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INTERVIEW #4: Hotels, restaurants - If you are not taking these measures, you are wasting money, say experts from Enviros

Posted on: 31.07.2018
by The EREK team

It is summertime again, and most of us have already planned our holidays.

Recent trends show that more and more tourists look for hotels and restaurants with better environmental management, helped by the multiplication of ecolabels and certificates for energy efficiency. The hospitality sector indeed involves energy intensive facilities, but with a lot of room for improvements, and labels offer the guidance and marketing opportunity for those who make this extra-mile towards environmental friendliness and, let’s not forget it, important financial savings.

Based in Prague, the consulting company ENVIROS provides assistance in the field of resource efficiency, waste and the circular economy, energy efficiency and renewable energy, sustainable consumption and production, and project financing in the Czech Republic, Central and Eastern Europe.

From daily saving practices to the inclusion of energy generation in the building, opportunities exist for all ambitions! We asked their experts how hotel and restaurant owners can seize these opportunities and chose which investments are the most relevant for their business

There are many low-cost measures that hotels and restaurants can implement to start saving resources. What are the first, most crucial things that they should be doing?

There are a range of basic measures that hotels should start with in order to improve their resource efficiency. They belong to the following three courses of action:

  • Improve your waste management
  • Identify your energy saving potentials and tap into them, and
  • Train your staff

Setting up a waste management plan is a key tool to achieve a sustainable operation. It should identify all types of waste, and how to minimise, handle and dispose of them. By ridding yourself of avoidable waste and preventing improper management, you will reduce risks of pollution but also the costs associated to waste collection. Depending of the size of the hotel, the necessary investment in order to improve waste management vary. A first step is to introduce bins for each type of waste, in cooperation with the local waste collection company.

In a field of energy efficiency, lighting improvements is the first and most cost-efficient measure you should consider. Installation of occupancy and daylight sensors into hallways, restrooms or guestrooms will ensure that lights are only in use when required. Introduction of energy-saving light bulbs can help reduce the electricity costs up to 80%. New light bulb types last longer, produce less heat and reduce light pollution. Business owners can also look at their HVAC systems (heating, ventilation and air-conditioning): the ideal temperature for guests is considered to be around 20-22°C. Thermostats with a built-in occupancy sensor help reduce heating and cooling needs while ensuring that guests’ comfort is not compromised. Maintenance is also important: regularly serviced boilers can save up to 10% of annual heating costs.

A lot can be achieved by “soft” measures such as staff training in resource efficiency. This low-cost measure is considered to be very effective, since it can bring instant behavioural changes, not only within employees, but also guests. A hotel can integrate training courses within their regular company meetings or teambuilding exercises and inform employees about the importance of resource efficiency. Front office/desk staff (e.g. receptionists and waiting staff – those in direct contact with your guests) can introduce guests with resources savings measures (waste recycling, towels reuse, water and energy efficiency activities, zero-waste concept, etc.). Responsibility for resource efficiency management at the various levels of operation should be defined as well. Employing an environmental officer is a good step toward a sustainable business and showcases a company’s dedication to environmental protection.

Tourism is a very place-based industry. How can companies adapt to their local environment in their resource efficiency measures?

Consider two easy elements – your local climate and local suppliers.

If a facility is located in Southern Europe where solar energy can be easily collected, introducing solar collectors can be a great start towards resource efficiency since the business will be less dependent on fossil fuels (e.g. coal or natural gas).

Similarly, if a hotel is located in Northern and Eastern parts of the continent where there are more rainy days, the installation of a rainwater collection system for harvesting water can be a great measure to reduce water consumption. Grey water recuperation and recycling systems can help, not only to heat sanitary water with already used wastewater from guestrooms showers, but also after wastewater treatment, at which point the water can be used for toilet flushing.

By developing and showcasing their sustainable food procurement policy, hotels and restaurants can attract more guests. By informing guests that the kitchen uses organic food from local farmers, they demonstrate the quality and freshness of meals, but also that they support local and sustainable food production. Depending on its location, an establishment can check which farmers are located in the nearby area and what is the main food product they can offer their guests. For instance, by contacting a couple of farms, wineries, dairies, etc. businesses can create their own procurement scheme, where they can also introduce a zero-waste concept (buying wine or milk only in reusable glass containers, getting daily delivery of fresh products in wooden baskets, etc.).

Hotels and restaurants use a lot of water and energy to run their business. What are the technologies available to help them cut their costs?

A number of water-saving measures can be implemented into the hospitality sector.

Consider reuse, with:

  • The installation of rainwater collection and distribution systems – harvested water can be used for non-potable demand such as toilet flushing, washing machines, irrigation, cooling towers or general cleaning purposes;
  • The installation of a grey water collection treatment and distribution system for use either inside or outside the building – collected grey water can be reused for non-potable water applications such as toilet flushing and irrigation by the installation of separate wastewater drainage systems for toilets and grey water sources;

But also, optimisation, such as:

  • The installation of low flow taps and showers;
  • Or the implementation of laundry reuse programmes – reducing such practice to 1 to 2 times a week or at the customer's request.

With regards to energy-saving measures, the most common ones to rapidly cut costs are:

  • The installation of room sensors and LED lights;
  • The installation of solar panels and collectors for water heating;
  • The optimization and automatization of the HVAC system (smart heating and cooling);
  • The adequate insulation of water distribution network.

In order to achieve continuous savings, developing energy management and building management systems is recommended as a further step, to ensure a systematic approach towards energy and resource efficiency and to better identify saving measures.

Some resource efficiency investments might come at a high cost. How can companies benefit from them in the long-term?

The energy saving potential of hotels is significant, especially since a large part of the energy consumption is due to unnecessary loss and wastage. Various studies have estimated that hotels have the potential to save at least 10 – 15% of the energy they consume, depending on the age and size of the facility, as well as the type of equipment installed and the maintenance and operating procedures in use. More long-term investments yield significant savings every year.

Implementation of such measures is often supported by national funding schemes. These can be checked in the EREK database of support programmes. Find out about more resource efficiency tips and your own saving potential by filling the EREK self-assessment tool for hotels and restaurants!