Going (More) Zero Waste in the Hotel Industry

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zero waste plastics

Sustainability and a green economy are incredibly vital to keeping the planet safe. That’s why more and more industries are embracing zero waste ideas. Of course, such ideas are not exactly new. In fact, try googling ‘who started zero waste’ or something similar. You will learn that people have been actively reusing and proto-upcycling products since Antiquity. Coincidentally (or perhaps not coincidentally at all), Antiquity is also when we see the first instances of commercial lodging for travelers. In other words, civilizations like Ancient Rome and Ancient Japan had the earliest hotels known to man.

So, both hotels and zero waste ideas have a long history, but it’s only recently that the hotel industry has started to embrace green ideas with open arms. Not only are these ideas great for keeping things eco-friendly, but they can also greatly benefit your business. So, if you happen to own or want to own a hotel, you might want to give this article a read. In it, we will lay out some of the ways in which the hotel industry is reducing the waste that it creates. It’s difficult and time-consuming work, but it will definitely pay off in the long run.

How Hotels Go Zero Waste in 2021

Gardens for Recycling Organic Waste

Some hotels, like the Radisson Blu Aqua Hotel in Chicago, have their own rooftop gardens. They use these gardens to make their own produce and green the space up a bit. That’s already a great eco-friendly strategy, but if you want to go zero waste, you can take it one step further.

Lots of hotel food gets wasted, thrown away, or spoils. So, instead of throwing it all away, you can compost it and use it in a rooftop garden. It’s a perfect little circular strategy that can sustain a hotel for years. You can also try to compost other materials, such as all-natural DIY soap or shampoo.

Eliminating Plastic

Hotels often offer toiletries that come in single-use plastic packaging. The perfect example of that is those tiny bottles of shampoo and conditioner. Most of these packages end up in landfills, producing thousands of tons of waste. Hotel owners are more than aware of that fact, which is why hotels around the world are slowly phasing out single-use plastic in bathrooms. Some simply opt to use shampoo dispensers and refill them as necessary.

Of course, as a hotel owner, you can go beyond the bathroom when it comes to plastic elimination. For example, you can completely limit the use of plastic water bottles and offer your guests some biodegradable alternatives. Furthermore, installing a drinking water fountain is also a good idea. You can go even further and eliminate the use of plastic cutlery, offering your guests items made of metal or wood. Don’t forget to limit the use of plastic straws by making them an option instead of a requirement. In other words, have your guests ask for a straw if they need one.

Upcycling Old Furniture

As odd as it might sound, even a huge hotel can make use of old, discarded items. In fact, hotels and restaurants often hire artists and craftspeople who can create interesting furniture from discarded shapes and materials.

Millions of tons of furniture end up in landfills in the US alone. That’s millions of pieces of furniture that a hotel can purchase for a low price, refurbish, and reuse in creative ways. In fact, the used furniture can actually help promote your hotel. Visitors love seeing a bespoke, niche hotel with rustic-looking old pieces of furniture. It gives the place a relaxed, natural vibe that sticks with customers for a long time. The best thing about upcycled furniture is that you can always recycle it once it’s past its ‘shelf life’ and get a new batch of old items from a thrift store or a reseller.

Reusing Old Cloth

Furniture is not the only thing hotels can upcycle. When decorating your hotel, you can always buy old or used fabrics and find creative ways to use them in your hotel. Of course, if you can’t find the fabrics you need and require your items to be brand new, at least make sure you’re buying environmentally friendly material. Such eco-friendly fabrics include:

  • Tencel
  • Hemp
  • Jute
  • Linen
  • Bamboo
  • Organic cotton
  • Recycled wool
  • Organic wool
  • Silk
  • Ramie
  • Synderme
  • Vegan leather

You can easily donate, reuse, or recycle any of the materials on this list. In fact, you can also donate other types of fabric, such as your employees’ old uniforms or old upholstery. If you’d like, you can contact local artists and designers so they can turn old uniforms into home decor art pieces. The ideas are endless.

Donating to Charity

At some point, items in your hotel will get old. Beds, sofas, chairs, lamps, tables, nightstands, and even clothes — all of those can and should be reused if they are in a good enough condition. So, consider keeping in touch with your local charity organizations and donate everything you can. In fact, you can even donate excess food to the less fortunate instead of throwing it away or composting it. You can even encourage the local community and the guests themselves to join a donation drive and help you with the process.

And speaking of encouragement…

Get the Guests Involved

There are plenty of ways you can educate your guests about zero waste living and maintain an eco-friendly atmosphere at the hotel. Place recycle bins for different materials in strategic spots all over the hotel. Provide plenty of pamphlets and other literature on the zero waste economy. Include hotel activities that specifically include certain zero waste elements. The sky’s the limit, as they say.

Final Thoughts

There are more than a few hotels out there that have invested in green, eco-friendly zero waste programs. Some combine it with the use of alternative energy sources (solar panels, wind turbines, etc.), while others have some sort of in-hotel recycling systems. As a final aside, you don’t have to worry about doing everything listed in this article at once. Going zero waste is a long-term process that will require a lot of trial and error. But in the end, it will result in satisfied guests, increased revenue for you, and, most importantly, a clean, healthy environment.

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