Sustainability is becoming a defining issue for the hospitality industry in all aspects – right from the design and build stage to the day-to-day operations. BY BABITA KRISHNAN

Sustainability has been important in the hospitality industry for some time. Of the 5% contribution of tourism sector to the total global CO2 emissions, accommodation makes up a significant 21%. Hospitality is vulnerable to water shortages, relies heavily on built assets, consumes significant amounts of electricity; and since spending is discretionary, these factors ensure that hospitality is significantly impacted by sustainability issues.
A number of stakeholders play a role in reducing the environmental impact of hotels – the owners, developers, architects and designers, contractors and operators (not to mention the guests). The hotels of the world are going green. Often criticized for its wastefulness, the hospitality industry is making great strides in environmental consciousness.
The sustainable hospitality trend began in India way back in 1997 when Dr Vithal Venkatesh Kamat built Asia’s first five-star ecotel hotel – The Orchid, in Mumbai. As standards, the brand follows all the essential ecotel practices like water conservation, using solar energy, waste water management, environmental commitment by maintaining greenery in the form of potted plants and using minimum plastic in guest rooms, etc. Since then, many brands have adopted sustainable practices and are today leading the way.
For the Leela Group, their Delhi and Chennai properties are best examples of incorporating excellence in sustainable design and integrating world-class green best practices. Both hotels have been awarded Platinum LEED certification by IGBC. The Leela Palace Bangalore was conferred by President Pranab Mukherjee with the National Energy Conservation Award 2012 for its notable contribution towards energy savings.
IHG, on the other hand, is apparently the world’s first hotel company to be awarded a LEED endorsement for an existing hotel programme. Its Green Engage programme measures and tracks energy, water and waste reductions, accesses a checklist of recommended actions to help reduce impacts, and creates an action plan. The company has a global target of reducing carbon footprint per occupied room by 12% across their entire estate and reducing water use per occupied room in water-stressed areas by 12%
by 2017.
Alila Diwa Goa takes great pains to minimise its environmental impact by using primarily local materials and working with the landscape to preserve indigenous ecosystems. Brands like Trident and Accor are also seriously encouraging and investing in eco design and promoting sustainable buildings. At Holiday Inn International Airport, Mumbai, the lobby is designed such that natural daylight is enough to light the whole lobby with attractive illumination level during the day. Similarly, even the restaurants are designed for a minimum or no use of electrical lights during the day.
The first step is integrating green building materials into building projects that can help reduce the environmental impacts associated with extraction, transport, processing, fabrication, installation, reuse, recycling and disposal of these building materials. This needs to be followed by installing sustainable systems and finally ensuring that the operations and services follow sustainable best practices.

Hotels consume energy for HVAC operations, lighting, cooking fuel and other miscellaneous power requirements. Majority of focus is placed on reducing energy intensity, which can be accomplished using a technical, engineering-based approach. While the use of LED lights, energy saver cards for guest rooms, occupancy sensor light controls in BOH corridors and employee rest rooms, solar water heating system, etc. are some practices now in use almost at all reputed hotel properties, some have gone a few steps further. Arun Khanna, director engineering, The Imperial New Delhi reveals, “We have replaced the coal-fired Tandoor with the semi-automatic chapatti machine run on natural gas which in turn reduces tons of carbon emission in the environment. The energy used in this machine is only 6% which is extremely beneficial for energy saving. We inaugurated solar panels in 2012 for heating water in guest rooms which is extremely efficient in saving energy, emits less carbon and thereby is environment friendly. We have also installed CFC- free equipment for refrigeration and replaced the pumps with VFD systems (Variable Frequency Drive) that consumes electricity as per the requirement.”
Bhaskar Masineni, chief engineer, The Leela Palace Bangalore says, “In 2014-15, our main focus was on energy conservation. We reduced our utility cost by approximately 10% from last year. As electricity and fuel consumption are the main utilities that increase the carbon foot print, we reduced these two contributors by almost 14%.” Rahul Save, engineering chief of Trident BKC, Mumbai believes that setting challenging targets in HLP (Heat, Light, Power) helps reduce the annual energy consumption. “Also, having good knowledge about the appliances helps us prioritise our approach towards saving energy,” he says.
Explaining the energy conserving practices at the Holiday Inn International Airport, Mumbai, GM Suraj Kumar Jha says, “By dimming a lamp, the energy saved is as high as 98% of the proportion of unused energy. A 50% reduction in dimming levels would save around 40% of the energy. The hotel has installed electronic dimmers in lobby, restaurants and in banquets which helps to generate different light shades as per requirement. Use of electronic dimmers in banquets has enabled us to save good quantity of electricity, as during stage set up and cleaning work, we don’t need to switch on all lights on full load and thus saving electricity.”
The Orchid, Mumbai, maintains room temperatures at 240C through the Master Control Panel. “Sixty per cent of the hotel lighting is done by CFL and remaining 35% by LED. Also, we are planning to implement an entire LED plan for the complete hotel,” reveals Vishal Kamat, CEO, Kamat Hotels India Ltd. Accor India emphasizes that consultants design the hotel’s HVAC system in tandem with proper designing of building envelope, solar orientation consideration and efficient lighting design. “These elements reduce air conditioning load of the building and allow a balanced way forward for cooling and ventilation, ensuring superior guest comfort. We at Accor adopt PLANET 21 initiatives and are sensitive to the sustainable requirements. We are committed to saving about 10% on energy and water. And the only way to achieve this is by conserving on air conditioning elements,” explains Darashbir Singh, GM, engineering services, Accor India.

