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Achieving sustainability is a slow but constant process

Happy early Earth Day everyone! The official date of Earth Day is April 22, although some also commemorate Earth Hour on March 29.While this holiday may pale in comparison to the larger, more commercial festivities like Christmas and Valentine’s Day, it is nonetheless vital for hotel operations, not only because we must all do our part for the environment, but because these eco-improvements can save you a lot of money.

It has been shown time and again that while ecosystem-conscious upgrades can be expensive upfront, in the long run they can save you hundreds of thousands — if not millions — in operational costs. If you don’t believe me, contact an environmental consultant for more details.

What I emphasize is a cascade of minor improvements over a long breadth of time instead of the fast, grandiose and very pricey changes. Everyone wants the latter because you see immediate results, but it’s important to remember operational savings won’t remedy huge sunken costs in the short term.

Like geology or evolution, property upgrades in this regard are best done when they are slow but also constant. This isn’t something you bring up in a meeting once, then execute a plan and forget about it. Sustainability upgrades must be continually readdressed every year, if not every month. Part of an environmental consultant’s job is to help guide you through this process, helping you initiate as well as maintain a state of change.

One last point: all this talk of sustainability has so far addressed the back-of-house or behind-the-scenes operations. That’s where the savings are, but not necessarily where you can have the most impact on guests’ perceptions of your hotel as eco-friendly. That’s the domain of the front of house.

For this, I stress that the changes with the most impact are the ones that are the most visible, not necessarily the ones that will have the greatest effect on the sustainability of your operations. The catchphrase I minted to capture this counterintuitive argument is, “going green to be seen.” If a guest can’t see your environmental upgrades with his or her own two eyes, then it’s as if they were never there.

Think about this concept over the weekend (as well as the aforementioned idea of slow but constant change), then come Earth Day, get together with your fellow managers and see what you can do.

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