Green initiatives such as reducing single-use plastics lately have been getting more attention, but water usage remains a vital concern for sustainability-minded hoteliers.
REPORT FROM THE U.S.—A typical hotel uses a lot of water in a day, between serving guest needs and essential back-of-house operations such as laundry. But failing to properly manage that use, and reduce it when possible, is a problem and a top obstacle for hoteliers and hotel companies focused on sustainability.
The United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs described property management of water as “the core of sustainable development.”
“Water is a finite and irreplaceable resource that is fundamental to human wellbeing,” the UNDESA states. “It is only renewable if well-managed.”
Water management is a key piece of wide-reaching sustainability initiatives at companies such as Hilton, which has promised to halve its environmental footprint by 2030 as part of the company’s Travel with Purpose program and in line with the UN’s 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda.
That plan includes cutting water consumption by 50%, along with reductions in carbon emissions, an end to using plastic straws and using more sustainably sourced foods, cotton and soaps.
What hoteliers are doing
The Hilton San Diego Bayfront focused on saving water via a water reclamation and filtration system in its laundry facility.
Matthew Trujillo, laundry manager at the property, said the system is able to recycle roughly 70% to 80% of the water used to launder linens without sacrificing quality.
“It’s a closed-loop filtration system that removes bacteria, soaps and oils,” he said, noting that new water is only added in as needed.
Steve Cowan, GM at the property, said “conservation is a way of life in every aspect of the hotel.”
“Water is essential to each of us every day, but as a limited resource, we all need to rethink the way we use water on a daily basis,” he said. “Water conservation also translates to energy savings, and that’s a win-win all around.”
Gerry Peck, GM of the Shore Hotel, said sustainability and water management have been key focuses for that property since it opened in 2011, noting it’s the first property in Santa Monica with the LEED Gold Certification.
“The hotel has saved 5.2 million gallons of water—enough to fill nearly eight Olympic-sized swimming pools)—all made possible by a combination of sustainable design, innovative and forward-thinking suppliers and partners, and results-driven conservation practices,” he said.
Water-conscious features at that hotel include high-efficiency toilets, low-flow showerheads, faucet and toilet sensors in public restrooms, and landscaping practices focused on reducing potable water use.
Both of those properties are located in Southern California, which has experienced prolonged drought conditions, making water conservation more critical.
“It’s our reality and responsibility to our guests, future generations and our beautiful coastal location,” Cowan said. “We not only depend on the coast for drinking water, but for sustainable seafood as well. We strive to be the hotel environmental leader of the San Diego Bay and all of southern California.”
“Author Robert Swan said it best: ‘The greatest threat to our planet is the belief that someone else will save it,’” he said. “The one thing we can do as hoteliers today is to ensure travelers can continue to enjoy our destination tomorrow.”
How it’s communicated to guests
Cowan said his hotel makes sure to keep guests in the loop.
“We inform our guests about our efforts in water conservation with in-room signage,” he said. “We place a small informational sign, which is printed on recycled paper, in the guestroom bathroom, where guests can learn about our efforts and how they can help during their stay with us. We also share tips on how to conserve energy while they are in or out of their guest room.”
He said the message seems to resonate.
“I do think our guests and community appreciate efforts from businesses who run their day-to-day operations environmentally responsibly,” he said.
Shore Hotels has spent that past year trumpeting its sustainability efforts in a “Seven Years of Sustainability” campaign. That has included talking to the public and guests about the importance of sustainability through the property’s green concierge and social media, Peck said.
“We do this by simple consumer-facing activations that make the switch to sustainability fun and easy,” he said. “In June 2018, Hawaii passed a law that will come into effect in 2020 that will ban all sunscreens containing harmful oxybenzone, which kills our coral reefs. Timed to World Oceans Day, Shore Hotel jumped on the opportunity to share this news of how a simple sunscreen switch could help save our environment.”
Editor’s note: Hilton paid for airfare, accommodations and meals during a recent stay at the Hilton San Diego Bayfront. Complete editorial control was at the discretion of the Hotel News Now editorial team; Hilton had no influence on the coverage provided.