Sustainability-minded hotels in regions around the world are reducing—or completely doing away with—the use of plastic water bottles on-property by making reusable bottles and water stations readily available to guests.
GLOBAL REPORT—Much of the hotel industry recently has been focusing plastic-reduction efforts on single-use plastic straws, but environmentally conscious hotels around the globe also are reducing waste from plastic water bottles by offering guests more sustainable options for fresh water.
At the Rose Garden Hotel Yangon in Myanmar, Go Green water stations are easily accessible in the hotel’s lobby, GM Alex Scheible said.
“From the beginning, during our hotel’s opening over three years back, we (decided) to reduce plastic wastage—not only avoiding plastic bottles, but also offering dispensers for bathroom (amenities) instead of individually packed (toiletries), using recyclable paper take-away containers as much as we can, and we banned drinking straws,” he said.
Reusable bottles made out of recycled aluminum are available to guests as well as meetings attendees. Scheible said the Go Green stations are also located in each meeting room and pre-function area at the Rose Garden.
“The idea is that (guests) take the bottles along on their trip and back home, refilling them, instead of buying PVC bottles,” he said. “Of course, we are not naive and are aware that aluminum production and recycling consumes a lot of energy with high CO2 emissions. Therefore, it makes sense only if the bottles are reused.”
Since implementing the water stations, refillable bottles and Go Green meetings packages three years ago, Scheible said the hotel has avoided approximately 1 million non-degradable PVC bottles.
“Our guests can travel with a good conscience, reducing their plastic footprint, when traveling through Myanmar; be it on leisure or business,” he said. “Especially in developing countries like Myanmar, environmental pollution is a huge problem that needs to be tackled.”
Canopy by Hilton
The Canopy by Hilton brand launched in 2014, and since then, the brand has been committed to sustainability and the environment, according to Gary Steffen, global head of Canopy.
All Canopy properties offer guests glass refillable water bottles as well as filtered water stations on every floor. The Canopy Reykjavik City Centre in Iceland features water that has been “lava-filtered through a long, natural process,” Steffen said. He added that guests have had a positive response to the environmentally-friendly water options.
He said Canopy’s continued focus on eco-friendly efforts as well as providing the best possible in-room experience has shown success in building brand loyalty.
“Canopy’s sustainable efforts and authentically local experiences have seen an overwhelming amount of support from our guests who expect a level of thoughtfulness in choosing a hotel,” he said. “Canopy has followed a thoughtful approach in creating the identity of the brand, with sustainability being a large part of that.”
At Even Hotels locations, “hydration has been an integral aspect of our brand experience and design offering from the beginning,” said Stacy Bedsole, head of global brand experience and design for InterContinental Hotels Group’s Even brand.
“Water stations have been part of the Even Hotels guest experience since the brand’s inception in 2014, and every Even Hotels guestroom across the estate offers a reusable water bottle for each guest’s stay,” she said.
A reusable water bottle is part of the in-room amenities for each guest, Bedsole said, and filtered water stations are located on every floor or every other floor, depending on the hotel.
Even’s goal is to help guests stay on track with their wellness routines while they are on the road, and the “ease of access to hydration” is part of that, she said.
“For Even Hotels, it’s not about a cost-savings measure but instead about providing our guests with access to options so they can prioritize staying well and balanced when they travel,” she said. “Inherently, by offering and encouraging the use of reusable water bottles, this is one way we support sustainable efforts.”
Stations with flavored water are also available to guests in the lobby, Bedsole said.
At properties under Cayuga Collection, plastic water bottles were banned from all properties about eight years ago, according to Hans Pfister, co-founder and president of Cayuga.
“Even if it was in fashion, when people still thought that recycling was OK and plastic water bottles were OK, since we are often in coastal areas, we saw the damage … and decided to get rid of them, the plastic water bottles and plastic straws, a long time ago,” he said.
At on-property restaurants, Pfister said guests are served tap water with ice, like at any restaurant. If a guest asks for sparkling water, he said they are served local sparkling water in a glass bottle.
Guests can bring their own refillable water bottle or purchase one from the hotel.
“In terms of going on hikes or going on excursions, what we do is we either ask our guests to bring a reusable water bottle from home–a lot of people use them now–or we lend them one or they can purchase one in our (gift shop) at cost so that they have a reusable water bottle during their stay,” he said.
The commitment to eliminating plastic water bottles on-property extends to before guests even arrive at the hotel. When guests are picked up from the airport, Pfister said, they are given sealed, glass water bottles with the hotel’s name on them, which are then returned, washed and refilled with water.
Challenges of plastic elimination
Using refillable water bottles that aren’t plastic is very important to Cayuga, but Pfister said the company struggled at first to find an alternative to plastic bottles for the minibar.
“People expect to have a (bottle of water) in the minibar, so what we did is we just bought water pitchers and filled them up and put them in the minibar so they’re cold and of course are free of charge, and that actually works as well,” he said.
Sustainability at a price
Some hotels look to sustainable initiatives to cut cost for utilities such as electric bills, but Pfister said he hasn’t seen any cost savings by eliminating plastic water bottles at Cayuga properties.
“It’s costing us money, but that’s quite OK,” he said. “It makes me quite upset that people only think that sustainable practices in hotels should only save money, but sometimes to do the right thing it costs a little bit more, and that’s quite OK.”