The other area of concern is water conservation, as hotels consume water for domestic use (bathrooms, F&B, laundry) as well as ‘process’ water for facility operations (HVAC, irrigation, cleaning and maintenance). Typical water conservation measures employed by all eco-friendly hotels include fixture retrofits, towel and linen reuse programmes, HVAC and plumbing system improvements and use of recycled/ rainwater for process and irrigation use.
While properties like The Leela Palace Bangalore and ITC Gardenia, have set benchmarks for sustainable water conservation operations, many brands are following suit and one finds automatic and drip sprinklers for irrigation, STP plants, sensors and restrictors to check water flow and consumption and energy efficient hydro-pneumatic system with variable frequency drive installed for maintaining water pressure in all guest rooms increasingly in hotels now. Jha adds that Holiday Inn has constructed rainwater harvesting pits to recharge site aquifer through recharge pits that are cleaned and maintained periodically. “In an innovative approach to save water for car washing purpose, timer-based operation of water tap is in use. It was observed that during car washing lot of water was wasted. Hence, the engineering department came up with a solution to fix a timer to the tap that discharges water only for 30 seconds. Data shows that we are saving more than 10 KL of water per day,” he reveals.
Kamat explains how the use of aerators in taps reduces the water consumption by 50% while maintaining the required water pressure. Mayur Desai, chief engineer, Alila Diwa Goa, informs, “The hotel has a sewage treatment system installed with the latest membrane technology with all the waste water being recycled for irrigation and flushing purposes. Ozone generators are used in the pool filtration system, which are eco-friendly and help to minimise the usage of pool chemicals like chlorine.”
Sheraton Bangalore Hotel at Brigade Gateway follows a basic checklist to ensure the optimum use of natural resources like water, energy and waste. Director of engineering, Sallaudin Shaikh, elaborates, “The hotel’s water consumption is monitored by installing water meters in each department, determining the monthly water consumption and its cost and identifying activities and areas that cause high consumption. It is ensured that taps are not left open unnecessarily. Flow regulators on the showerheads are installed in order to decrease consumption from 20 to 12 litres/minute (40% saving).”
Rishi Puri, VP, operations, Lords Hotels and Resorts, reveals that most of their hotels have water audits conducted by outside party and implement the recommendations; and have set water benchmark for daily operation volumes for concerned departments that are monitored on a daily basis.
As water resources become more constrained, governments will begin charging higher rates or limiting water use at commercial properties (there have been some crackdowns reported in the recent past). Water use reductions will limit a hotel’s ability to use fresh water landscaping, spa and swimming pools – and reuse and conservative water management will be the only course open for the industry.

