It’s never easy being green

The Fairmont Dubai public relations manager - and eco-champion - Alka Patel tells Hotelier Middle East readers about the benefits that creating a ‘Green Team' can deliver for a hotel.
It’s never easy being green
By Administrator
Wed 15 Aug 2007 12:00 AM

Climate change ', ‘carbon footprint and ‘eco chic' are just a few of the words that are part of the global lexicon today. This was highlighted last month at the Live Earth event, which saw 30 million Live Earth videos streamed on MSN by 8 million people, making it the largest ever online concert in addition to a mega televised event. Environmental consciousness has never been more elevated or comprehensive.

But how can you make this awareness a reality at your hotel? Turning awareness into action takes planning, dedication, monitoring and follow-through.

Turning awareness into action takes planning, dedication, monitoring and follow- through.

This month we take a look at what you can do at the property level to establish environmental initiatives and how you can break this down into actionable parts.

Where do you start? Will your guests appreciate a green programme? Just as importantly, will your colleagues embrace it? Who is responsible for making this work? What will be the environmental goals you set for the year? Are these goals measurable? These are just a few of the questions that should be asked when putting together a green plan of action at your hotel.

Getting started

The Green Partnership Guide: A Practical Guide to Greening Your Hotel from Fairmont Hotels & Resorts offers several key starting points to get you well on your way to launching an environmental programmeme at your hotel. Successfully launched at 50 Fairmont properties worldwide, it provides a step-by-step approach to making realistic and impactful changes that takes into account the environment in which your hotel operates.

Any green plan requires the endorsement and support of a hotel's colleagues. As such, an assessment of the support of your staff is crucial. Consulting your colleagues will provide you with a good indication of their concerns about their work environment, as well as the broader area in which they live in. Consider asking whether they would support the introduction of greener operational practices.

Would the success of establishing an environmental programmeme at the hotel provide a sense of pride to work there? The Fairmont Dubai's Green Team was able to assess colleagues' concerns about the environment as part of the Earth Day awareness campaign on April 25. Colleagues were asked to answer three multiple-choice questions to test their knowledge of the hotel's green initiatives. The questions required staff to name the local environmental organisation that the hotel partners with, and in which coloured bin they should place various types of recyclable materials and waste at the colleagues' village.

Dream team

Secondly, put together a ‘Green Team'. It is important to assemble a team in order to run an environmental programme at your hotel. Finding like-minded, passionate individuals who represent diverse departments will ensure that all initiatives, from energy conservation measures to a linen exchange programme in guestrooms, will be executed by those who have in-depth knowledge of their operational area.

Each hotel department should be represented on the Green Team. Key departments that require representation include engineering, stewarding, kitchen, rooms division, residence, food & beverage, purchasing, housekeeping and sales. Representation from a member of the hotel's executive team is an asset for any team to drive momentum and goals. From this group, an eco-champion should be elected to serve as team leader and chair for a minimum of one year. The role of the eco-champion is as follows: he or she acts as chair of the Green Team, coordinates meetings, and guides the team in following and implementing the goals of the green partnership programme. In short, the eco-champion ensures that the hotel meets its stated environmental goals.

Tracking progress

The third step is setting up department audits. These audits will provide a clearer picture of the current standing of your hotel and provides the opportunity to assess the areas that require more focused attention. Survey your departments, asking key questions such as the following:

• Do you partner with local or charitable organisations?

• Do you offer an optional linen re-use programme?

• Do you work with suppliers to reduce or reuse packaging?

• Are you still using Styrofoam (polystyrene)?

• Are you able to implement energy-efficient lighting?

• What products are you using to clean guest rooms?

• What water waste devices have been installed at your property?

Lastly, set specific, attainable goals. Keeping in mind the environment in which we operate, make sure to keep your goals realistic - while large-scale recycling may be commonplace in other parts of the world, it is still in its infancy here, for example.

The goals should reflect the following areas: waste management, energy conservation, water conservation and purchasing policy.

Keep your goals specific and attainable. Vague goals, such as simply reducing energy consumption, are both impractical and un-measurable.

Instead make them specific, such as to reduce yearly water consumption by X amount through the use of a water saver or soft water programme.

Ask representatives from different departments what areas need to be tackled and how best to go about it.

Getting started is certainly one of the biggest challenges when it comes to establishing an effective green programme, but by working towards active environmental stewardship you can ensure that you have both the team and goals in place to successfully get green initiatives underway at your property.

For all the latest travel news from the UAE and Gulf countries, follow us on Twitter and Linkedin, like us on Facebook and subscribe to our YouTube page, which is updated daily.

Subscribe to our Newsletter

Subscribe to Arabian Business' newsletter to receive the latest breaking news and business stories in Dubai,the UAE and the GCC straight to your inbox.