By Kerry Medina
Cape Town’s water crisis drastically cut water usage by the city’s residents to a mere 13.2 liters daily since February 1. They’re told not to wash cars, water lawns or fill pools. Yet, it isn’t just individual residents who have to abide by the changes that have pushed “Day Zero”—the day marking the end of Cape Town’s usable water supply—from April of this year to 2019.
Businesses, including hotels, have also had to significantly decrease their water consumption. So The Twelve Apostles Hotel and Spa, part of The Red Carnation Hotel Collection (RCH), took action. While parent company The Travel Corporation is involved with in-depth global tourism projects through its TreadRight program, this Cape Town property put a number of simple and cost-effective measures in place, such as using plastic, reusable ice cubes in ice buckets where possible and reclaiming unfinished bottled water from throughout the hotel for cleaning purposes. Restrictors have also been placed on sinks and showers to reduce water flow. After enacting more than a dozen of these types of initiatives on property, the hotel reduced its 2017 water consumption by 42 percent from 2016.
But draughts aside, hotels and resorts around the world are incorporating simple green initiatives either as part of a larger sustainability program or as stand-alone activities aimed at improving the bottom line while contributing to the environment.
Several years ago, The Moornings Village in the Florida Keys began offering housekeeping by request. “By offering the service upon request, housekeepers can still keep an eye out for running toilets, dripping faucets, AC while windows or doors are open—small things that contribute to our overall mission to be environmentally friendly,” said general manager Debbie Pribyl.
While most guests only ask for housekeeping once or twice during their stay, the property’s policy for those who do want the service daily is to change linens every second day in an effort to reduce water and energy usage.
In January, the Hotel Metropole, Monte-Carlo commemorated the 10th anniversary of its Green Attitudes program, simultaneously leveraging the trends toward experiential travel and wellness. The hotel’s newest a-la-carte activity gives guests the opportunity to visit a local organic micro-farming business. They travel to the urban agricultural location at Tour Odéon on a bike or via electric car and, along with the hotel’s Executive Chef Christophe Cussac, spend a day picking and planting vegetables before the chef transforms the day’s produce into a specially prepared meal. The “Back to Nature” program costs 400€ per person and covers all costs associated with the experience.
The Hilton Waikoloa Village in Hawaii has also latched on to an increasing popular trend in hospitality sustainability: eliminating plastic drinking straws from all hotel F&B establishments at the end of this past January. New FDA-approved, GMO- and BPA-free compostable paper straws are now used instead and although Hotel Manager Simon Amos said there is an additional cost for this more eco-friendly alternative, it is offset by the fact that the property now uses fewer straws.
In 2017, the property used more than 800,000 plastic straws while serving more than one million guests. The move was intended to reduce the negative effects on the natural environment that attracts so many visitors to Hawaii. “Plastic straws cannot be recycled and can have devastating effects on marine and coastal life like fish, turtles and seabirds if ingested,” Amos noted.
Similarly, Secrets the Vine Cancun, part of AMResorts, has completely done away with straws across the property. But this is just one example of how AMResorts, and its parent company Apple Leisure Group (ALG), recognize that cost-savings can be achieved through small-scale sustainability practices.
While the World Travel & Tourism Council’s sustainability priorities lend guidance to green initiatives across AMResorts, the hotel group’s VP, Development Federico Moreno-Nickerson said in a blog post on the ALG Development website that sustainability for any resort “can be a matter of small steps taken as part of a long-term, overarching strategy because it is the aggregate result of a long series of actions.”
He added that part of that cumulative effect is the additional benefit of making a positive impact on the local community and also an opportunity to champion the dedication of hotel staff who take part in the property’s sustainability initiatives. Those programs can be as simple as collecting rainwater for landscape irrigation or
investing in light bulbs that consume less energy and produce more lumens in order to counter increasing energy costs.
In 2016, the JW Marriott Desert Ridge Resort & Spa completed its own energy efficiency project, including the installation of more than 17,900 LED lamps and 220 occupancy sensors. The project cost in excess of $1 million and reduced the property’s operating costs by nearly $300,000 annually. But the initiative also included a low-cost addition to the hotel’s operations: nightly “energy walks” by the hotel’s engineering and security teams.
The staff also focuses on shutting off lights and air conditioning in meeting space that isn’t in use and making sure that water faucets and exhaust hoods are turned off in kitchens that are closed for the night and that the doors of refrigeration units are properly closed.
Chief Engineer Fred Christley pointed out that in a building as large as the JW Marriott Desert Ridge, putting another set of eyes on these spaces can help with energy-saving details that the staff who work in these areas of the resort might overlook after a busy day. The spa comprises a third area where nightly energy walks are conducted, also to ensure that lights and water taps are switched off as are Jacuzzis and hot tubs.
Randy Rice, the property’s director of engineering, explained that as part of the overall energy-efficiency program, the property’s owner sent out a team to assess the entire property, down to the most granular level, and create an “energy playbook.”
He added, “These are small things that happen every day and may not seem like much, but over the course of a year, the numbers add up to a lot.”