Waste generated by hotels include wastes from construction and refurbishment, consumables (like paper, toner, batteries), durable goods (like furniture, office equipment, appliances), F&B wastes, hazardous materials (like cleaning solutions, fluorescent bulbs) and recyclable oil. Hoteliers employ a variety of strategies to reduce, reuse and recycle wastes to minimise processing and hauling costs. Vendors are increasingly providing ‘waste-to-energy’ processing services, whereby wastes are processed into alternative energy sources such as natural gas or biodiesel fuel and sold back to hoteliers at reduced prices.
Each hotel has a waste management system in place that works towards achieving the sustainability goals of the property. While The Orchid follows the four-bin theory where waste is segregated at its source as wet, dry, recyclable and non-recyclable garbage and has an in-house vermin-culture plant to make their own manure, at Alila Diwa Goa, bio-hazardous wastes are disposed off through licensed contractors only.
Sheraton Bangalore has workspaces organised so as to facilitate waste segregation. “We do not throw away batteries and e-wastes, but collect them separately,” Shaikh explains. The Imperial, New Delhi and The Leela Bangalore recycle waste water for gardening, reuse paper for scrap use and send waste food to piggery farms/NGOs. “We have installed an organic waste composter recently which converts the organic waste to manure. This in turn also reduces carbon emission in the environment,” says Khanna.
Masineni expands on some of the systems at The Leela Bangalore, where some herbs, spices, vegetables and fruits are grown in house, used engine oil is used for lubricating wheels of hand carts and trolleys and banquet set up garbage is handed over to an agency that builds huts and sheds for poor people. “World-wide, with the exception of coal that has known reserves that will last a couple of centuries, the reserves of oil are expected to be exhausted soon. The Leela Group recognises the importance of alternative power source and has established wind mills in Karnataka. Incidentally, we are working on introducing solar power generation in the Bengaluru hotel. Also, all the Dual Fuel Gas Generator engines in our portfolio are in accordance with the latest emission legislations,” he explains.
Revealing some more practices, Khanna says, “Plastic bottles have been recycled into T-shirts for associates; they are also in the process of getting converted to paper, laundry bags, aprons for kitchen and bathroom slippers. At The Imperial, we have asked our suppliers to reduce packaging material. We recycle paper and send waste to recyclers.”

Most hotels have incorporated sustainability in all departments, to a point where it becomes part of the company culture; and it actually pays off. The housekeeping department in a hotel takes sustainability very seriously. Suvankar Sarkar, housekeeping manager, Park Hyatt Chennai, elaborates, “Housekeeping is a non-revenue producing department, so there are three Rs that we adhere to – Reduce, Reuse and Recycle, to conserve and avoid wastage. Quality of water is watched and regulated. Machine calibrating is done every six months to set the correct quantity of water and chemical dispense. The washer is loaded with appropriate capacity, as under-loading of the machine results in unnecessary utility consumption. The soiled linen is properly segregated and minimum quantity soiled linen is kept and washed after the full capacity of the machine is obtained.”
Water is generally used freely in a laundry, but hotels are trying to restrict its use to save wastage. Kasturi Deo, executive housekeeper, Hilton Mumbai International Airport, explains, “We use bucket for cleaning instead of running tap water. Washing of cups and glasses is done in dishwashing machine. This is hygienic and saves water too. We ensure that the wasters are loaded at its maximum capacity to avoid water wastage. By ensuring right chemicals, as well as following proper cleaning process in the laundry, we reduce rewashing. Stains on clothes are treated prior to washing. Watering the garden is done during morning or evening hours to avoid evaporation of water.”
She adds, “All linen items are recycled and reused. Torn and discarded linen is used for various purposes. Torn double bed sheet is converted in to single bed sheet, pillow covers are used as dusters, duvet covers and single bed sheets are used as wiping cloths for F&B dept.”
Electrolux Laundry Line 5000, washer extractors and tumble dryers, all combine technology with green thinking and cost reducing features. They exemplify Electrolux Professional’s commitment to continued sustainability. Energy-efficient, their durable, robust construction and high technology manufacturing are built to respect the environment at every point of production and usage. The Automatic Saving System for washers adjusts the water level to the weight of the laundry, meaning up to 50% in water savings for half load, as well as energy savings due to less water to heat. The new Heat Pump Dryer series (T5190LE) offers up to 60% energy savings compared to standard models for more cost efficient dry cycles.

