Hotel energy savers

As environmental issues reach a peak in political circles, the hospitality sector promotes its efforts, from paper recycling to building sewerage treatment plants, in a bid for a greener environment

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By  Laura Barnes Published  February 7, 2006

|~|Paper-Recycling-L.jpg|~|Paper recyling is one environmental initiative hotels are embracing.|~|With environmental issues taking a front seat in most countries, the hospitality industry also has to sit up and take note. Although some people think that reducing emissions are key to protecting the environment, there is more that can, and is, being done. Recycling, energy conservation, and the protection and growth of green areas, are also key factors in protecting the planet, but it is an issue that all industries have to be involved in. As such, the hospitality industry across the Middle East is promoting its environmental awareness schemes in an effort to highlight the issue, not only to its staff, but also to tourists and the companies that they deal with. A number of hotels across the region have begun to set up committees to regularly discuss hotel activities and any issues that may be of concern. For example, Sheraton Dubai Creek Hotel & Towers has an environmental, health, safety and security committee, which meets once a month to discuss and review matters of environmental concern. Most recently, the hotel took part in the environmental, health, safety and security (EHSS) campaign last month with a 10-day workshop to enhance awareness of the importance of EHSS. The campaign included visits to paper recycling and water plants, first aid training and a ‘Clean the Creek Day’. “The EHSS week has been a regular feature in our annual calendar and it’s an event that our associates look forward to every year. It’s in the hotel’s best interest to help all associates familiarise themselves with such fundamental topics, in order to ensure their own safety as well as that of our guests, so this campaign is really important to us,” says Thomas van Opstal, general manager, Sheraton Dubai Creek Hotel & Towers. Likewise, the Accor Group, is eager to promote environmental issues within the company and has initiated a number of awareness campaigns, including posters, incentive programs and a 15-point charter. The Accor Environmental Charter provides a practical demonstration of environmental concerns, which are divided into four groups: waste management and recycling, technical controls, architecture and landscape, and awareness and training. “Twice a year we review our environmental policy by assessing how many of the 15 actions are in place in the hotel. We also have monthly follow ups to see how many objectives we have, or are in the process of being achieved. For example, one of the 15 actions was to become an asbestos free building, and we were recently certified to say this had been achieved,” comments Bruno Guilloux, general manager, Novotel, World Trade Centre Dubai. The Ritz-Carlton Bahrain, Hotel & Spa also has a structured framework in place that is reviewed every year. The hotel’s policy is to cut down consumption by focusing on key areas of the hotel, including waste management, indoor air quality, energy conservation and land use planning/ecosystem. The Ritz-Carlton, Bahrain does this by following four basic steps: identifying and complying with environmental regulations of the state, determining and prioritising environmental opportunities, telling guests that the property supports environmentally friendly policies and celebrating progress through various company eco awards programmes. In addition to creating corporate awareness and drawing up environmental policies, hotel groups across the region are working with environmental organisations, as well as wining awards for implementing conservation schemes. Rezidor SAS has embraced this eco-drive and has a responsible business unit in each of its Middle East properties. The unit, which is responsible for training staff about social and environmental issues, has introduced a waste management programme at the Radisson SAS Resort, Taba, as well as a can collection campaign at the Radisson Hotel, Sharjah. Additionally, Rezidor SAS was last year awarded the Worldwide Hospitality Award for Environmental Protection & Sustainable Development. The award comes after the hotel company was recognised for its work in implementing good environmental and social practices, as well as creating staff awareness. But winning awards only comes after the successful implementation and continued efforts of environmental programmes. Naturally, with more guests visiting the region there is an increase in the amount of refuse. Thankfully, the recycling of refuse like paper, cans and kitchen waste is perhaps the easiest and most widespread form of conservation. “At our hotel we have a fully integrated program for the recycling and re-using of products. All paper, plastic, tin, wood and oils are separated at source and deposited into custom built bins for collection,” comments Guilloux. The Novotel’s used paper is sold to a company that produces paper and corrugated cardboard, tin is sold to an aluminium purchasing company and waste oil is used by companies to produce soaps and plastic products. Computer, copier and printer cartridges are also recycled by being refilled and re-used. The Accor group also sends all profits from its recycled garbage sales to charity organisations. Sheraton Dubai Creek Hotel & Towers also undertakes a recycling scheme, with old paper and cardboard boxes collected on a daily basis. It also uses refillable chemical bottles when purchasing cleaning chemicals, and has other recycling projects for cooking oil, cans, plastic and glass bottles. The hotel’s continuous efforts have been recognised by the Emirates Environmental Group — a voluntary organisation that works with companies to help protect the local environment — and it was awarded with a ‘Certificate of Appreciation’ for its contribution to the group’s Can Collection Campaign 2004-2005. Saving water In a region where water is a valuable commodity, hotels are re-using water where possible, with wastewater being used to irrigate the land. For example, Mövenpick Resort & Spa Dead Sea, has installed its own sewerage treatment plant, as well as having its own reverse osmoses plant that supplies the resort with all of its requirements for domestic water. The raw water is being supplied from an underground well. The Sheraton is also re-using its wastewater for irrigation, and more recently the hotel installed a water-saver gadget in all guest bathrooms, which will lead to a substantial saving of water at the property. Perhaps the biggest consumption of energy in hotels across the region is air conditioning. During the summer months, air-conditioning units run 24/7. However, during the winter months hotels can better regulate and monitor the frequency and use of the units. As a result, more hotels in the region are therefore connecting their air-handling units to a building maintenance system (BMS), which helps to control the timings of the air-conditioning unit as well as temperature output, resulting in energy conservation and a drop in electricity consumption. Mövenpick Resort & Spa Dead Sea, as well as Sheraton Dubai Creek Hotel & Towers, has adopted BMS, but it is not just used for regulating air-conditioning units, it can also help control the timings of lighting systems for the property, which helps to conserve even more energy. Adopting energy saving measures, however, is not an easy task. A hotel has to assess its complete operations, beginning from the infrastructure of the building to the amount and type of waste the hotel produces a day. Installing BMS and sewerage systems may look like a hotel is actively trying to help the environment, but it takes more than that. Staff education Staff need to be educated about energy conservation, from how to cut down on electrical usage, to the importance of recycling, and the delicate ecosystem of the region. This is a gradual process, and something that can be achieved over a period of time. For a hotel to be more economically friendly its guests also need to be made aware of what eco measures are being adopted. Many hotels now present guests with an eco call to action with regards to bedding and towel laundry. Guests are asked to reuse towels in a bid to reduce water and energy usage. However, whilst one hotel may have a number of procedures and energy conservation steps in place, it takes the continuous effort of the whole region to make a real difference.||**||

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