14 tips for eco-friendly hotels

It is absolutely lovely to be away from home for a few days and allow yourself to be pampered in a hotel. It might be comfortable, relaxing and fun, but in order to be a responsible person you should think about the sustainability efforts of the hotel. Your choices in life reflect your level of responsibility. What can a hotel do to become more eco-friendly hotel?

Sustainability efforts of hotels

Traditionally, hotels tend to be reluctant on environmental issues. Everyone thinks that luxury and comfort go against eco-friendly guidelines. Several hotels have proven this is not the case at all. In this blog I will elaborate on a number of basic issues that can be carried out by hotels in order to be more eco-friendly. When booking a hotel, check to what extent the hotel follows some basic environmental issues.

Sustainable lighting

Every year, hotels consume a lot of energy for lightning. Lights in eco lights in hotelscommunal areas tend to be on 24/7. By changing to energy-efficient lightning, a hotel can certainly contribute to a more eco-friendly business.

Options are to use LED-lights instead of other forms of lightning. By using timers on the lights that switch on when movements are detected, a lot of energy can be saved as well. This prevents the lights being on all the time, but allow lights to be burning only when necessary.

Sustainable design

A sustainable hotel starts during the design phase. A hotel can choose environmental friendly furniture in the rooms and the communal areas, preferably furniture that has been designed and produced locally.

Eco-friendly toiletries

In hotels, but also hostels, free toiletries offered by the hotel are more-and-more expected by guests. These form an extra amenity offered by the hotel. The hotel can therefor influence the level of service and luxury they provide by choosing luxury, eco-friendly toiletries.

These are valued by guest as they are more friendly for the skin. It is a great gesture of the hotel when plant based and hypoallergenic toiletries are offered to the hotel guests. It is an extra luxury without extra costs.

Another eco-friendly solution is to use refillable soap and shampoo dispensers. These can be refilled to prevent to use of those little plastic hotel bottles that guests like to take home as a memory.

Use towels more than one day

Many hotels still change the towels of rooms on a daily basis. If guests stay sustainability in hotelsmore nights, it is absolutely not necessary to change the towels every day. Since a few years, many hotels do clearly state to guests that towels don’t need to be change daily, but can be used in a more sustainable way. Towels are only replaced by clean towels when left on the floor. This saves an enormous amount of laundry, detergents, water and energy, but also expands the lifetime of towels.

Save toilet paper

In some hotels, it is seen as appropriate to always change the toilet paper rolls with a new one, regardless whether the roll is finished or not. A more eco-friendly way is to leave rolls when not finished completely, as half rolls of toilet paper can still be used without decreasing the level of hygiene.

A better solution is to fold the end of the toilet paper roll into a triangle. This gives a good impression that the hygiene has been taken into account, without throwing away half a roll of toilet paper. It is a small adjustment to limit the annual waste of useable toilet paper and therefor also limit the costs of hotels.

Cleaning the hotel eco-friendly

A hotel is cleaned daily by the housekeeping staff. Just like at home, eco-environmental friendly cleaning products for hotelsfriendly cleaning products can have the same cleaning power as chemical products. The advantage of eco-friendly cleaning products is that it is way better for the health of housekeeping staff, guests, animals and the environment.

One should realise that the chloride used for cleaning the toilet always damages nature eventually and/or returns as supposedly drinking water. By using chloride and other chemical cleaning products, we are damaging nature and our own body without a doubt.

And really: eco-friendly alternatives clean just as well.

Eco-friendly transfers

Transport towards the airport or train station could be done eco-friendly, by using an electric car. It is a great way to present yourself as an eco-friendly hotel.

Eco-friendly image

The efforts of the hotel towards an eco-friendly hotel can be used to build a better image. It can for example be mentioned on the website of the hotel, not only as self-marketing, but also to inspire guests to pursue a more environmental-friendly lifestyle.

Green-Key hotels

Several hotels have a Green-Key label. Green-Key is an international organization that strives for environmental conscious en sustainable hotels. A hotel can only join when strict rules have been followed. This Green-Key label is the least a hotel should do, seriously.

A better heating and cooling system in the hotel room

Many hotels still have systems in which the temperature in the room can be individually regulated. When done sustainably, the temperature in the room does not have to be arranged 24/7, as guests usually mainly sleep in the room and don’t spend the entire day at the hotel room.

Systems are available to better arrange the temperature in the hotel by using heating and cold storages and arranging heating by having large windows, or arranging cooling by allowing a window to open.

Automatically turn of lights and energy outlets

Many hotels arrange the energy in the hotel room by a system, in which a key card needs to be inserted in order for lights and devices to work. When a guest leaves the room, all devices and lights are automatically turned off. This is a more eco-friendly way that doesn’t influence the experience of the guests.

Breakfast buffet or not?

Breakfast at hotels is usually arranged with a buffet. Research has showneco-friendly hotel breakfast that buffets stimulate people to overeat, caused by the larger amount of food that is being offered and by guests that load their plates too full. Also, a lot of food is being thrown away when using buffets.

An alternative is to provide the amount of food that the guest prefers, for example by using an a la carte breakfast. Another solution is to offer a buffet that only displays a limited amount of food to decrease waste.

Limit the consumption of water

Staying at a hotel usually implies that people tend to use more water by taking baths and longer showers. Convince people to act as the do at home.

Recycle waste as much as possible

Hotels tend to produce a lot of waste. A great eco-friendly solution is to treat waste more wisely. For example, by limiting the use of plastic, printed paper (we live in the digital age nowadays) and glass.