Of late, the hotel industry has witnessed a significant rise in sustainable and green initiatives, resulting in a growing awareness amongst hotel ambassadors and stakeholders. The kitchen is a key element of a hotel and thus, sustainable kitchens automatically become a focus area.
Electrolux initiative is about educating chefs to recognise the importance of incorporating sustainable practices in their kitchens, and to encourage and maintain high standards in the preparation and service of quality food. Cook & Chill system is the key solution to developing a complete and sustainable cooking approach for chefs. This system ensures higher food safety, reduces less food loss and hence less food waste, while giving higher profitability for the food service operation. Chefs can now implement sustainable practices in the kitchen while maintaining high standards, serve quality food, balancing a mix of innovative solutions and the chefs’ creativity.
Indrajit Saha, executive chef Sofitel Mumbai BKC, informs, “Targets are set daily for energy and water conservation and these are monitored too. Kitchens have regulated water flow and this has resulted in a 40% reduction of water wastage. We are constantly on the lookout for new products and technology that may help us further in reducing energy.” At The Leela Palace Chennai, too, stickers giving units and cost per hour on high-energy consuming appliances are placed for chefs to be aware and control the usage hours. Sub-meters for power and water lines for every kitchen, too, are installed to inform chefs of overuse.
Amit Wadhawan, executive chef, The Oberoi Bengaluru, says, “Our kitchen waste is foremost divided into bio-degradable and non-biodegradable versions. The former is sent to a local firm which converts it to natural fertiliser and supplies it to the local farming community.” The Imperial discourages the use of highly effluent fuels like diesel and LPG, PNG (Pipe Natural Gas) in boilers and kitchens to reduce carbon emission in the environment. Solar water heating system and bio-gas plants are some of the initiatives from the hotel to reduce carbon emission in the air.

According to Prem Thakur, senior design manager, international – design & project management architecture & construction division, Marriott India, some of the best practices followed by Marriott Hotels include heat recovery chillers limits wastage of energy, integrated Building Management System to monitor all the installed systems; VFD secondary pumping to reduce energy and pumping cost; T5 lighting with electronic ballast and LED lights to reduce lighting energy; dry wall insulation to decrease the cooling load; double glazing units with low U-Value; chiller with high COP; lighting dimmers and occupancy sensors; rainwater harvesting system to recharge groundwater table; sewage treatment plant to treat 100% waste water to reuse quality; low flow water fixtures to reduce water consumption by 30-40%; pervious pavement to reduce storm water run-off; native species of plants and xeriscaping that limit landscape water requirement; 100% water recycle (landscape, cooling towers); green and eco-friendly housekeeping chemicals; RWH pit and Solar water heating; CO2 and motion sensors and LEDs; minimised heat island effect; 50% of FSC certified wood; MERV 8/13 filters on AHU system. All of these have become a part of the brand standards and “We try to include these initiatives as part of the goals for the team so that we drive sustainability,” he reveals.
Energy consumption audits are the first step towards sustainability followed by retrofit conservation methods says Save. “These two methods can be used in order to make the building more sustainable. Older existing hotels can be brought under the sustainability umbrella by implementing various energy conservation methods as per the feasibility of the building design. Replacing old equipments with energy efficient ones, usage of energy efficient lamps, solar heat rejection films and water flow restrictors are also prime solutions towards achieving a more sustainable hotel environment,” he elaborates.
According to Darashbir Singh, GM, engineering services, some of the key initiatives Accor India implements across its network of hotels include — replacing the systems phase wise, introducing LED lighting, replacing hot water boiler with heat pumps, Solar panel for hot water usage and introducing alternative energy resources like wind energy for hotels.
It is important for the hotel chains to include brown-field projects under the sustainability umbrella as there is a huge impact on the perception in the minds of the guests and more importantly, on the bottom line.

