As demonstrated by the backlash against plastic waste, like drinking straws, consumers are becoming increasingly aware of how their buying choices can affect the environment. For meetings and events planners, this means thinking about how to make environmentally sustainable choices and minimize waste.
Forty-one percent of waste goes into the garbage, and only thirty-five percent is recycled, according to sustainability specialist Shawna McKinley. This means that the average 1,000 attendee, 3-day conference generates 5,600 kg—that’s over 12,345 pounds—of trash and 3,480 kg (7,672 pounds) of that ends up in a landfill.
Meeting and event attendees now expect more sustainable events, and hotels and planners are looking for solutions that rate high on sustainability but don’t compromise the M&E experience or max out the budget.
Here are 6 green approaches for hotels to consider implementing in 2019:
Ditch the Plastic—but not in Landfills
Hilton announced it would be eliminating plastic straws at all its properties, and plastic water bottles in some regions, by the end of 2018. The hotel chain isn’t the only one trying to minimize use of plastic—Marriot International and Hyatt Regency will also be eliminating categories of single-use plastic.
Plastic food packaging and serving containers, utensils, and straws can all be replaced by items that don’t need to be trashed or can be composted. Instead of offering bottled water, set up drink stations with reusable glasses.
Getting rid of plastic at events can end up a win-win for the environment and for planners and venues, saving money in the long run by re-using glasses and utensils is an initial investment that will pay off handsomely in down-the-road savings.
Manage Food Waste
Everyone wants to offer a good spread, but so much of that food often gets trashed at the end of an event. Expect planners to ask about managing food waste and your hotel’s policy to manage it.
The big tips:
- Lessen the amount of buffets you offer because they can increase food waste
- Partner with a local food bank or social services organization that can redistribute leftovers to those in need
- Identify the kitchen waste can that be upcycled into new food products
- Institute a composting policy
Bonus points if a conference facility has its own garden where compost can be used to improve the soil.
One example of a hotel brand that is focusing on food waste is Hilton Hotels, which has been experimenting with food waste reduction throughout its international properties, including smaller portions, more accurate food ordering, repurposing, donating, and even installing food waste digesters. Different types of food waste digesters break down biodegradable waste into water and compost, which can then be used for landscaping and even energy.
One recent pilot project from AHLA and the World Wildlife Fund, and supported by The Rockefeller Foundation, helped hotels decrease food waste by implementing a range of activities, including training staff, sorting waste, and food donation. The results from the pilot found that waste decreased by 10% and cost savings increased by 3%-plus.
Go Paperless as Much as Possible
Digital check-ins aren’t just a wonderful convenience at meetings and events, they’re also paper-savers. But so much material at the average conference is still printed and then trashed after the event. Conference apps are becoming more popular, and they’re both convenient and paper-free.
In the office, this means getting rid of that legacy paper-dependent payment system for meetings and events and switching to a cloud-based platform that provides a long-term cost savings for operations. Fintech has come a long way to support green initiatives in the payments space, including the Onyx CenterSource industry-first, cloud-based meetings and events payment platform, GroupPay. Switching to an automated, consolidated payment platform not only alleviates a lot of the manual tasks and time associated with payment, it’s good for your business—no more tree-eating paper checks—and your payees and the planet will appreciate fewer car trips to the bank.
Find Smart Ways to Conserve Water
When Cape Town was in danger of running out of water earlier this year, hotels were quick to step up with water-saving actions that didn’t disrupt guests’ experience, like limiting shower times, installing low-flow showerheads and faucets, encouraging the use of hand sanitizer, and washing linens less often.
While this is a dire example of water conservation, minimizing guests’ water usage has become a focus for hotels and event properties that are in climates prone to drought, like California. San Francisco’s Argonaut Hotel water systems reduce annual water use by 15%, the InterContinental San Francisco has low-flow toilets and faucets, and the South San Francisco Conference Center has replanted its gardens with drought-tolerant species.
Solar Roofs Save in More Than One Way
Earlier this year, the Los Angeles Convention Center added to its megawatts with a new solar array, a collection of 6,228 solar panels on its roof, bringing the total to 2.58 megawatts and generating enough annual power to cover almost 20% of the Center’s usage. The Center even has a dashboard showing the energy generated and environmental creds of its solar project.
Hotels that installed solar roof panels quickly saved money on energy—another argument for green energy.
Think Green for Your Purchases
Green purchasing is a policy of buying supplies that are good for the planet. The Henry B. González Convention Center in San Antonio, Texas, practices green purchasing, which means buying recyclable, compostable, reusable products, like green cleaning products, towels made from recycled source materials, and biodegradable garbage bags.
As hospitality leaders, we must all do our part to support a greener environment. An upfront cost today, could be a long-term investment in your property that pays off in the long run, from conserving wasteful spend to finding new brand advocates for your hotel.
What are you doing to conserve our planet from a hospitality perspective? Let us know in the comments.