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Operating in a global context: sustainability in the hospitality sector

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Inge Huijbrechts, vice-president of responsible business at Rezidor Hotel Group, writes how the hospitality industry is helping tackle key sustainability challenges.

In 2012, the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC) estimated that the global travel industry generated over 260m jobs (one in 11 jobs worldwide) and contributed 9% of the global gross domestic product. In the same year the number of global travellers surpassed one billion. An industry of this size has a considerable impact on social, economic and environmental conditions around the world.

The United Nations Environment Programme has forecast that if the tourism industry continues to operate in the way it does today, energy use and emissions will double by 2050, with water use increasing to 2.5 times current levels. Buildings are already responsible for 30% of global energy consumption, yet most are very inefficient. Energy savings of between 20 and 30% could be achieved if commercial buildings were designed to be more efficient.

Hotels that make investments in green technologies and the green economy will help to reduce the impact of tourism. The hospitality industry has a growing responsibility to develop and adapt its business operations and engaging all stakeholders, including our customers, in this process is key.

Consumer research shows that sustainability is of increasing importance when making travel decisions. Ninety-three per cent of Conde Nast Traveller readers surveyed in 2011 stated that travel companies should be responsible for protecting the environment, and 58% stated that their hotel choice is influenced by the support the hotel gives to the local community.

Furthermore, a 2013 Cone/Echo Global CR Study found that 91% of global consumers are likely to switch brands to one associated with a good cause. However, this idea is not a new one – with a 1996 global study by Business in the Community revealing that 86% of consumers said that they would have a more positive opinion of a company that is doing something to make the world a better place, regardless of the cause or issue concerned.

It is clear then that in order to meet objectives and see results, that communication to all stakeholders is key. Providing guests and customers with information and opportunities to be involved with sustainability activity – in a fun way – will not only have a positive effect on results, but will also make staying at pro-active hotels more appealing to environmentally discerning travellers.

To meet this demand, we’ve integrated environmental options in our loyalty programme, Club Carlson. It is the first loyalty programme in the hospitality industry to commit to a global carbon offsetting initiative for all meeting and events and provides individual members with the opportunity to redeem Gold Points to offset the carbon of their personal travel and support wind farms in India and tree-planting in Kenya.

As part of our continued efforts to inform and make it easy for our guests to participate in responsible business activities at our hotels, over 200 of our hotels across the world participated in Earth Hour this year. Of particular success was the Radisson Blu Hotel, Birmingham. Turning off 90% of front of house lighting and substituting this with numerous tea lights, guests were encouraged to support the cause by turning off their guestroom lights during the special hour. Guests at the Radisson Blu Filini restaurant experienced a romantic and environmentally friendly dinner with the entire restaurant illuminated with tea lights.

Further guest incentives have been piloted in our Park Inn by Radisson hotels, whereby guests are offered the option to forego housekeeping services in exchange for Club Carlson points and a Rezidor donation to World Childhood Foundation. Ongoing initiatives also include allowing guests to indicate whether they’d like towels washed to save on water and resource usage.

Resources

Hotels are extremely resource-intensive, particularly in terms of energy and water use. They also impact the natural environment through food use and waste generation.

The UN has estimated that by 2050, the world’s need for drinkable water will double and the need for fresh water for agriculture will increase by 80%. Recognising this urgent need to continuously reduce water consumption will be key to making a change to this troubling statistic.

Roughly one third of the food produced in the world for human consumption every year – approximately 1.3 billion tonnes – is lost or wasted. Global population growth projections estimate there will be an additional 2 to 3 billion people to feed in the world over the next 40 years. This will result in a 70% increase in demand for food by 2050.

As food and drink represents over 30% of the group’s revenue, Rezidor recognises the importance of reducing waste and the resource intensity of the food and drink supply chain. Reducing water consumption in our hotels – without compromising service quality for guests – is a key priority. By the end of 2013: 71% of guestrooms had water saving toilets, 79% of guestrooms now have aerators to control tap and shower water flows, 7% of hotels recycle grey water, 6% collect rainwater for irrigation, car washing and other needs and 12% of hotels use waterless urinals.

Inge Huijbrechts is vice-president of responsible business at Rezidor Hotel Group. All of its activities form part of its Responsible Business programme. To learn more, please click here

Photo: Carlson Rezidor

Further reading:

International Tourism Partnership: the hotels that are shaping the future of tourism

New tourism report: hotel workers plagued by low wages and long hours

Top holiday tips for responsible tourists

Life changing travel and travel changing lives

The Guide to Sustainable Tourism 2014

Economy

Will Self-Driving Cars Be Better for the Environment?

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self-driving cars for green environment
Shutterstock Licensed Photo - By Zapp2Photo | https://www.shutterstock.com/g/zapp2photo

Technologists, engineers, lawmakers, and the general public have been excitedly debating about the merits of self-driving cars for the past several years, as companies like Waymo and Uber race to get the first fully autonomous vehicles on the market. Largely, the concerns have been about safety and ethics; is a self-driving car really capable of eliminating the human errors responsible for the majority of vehicular accidents? And if so, who’s responsible for programming life-or-death decisions, and who’s held liable in the event of an accident?

But while these questions continue being debated, protecting people on an individual level, it’s worth posing a different question: how will self-driving cars impact the environment?

The Big Picture

The Department of Energy attempted to answer this question in clear terms, using scientific research and existing data sets to project the short-term and long-term environmental impact that self-driving vehicles could have. Its findings? The emergence of self-driving vehicles could essentially go either way; it could reduce energy consumption in transportation by as much as 90 percent, or increase it by more than 200 percent.

