Sustainability is an important determinant of success in virtually every industry. Apart from achieving financial success, companies are expected to engage in activities that have little or no negative effects on the environment. In the hospitality industry, protection of the environment is very important since it determines the long-term success of companies. The industry heavily depends on natural resources such as water, non-renewable energy sources, and farm produce. Thus, going green has become the norm in the hospitality industry. This paper will discuss the techniques that hotels are adopting to become eco-friendly. It will also discuss the effects of the techniques on costs and guest acceptance.
Definitions of Green Hotels
Green hotels refer to “eco-friendly properties whose managers are eager to institute programs that save water, conserve energy, and reduce waste while saving money to protect the environment” (Chang & Chen, 2012, pp. 211-216). This definition indicates that going green improves sustainability through reduction of operating costs and pollution of the environment. Manaktola & Jauhari (2007) define a green hotel as a facility that provides services and products with the aim of protecting the environment. In this context, the idea of protecting the environment has to be incorporated in the design and construction of the hotel, as well as, the development of its products. According to Chen (2009), a green hotel endeavors to create a fine environment and motivates its employees and customers to participate in its environmental protection programs. This definition underscores the importance of widespread participation in the process of adopting green processes in the hospitality industry.
Issues and Techniques of Going Green in the Hospitality Industry
Energy Use and Production
Heavy reliance on non-renewable energy sources is associated with high operating costs and increased emission of greenhouse gasses (Chen, 2009). As a result, the following techniques are being adopted by hotels to reduce emission of greenhouse gasses. First, hotels use LED lighting systems to reduce energy consumption. LED lighting systems are associated with little emission of greenhouse gases. In addition, they are safe because they do not contain toxic non-biodegradable substances such as mercury (Penner & Rutes, 2013). Second hotels are improving their energy efficiency by minimizing the use of electricity for lighting purposes. For instance, most modern hotels have large glass windows that facilitate extensive use of sunlight in their lobby, bar, and restaurants.
Third, substituting hydroelectric power and fossil fuels such as diesel with renewable energy sources such as solar and wind have become commonplace in the hospitality industry (Sloan & Legrand, 2013). For instance, installing solar water heating systems in hotels has become a standard requirement in most countries. In addition, large hotels use solid wastes to produce electricity in an eco-friendly manner. Generally, reducing the use of non-renewable energy sources helps in preventing global warming by minimizing emission of greenhouse gases. Finally, hotels reduce their negative effects on the environment by replacing old machines and equipment that consume a lot of electricity. This helps in preventing pollution of the environment by reducing generation of hydroelectric power.
Access to clean and safe water continues to be a major challenge to hotels due to the rapid increase in population and adverse climatic conditions. In the US, hotels account for nearly 15% of the water used in commercial and industrial facilities (Sloan & Legrand, 2013). Green hotels are using the following techniques to avoid water shortages. To begin with, hotels have focused on upgrading their guest rooms to become water-efficient. This involves installing low-flow showerheads and toilets to reduce the use of water. For example, WaterSense labeled faucets and showerheads are at least 20% more water-efficient than regular showerheads and toilets (Manaktola & Jauhari, 2007). Moreover, hotels have introduced linen reuse programs to reduce the amount of water that they use for laundry.
Water-efficient irrigation technologies are increasingly being used by hotels to maintain beautiful landscapes (Sloan & Legrand, 2013). For instance, in the Middle East most hotels have water-recycling systems that enable them to treat and use wastewater for irrigation. Improving efficiency in the kitchen is another strategy that hotels use to conserve water. Water-efficiency is achieved by using equipment such as steam kettles, steam cookers, and food disposal systems that use little amount of water. Apart from water conservation, hotels focus on treating wastewater before discharging it into the ambient environment (Chen, 2009). This prevents contamination of water bodies such as rivers and aquifers.
