paperless system integrates guest-facing and property management capabilities. It centrally manages folios, payments, receipts, and invoices. Services can be marketed, reserved, and paid through the guest application. Payroll can be managed electronically, and supplies ordered through business-to-business web services.[8]

  • Farm-to-table restaurants

    In many hotels and resorts, chefs source their menus locally. Guests can enjoy fresh produce brought in from a nearby farm. Closer food sources mean fewer transportation miles and less diesel fuel sent to the atmosphere.

    The trend seems profitable as well as environmentally friendly. Food industry research projected that 2019 would see $20 billion in local foods sales. That’s a 400% increase over 2008 levels.[9]

Exploring sustainability and wellness

Westin Grand Bohemian Hotel

The 2019 Sustainable Hospitality Summit[10] will present a full day of exploring the Intersection of Health and Hospitality. U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) hosts the event on September 20th.

Learn how the hospitality industry is reducing its footprint. Sessions will focus on design strategies in response to climate risks, how carbon emissions and waste can be reduced, and what the hospitality industry can do to promote healthy communities.

Other sessions will focus on the guest perspective, including wellness experiences, gender inclusion, and sustainable storytelling.

On this third year of the summit, the event will be held at Orlando’s Westin Grand Bohemian Hotel, a recipient of the USGBC LEED Gold award.

As hotels and resorts become more resilient, they also promote health, wellness for their guests. A recent article shares how that is being done through amenities, expanded services, and functional design.

[1] — World Research Institute
[7] — Opinion
[10] – Sustainable Hospitality Summit information and registration


Mital Hall

Vice President

At ecoPreserve, Mital leads all sustainability projects and Smart Cities initiatives. Her skillset is the result of more than 15 years of sustainable development experience that includes work with universities, local/state/federal governments, and businesses.