Sam-Erik Ruttmann: Hospitality Tomorrow #6


Sustainable hotel operations: How to operate sustainably and profitably. 


Hotels and resorts have always been connected to the natural environment of their destinations, but hospitality organizations’ success has recently become even more dependent on preserving the natural and cultural attractions that compel tourists to visit their destinations. As tourism expands into more remote areas, travel industry professionals are advocating for responsible tourism practices that protect these natural resources and cultures from overdevelopment. 


Hoteliers are now seeing sustainability and corporate responsibility as a matter of not only ethics but also good business. 

There are numerous benefits to running a green hotel. First and foremost, it makes good business sense. A sustainable hotel is an investment that will pay off in the long term, through cost savings on utilities and fuel consumption and by attracting more guests who want to stay at a sustainable property. 


There’s no one right way to go green, but it starts with small changes. 

We all know that the hospitality industry has made huge strides in sustainability in recent years thanks to better technology, and customer expectations. Environmental and social responsibility are increasingly important to guests—and, as concerns about climate change mount, they’re becoming more popular. Put simply: it’s good for your bottom line to be seen as environmentally responsible. 

Going green is not a one-size-fits-all approach. Going for LEED certification may be the perfect goal for some hotels, but it’s not the only way to achieve sustainability. While big initiatives are important, it’s small changes that have a lasting impact on the environment. Here are four examples of easy ways to go green: 


Energy conservation 

  • Use energy-efficient light bulbs. Install energy-saving CFL or LED bulbs in your lighting fixtures to use 25-35 percent less energy, compared to regular incandescent bulbs. 
  • Clean or replace air filters as recommended. The air conditioner and heater are the biggest energy users in most hotels and hotel cabins, and these appliances have to work even harder with dirty air filters. Write the date of installation on the filter to help you remember when it needs to be replaced 
  • Go green with the public bathrooms. From installing eco-friendly hand dryers to water-saving urinal solutions and motion sensor taps, going green can not only save the environment but also save you money. 
  • To reduce unnecessary lights usage, Install motion sensors strategically in hotel corridors and hotel rooms. 



  • Consider using recyclable and biodegradable packaging that will cause less damage to the environment and aim to use other materials that can be re-used from guest to guest reducing unnecessary waste.  
  • Another simple way to reduce plastic use is to get rid of single-use shampoo and conditioner amenity bottles. Yes, you still need to offer amenities to deliver a great guest experience, but it doesn’t have to cost the environment and your guest will also thank you for it.  
  • Consider cartridge or bulk fill solutions. 


Change your menu up a bit 

  • Providing delicious, organic, and healthy cuisine at your hotel should be a primary focus. What better way to attract eco-minded travelers and encourage your guests to immerse into your local culture? 
  • Sourcing local, organic food locally can reduce your business’ carbon footprint in addition to it having much more beneficial nutrients such as antioxidants, which you can promote to your guests. Perhaps this could encourage visitors to start considering the food they eat as you implement an organic diet during their stay. By offering locally produced, eco-friendly food you’ll be providing the freshest ingredients and with the guarantee of a pollution-free menu 
  • Stop using plastic water bottles and cups, instead switch to reusable glasses or mugs—if you must use disposable cups insist on biodegradable ones. And try switching out your paper coffee filters for stainless steel mesh ones instead; they’re specially designed to let all of coffee’s oils flow through without any paper taste—and won’t take up space in landfills when you’ve finished brewing. 
  • Eliminate excess food waste by only serving what you need at breakfast buffets and keeping an eye out for how much ends up getting thrown away at lunch and dinner service; then adjust accordingly so you don’t overbuy next time around.  


Promoting sustainable means of transportation


  • Replace hotel cars with electric cars. 
  • Offer alternative means of transportation to reach your hotel to visit sites from the hotel. 

Sustainability is not just about energy costs. 

The list above is only a small snapshot of what it takes to be a sustainable, bottom line. There are many factors to consider, each with its own set of costs and responsibilities. The general idea is that if you can cut back on your waste and energy use, you can lower your operating costs. 


Successful sustainability programs start from the top. 

Sustainability policies must be set from the top. Owners and managers should have a clear vision for how they want to implement sustainability in their hotels. This will help them communicate with staff and decide on a plan of action. 

Support from the top is critical because it determines how employees perceive the company’s commitment to sustainability. It also lets them know what standards to uphold when carrying out tasks, and that any progress made towards these goals will be recognized. If owners or managers aren’t fully invested in the process themselves, their staff won’t feel like they can make time for it either — resulting in little or no change at all! 


Sustainability is for everyone in the hospitality industry. 

The most effective hospitality sustainability initiatives involve many people from different departments of a hotel. The operations team should lead the charge, with input and guidance from all other departments. 

  • Operations Team: This includes management, housekeeping, and maintenance teams. These are the people that can drive energy consumption down and make sure that your property is operating efficiently. 
  • Talent Acquisition: Director of Talent Acquisition can help find the right talent, provide training courses on sustainability and help manage well-being programs for staff. 
  • Marketing: Marketers should be reaching out to guests to let them know about sustainable practices at your hotel and to attract environmentally conscious travelers who look for green hotels when they travel. Marketing might also want to develop partnerships with companies that have similar goals around sustainable operations as your hotel do. 


Hoteliers are realizing that going green is more than just good public relations–it’s good business, too 

Subversive green practices at hotels have been around for decades. During the 1970s, some restaurants began strategically using rainwater to keep their food cold and ketchup bottles out of the napkin dispensers. More recently, all the major hotel chains have embraced environmentally conscious efforts and formed on corporate and unit level Sustainability Officers teams, and have incorporate sustainability into hotel teams job descriptions. In some companies sustainability is at the core of everything they do. Starting from development and rolling out Sustainability Guidelines throughout the company. For example the responsibility of a Director of Rooms is: 

  • Ensuring all directives on environmental protection and preservation, re-usage of and minimum wastage, purchasing and packaging such as the abolition of single-use plastic by 2022. 
  • Social Responsibility and all other practices documented in the Sustainability Guidelines are followed in the department to maintain harmonious and sensitive approach to our environment and cultural surroundings. 


While I worked on Phuket Island, we incorporated what would be now be called  Sustainable practices.  

  • All drinking water filtered and  served in glass bottles. Optional carbonated water was offered utilizing hotels CO2 carbonation system. 
  • Our culinary team developed a herbal garden, growing all the herbs and spices used in their cooking.  
  • The culinary team went through workshops learning the basics understanding of herbalism and natural remedies. We offered special herbal teas, and medicinal elixirs for the guest to enjoy. 
  • We adopted an elementary school and revitalized the playground of the school, and repainted the school building and repainted old rusted playground frames. The team also applied gardening methods, planting guava trees, papaya trees, fragrant flower bushes in the playground’s garden to the delight of the children. 


Watch out for Green-Wash 

Hotels easily promote their sustainable practices. Customers are now holding hotels accountable for their actions. Before booking a hotel it is now normal to check out the social media how hotels showcase their sustainable practices. If there are any doubts the potential customer will vote with their wallet and only book a stay that is sincere and is truly sustainable in their practices. 


I’ll leave you with this question to consider: How can we, as sustainable hoteliers, engage both like-minded colleagues and others in our industry who may not understand or feel passionate about sustainability? I would love to hear your thoughts! 

Hospitality Tomorrow is a blog series by Sam-Erik Ruttmann our Director of Global Hospitality Development.