How Achievable Is Net-Zero Emissions Within The Hospitality Industry?

Even though the hospitality sector accounts for a relatively small amount of global carbon emissions (one percent), the industry may feel a more significant impact than other industries.
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Addressing climate change is a global priority. It’s something that demands the efforts of governments, companies and individuals across the board. Scientific research has shown that if we are to mitigate and adapt to the worst effects of climate change then we need to keep the global temperature rise under 1.5 degrees celsius. This will only be possible if all industries, including the hospitality industry, work to achieve net-zero emissions.

The hospitality industry is already suffering from the effects of climate change. Extreme weather events are becoming more frequent, which in turn increases the cost of operations for companies and also impacts the levels of tourists visiting certain areas. So even though the hospitality sector accounts for a relatively small amount of global carbon emissions (one percent), the industry may feel a more significant impact than other industries.

What does net-zero emissions mean?

The term net zero is batted around frequently, but what exactly does it mean? In simple terms, net zero refers to the balance between the amount of greenhouse gasses put into the environment and the amount removed. Net zero is achieved when the entire world reaches a balance between the two, which would mean carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere would no longer be increasing.

Net zero is a crucial goal if we’re to prevent the worst effects of climate change. It’s something that will require the efforts of everyone on earth. Every country, every sector and every industry will need to work towards this global goal of net-zero emissions.

What will be needed to pivot the hospitality industry towards net zero?

Sustainability is no longer just nice to have or a green selling point. It's a necessity in today's world. The hospitality industry has on the whole been proactive when it comes to mitigating the effects of climate change; however, it still has some work to do. So what will it take for hotels and resorts to reach net zero?

Reducing carbon emissions:

Hotels and resorts should be looking for ways to reduce their energy consumption. Renewable energy is the most effective way to achieve this. This may involve sourcing an energy provider who utilizes renewable energy sources such as solar or wind power, or hotels may choose to go one step further than this and install their own sources of renewable energy (the most common being solar panels). This will involve a little more upfront cost. However, long term benefits can be huge, and within only a matter of a few years a hotel may even break even on the initial investment.

Smaller scale changes that hotels and resorts can employ to cut down on energy related emissions include the installation of smart energy sensors. These can prevent the waste of electricity throughout the building by automatically turning off lights when no one is in the room, or switching off AC units when a door or window is open. The actions are small in scale, but the cumulative effects can be immense.

Cutting down on waste

Resorts and hotels should also aim to cut down on produce waste. Yes, it's a nice touch for guests to find the complementary toiletries in their hotel bathroom but all that packaging is wasteful. Hotels can still offer these benefits to guests but in a more environmentally friendly way by replacing single use plastics with larger refillable bottles.

Another way that hotels and resorts can cut down on waste is by going paperless. This means sending digital invoices to guests and opting to place smart tablets in guests rooms instead of magazines or paper guides.

Use local suppliers

Go local! Guests are often traveling great distances to soak up and appreciate the local culture, so why not take advantage of this by using and promoting local products? This could be anything from toiletry supplies to the produce that you serve in the hotel restaurant or bar. This small action will not only support local businesses but will also cut down on the carbon emissions that result from the transportation of goods. It’s win-win.

Cut out water waste

With guests often staying for longer than a night or two, it can be incredibly wasteful and inefficient to wash their sheets and towels every single day. Not only does reducing washing cut down on electricity consumption, but it also significantly cuts down on water waste. Many hotels are wise to this and have adopted policies whereby guests are asked to consider reusing towels and bedsheets. By simply allowing guests to place dirty towels on the floor and hang up ones that they don’t mind re-using again, the hotel is able to cut down on unnecessary washing.

How achievable is this?

The importance of sustainability and cutting down on carbon emissions in the hospitality industry has gained attention in recent years. Eco-friendly tourism and eco-friendly hotels are increasingly becoming a selling point for environmentally conscious travelers. By making the effort to cut down on emissions and waste, hotels may find that they not only save on operational costs, but that they actually increase profits by attracting more travelers.

The actions required to achieve net zero emissions in the hospitality sector are possible; however, hotels and resorts will need to make a real effort to implement them. It’s not enough just to be seen to be taking action: hotels and resorts need to look at all aspects of their operations and consider how they can choose and implement more sustainable alternatives.

About the Author

Alexis Normand, Co-Founder and CEO of Greenly, a provider of carbon assessment and accountability solutions for small to large companies.