The ultimate guide to
sustainable hotel practices

How European hoteliers can reduce the
environmental footprint of their business and stay
ahead of hotel sustainability trends

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Why should hotels go green?

Hotel sustainability has become a priority for forward-thinking guests and hoteliers in recent years. With high waste generation and water consumption rates, many hotels have realized the negative impacts they’ve had on the environment. Hotels around the world are now working to improve their environmental footprint while simultaneously improving the guest experience.

To truly make a difference for the environment and gain a competitive edge, hoteliers need to do more than the bare minimum. Sustainability must be more than just box-ticking green issues—your values and policies must demonstrate your true commitment to the cause. While some hoteliers believe they can’t afford to be sustainable or that their guests aren’t interested in their efforts, the opposite is in fact true.

Travelers prefer sustainable hotels

As a hotel manager, your customer is always your number one priority. And that’s exactly why hotel sustainability is so important. Today’s customers support companies that share their values. Travelers are increasingly seeking out ecofriendly travel options, and some are even willing to pay extra to support a hotel’s sustainability program. According to, 68% of global travelers intend to stay at an ecoaccommodation in 2018.

While many high-impact sustainability initiatives won’t be visible to your guests, it’s still a good idea to showcase your commitment to the environment and appeal to the growing eco-conscious crowd.

Generate cost savings

While it’s true that some sustainable technologies are more of an upfront investment, being eco-friendly will help you improve efficiency and lower costs in the long run. Many sustainable hotel practices will pay for themselves in no time through reduced energy and water bills.

By adopting green initiatives, you also gain a competitive advantage, boost your brand image, and improve customer loyalty—all of which translates into higher profits.

Everything you need to know
about hotel sustainability

Use this guide to learn how hotels can go green and why it
matters. Scroll the page or use the following links to jump directly
to the area that interests you the most.

Hotel sustainability statistics

  • Energy consumption in hotels
    has increased from 25% to
    30% in the past decade.
    Hotel News Now
  • 95% of business travelers
    believe the hotel industry
    should be undertaking
    sustainability initiatives.
  • 45% of guests would pay a
    higher room rate to support
    sustainability, according to a
    Cornell Hospitality report.
    Cornell University
  • Hotels waste, on average,
    35% of all food purchased.
  • 95% of European hoteliers rated
    environmental sustainability as
    either very important (64%) or
    important (31%), according to a
    Smartvatten survey.

The challenges of achieving
sustainability in the hotel industry

Sticking to a budget

Want to make your hotel more sustainable, but feel held back by a limited budget? Managing high stakeholder expectations and sticking to your budget is no doubt challenging.

Many companies mistakenly associate sustainability with high expenses, but being sustainable can actually lower your operational costs and increase your profits. Since energy and water usage is especially high in the hotel industry, establishing an energy reduction plan is a relatively easy way to reduce costs and improve your impact on the environment.

“3 years ago we decided to make the switch from traditional light bulbs to to micro LED lights. Since then, our energy consumption has dropped by 30-35%, which has, of course, resulted in huge savings in our energy bill.”


Choosing the practices with the highest environmental impact

With so many available options to improve sustainability in the hotel industry, it can be difficult for hotel managers to pick the best initiatives for their unique business.

Sustainability experts recommend incorporating eco-friendly efforts into your strategic plan. That way, all your operations, policies, and procedures will foster an eco-friendly culture. Establishing clear sustainability goals will give your business direction, help you remain innovative and competitive, and attract the right client base.

Building a high-quality, sustainable menu

As people are becoming more and more conscious of the food they eat, they often seek out organic and local options while traveling. Offering locally produced, in season foods on your menu is thus a simple, low-cost way to be more sustainable.

But local doesn’t always mean better. What if locally sourced options just won’t cut it for your luxury hotel guests?

Fortunately, there are other ways to build a sustainable menu. Since cattle makes up more than 18% of global greenhouse gas emissions, offering less red meat is a great way to reduce your carbon footprint while still pleasing your guests.

Growing your own produce is another way to reduce food waste and greenhouse gas emissions associated with farming and transportation. AccorHotels, one of the world’s biggest hotel chains, aims to create 1,000 urban vegetable gardens by 2020.

You can also request reduced packaging from suppliers and eliminate bottled water from your menu.

Getting guest commitment

Your guests play a key role in your sustainability strategy. Many travelers do care about being green, but it can still be a challenge to get them to commit to your eco-friendly initiatives.

While it’s a good idea to inform your guests about your commitment to the environment—both at your hotel and online—many long-term investments won’t be visible to them. Thus, hoteliers can also focus on behind-the-scenes programs, which will have a bigger impact in the long run.

“Many initiatives visible to the guests are only the tip of the iceberg. Long-term investments like renewable energy and wastewater treatment programs could have a much bigger impact than any towel and linen program.”


Ensuring employee support

Guest satisfaction is your biggest priority. But running a great hotel wouldn’t be possible without your employees. Improving sustainability in the hotel industry thus largely depends on your employees’ regular participation in environmental initiatives.

“You have to convince the whole staff that sustainability is important. Changing people’s attitudes is not always easy, but it can make a huge difference.”


