Sustainability expert and travel writer based in London.

Independent Hotel Show Thought Series: Go green and save

Independent Hotel Show Thought Series: Go green and save


We spoke to Holly about how going green can be a significant money saver, and how to do it effectively. Interview conducted and published by the Independent Hotel Show, February 2015 

What are the key trends in sustainability / eco for independent, luxury and boutique hotels hotels to consider? As consumers become increasingly savvy about green wash and genuine about their expectations when it comes to sustainability, hotels are responding with serious sustainability strategies*. With more and more examples of independent hotels going green, it’s not taking long for the word to spread that being sustainable is cost effective. Consequently sustainability is creeping into core business models and is no longer seen as purely marketing and PR.

For example, heating alone can account for 60% of a hotel’s energy costs. It makes good business sense to look into reducing these kind of figures as much as possible whether through long term investment and renewables or taking simple steps to reduce energy consumption. At the same time guests increasingly look for sustainable features (whether they realise it or not) - organic linen, homemade products, refurbished furniture, refitted buildings, locally sourced food, natural materials etc. For a small hotel recognising this is vital. Embedding sustainability in your offer will often improve the guest experience.

*A TripAdvisor survey revealed that more than a quarter (26%) of European travellers actively made eco-friendly travel choices in the last 12 months, and a third (33%) plan to do so in the next 12 months. The survey also revealed that nearly one in ten European travellers (9%) say they have chosen to stay at a particular hotel because of their green policies.

What’s more important for the sector - eco or sustainability? How do they differ? They mean different things to different people! To me, eco means anything to do with the environment, whereas sustainability encompasses a broader range of issues - looking at a hotel’s dealings with humans, communities, supply chains etc.

Both are important but from a marketing perspective can be perceived quite differently. Being an ‘eco hotel’ has in the past be seen as a very definite label - natural resources, drawing on nature, minimal footprint etc., whereas talking about ‘sustainability’ can be more subtle and holistic.

What do customers expect in terms of eco/sustainability? Customers want a clever balancing act. Most opt for independent or boutique hotels because they are looking for a property with personality or a more unique experience. Sustainability can be cleverly woven with these two things but it has to be genuine and no one wants worthiness hammered home every step of the way. That said, more and more customers expect hotels to do their bit when it comes to sustainability (see TripAdvisor survey results above).

Which hotels are leading the way? Do you have any examples across the sectors?

Green House Hotel in Bournemouth is very impressive when it comes to the whole green package. This hotel is great living proof that sustainable interiors can be very boutique - everything from the paint, wallpaper, carpet, furniture has a sustainable story and the hotel feels all the better for it. The Scarlet in Cornwall is also top of the pack when it comes to delivering luxury sustainably - including car pools for staff.

There are lots of examples of hotels getting serious about food miles - Green House Hotel, Combe House Hotel, The Traddock, Strattons to name a few and hotels that are serious about making their restaurants as sustainable as possible - Zetter Town House, The Savoy.

Beechenhill Farm B&B really stands out when it comes to commitment, education and investment, as does the tiny little Welsh hotel Bryn Elltyd. International examples include Kasbah du Toubkal in Morocco for working alongside the local community, Soneva Resorts and Nikoi Island for genuine commitment to be as sustainable as possible whilst delivering a luxury service and Arthur Hotels in Copenhagen have some impressive carbon-zero ambitions. There’s lots to be learnt from big and small hotels all over the world when it comes to sustainability.

Find our more in Green Hotelier’s Best Practice Case Studies

What are the key areas of waste and how can you alleviate them? It is surprisingly easy to reduce waste in almost every area of a hotel. Food is where all hotels should start - there’s no excuse for food waste from a financial and ethical perspective. In the UK, food waste represents a huge cost to the hotel sector - £318 million each year including food procurement, labour, utilities and waste management costs. For independent and smaller hotels the most cost effective way of reducing food waste is through active measurement and good staff training. Strattons, an independent hotel in Norfolk managed to save £16,000 a year by reducing food and packaging waste. Green Hotelier produced a Know How Guide on reducing food waste in hotels earlier in the year and it’s one of our most read resources. Organisations like WRAP and the Sustainable Restaurant Association are a great place to start for resources or consultancy.

Water usage is another key area that all hotels should focus on and it involves much more than just bathrooms - kitchens, pools, grounds, laundry, bar obviously all play a large role too. Water accounts for 10% of the bottom line in most hotels so there’s a financial incentive here too. If retrofitting or embarking on a new build hotels should look to install water efficiency systems from the outset. Grey water treatment systems and low-flow technology can each reduce water waste by 50%. If investing in new technology is not an option then a simple water management plan can make huge savings simply by maintaining leaks more regularly.

Slum tours and eco islands lead the way at the Tourism for Tomorrow awards

Slum tours and eco islands lead the way at the Tourism for Tomorrow awards

The soul of Singapore

The soul of Singapore