How Can Hotels Reduce Their Carbon Footprint?  

Many of us are horrified at rising energy costs, but imagine having to heat and light properties with dozens or...

Many of us are horrified at rising energy costs, but imagine having to heat and light properties with dozens or even hundreds of individual bedrooms. One recent study by Energy Star revealed that hotels spend an estimated £1684 per room on energy each year. 

And many hotels offer other energy-intensive facilities, like restaurants, bars, swimming pools, spas, laundries and conference facilities. 

Given the astronomical rise in energy bills, it’s easy to feel patronised by companies offering money-saving ‘advice’. And even sustainability, something many people believe in, can be hard to justify in the short term as any ROI may take time to achieve.

But sustainability should be important to hotels because it’s not just about appearing eco-friendly to visitors and clients but about becoming more energy-efficient, which can help hotels save money. 

Installing Solar or Human Power Generating Equipment

According to Bywater's, a sustainable waste management company, installing energy-saving technology is key to reducing a hotel's lighting and heating bills. Hotels are energy-intensive businesses, providing 24/7 electricity, hot and cold water, air conditioning, heating and lighting. Therefore, energy-saving is essential, not just for the hotel itself but for the carbon footprint of the entire industry. 

The obvious answer is for the hotel to self-generate power using renewable energy. Solar panels are one option. This will depend, however, on the hotel’s location and whether it owns the building. The Sustainable Travel website agrees, discussing in one article how hotels should use solar panels to generate electricity or heat. It writes that this renewable energy could power the building or warm any swimming pools or underfloor heating. Excess electrical power can also be pushed back into the grid to support demand at peak hours. 

The article also suggests that hotels introduce electricity-generating gym equipment. At Energym, it’s something that we wholeheartedly agree with. Hotels can either add energy-producing indoor bikes to a gym’s fitness centre, cycling studio or as part of a guest’s in-room experience.

But what else can hotels do?

Hotels may not have the space or facilities for solar arrays or energy-producing gym equipment, but there are other ways to reduce a building’s carbon footprint. 

  • One easy way is to stop heating and lighting empty rooms. Travelodge did this and cut energy usage by 40%.  

  • Getting an energy audit done is invaluable in understanding your hotel’s carbon footprint and can save you money in the long run. An independent assessment company will measure the amount of energy (and carbon) you generate across the business or within a specific property, and they’ll suggest how to improve it.

    It’s easy to see this as a costly exercise, but energy inefficiency is also expensive. For example, poorly maintained equipment could be adding thousands to your utility bills. Energy audits aren't just about being eco-friendlier; they're also there to help save money, but not everything picked up in an energy audit will be immediately actionable. Still, it gives the hotel something to work towards and can form the basis of an honest appraisal for any green marketing campaigns.

    The caterer website shares an excellent example of how improving or swapping out inefficient equipment can be financially lucrative, writing that upgrading air conditioners, using ground source heat pumps, fitting energy-efficient lights, and upgrading kitchen equipment could reduce energy use by 40%, saving £124,000 annually. Energy efficiency and sustainability can represent significant savings for a business.

  • Using LED light bulbs throughout the property is an obvious but essential starting point. The use of motion sensors throughout the property is another because hotels don't have to rely on patrons to turn off the lights when they've moved through certain parts of the hotel. It also helps prevent low-traffic areas from being lit day and night. 
  • One thing that’s frustrating when travelling is the lack of in-room recycling facilities. Often, there isn't even a separate bin for plastic bottles or cartons. If it's not possible inside the room, there should be something nearby for people to use, something near the lifts, for example. Most of us are now so well-versed in recycling at home that its second nature. 

    Closely cropped image of twin hotel beds one with a coral blanket folded over the bottom and corner and white pillows

  • Plastic keycards are reusable but imagine how many are printed or thrown away daily. Several sustainable alternatives use recycled or recyclable materials. Hotels can pick from biodegradable materials too. Some hotels are also going digital, where guests can find their room’s door code at reception or have it texted to them before arrival.

  • If your company is redeveloping or building a property, there's a lot you can do in the planning stages to increase energy efficiency. Thinking about the pitch and direction of roofs to maximise the potential of solar arrays is a good idea. Using plants and trees as part of the landscaping creates cool and shady areas to dissipate heat, and it makes the surroundings look more appealing and inviting. The thickness of the walls makes a difference, and so does the positioning of the windows. Energym did an event down at Bloomberg's HQ in London back in November, and we were blown away at how deeply ingrained sustainability was throughout the building. And yes, while Bloomberg has the budget that most other companies could only dream about, it's an example of what's achievable when architects and developers are given a sustainability-focused brief. 

  • Hotels can also switch to a green energy supplier. Although, they must do the research first because not all green tariffs hold up to scrutiny. Using green suppliers also sends a clear message to the energy industry that there is a demand for renewable power. Subsiding this with self-generated clean power through solar panels or electricity-generating gym equipment suggests an alignment with the eco-friendly movement and, so long as it's done honestly, makes for an excellent starting point for a green marketing campaign. 

  • Guests love exploring local areas, especially without the hassle of driving or ordering taxis and Ubers, so let them know what’s within walking distance of the hotel. When people arrive in a new place, they’re often unsure how to get into the town centre or areas of interest. Maybe there’s a local bar, park, or restaurant only a few miles down the road that you could recommend. You could even team up with a local bike rental company, providing a rental point for guests to borrow bikes to explore. Give visitors directions to local public transport – explain how it works, which tickets to buy or simply how to switch the ticket machine to their language. Encourage people to explore the area without resorting to cars. 

    Kitchen waste vegetables on a chopping board

  • Kitchen waste can quickly add up if you have an on-site restaurant. Donate unwanted food items to a food bank or local charity. Add kitchen scraps to a composting area if you can. Food waste thrown into plastic bin liners releases high methane levels during decomposition, an eight times more potent greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide.  

  • Reducing single-use plastic is the obvious choice, but it’s something most hotels struggle to achieve. Think of all the excess packaging you often find in rooms: water bottles in minibars, toiletries and non-essential extras (shower caps, packet soaps, shampoos, sewing kits, etc.). These are things that guests could quickly request from reception or housekeeping. Equally, reducing or eliminating single-use cutlery and cupware can help. However, hotels should still maintain plastic provisions for people with disabilities and children.

Hotels can be more sustainable, and tech-driven solutions can help to mitigate rising energy costs. The self-generation options mentioned earlier are powerful ideas because they exploit processes already happening. The solar array on the roof or the electricity-generating indoor bike are intermediaries in an energy transaction that's already happening. Sunlight can generate heat and electricity. Indoor cycling bikes can generate power from a workout. You have to install the right technology to benefit from it. 

Whilst these alone won’t dramatically change the energy landscape in the UK or abroad, they can make a meaningful impact if adopted across the industry. 

Hotels would be wrong to ignore sustainability’s impact on their brand. Guests are now more discerning about where they choose to stay, and eco-living and travelling isn't just a trend; it's a way of living for many guests, and as a business in a competitive market, it makes sense to tap into it. 

Energym is committed to helping hotels, gyms, offices, and individuals generate clean energy from exercise. Please drop us a message if you’re interested in putting our electricity-generating bikes in your hotel. 



    Back to blog

    Leave a comment

    Please note, comments need to be approved before they are published.

    Join the RE:VOLUTION

    Solutions for every setting