Being sustainable is an ongoing process and hence hotels need to take initiatives to drive their goals. Going green makes business sense as it enables in optimising the use of resources. The industry also needs to act in its self interest because awareness about the environment is increasing and guests are discerning.
The Imperial is focused on creating eco awareness amongst all its stakeholders by holding art competitions, undertaking cleanliness drives to celebrate World Environment Day, hosting green luncheons and encouraging forestation amongst associates.
The Leela Group has always focused on converting barren land on which the hotels are built into green zones, explains Masineni. Hence, as an internal policy, nearly 30% of every Leela hotel has been marked as ‘green haven’ where it is populated with rare trees, plants, foliage and landscaped gardens that extend beyond the property premises. “This reflects not only our larger commitment to supporting the United Nations Environment Programme’s (UNEP) Billion Tree Campaign, a global initiative to encourage tree planting but our promise to make a difference in every local community one tree at a time,” says Masineni.
While the group follows the industry standards for guest initiatives, some of the other initiatives include reduction of emissions of green house gases and conserve natural resources; to educate and train all members of staff in environmental issues and good working practices; to reduce landfill and increase the recycling ethos of social, environmental and economical policies; to achieve a 3% decrease in energy consumption year on year; to constantly put environmental and energy saving issues at the forefront of their business strategies, and to monitor the progress in each of the key areas; develop and increase responsible purchasing methods to include sourcing products, such as locally produced goods and using suppliers that maintain ethical practices.
“At Accor,” says Singh, “We have made three commitments and quantifiable objectives for 2015 are to reduce energy usage by 10%, reduce CO2 emissions by 10% and increase the use of renewable energy by 10%. Accor has developed a methodology called BOOST, which is based on an analysis of technical installations in its hotels. It has helped to significantly reduce water and energy consumption – up to 25% for some hotels - solely through employee training programmes and action plans, without any additional investment in hotel installations. Accor has made a commitment to the earth for preserving, recycling and replanting.”
The Orchid hotel has developed a 1,000 foot long eco-wall which stretches from the employee service gate to the main entrance talking about the various ways in which one can conserve the environment. It has been prepared and maintained by the Green Team and the staff at the property with a lot of fervour and dedication.

A major thing lacking in the Indian hospitality industry is awareness. All hoteliers should be aware of the pressing environmental issues and energy conservation needs to be implemented feels Kamat. Puri feels that recycling of water should be made mandatory; since most parts of India are blessed with adequate sunshine, it is important that public areas such as lobby/reception of the new hotels should require least lighting; LED bulbs, water treatment plants should be made mandatory; and planting of trees and keeping a certain percentage of land for green zones can also be considered.
Factors like global climatic change, corporate commitments, decisive actions taken by the local and national government are responsible for showing new signs of change. However, the most important need of the hour is focusing on cutting harmful emissions. The impact of water scarcity on populations, economies and companies has been felt worldwide. “Global water stress is becoming a matter of concern to which hotels are responding with a range of initiatives and innovations. Hotels need to understand and act on water-related issues with an emphasis on system-level solutions,” feels Save.
Some of the global sustainable solutions that he would like the Indian industry to consider are zero waste policies; energy efficient plants; procurement of environmentally responsible products; mattress innovation; mattress recycling programme; reward hotel guests for being eco-friendly; linen (both towels and sheets) reuse programme for guest rooms; replace or modify HVAC heating and air-conditioning units to increase energy efficiency and also consider using heat pumps or other geothermal technologies; incentive programmes to encourage team members to participate in environment-friendly practices; purchase of organic and locally grown food to provide fresh produce; and provision of bicycles, walking maps and information on public transport.
“At present,” says Singh of Accor India, “We are seeing several global sustainability trends gaining attention in India. While most technologies are available in India, they come at a high cost. Therefore, cost rationalisation is a primary concern for the industry as a whole. For instance with LEED buildings, the cost does increase significantly. I think it’s very important to build awareness about the various applications available and how cost can be rationalised for owners over a period of time.”
While providing significant benefits to local and national economics, the accelerated growth of the hotel industry simultaneously poses a range of serious environmental threats. This is probably due to high resource-intensiveness of hotel industry. It is important to implement energy conservation and sustainable practices in day-to-day operations. This will help minimise the environmental issues and reduce the impact on nature. Perhaps the easiest way to understand the evolvement of eco-friendly practices is that now hotel companies have started including sustainability/eco-friendly practices as their brand standard.
Guest expectations of social responsibility and demands for eco-friendly products/services are steadily climbing. They want to know that their choices support brands that operate in an environmentally responsible way.
– With inputs from Mini Ribeiro

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