Hotels generate several tons of solid wastes that have long-term negative effects on the environment. For instance, beach hotels often contaminate coastal waters through discharge of untreated wastewater. This leads to destruction of coral reefs and poisoning of sea animal specifies such as fish and crabs (Sloan & Legrand, 2013). Green hotels usually purchase supplies with little or no packaging materials to avoid generating solid wastes. In addition, they purchase supplies whose packaging materials are biodegradable to avoid polluting the environment through disposal of solid wastes.
Reuse of materials has become a standard practice for reducing solid wastes in the hospitality industry. Green hotels are shifting from disposable plastic to glass and ceramic mugs that can be reused by guests (Robinot & Giannelloni, 2010). Materials that cannot be reused are often recycled to reduce disposal of solid wastes. Some of the “materials that hotels usually recycle include newspapers and plastics” (Robinot & Giannelloni, 2010, pp. 157-169).
Solid wastes that cannot be reused or recycled have to be disposed in a safe manner. For example, green hotels use biological agents such as bacteria to decompose food leftovers. This leads to production of manure, which hotels use in their flower gardens (Chen, 2009). Chemicals are also used to neutralize toxic substances before disposing them.
Green hotels consider effective management of solid wastes as part of their organizational culture. They provide training programs that enable their employees to acquire the knowledge and skills that they need to reduce solid wastes (Molina & Velazquez, 2010). Conservation of the environment is part of the shared values that guide employees’ behavior in green hotels. Thus, commitment to waste reduction is a key performance indicator that green hotels use to reward their employees. This strategy encourages employees to develop innovative ways of providing excellent services that have little or no harm to the environment (Robinot & Giannelloni, 2010).
Green Supply Chain
Green supply chain management involves “integrating the principles of environmental conservation into supply chain activities such as product design, manufacturing, and transportation” (Molina & Velazquez, 2010). Green hotels employ the following techniques to reduce pollution through their supply chain activities. First, large hotels often collaborate with their suppliers to produce various products using less synthetic ingredients to avoid pollution.
Second, hotels use green purchasing policies to minimize their ecological footprint (Kleinrichert & Ergul, 2012). For instance, hotels with several branches normally allow their suppliers to deliver their products directly to the branches rather than a centralized warehouse. In addition, they make bulk purchases to reduce transportation activities that often lead to emission of greenhouse gasses (Tzschentke & Lynch, 2004).
Third, green hotels use e-commerce platforms to coordinate their supply chain activities. Specifically, they use online business-to-business procurement systems to purchase their supplies directly from manufacturers (Molina & Velazquez, 2010). The resulting reduction in paper usage leads to conservation of the environment by reducing disposal of waste paper. Online procurement systems also protect the environment by discouraging cutting of trees to produce paper.
Green dining involves serving organic foodstuffs in hotels. It is an indirect method of conserving the environment by encouraging sustainable agriculture. Organic foodstuffs are produced using eco-friendly farming methods (Sloan & Legrand, 2013). These include using greenhouse and drip irrigation technologies to reduce the use of water for crop production. Organic farming also discourages the use of synthetic fertilizers and pesticides, which normally cause soil degradation. Thus, serving organic food is an effective technique that green hotels use to encourage farmers to protect the environment.
Cleanliness is a key determinant of competitiveness in the hospital industry. However, maintaining high standards of cleanliness can result into adverse effects on the environment. Green cleaning improves cleanliness while minimizing harmful effects on the environment (Tzschentke & Lynch, 2004). The most important techniques of green cleaning include the following. First, green hotels use non-toxic chemicals or detergents to clean guest rooms. As a result, they protect the environment by disposing wastewater that has no hazardous pollutants. Second, green hotels use electrolyzed water systems that “combine tap water, salt, and electricity to create a powerful natural cleaning agent” (Chen, 2009). This technique reduces the use of chemicals for cleaning purposes. Finally, green hotels integrate reuse and recycling programs in their cleaning processes. For instance, they use reusable cleaning cloths to reduce solid wastes.
