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How the Hospitality Industry Is Adapting to Greener Initiatives

How Going Green Enhances the Guest Experience and Saves Hotels Money

Rapid climate change, ocean degradation and other major environmental issues have been threatening us for decades. In recent years, major corporations have been taking strides to become greener in their operations and how they distribute their products and services.

The hospitality industry is no exception. From upscale boutique hotels to the most well-known chains, hotels across Canada are making a conscious effort to go green. This can be done in a variety of ways, big or small. Hotel staff and guests alike are often blown away at how cost-effective it can be and how it can, in fact, enhance the guest experience.

In this article, we will explore the evolution of environmentally conscious hotels and how they’re adapting to greener ways of operating from day-to-day to more significant internal processes.




How hotels impact the environment

When it comes to the negative environmental impact of the hospitality industry, there are three main contributors: energy, water and waste.

Believe it or not, hotels contribute 60 million tons of CO2 emissions in Canada every year. This is due in part to wasteful practices on the part of staff and administration, but also because often, hotels fail to provide adequate, sustainable options for guests during their stay.


On average, hotels use more energy per visitor than local residents. This makes sense, as the rooms are generally more spacious, and most hotels include additional amenities like bars, pools and restaurants. Aside from being bad for the environment, this amount of energy expenditure can be extremely costly.

A few minor adjustments can actually lead to massive cost savings, without diminishing the guests’ experience.


When it comes to hotel amenities, clean, hot water is a must for guests. Swimming pools, golf courses, guest rooms and even landscaped gardens require an enormous amount of water to maintain. More indirectly, industries that hotels rely on, such as agriculture, depend heavily on water as well.

Being conscious of their water consumption and investing in technology to limit it would go a long way in reducing a hotel’s environmental footprint – and their water bill!


Waste production is one of the most serious and visible contributors to the degradation of our environment. Studies show that hotel and restaurant waste contributes to almost 30 per cent of total waste generated across Canada.

Making a consistent effort to recycle and limit their use of single-use plastics can dramatically reduce the amount of waste a hotel produces.

Why hotels should go green

Many hotels are learning to adjust their practices in order to appeal to an increasingly eco-conscious customer base. Today, going green is essential for a number of reasons, including customer loyalty, cost savings and, most importantly, reducing their environmental footprint.

Most guests will be more likely to choose a green hotel, where they will feel secure that they are doing their part to help the environment. Not to mention, more often than not, green practices end up saving hotels money in the long-term.

Sustainability strategies for hotels

Installing energy-saving technologies

Not only can investing in energy-efficient tech sustain the guest experience, often these technologies can even enhance it! While this may seem like a large expense at first, hotels usually notice significant long-term savings and, ultimately, a smaller eco-footprint.

These technologies can be found in central operations like boilers and water heaters, as well as lighting systems, kitchen equipment, and automated energy management systems.

Sustainable options for guests

Hotels can redesign their guest experience to encourage customers to apply adaptive behaviours during their stay. For example, replacing the mini-fridge, coffee machine and other individual amenities in their rooms with a communal area in an open guest space is an increasingly popular way to conserve water and energy.

Hotels can give guests more opportunities to choose sustainable options by placing recycle bins in each room and offering incentives to pass on non-essential daily services like housekeeping. Guests should also have the option to opt-in for reusable linens and towels or light keys.

Tesla-friendly parking

More and more guests are using electric vehicles or hybrids, and the hospitality industry should be accommodating of this. Guests will be more likely to choose a hotel that offers an adequate number of charging stations in their parking lots.

Embracing recycling, reducing plastic and food waste

Hotels can actively cut down on the waste they produce by implementing recycling programs, using items made out of recycled products and recycling goods within the hotel. For example, many hotels are now recycling stained tablecloths into laundry bags, napkins, chef’s aprons and neckties. Switching to steel straws or glass cups, containers and bottles limits single-use plastics, and many hotels are starting to compost their food waste!

While these initiatives are useful, they don’t work if guests are unaware. Keep the lines of communication open between guests and staff and advertise your recycling programs and other eco-friendly initiatives on cards in each guest room.

Energy and water conservation efforts

To reduce their water and energy consumption, hotels implement policies and technologies that will limit water and energy consumption. In addition to encouraging guests to be mindful of their water and towel usage, some properties are turning to innovations such as showers that filter their own water in order to conserve water, or motion lights in hallways and communal areas.

Hotels can also incorporate sustainability into their design, a useful tip for new properties and hotels looking to expand. Using local construction materials and labour, prioritizing energy management and lower emissions during construction and introducing life-cycle management into the building process are all useful practices.

Support local, sustainable businesses

Hotels, tourism and local communities feed off and depend on each other to thrive. By shopping local and purchasing environmentally friendly products from their suppliers, a hotel can significantly reduce the amount of waste they generate while benefitting the local economy.

By choosing local vendors to supply food, linens, dishes, cleaning products and more, hotels can be confident that their money is going back into the community that supports them. Guests will take comfort in that knowledge, as well. Many local vendors will offer eco-friendly alternatives to common products (such as reusable linens) that will supplement a hotel’s other environmental initiatives.

Green Rankings: How Do They Benefit Hotels?

‘Green Rankings’ are an initiative that was started by world-renowned hotel search website TripAdvisor, in an effort to recognize environmentally friendly hotels and B&Bs.

Green Rankings operate on a four-level scale: Bronze, silver, gold and platinum badges based on the answers they provide on TripAdvisor’s Green Practices survey. All participating hotels and B&Bs must meet a minimum set of requirements to be considered for the program – these are known as GreenLeaders.

Meeting the needs of eco-conscious travellers

More and more, travellers are looking for ways to reduce their environmental impact. This includes the hotels they stay at. To put it simply, conscientious travellers will be more likely to stay at conscientious hotels.

That being said, most customers who seek these features are still looking for the right price. Staying competitive in this complex market is difficult, but many environmental initiatives are easy on the wallet and actually end up saving the properties money in the long run.

Longer-term monetary savings

Maximizing profit is important for any business, and sometimes bringing in more revenue at less cost seems like a pipedream. However, investment in eco-friendly initiatives and programs not only attracts more customers, but more savings as well.

Over time, many green technologies can actually become self-funding by reducing the operating costs of the hotel. For example, switching to high-efficiency LED lights costs a tenth of the price of incandescent lightbulbs, while generating the same amount of light.

Conforming to new environmental regulations

Canadian policymakers have taken notice of the urgent desire to protect the Earth’s environment, passing new laws and regulations that promote sustainability in supply chains and limit pollution, especially from major corporations. In some cases, new regulations are passed in response to a specific emergency, such as a drought. These are often temporary but can be unexpected.

Many hotels are blindsided by new regulations that impose environmental restrictions. By implementing green technologies and methods in advance, green hotels are staying ahead of the game. They are better prepared, and when a new regulation is passed, the adjustments required are usually minimal.


The Bottom Line

It’s easy to underestimate the difference one hotel can make in the grand scheme of things. The hospitality industry is one of the largest sectors in Canada, employing over 600,000 people across the country. You may be thinking, ‘what difference can one hotel make?’

But imagine this – what would happen if each hotel made even the smallest effort to go green? Collective change always begins with the efforts of individual players.

When going green, it’s essential that employees and guests alike are well-informed and working as a team. There are a variety of things a hotel can do to make a difference for our planet, and the many benefits speak for themselves. Who knows, maybe these green practices will transfer over to the staff and guests’ personal lives as well?