In case you haven’t heard it seems the latest trend in the ongoing eco-friendly movement within hospitality is for hotels, and more to the point their respective restaurants, to get rid of the plastic straws. After all, brand after brand has been stringing together announcements that they are doing away with plastic in favor of either paper straws or eliminating them altogether.
The two latest examples from within the past week are Disney Corporation, which will get rid of plastic straws and stirrers at owned and operated properties by 2019, and Great Wolf Resorts and its 17 resorts, which will also phase out plastic straws by the end of the year.
However, this latest trend has really taken hold throughout the U.S. and goes well beyond the lodging industry. Consumer awareness has grown to the point where soon any establishment still using plastic straws is risking being viewed in a negative light. The reality is they will soon have no choice on the matter, assuming they do still have one.
As you might expect, many hotel companies are heavily publicizing the fact that they are taking plastic straws out of circulation. But it begs the question what else are they doing?
We know several of the major brands have put forth initiatives with clearly defined goals of reducing their carbon footprint by a certain percentage over the course of the next decade or so. That’s a nice start and a push from the brands can certainly help the cause, but how much substance is actually behind these “feel good” type of announcements or are they more about appeasing environmentalists and taking advantage of a good PR opportunity.
Time will tell on that, but the bottom line is like so many hospitality initiatives increasing the commitment to sustainability needs to be done street corner by street corner at the property level.
Right now, too many hotels are still in the dark on this issue and their only efforts are those that are ultimately to their benefit. Those efforts often consist of asking the guests to reuse towels, effectively allowing them to save on laundry costs while marketing themselves as ‘green,’ or putting dispensers in showers so they can save on costs for shampoos, lotions and conditioners.
Some more meaningful measures would include efforts to reduce paper products, toxic chemicals, and gas consumption. Other examples include implementing heat recovery systems, recycling water, putting in low-flow shower heads, composting kitchen waste and adding energy-efficient LED lighting, to name a few. In addition, working with suppliers with eco-friendly manufacturing practices is also a powerful statement.
While many of these measures require an initial investment on the part of the property, the return on that investment can be significant as well, even if it is not realized right away. The good news is that most of the hotels being built today are generally being constructed with at least some of the aforementioned efficiencies in mind, but there are many more hotels that are part of older, more inefficient structures. These are, in fact, the unique hotels with lots of character that we all love. None of us want to see these jewels go away but we do need to find a way to make sure they are as efficient as possible.
Over the course of the last decade lots of progress has certainly been made throughout the lodging industry, but it’s more important than ever that we make sure the latest efforts aren’t the ‘last straw.’