Achieving the balance between hotel hygiene and sustainability

  • sustainability
A material satchel filled with hotel hygiene and sustainability cleaning products.

Almost overnight, Covid-19 forced hoteliers to review their health and safety protocols in forensic detail – but the great reset put the spotlight on the environment too. It highlighted the fact that hotel hygiene and sustainability must go hand in hand.

Meeting new health and safety guidelines has become a priority for hoteliers across the globe, not only to fight the spread of coronavirus, but also to rebuild the trust and confidence of business travelers who’ve been living with the risk of a potentially fatal virus for over a year.

Our research shows that 86% of corporate travel decision-makers are now putting lodgings with revised Covid-19-driven hygiene standards at the top of their list. This means that health and safety procedures – once carried out as unobtrusively as possible – are now something to celebrate, and publicly evidence against clearly-defined standards. That’s something we’ve facilitated through our new global Clean & Safe Protocol.

However, this focus on hygiene can’t be at the expense of the planet.

A survey of major employers by non-profit organization the Climate Groupshows that nearly 100% see climate action as just as important now, if not more so, than before Covid struck.

“We know from our partners in business and government that they don’t want to return to ‘business as usual’,” said the Climate Group’s director of corporate partnerships, Mike Peirce. “We have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to rebuild a greener, fairer future and they want to grab it.”

Within this context, while health and safety is undoubtably a non-negotiable, so too is the need to reduce your environmental impact. Hotel hygiene and sustainability can’t be mutually exclusive.

An image showing non-biodegradable, plastic disposables versus wooden and paper green alternatives, which are important for hotel hygiene and sustainability
Now is the perfect time to make the switch towards sustainability, with guests increasingly on the look-out for businesses that are committed to going green.

The impact of short-term decisions on longer-term climate goals

The issue causing concern for environmentalists is that stringent health and safety protocols have been accompanied by toxic ‘hospital-grade’ disinfectants, plus an increase in single-use items such as disposable masks and gloves, sachets of condiments, room-service menus and plastic coffee cups.

More than 70 percent of corporate employees in a 2019 Fast Company survey reported that they were “more likely” to work at a company with a strong environmental agenda. Millennials, who will make up 75 percent of the workforce by 2025, are most likely to make this choice; almost 40 percent shared that had chosen to work at a company precisely because of its performance and approach to sustainability issues. Notably, 30 percent of respondents said that they have already left a job in the past due to their employer’s lack of defined environmental approach.

A global survey by management consultants Accenture noted that consumers had “dramatically evolved” over the course of the pandemic, with 60% making more environmental, sustainable or ethical purchases since the start.

Millennials, meanwhile, who will make up 75% of the workforce by 2025, are also passionate advocates of environmental responsibility – and prepared to take a stand for what they believe in.

Recent Fast Company research showed that 40% had taken a job with an organization because it had a stronger sustainability plan than the alternatives. Most telling of all, 30% said that they had left a job because of the lack of a coherent plan.

The key is to maintain a balance: understanding how to minimize health risks, while maintaining practices that reduce your ecological footprint wherever possible.

Clean hotels vs a cleaner environment

Maria Valerga, the Environment/Food Safety and Hygiene Manager at Grecotel, the largest Greek hotel chain, has 20 years’ experience in the field. She believes many hoteliers are giving in to using toxic disinfectants as they don’t know the best-practice approaches, and haven’t received guidance on preventing the spread of Covid without toxic chemicals and an overuse of single-use plastics. 

She focuses on four pillars that can address the new safety requirements without jeopardizing the health of your staff and guests, or the planet:

  • Selecting the right products – including simple methods such as steam cleaning or natural-based substances with active ingredients like Ethanol, Isopropanol or Hydrogen Peroxide.
  • Waste management – handling and recycling empty packaging and chemical residues.
  • Ensuring correct usage, based on surfaces, ventilation, frequency of use, need for water and energy use, protective measures etc.
  • Storage – where and how to secure safely and minimize wastage.
A vacuum cleaner picking dust off the carpet of a hotel room.
It’s important to balance hotel hygiene and sustainability – clean when necessary to protect guests, but not so much you waste energy.

For many, chemicals in cleaning products are the lesser of two evils when compared to the risks of contracting Covid. “A potential exposure to the coronavirus is more likely to cause you an immediate problem than a very modest exposure to a carcinogen,” observes Stephani Robson, senior lecturer at the Cornell School of Hotel Administration.

However, a host of hotels have embarked on a toxin-free cleaning regime even if that means paying more for the products, proving that hotel hygiene and sustainability can co-exist.

Among them are the international Red Carnation Hotel Collection and Post Ranch Inn, California, both advocates of Premium Purity, a Danish brand. Its products offer longer-term protection than conventional disinfectants such as chlorine, which can also damage the respiratory system and destroy or discolor surfaces.

And Premium Purity claims that clients save on water consumption and electrical costs even if the upfront cost is more.

A man in an apron holding a satchel full of hotel hygiene and sustainability cleaning products.
When it comes to procuring cleaning products for your hotel, make sure you’re choosing the most environmentally friendly options.

What else can you do to achieve hotel hygiene and sustainability?

At a time when guests are more open to changes that support their health and safety, hoteliers are in a strong position to introduce essential eco-friendly upgrades alongside these other initiatives. To quote Joanne Hendrickx, Founder of Travel Without Plastics: “… this is a great time to break some old habits”.

  • Map out best practices for each area of the hotel to identify contact points and maximize efficiency with thorough staff training.
  • Go digital where possible, for example with an online check in/out service and paperless invoice management, such as that included with Invisible Pay, part of the HRS Lodging as a Service platform.
  • Choose ecofriendly materials for single-use items, for example cornstarch or bamboo instead of plastic. And remember – not all single-use items are front of house. A lot of packaging comes with kitchen, cleaning and maintenance supplies.
  • Remove clutter and ‘difficult to clean’ items including traditional but unnecessary items such as shower caps and nail files.
  • With hand-washing a priority, use filtered greywater for irrigation and cleaning to reduce the use of potable water.
  • Establish robust recycling systems to sort and manage waste products.
  • Create partnerships with hygiene companies to facilitate the use of refillable toiletries.
  • Rethink the buffet – a hygiene risk but also the main cause of food wastage. Minimize human contact, using room service, à la carte menus and takeaways instead.
  • Introduce ‘no-touch’ controls, for example infra-red solutions for taps and toilet flushes and UV-C for the disinfecting of payment terminals without the use of liquid detergents that can damage electronics.

For more inspiration, read our article on Green Hotels of the Future.

Sustainable single-use products including wooden utensils, paper cups, paper straws and wooden bathroom products prove that hotel hygiene and sustainability go hand-in-hand
It’s now easier than ever to find sustainable single-use products for your hotel, from paper straws to bamboo toothbrushes. Hotel hygiene and sustainability can go hand-in-hand.

The Green Stay Initiative

Greening your hotel requires commitment; our Green Stay Initiative makes that commitment known to your prospective guests. With reporting based on the Hotel Carbon Measurement Initiative (HCMI), your eco credentials will be visible to all those booking through our platform.
For further details about the Green Stay Initiative, visit the HRS website.

Find out more about our Clean & Safe Protocol

Developed in an exclusive partnership with SGS, the world’s leading inspection, verification, testing and certification company, the Clean & Safe Protocol is a global initiative based on guidelines from the WHO and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the World Travel and Tourism Council.

To find out more about this cleanliness focused program and how hoteliers can benefit, visit the HRS website.