I have heard somewhere that nature does not need us. We need nature. Nature has fed species greater than human beings, and it has starved species much bigger than us. How we live each day does not matter to nature. Nature will evolve, like it has always done for eon years. It is for us change. It is for us to evolve . Else, we will be extinct.
What does it mean for the hospitality industry? Why is it important for this sector? In simple terms, it means the natural ecosystems and resources are thus maintained that they support the current generation and do not eat into the share of the future generations. But most hotels in the industry are stressing the environment and recklessly leaving negative carbon footprints. So, if we want to keep this industry prosperous, we need to make it sustainable.
The impact has come through energy (for air conditioning, lighting, fuel, etc) and water consumption (bathrooms, laundry, washing areas in F&B, gardening, etc), use of consumer goods in forms of facilities and amenities, solid and sometimes hazardous waste creation (paper, batteries, bulbs, furniture, equipment, laundry waste, etc).
Initially many hotels were not following the norms because “green operations” were believed to be more expensive and guests were not ready to pay for that. But as per a report published by Cornell University’s Centre for Hospitality Research, the guests in the US are now fine with paying that extra money for staying at a “green hotel”. I believe this is true for hotels in India as well.
Carbon footprint sounds like a very heavy word! Carbon emissions even heavier! We need to educate everyone in the industry that carbon footprint is just a measure of how much carbon emission your business emits in the environment. Once they understand the meaning and components of this, they will invariably work towards reduction of carbon footprint. Also, a lot of these initiatives don’t even cost money.
But is it as simple as it sounds? After all, the current economic situations are not quite favourable for the industry. This is where the industry leaders must put their heads together to convert the crisis into an opportunity. We at The Park Hotels have taken steps to contribute in a small way towards this big cause.
One, we are consciously cutting down food wastage. We are ordering and producing more judiciously. Each of our hotels has a target to reduce wet garbage. Simple things like zero plate waste in the staff dining room, using smaller chafing dishes, to making menus smaller and more seasonal, has significantly contributed to this cause. In fact, this has had a collateral advantage of saving costs as well.
Two, we have made a conscious decision to reduce water usage and water wastage. We encourage guests to allow us to change towels, bed sheets and bathrobes less frequently. We have also put in place efficient water treatment plants, allowing recycled use of water for flushing and gardening, and state-of-the-art washing machines which uses less chemical, water and energy for washing. Rainwater harvesting has been introduced wherever possible, and all the new projects will be based to promote green buildings.
Three, we are working towards eliminating plastic by slowly phasing out plastic water bottles, plastic carry bags. Also, we are using biodegradable bags for garbage disposal, and segregate garbage at source to encourage recycling and composting.
Four, we have introduced organic and nontoxic amenities in the rooms. We are also working towards using AI and technology, so that there is less or no use of plastic key cards, paper work and batteries for equipment.
Five, we are actively participating in the “slow food movement”. We source our produce locally to support local farmers. Further, we have made the menus smaller, but we change them more often so that only seasonal produces are used and not the ones stored in cold storages which negatively impact carbon footprints
Six, we recycle whatever is possible whether directly or through an agency or a non-profit organisation. For instance, we plan to utilise used oil in the kitchen for the lubrication industry, instead of wasting it down in the drains.
It is a known fact that today’s generation is quite conscious about their choices. Sustainable produces are a big criterion now when they make choices to purchase products and services. This has created an environmentally conscious buying pattern, where people are more inclined towards buying “green washed” or “acid free” or “natural colour” clothes only. They buy electronics from a company that promises environment-friendly disposal of old electronic gadgets. They love to carry their water bottle. They are favorable to carpools and electronic cars. They proudly say no to crackers. So, when it comes to hotels and tourism, they may choose a hotel with sustainability consciousness.
I tell my staff to ask a question whenever they do a task in the hotel kitchen or back at home: Will this process impact the environment adversely? If the answer is yes, then one must seek help to go for a way that reduces carbon footprint without compromising on guest experiences.
Pollution and climate change are real problems. To ignore the crisis at hand would be catastrophic in the end. Each one of us must implement in our own personal capacity, both at workplace and at home, ways to make this planet a better place to live. This is our only chance. Maybe our last chance!
The writer is regional director, food production, The Park Hotels