That’s a margin of error so wide it might as well be a total guess, but there are too many unknown variables to form a solid conclusion. There are many ways autonomous vehicles could influence our energy consumption and environmental impact, and they could go well or poorly, depending on how they’re adopted.

Driver Reduction?

One of the big selling points of autonomous vehicles is their capacity to reduce the total number of vehicles—and human drivers—on the road. If you’re able to carpool to work in a self-driving vehicle, or rely on autonomous public transportation, you’ll spend far less time, money, and energy on your own car. The convenience and efficiency of autonomous vehicles would therefore reduce the total miles driven, and significantly reduce carbon emissions.

There’s a flip side to this argument, however. If autonomous vehicles are far more convenient and less expensive than previous means of travel, it could be an incentive for people to travel more frequently, or drive to more destinations they’d otherwise avoid. In this case, the total miles driven could actually increase with the rise of self-driving cars.

As an added consideration, the increase or decrease in drivers on the road could result in more or fewer vehicle collisions, respectively—especially in the early days of autonomous vehicle adoption, when so many human drivers are still on the road. Car accident injury cases, therefore, would become far more complicated, and the roads could be temporarily less safe.

Deadheading

Deadheading is a term used in trucking and ridesharing to refer to miles driven with an empty load. Assume for a moment that there’s a fleet of self-driving vehicles available to pick people up and carry them to their destinations. It’s a convenient service, but by necessity, these vehicles will spend at least some of their time driving without passengers, whether it’s spent waiting to pick someone up or en route to their location. The increase in miles from deadheading could nullify the potential benefits of people driving fewer total miles, or add to the damage done by their increased mileage.

Make and Model of Car

Much will also depend on the types of cars equipped to be self-driving. For example, Waymo recently launched a wave of self-driving hybrid minivans, capable of getting far better mileage than a gas-only vehicle. If the majority of self-driving cars are electric or hybrids, the environmental impact will be much lower than if they’re converted from existing vehicles. Good emissions ratings are also important here.

On the other hand, the increased demand for autonomous vehicles could put more pressure on factory production, and make older cars obsolete. In that case, the gas mileage savings could be counteracted by the increased environmental impact of factory production.

The Bottom Line

Right now, there are too many unanswered questions to make a confident determination whether self-driving vehicles will help or harm the environment. Will we start driving more, or less? How will they handle dead time? What kind of models are going to be on the road?

Engineers and the general public are in complete control of how this develops in the near future. Hopefully, we’ll be able to see all the safety benefits of having autonomous vehicles on the road, but without any of the extra environmental impact to deal with.

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Environment

Road Trip! How to Choose the Greenest Vehicle for Your Growing Family

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Greenest Vehicle
Licensed Image by Shutterstock - By Mascha Tace -- https://www.shutterstock.com/g/maschatace

When you have a growing family, it often feels like you’re in this weird bubble that exists outside of mainstream society. Whereas everyone else seemingly has stability, your family dynamic is continuously in flux. Having said that, is it even possible to buy an eco-friendly vehicle that’s also practical?

What to Look for in a Green, Family-Friendly Vehicle?

As a single person or young couple without kids, it’s pretty easy to buy a green vehicle. Almost every leading car brand has eco-friendly options these days and you can pick from any number of options. The only problem is that most of these models don’t work if you have kids.

Whether it’s a Prius or Smart car, most green vehicles are impractical for large families. You need to look for options that are spacious, reliable, and comfortable – both for passengers and the driver.

5 Good Options

As you do your research and look for different opportunities, it’s good to have an open mind. Here are some of the greenest options for growing families:

1. 2014 Chrysler Town and Country

Vans are not only popular for the room and comfort they offer growing families, but they’re also becoming known for their fuel efficiency. For example, the 2014 Chrysler Town and Country – which was one of CarMax’s most popular minivans of 2017 – has Flex Fuel compatibility and front wheel drive. With standard features like these, you can’t do much better at this price point.

2. 2017 Chrysler Pacifica

If you’re looking for a newer van and are willing to spend a bit more, you can go with Chrysler’s other model, the Pacifica. One of the coolest features of the 2017 model is the hybrid drivetrain. It allows you to go up to 30 miles on electric, before the vehicle automatically switches over to the V6 gasoline engine. For short trips and errands, there’s nothing more eco-friendly in the minivan category.

3. 2018 Volkswagen Atlas

Who says you have to buy a minivan when you have a family? Sure, the sliding doors are nice, but there are plenty of other options that are both green and spacious. The new Volkswagen Atlas is a great choice. It’s one of the most fuel-efficient third-row vehicles on the market. The four-cylinder model gets an estimated 26 mpg highway.

4. 2015 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid

While a minivan or SUV is ideal – and necessary if you have more than two kids – you can get away with a roomy sedan when you still have a small family. And while there are plenty of eco-friendly options in this category, the 2015 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid is arguably the biggest bang for your buck. It gets 38 mpg on the highway and is incredibly affordable.

5. 2017 Land Rover Range Rover Sport Diesel

If money isn’t an object and you’re able to spend any amount to get a good vehicle that’s both comfortable and eco-friendly, the 2017 Land Rover Range Rover Sport Diesel is your car. Not only does it get 28 mpg highway, but it can also be equipped with a third row of seats and a diesel engine. And did we mention that this car looks sleek?

Putting it All Together

You have a variety of options. Whether you want something new or used, would prefer an SUV or minivan, or want something cheap or luxurious, there are plenty of choices on the market. The key is to do your research, remain patient, and take your time. Don’t get too married to a particular transaction, or you’ll lose your leverage.

You’ll know when the right deal comes along, and you can make a smart choice that’s functional, cost-effective, and eco-friendly.

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