Eco-friendly can mean different things to different hotel guests. The challenge, then, is for the industry to find ways to meet the demands of sense and sensibility in design material.
Eco-friendly can mean different things to different hotel guests. For many, it means becoming more energy efficient. For others, it means cutting down on waste created by single bars of soap used once in the bathroom and discarded or saving on water usage by passing on having the towels changed daily, which can result in a 17 percent savings. The eco-sensitive trend is going both big and small. Some forward-thinking hotels have even begun to serve drinks without straws to cut back on this environmental concern.
For others, it means staying at a hotel that was built or remodeled using materials that have a minimal impact on the environment. One thing on which everyone can agree is that we want to be surrounded by pleasing aesthetics when we stay at hotels. The challenge, then, is for the industry to find ways to meet the demands of sense and sensibility in design material.
Beneath their feet
Hotels are looking down – at the floor – and finding there are excellent products made either from the renewable or recyclable material. The luxurious characteristics of wood never go out of style, but some species are endangered or require excessive natural resources to grow and harvest.
Designers with an eye toward eco-sensibility are migrating to design that takes less of a toll on the environment but still offers beauty. Bamboo is a popular sustainable flooring option. It has the comparable strength of any hardwood floor, yet it’s a highly renewable material because it grows much faster than hardwoods.
Turn to the Forest Stewardship Council for more guidance on choosing wood species. The FSC is a global forest certification program founded in 1993. It looks at 10 eco-friendly principles to help rate species of wood.
Hotel guests are expecting their rooms to provide an experience or tell a story. Many designs are mixing metaphors in this storytelling by combining elements from the present and the past. For the latter, they’re selecting reclaimed wood – both for flooring and for accent walls.
Beyond wood, there’s also a natural material that can be 100 percent recycled that we often forget about. Concrete can be used to make everything from highly polished colored floors to exquisite bar counters.
For areas where it’s necessary to go with soft or texturized, there’s a growing list of carpet manufacturers who certify that their product is either recycled or made with renewable materials. The Carpet America Recovery Effort estimates that more than 5 billion pounds of post-consumer carpet end up in our landfills.
Sit and relax
From the seating groups in your lobby to the sofas in each guest room, your hotel has to invest in a substantial amount of furniture. It’s one area where you can make a considerable reduction in your environmental impact – without causing any discomfort at all for your guests.
Organizations such as EarthCheck and Green Globe Certified work with the hospitality industry to advise participants on effective ways to connect with increasing guest expectations for hotel operations and experiences that move toward sustainability. Both organizations offer research, partnerships, and certification.
Green Globe, for example, measures 44 areas of hospitality operations, including the environmental impact of harmful substances and their impact on local environments. The program helps hotels devise a purchasing policy that favors environmentally friendly products for capital goods and building materials.
Colorful, eco-friendly choices
Hotels have to walk a fine line between looking out for the environment and looking out for paints and finishes that can stand up to high traffic areas. Many sustainable choices are also durable, and what makes them a better choice is their low VOC count.
VOC stands for volatile organic compounds, and it can be a bit confusing because of the usage of the word “organic.” In this case, it’s referring to organic compounds that become toxic vapors or gasses when they’re released. That fresh paint smell is unfortunately laced with harmful elements such as fluorine, chlorine, bromine, sulfur, or nitrogen. They may be organic and natural, but they are harmful to humans.
There are low-to zero-VOC paint and finish products available for use by the hospitality industry. A growing number of furniture and flooring manufacturers also have switched to paints and finishes that do not use any VOCs.
Design doesn’t have to get left behind when it comes to making improvements to your hotel which will make it more enticing to the growing number of guests who want to contribute to the eco-friendly movement. Contact us to learn more about how we can integrate sensible eco-friendly solutions into your hotel's design.