I happen to be writing this on an 11-hour flight from Auckland to Hongkong on my way back home from year-end family holidays in the lush nature of New Zealand. A couple of weeks ago I also joined a Facebook group for those preferring to travel by land – yet knowing that in my case, with relatives scattered on five continents, a total ban for air travel will hardly be possible. During my latest holidays I got a glimpse of how tourism and travel looks like “down under”: Also there sustainability is in, and both businesses and customers are eager to put their body and soul into making things better.

In New Zealand, Australia and the Pacific Islands climate change is a reality and the tourism industry is already facing some of its consequences. Some destinations are becoming less viable, less reliable and less attractive, take e.g. the Great Barrier Reef that has lost many of its vibrant colors due to warming sea and bleaching. At the same time, though, climate change is acting as a catalyst to make the travel industry more sustainable.
There are dozens of entry points to sustainability in travel that we´re exploring in these blogs. In this one we focus on some ways hospitality managers can reduce emissions and improve green practices in their business.

1) Calculate your current carbon footprint

If you don’t know where you currently stand, or how big your business footprint is, how can you see where you can make changes and keep on top of all of your improvements, and continue to be motivated? There are professionals who can help you to calculate this if needed. Once you know how much energy, water, chemicals, waste and other resources you use, you can start looking at possible alternatives and see which combination makes best sense as a business investment.

2) Optimize your energy consumption

There are lots of options for using greener energy and reducing your costs in the short and medium term. Check all your machines and devices, repair any broken ones and if possible, replace with modern and more energy-efficient models (remember to recycle and get properly rid of the old ones). Save in lighting, air-conditioning and heating: Discuss with an architect to see if changes or better use of space can help to optimize entry of light and air flows.

Prefer energy that is produced locally and with renewable sources. The costs of adapting solar energy has decreased, making it a great option in the long run. Install solar panels on your roof and make great use of that unused space. If your business is located in a colder climate invest in good insulation and double-glazed windows.

3) Keep an eye on your water

Water may not be an urgent issue in New Zealand or Finland, but it sure is a critical one in dozens of other countries. Monitor your water use, identify peak consumption, repair any leaks and change water faucets to water-saving models. If possible, recycle and treat your own water. Try to avoid chemicals and only use phosphate-free and biodegradable detergents and cleansing products, ensuring that your staff knows how to use them efficiently. Water pollution in Finnish lakes and Kiwi rivers is mainly caused by agriculture and mining, and you don’t want to join the “bad guys”.

4) Source locally and prefer seasonal produce

As celebrated Executive Chef Paul Froggatt in New Zealand’s high-end Huka Lodge asks, why should he serve strawberries outside of strawberry season? Being sustainable means making the best out of seasonal produce – even if this implies limiting some choices. Locally-sourced and organic produce has not travelled thousands of kilometers and has usually a lower carbon footprint. Local delicacies are also a treat to visitors who come far away and are looking for new sensations. Who would have thought that New Zealand oysters and olive oil produced in small quantities in Nelson on the South Island, are so delicious?

Donate food you cannot use rather than waste it. You can set up links with local charities, institutions and even farms to put your excess food to good use while exercizing your social responsibility. Monitor carefully what you use: This way you can better predict and buy only what is needed and avoid unnecessary waste.

5) Say no to plastics. Reduce, reuse and recycle

As a hospitality manager your say on whole value change is huge. Tell your subcontractors that you prefer recycled and biodegradable packages (even better: no packages at all) and tell them to avoid plastics. Make efforts to reduce all waste in your facility, may that be in paper, changing small shampoo bottles to bigger dispensers and not serving non-disposable nor single-use plastic. If the tap water is not safe to drink, provide guests with recyclable bottles and water jugs. If possible, engage with the city council to advocate for better-quality tap water.

Use a compost and network with companies that are part of the local circular economy. In many countries there are efforts to enhance the reuse, repair, recycling, design and manufacturing of products. After all, “one’s trash is another’s treasure”. If you don’t find any initiatives, propose one yourself!

6) Spread the word

Lastly, remember the power of communication: Don’t shy away from telling your guests about the ways you are reducing your footprint. Your eco-conscious visitors will be impressed and spread the positive news, making your business attractive for others to come.

 

Camaleonte Oy/ Maija Peltola & Rita Azar