Checking in for a greener stay
The hotel sector was one of the first to wake up to the cost savings associated with improved environmental performance, and we are all familiar with signs in bathrooms urging us to reuse towels where possible to cut down on water and energy use.
The Landmark London, however, has gone far beyond the basics - picking up a string of accolades in the process, including the Considerate Hoteliers Association's Green Team of the Year.
Green team leader Sally Beck says the hotel's sustainability programme was initially about cost - particularly as energy expenditure rose - but that as staff were encouraged to change their day-to-day behaviours, environmental consciousness rose and the Landmark began to recognise, and profit from, the ancillary benefits of becoming a more responsible company.
She says: "Sustainability is very important to us for many reasons: to reduce our energy consumption and water usage. Also, improving our waste management systems means we reduce costs, which to any business is important, but also we find our staff want to work for a responsible company and take pride in our efforts to behave in a sustainable manner."
The Landmark was sending 12 large containers of waste to landfill daily, but a waste minimisation initiative has seen this drop to zero, with 2.5 containers incinerated and the rest recycled. The improvements follow a change of waste management contract to work with Veolia, which Beck says has made "a massive difference". She says: "We are trying to get to zero general waste, current levels are at 87%."
The hotel also has a target of reducing water and energy use by 3% year-on-year. Beck says: "The actions here are a combination of updating plant to more energy-efficient items and changing to LED lighting, as well as education of our guests and training our staff."
Results are carefully calculated, despite the inherent trickiness of establishing comparable figures, which requires taking room occupancy and issues such as external temperature into account.
Beck says: "We calculate the return on investment of improved resource efficiency and discuss it at our monthly profit and loss meetings. We monitor our results and compare against last year's, but we have to measure occupancy, number of guests and external weather factors to try to get accurate and meaningful measures."
And while behavioural change and other small measures that mount up to impressive results have had a big impact, the Landmark is also making bold decisions in areas such as heating plant.
Beck says: "We'll buy plant that is more expensive but lowers energy consumption, which means you're going to have a return on investment over a period of time, but there are some capital costs.
"There's always depreciation of any plant anyway. We changed our boilers, going from three massive boilers to five much smaller ones, which means we can turn a couple off when we don't need them.
"The investment was huge, but the big boilers were going to need renovating anyway. And when we looked at costs over the life of the equipment and the ongoing cost of energy, the ROI may have been over a longer period, but the investment made sense."
The Landmark is currently considering capital expenditure of £36,000 on heating plant that allows waste steam recovery that can be used to heat rooms rather than being lost. Beck says: "By diverting lost energy into heating we will lower costs by two thirds, which means the £36,000 of investment will be paid back within the first year."
Improving the sustainability of the hotel's operations is proving to have wider benefits than simple cost savings. Beck says: "We are seeing more clients choosing us over our competitors because of our efforts.
"Last week I had a Norwegian company looking to place their environmental conference with us, this was 100 bedrooms for three nights with conferencing, and our environmental credentials were an important part of the business pitch."
Staff recruitment, retention and satisfaction also benefit. "I have two young kids and they automatically recycle - if they go to someone's house and they don't have recycling bins they're thinking 'where do I put this?' So we have a younger generation of people coming through who have a minimum expectation that you're going to look after the planet - and they don't want to work for companies that aren't," Beck says.
Working with the Green Tourism Business Scheme and Considerate Hoteliers has proved a boon for the Landmark. Beck says: "One of our best partners has been the Green Tourism Business Scheme, who carried out an audit that gave us the things to look at. We then did an awful amount of work in about nine months and achieved gold accreditation, which is great."
Beck recommends other hotels looking to improve their environmental performance contact the scheme in the first instance. She says: "If you partner with Green Business Tourism, they have an amazing website and a great set of tools to get you started."
Bringing staff together to achieve sustainability goals is also key to success. Beck says: "When you start out, the job seems enormous, but once you have a team of like-minded people from across all areas of the hotel, you start to get things moving.
"Always remember that this is for the long haul, so don't get disheartened. You also have to remember that this is a journey and not a destination. You never get there, as you can always do better and save more."