By Larry Mogelonsky, MBA, P. Eng. (

Climate change activism is no longer niche. Youth around the world are taking to the streets and, moving beyond blanket demands for more action from governments, they are starting to target and boycott corporations that are failing to act.

If you think it’s going to stop at paper straws and replacing mini shampoo bottles with dispensers, you are gravely wrong. This is just the start with the end goal being total transparency of waste practices and carbon neutrality. To avoid getting your hotel in the crosshairs and to ensure you have a future – as younger travelers will be more than ready to actively neglect your property if you aren’t taking the environment seriously – you need to start building sustainability programs.

But like most things, this is easier said than done, especially for older structures where the necessary upgrades would require at least six zeros of CapEx budget. While the owners and their accountants make the case with the banks for that, you instead should focus on gradually imbuing more environmentally friendly programs into your key operations.

For Your Restaurants

Not just your main dining outlet for a few select ingredients anymore, sustainable practices are now the norm for every facet of F&B from locally sourced vegetables and proteins to the proper ‘zero waste’ recycling for all catered events. This department is an easy place to start because there is widespread documentation of how to make it work.

As many of the processes used by the large agricultural conglomerates have been proven to be harmful for the environment in the long-term, switching to producers who utilize more sustainable practices is in essence you voting with your hotel’s wallet for better farming practices. Moreover, this is something that can be marketed to your customers.

But how do you start? Small, of course, is the best way with local craft goods followed by key ingredients used in your operations until they all fall under this banner. Name your agricultural partners on the menus or make the necessary information available in the foyer of any foodservice facility. Next comes the implementation of a proper food recycling or donation program. For this, too, you must be one part environmentalist and one part impresario by highlighting your efforts on the website and perhaps on a nicely constructed pamphlet for onsite distribution.

For Your Public Spaces

While LEED certification is a prestigious badge for any new hotel build, incremental upgrades are equally newsworthy because when it comes to helping the environment every bit counts. Most of what constitutes a thumbs up from a green building agency like LEED will stem from back-of-house operations. Hence, in order to drive the message home and spark a loyal following, your interior design must likewise exude a sense of place that reflects the behind-the-scenes changes.

Procuring lobby art that is made from recyclable materials is less so about conservative and more so about making a statement that you support sustainability as well as the greater community.Then there are the usual suspects of converting to LEDs, better boilers and more efficient waterflow machinery for bathrooms as well as the grounds.

Around the property, there’s potential for drip irrigation, incorporating local species of plants into the landscaping or the building of a garden for heirloom crops. While this garden won’t be enough to meet the demands of your entire foodservice requirements, it is a token effort that, when properly planned, can be put front and center where guests can see.

For Your Guestrooms

While there are a myriad of in-room sustainability upgrades you can make, none are more explicitly guest-facing than the smart thermostat. These can be finely attuned to conserve energy by not heating or cooling rooms when no one is present. As well, with the rise of IoT guestrooms, these can be linked to the PMS so you can have just-in-time temperature settings for when a guest arrives or leaves.

Next best is a towel recycling program as well as something as simple as separate garbage bins for waste and recycling because these are both highly visible. And if you haven’t converted to dispensers, do that now lest you be a laggard.

Thinking aesthetically, there are many other subtle enhancements that include things like using mugs for the coffeemaker instead of paper cups, providing electronics for writing to get away from notepads, wiring in a master switch that turns off all the lights in a room after you remove your key or, if necessary, thick window films to reduce heat transfer.

Thinking holistically, make sustainability part of your mission statement then it will gradually exude through all your operations. This includes sales and marketing for which there is always a noble story to tell so you can better earn the praise (and the bookings) from millennials and centennials who all but require these programs to be in place.

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Editor’s note: To discuss business challenges or speaking engagements please contact Larry directly.