What are the latest sustainability trends in the hotel industry?


The tourism and travel industry accounts for around 5% of global carbon dioxide emissions. Of those emissions, 2% is caused by hotels around the world. It is also estimated that 75% of the environmental impact of hotels can directly relate to resource waste, which not only has an impact on the environment but also on hotel costs as well. Incorporating eco-friendly standards can therefore not only be beneficial for the environment but also for the profitability of hotels. The hotel resources which cause the biggest environmental impact are: water, waste and energy. In addition, hotels also have an influence on CFC emissions, noise, smell, agriculture, ecology, and sale of souvenirs from endangered species. Hotels located in an area where there is poor or non-existent infrastructure also have an adverse influence on biodiversity. 

Choosing an environmentally friendly hotel is not only extremely important to us. Recent statistics prove that we are not alone in prioritising the eco credentials of hotels - growth of ecotourism has grown by 30% worldwide in recent years compared to 8% for traditional tourism. This trend towards eco-tourism is critical as it has been estimated that, otherwise, carbon dioxide emissions would increase by 130% by 2035 if nothing were to be done to save energy.

In doing our research, we came across some very interesting new hotel concepts that already incorporate the latest trends of being eco-friendlier. Indeed, nowadays sustainable hotels do far more than just committing to recycling paper, serving organic eggs and suggesting you re-use your towels. They also try to conserve and protect the environment, and also involve local communities living around the hotel.

Saving Energy & Supporting local environment projects

A perfect example is the five star resort Six Senses Con Dao in Vietnam. This hotel has also been recognised by National Geographic Traveller as being one of the eco-friendliest hotels in the world as they do not only use sustainable building materials, but the structure of the resort was also designed to maximise air flow to reduce the need for air conditioning. But this is not all: Con Dao has also partnered with the nearby national park to protect and advance a severely damaged coral reef system and they also operate a turtle sanctuary. Con Dao also supports a pre-kindergarten program, and a filtration system provides clean water for students.

Solar Energy Roofs & Energy Saving Hotel Windows

Another interesting trend is that more and more hotels such as H2 Hotel in California focus on saving energy by attaching solar panels on their roofs. The energy created by solar panels at this hotel is used to heat the swimming pool and hot water in the guest rooms, reducing electricity consumption. The windows of H2 Hotel also save energy- incorporating low E glazing and shading devices to reduce heat and therefore lessen the energy used for air conditioning. The glazing and window shades are even cradle-to-cradle certified, complying with rigid environmental standards through production and future recyclability. The hotel also uses a gearless traction Eco Space elevator which uses 60% less electricity than a standard hydraulic elevator.

Reduction of Water Waste & Local Materials

Different hotel concepts focus on saving water. Great ways to save water are shower counters and educating guests on wasted energy. Other water-saving devices are flush diverters or low-flow shower heads. Another great idea is to use five-minute hourglasses in hotel showers to make guests aware of wasted water consumption. Rainwater can also be collected to divert to watering their plants and gardens. 1 Hotel Brooklyn Bridge has, for example, built a rainwater tank beneath the hotel to help irrigate Brooklyn Bridge Park during the city’s blazing summer months. This hotel also concentrates on using local materials for the hotel’s furniture and interior like walnut from the Brooklyn Botanical Gardens. Native plants will also adorn the public and outdoor spaces.

Bee Saving

Other hotels such as the famous Waldorf Astoria concentrate on bee saving. This traditional hotel keeps beehives on their rooftop, and not only to offer the honey to their guests but also to help increase the diminishing bee numbers. Bees today feel more. comfortable in cities. The higher temperature in the city ensures a longer flowering period than in the countryside, lengthens the foraging period and increases honey production per bee.

Reduction of Food Waste & Local Produce

Food waste is another issue that innovative hotels try to address. In 2017 Pete Pearson, a director of food waste at the World Wildlife Fund, estimated that in the US alone hotels and restaurants generate 5 to 7 million tons of food waste out of the 63 million tons of food waste generated annually. To prevent this colossal waste, he suggests that hotels should have a la carte menus instead of buffets. Employee training can also contribute to less food waste. Hotel employees involved of the purchasing departments and in the kitchen especially benefit from it. Other ways to prevent food waste are for example composting programs on how to properly dispose of food waste- this has been introduced, for example, by the 1,780-room Sheraton New York Times Square Hotel. Other options are own hotel and herb gardens or buying seasonal local products that also help reduce the carbon footprint.

Volunteering Travel

Finally, a fascinating new hotel concept is volunteering travel which helps preserve and revive the surroundings of tourism attractions. Volunteering travel also helps local communities and supports the reduction of global warming. There are so many projects than one can now support during their vacation, such as supporting an African wildlife orphanage or to volunteer at a Bali sea turtle rescue…

For more information on environmental issues in the hotel industry: https://www.academia.edu/23948851/_Hotel_Industry_and_Environmental_Issues_

For more information on food waste in hotels: https://www.worldwildlife.org/experts/pete-pearson