How to Create a Green Hotel

If you run an accommodation business, whether it be a hotel, motel, bed and breakfast, lodge, resort or other type of guest facilities, making your business more sustainable is a good business choice. Programs such as The Natural Step organization has already demonstrated how instituting sustainable practices improve business outcomes and help to protect the local environment.

Many customers are attracted to eco-friendly hotel practices and many of the practices can save your business money and make it more efficient, a win-win outcome. This article provides some starter suggestions for greening your accommodation business.


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    Recycle your old beds and mattresses. It will cut your costs down, create a competitive advantage, interest your guests, and save environment. It takes over 20 years for a mattress to decompose! Make sure that the company that recycles beds and mattresses actually does it and is not just sending parts of it to landfill. Tip: Wow! Contract is an industry leader who recycles and replaces old beds and mattresses with 100% being recycled.
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    Start a linen reuse program in all guest rooms. This is now commonplace in many hotels and is a cost-saving, water-saving and time-saving measure that works well. Many customers avail themselves of the opportunity to hang up their towel instead of tossing it in the bath immediately for changing. Place signs in your guest rooms indicating that this program is operational; either make your own or have them printed locally. There are also online sites that will sell ready-made signs.
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    Save water. There are several ways to reduce water usage in each guest room. Some include:
    • Installing low-flow shower heads and sink aerators.
    • Switching to low-flow toilets or install toilet-tank fill diverters. To learn more about low-flow toilets, see Convert Any Toilet to a Low Flush Toilet.
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    Save energy. Reducing energy usage reduces your fuel bills, so it makes common sense. Here are some ways you can achieve this:
    • Switch to LED (Light Emitting Diode)lighting to reduce electricity use. LED's have the lowest carbon footprint, last 5-20 times longer, and are safe (compact fluorescent light bulbs all contain mercury, a hazardous heavy metal) in guestrooms, lobbies, and hallways. Use sensors and/or timers for areas that are infrequently used.
    • Educate your staff to turn off lights and turn down heating/air conditioning when rooms are unoccupied. Also, during summer months, to close the drapes.
    • Use daylight exclusively in your lobby, bar, and restaurant for as much of the day as possible. Consider installing skylights if needed.
    • Install window film to lower heating and cooling loads and reduce glare in guestrooms.
    • Replace exit signs with Light Emitting Diode (LED) exit signs.
    • Purchase "Energy Star" appliances wherever possible. In the USA, see the Energy Star for Hospitality site. It provides detailed information about energy saving appliances and monitoring systems.
    • Replace old washing machines with both water and energy conserving models.
    • If the hotel has a pool and/or hot tub, install a solar water heating system and use pool and hot tub covers when the pool area is closed.
    • Use an energy management system (EMS) to tie in air handling units, HVAC, and lighting to prevent conditioning space when it is not necessary. Replace electric package terminal air conditioner (PTAC) units with more efficient heat pumps or other geothermal technologies. Consult outside sources to evaluate the total system when replacing major mechanical equipment (such as chiller, water tower, etc). Often, this can lead to downsizing and other opportunities to reduce both the initial investment and operating costs.
    • Use proper insulation and reflective roof coverings.
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    Monitor, record and post rates of energy and water use. Make repairs or replace equipment when rate changes indicate problems. Include filter changes, coil cleaning, thermostat calibration, and damper adjustments in your ongoing maintenance plan.
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    Buy in bulk. Whenever possible, buy food and guest amenities in bulk (i.e., use refillable hair and skin care dispensers). This saves extra journeys and packaging.
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    Recycle. Recycle your hotel's waste in the kitchen, guest rooms, dining room etc. There are several ways in which you can encourage guests and staff to recycle:
    • Provide guestroom recycling baskets for newspaper, white paper, glass, aluminum, cardboard, and plastic.
    • Provide recycling bins both in public areas (i.e., poolside), in the kitchen, and in the back office (including one at each desk) to make recycling as easy as possible.
    • Buy office and guest amenity products that contain recycled material. For company listings in North America, access the Recycled-Content Product Manufacturers Directory.
    • Use recycled paper products (with high post-consumer recycled content) that are either unbleached or bleached using a chlorine-free process. Minimize the amount of paper used for each guest (i.e., reduce paper size of invoices, etc.). Print with soy-based inks.
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    Buy organic, fair trade, cruelty-free guest amenity products whenever possible. Make it clear that you are supporting such products and try to obtain these products across a diverse range of products, such as:
    • bedding and guest robes
    • hair and body care
    • coffee, tea and chocolate, etc.
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    Clean green. Use nontoxic or least-toxic cleaners, sanitizers, paints, pesticides, etc. throughout the hotel. Make sure all chemicals are stored safely in a well-ventilated area.
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    Get the guests motivated to use green transportation options. Provide your guests with bicycles, walking maps, and information on public transportation.
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    Avoid disposable products or throwing away useful items. Disposable products fill up landfills and create garbage on your property. There are suitable alternatives:
    • Provide reusable items such as cloth napkins, glass cups, ceramic dishes, etc. with all food and beverage services.
    • Provide glass cups and ceramic mugs (instead of plastic) for in-room beverages. Place cups and mugs upside down on paper doilies (instead of covering opening with a plastic wrapping).
    • Donate leftover food to a local nonprofit organization and/or use a compost bin.
    • Donate leftover guest amenities, old furniture and appliances to charities.
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    Try green dining. If your hotel has a restaurant, consider transitioning it into a Certified Green Restaurant. Buy organic, locally-grown food and/or plant an organic garden to provide fresh produce for your guests.
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    Garden with consideration for protecting the ecosystem and water-saving. Switch to drought resistant native plants in garden areas. Replace mowed landscaping with native ground cover.
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    Create an incentive program to encourage your staff. The program should be tailored to encourage participation in and improving upon environmentally-friendly practices.
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    Provide discounts to eco-oriented groups. Offer discounted rates to sustainable living/environmental organizations who would like stay at and/or hold meetings at your hotel.


  • When doing construction or remodeling projects in the United States, contact the U.S. Green Building Council to learn about the nationally accepted standards for green buildings (called LEED). Buy previously used or recycled-content products whenever possible.
  • Use an eco-friendly website hosting company for your hotel's advertising. Advertise your green hotel on worldwide networks that promote eco-friendly accommodation.
  • If your hotel has a gift shop, consider purchasing fair trade products. Look online for wholesalers.
  • If available, schedule an energy audit through your local energy provider.

Things You'll Need

  • Recycling programs
  • Energy efficient appliances
  • Employee incentive programs
  • Signs for guests to follow and learn about hotel practices
  • Fair trade and eco-friendly sourced products

Sources and Citations

Article Info

Categories: Sustainable Living