Another solution is to recycle waste. Food that is perfectly good, but does not meet the standards of the hotel can be donated to organizations that serve this food to less fortunate citizens. Other food waste can be recycled.

The way that a hotel deals with waste might be the best way to determine the eco-friendly principles of the hotel.

Both luxury and sustainability in an eco-friendly hotel in Amsterdam

Sustainability without being hippie or tacky. In Amsterdam, the first hotel in Europe that combines sustainability and circularity with the luxury of four to five stars has opened in April 2018, named QO Amsterdam. This hotel is an example to the world that the hotel and hospitality sector can be done differently. Let’s leave the Green Key and lazy sustainability efforts of hotels behind and make some real steps towards an actual sustainable hotel. It can be done, it doesn’t have to affect the level of luxury negatively, but it does needs a bit more effort and courage.

The construction of a sustainable hotel

Although the area is still in development, the new QO Amsterdam hotel is finished after just seven years of construction. It will be the first hotel in Europe that combines sustainability and circularity with a high level of luxury. It can be done! The QO hotel does not yet have an official rating, but will be in the four to five-star segment. It is part of the InterContinental Hotels Group.

The building of this revolutionary hotel counts twenty-one floors and is located at the Amstel river in a newly developed area of the city. The hotel has a restaurant, called Persijn, which offers high-class Dutch cuisine. The hotel bar is called Juniper & Kin bar and offers a great view over de Amstel river, that flows towards the old city centre.

The hotel counts 288 rooms, which vary in price between averagely €200 and €600 per night. The very exclusive Amstel suite has no more than 101 square meters and includes a personal trainer. This suite is therefor a bit more expensive, at averagely €7500 per night.

Sustainability in the rooms

As mentioned, sustainability has been implemented in all levels of the QOeco friendly restaurant hotel. This sustainable effort already started during the construction. An ingenious system with panels in front of the windows and a heat and cold storage in the basement of the hotel controls the climate inside the building in an energy-efficient way. The toilets are flushed with used shower water through a special water system that reuses waste water. Everything that is served in the hotel, food wise at least, is cooked on induction stoves. The hotel staff uses digital solutions and screens, as iPads, instead of printed paper and printed receipts.

Honestly, when staying in this hotel one realises how unnecessarily unsustainable the average hotel actually is. For example with paper receipts, unnecessary prints of paper, new towels after one day, water waste, etcetera. It can be done differently. Small steps are better than nothing, but big steps in sustainability are not so difficult as it may seem.

A sustainable breakfast

Naturally there is no breakfast buffet. A buffet leads to relatively a lot of waste and encourages people to eat excessively. Instead, it is healthier and more sustainable to be served the amount of food one is going to eat. Therefore, all meals at the QO hotel are à la carte. Meat is served, but in small portions. The meat comes from so called ‘dual purpose cow’s that give both milk and meat.

Furthermore, all products that guests use and eat are preferably locally sustainable organic hotel breakfastgrown or produced. The wooden trays in the restaurants are, for example, made from trees from a local park: the Vondelpark. At breakfast, a range of products come from local businesses, like the peanut butter and the typically Dutch and delicious chocolate sprinkles. Locally produced products limit the emissions caused by transport. Therefore, the QO hotel strives to find its suppliers nearby, when possible of course.

This does include that certain products are not available at this hotel. Limes and lemons, for example, don’t grow anywhere near to The Netherlands. Instead alternatives are found and used.

A greenhouse at an altitude of 76 meters

And that’s not all. One of the most unique parts of the QO hotel is the greenhouse that is located on the roof of the hotel. The hotel grows its own vegetables, herbs and edible flowers in this greenhouse, at a height of 76 meters. The products are used in the bar and restaurant of the hotel. This is not only unique, but locally grown products cannot be more local.

In terms of herbs and flowers, the hotel can be self sufficient. This guarantees the most delicious fresh herbs and, in some cases, vegetables imaginable.

Of course sustainability does not end there. The fish served in the restaurant of the hotel swims in a water tank in the greenhouse. This water tank is part of a circular aquaponic system. The water with the excrement of the fish serves as food for the plants in the greenhouse, that in turn purify the water. For the future, the hotel plans to use composted vegetable and fruit waste from the kitchen as food for the fish.

As sustainable as can be

Of course, not everything can be as sustainable as described above. A hotel sustainable hotel roomshould strive to be a hotel that is as sustainable as possible. One of the things that didn’t work out as preferred by the QO hotel is coffee and tea. Coffee and tea produced locally is simply not available, nor an alternative. Of course, fresh herb tea is possible, but in the end guests do prefer a cup of coffee or regular tea.

Another issue is that the hotel is part of a very polluting travel industry. Their guests do not live locally, but rather travel (around the world) in order to stay at this sustainable hotel. It is questionable whether a stay at the most sustainable hotel of Europe makes sense after flying to Amsterdam by a most polluting airplane from the other side of the world.

Encouraging people to travel less is therefore difficult. QO is however committed to inspire its guests and show their guests and the world that accommodation can be done differently by using sustainable and local products. That is definitely a step in the right direction for the very unsustainable hospitality industry.

To inspire is not only a good intention. QO aims to organize events to spread their solutions to sustainability in combination with luxury. Sustainability doesn’t have to be boring, old fashioned, hippie or basic. On the other hand, luxury doesn’t have to mean excessiveness. The QO hotel is an existing proof it can be done.

You want more tips on the best eco-friendly hotels? Read my blog on the best eco-friendly hotels of 2019.