Impact on Costs
The process of becoming a green hotel is associated with high costs in the short-run. The high costs are attributed to assessment of the hotel’s operations in order to identify the green technologies or processes that have to be implemented in order to protect the environment. In addition, acquiring the equipment and technologies that facilitate conservation of water and energy is expensive (Kleinrichert & Ergul, 2012). However, going green reduces costs in the long-run in the following ways. First, implementing energy-saving measures such as using LED lights and lights out cards helps in reducing electricity bills. In addition, alternative sources of energy such as solar and wind are cheaper than hydroelectric power and diesel. For instance, green hotels do not have to pay monthly bills to use their solar heating systems.
Second, improving water-efficiency leads to a drastic reduction in water bills (Chen, 2009). Moreover, using wastewater for irrigation enables green hotels to reduce the cost of maintaining their gardens. Third, effective solid waste management systems lead to cost reduction in several ways. To begin with, reducing solid wastes reduces the number of trips that have to be made to landfills to dispose garbage (Sloan & Legrand, 2013). This reduces hotels’ transportation costs. Reusing and recycling materials reduce expenditure on key supplies such as linens, paper, and mugs in green hotels. Moreover, recycling can be a source of revenue to hotels. For instance, waste plastics and paper can be sold to manufacturers of packaging products who use them as raw materials.
Finally, green supply chains enable hotels to reduce their procurement costs. Specifically, using e-commerce platforms to purchase supplies eliminates the mailing costs that would be incurred if transactions were paper based (Manaktola & Jauhari, 2007). Purchasing goods in bulk reduces shipping costs by facilitating effective truckload optimization. Furthermore, it enables green hotels to enjoy trade discounts, which reduce their operating costs.
Impact on Guest Acceptance
Going green improves guest acceptance in several ways. First, the proportion of the population that is interested in using the services of green hotels is ever increasing (Manaktola & Jauhari, 2007). Guests who are interested in conserving the environment always choose green hotels. The demand for green hotels’ services has been increasing due to improved availability of information concerning environmental conservation. Second, achieving green certification is an effective way of recognizing hotels for their commitment to sustainability. Successful implementation of green programs enables hotels to attract the attention of the public and the media. The resulting improvement in brand awareness encourages guests to accept the services of green hotels.
Third, going green is a differentiating factor that hotels use to overcome competition. Green hotels have low operating costs, which enable them to offer affordable high quality services (Tzschentke & Lynch, 2004). As a result, they are able to outperform their competitors in markets where competitive rivalry is high. In particular, guests are likely to choose hotels that provide high quality services at low prices in order to save their traveling or holiday costs.
Fourth, green dining enables hotels to attract guests who are interested in healthy living (Ogbeide, 2012). Research indicates that organic foodstuffs have several health benefits due to their high nutritional value and low pesticide residue (Robinot & Giannelloni, 2010). Organic food helps in preventing diseases such as cancer, obesity, and diabetes. As the public becomes more aware of the health benefits of consuming organic food, green hotels are likely to experience an increase in the number of guests (Robinot & Giannelloni, 2010).
Since tastes and preferences vary among customers, guests can reject some of the techniques that hotels use to reduce their effects on the environment (Manaktola & Jauhari, 2007). For instance, some guests are likely to refuse to reuse towels. In this regard, hotels will be forced to clean their towels everyday in order to avoid losing their customers. Green dining can lead to high operating costs due to the limited supply of organic foodstuffs. As a result, hotels are likely to serve inorganic foodstuffs, which are usually cheap in order to retain their customers who are price sensitive.
Hotels are going green in order to reduce their negative effects on the environment. Specifically, they are striving to conserve water and energy. Green hotels also focus on reducing the amount of waste that they discharge into the environment. Apart from conserving the environment, going green improves the competitiveness of hotels through cost reduction. In addition, it enables hotels to increase their sales by attracting and retaining customers (guests). These benefits will motivate more hotels to become green in future.
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