When training your staff on sustainable hotel practices, include all levels of seniority. Top-level support is crucial to get everyone committed to your sustainability program, and more junior workers will bring in different perspectives. Encourage all employees to suggest positive changes and reward their good work to keep them engaged.


Tools and practices for
sustainable hotels

Discover the top sustainability investment areas across three
categories: energy, water, and waste. Use these tools and practices
to reduce your hotel’s carbon footprint and benefit your business.


Automatic energy consumption

Continuously monitoring your energy
consumption is key to improving your
hotel sustainability. Tracking
consumption in real time will tell you
exactly how, when, and where energy
waste occurs so you can make the
necessary changes.

Energy efficient light bulbs
75% of European hotels already use
energy efficient light bulbs to manage
their consumption, according to a
Smartvatten survey. LED light bulbs,
which use at least 75% less energy
than incandescent lighting
, can
significantly lower your electricity bill.

Lighting with motor detectors or

Motion detectors and timers reduce
energy consumption by ensuring
your guests won’t accidentally leave
the lights on when they leave. As a
low-cost and relatively easy to install
option, they extend the life of your
light bulbs and help you save power.


Eco-friendly dishwashers and laundry

Laundry services account for about 15
to 20% of all energy consumption

within a full-service hotel. Many
sustainable hotels thus use
dishwashers and laundry systems that
are specifically designed to conserve
water. Eliminating the need for hot
water and reducing dry times will result
in major electrical and water
consumption savings.

Leak detection device
Leaking water pipes, dripping faucets
or showers, and leaking toilets can
make your water bill skyrocket. Even a
small leak can cause structural
damage that could put hotel rooms
out of use and be incredibly costly to
fix. Some of the most significant
water and cost savings thus come
from quick leak detection.

“We recently implemented
Smartvatten to track our water
consumption around the clock. The
system sends us automatic alerts
when it detects leaks, which in turn
helps us prevent damages.”


Water flow restrictors or tap aerators
Installing water flow restrictors and
tap aerators in your hotel bathrooms
is a smart way to reduce your water
without affecting the
quality of service. These devices can
be retrofitted to your existing taps
and showerheads to conserve water
while maintaining a strong flow.


Eco-label cleaning products and

Traditional cleaning products are full
of toxic chemicals that have harmful
environmental effects. Switch to ecolabel
cleaning products and
detergents to help the environment,
and improve staff and guest safety.
All certified eco-label products meet
strict criteria that guarantees a
reduced amount of chemicals, limited
substances harmful to the aquatic
environment, increased
biodegradability, and less packaging.

Limited use of disposable dishware
While some water and energy is
needed to wash reusable dishes, they
are far less harmful to the
environment than disposable items.
The upfront cost will be a bit higher,
but you’ll save money over time by
making this switch.

Waste management and recycling

The average hotel guest generates
about 1 kg of waste per night.
Fortunately, hotels are becoming
increasingly smarter about managing
waste. 72% of the hotels surveyed
for a Smartvatten report had already
implemented a waste management
and/or recycling program. Using
refillable dispensers for guest
amenities instead of plastic bottles
is also a great way to eliminate
waste at the source, reduce
operating costs, and save time.


5 simple steps to sustainable
hotel management

Measure your energy and water consumption

As the first step of your sustainability plan, it’s important to measure your energy and water consumption. You can only make informed decisions once you know where you currently stand. Use a system that works around the clock and offers real-time reporting so you can continuously track your progress and measure your efforts.

Set achievable goals

The next step is to set goals with your team. You can use the SMART system to focus your efforts, meaning your goals should be specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and timebound. Encourage your staff to put forward their own suggestions, and make it clear how they can contribute. Without setting clear goals, it’s nearly impossible to get everyone involved and to achieve your desired results.

Secure your budget

Many hotel sustainability practices require little or no cost. Even the larger eco-friendly initiatives that may cost you more upfront will save you money in the long run. Thus, most organizations are prepared to invest in energy efficiency now to reduce operating costs well into the future. Sustainable practices also improve your hotel’s image, which result in better profits down the line.

Choose the right tools and practices

With so many options out there, it can be difficult to choose the best sustainable tools and practices for your hotel. While it’s important to do your research, it’s also crucial to consider your unique business situation. Take into account your ideal guests, the location of your hotel, the building, and the local infrastructure when assessing sustainable initiatives.

Maintain ongoing communication

Many hotels are now going green, but few are effectively communicating their efforts. Develop a communications plan to help strengthen your company culture, gain recognition, and improve your hotel image. Make your initiatives clear to all stakeholders—including your guests—to attract new clients and retain your existing ones. Don’t be mistaken—guests are interested in your green program! And their participation is important to see your desired results.

Smartvatten – the smart way to
improve operational efficiency and
deliver better customer experiences

Smartvatten’s remote monitoring service helps you mitigate your
impact on the environment, cut costs, and earn customer loyalty. With
24/7 consumption monitoring, automated alerts, and cloud-based
software to analyze trends, you’ll gain peace of mind knowing you’ll
catch leaks fast and save money. Smartvatten is good for the
environment, your customers, and your wallet.

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