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When a hotel management team decides to formalize and promote green operating procedures, most of the focus centers around the Engineering and Housekeeping departments. Running in third place is often Food & Beverage, followed by offices including Front Desk, Sales & Marketing, Accounting and Human Resources. Because the IT department is generally small (often a 1-man team or a shared role), this department tends to be overlooked or lumped into the “office” category. In reality, the IT department plays a major role in the success of a hotel’s environmental performance and ongoing improvement.
How does the hotel IT department help to promote and further environmental performance in a hotel?
Green hotels must meet customer expectations while reducing their overall environmental impact. Hotel teams striving to integrate sustainability initiatives into their company cultures would be wise to include the IT Director as part of their green team with specific goals and strategies that incorporate technology and environmental performance.
Employing Green IT strategies helps to reduce the hotel’s carbon footprint and increase stakeholder awareness, engagement and satisfaction through the following strategies.
Paper Waste Reduction
Although the technology exists to transform all business communications to paperless, the paperless office still does not exist. The average American office worker uses approximately 10,000 sheets of paper every year. In a hotel setting, paperless communication to guests, clients, employees and vendors is possible through the following IT strategies:
- Email confirmations and folios
- Email group communications such as contracts, BEOs and billing
- Online access to employee schedules
- Intranet for policies and procedures
- Online and video training programs for staff
- Equipment with duplex printing capability
- Online purchasing and electronic purchase orders
- ACH billing
Energy usage accounts for as much as 6% of total operating costs in a hotel, so there is much to gain from employing technology to help control energy usage. IT strategies related to energy efficiency include the following measures.
- Energy efficient data servers
- Virtualization technology (consolidation)
- Building Automation Controls
- Energy Management Systems
- Energy efficient computers and printers (EPEAT or Energy Star rated)
- Power management tools for PCs (smart power strips, sleep mode, powering down)
- Thin client workstations
Recycling and Responsible Disposal
E-Waste accounts for 2% of solid waste in the U.S. and is the fastest growing garbage segment. Managing electronic waste starts before the purchase of an electronic item. Considerations must be made in advance that take life-cycle costs and impacts into account before a product is selected. Upgradability and recyclability are major considerations for the IT department when making a purchasing decision. The following are examples of strategies for IT departments.
- Determine expected life of a product
- Evaluate ability to enhance or upgrade technology
- Understand disposal impacts and requirements
- Research opportunities for donation of electronic products to charities
- Plan and manage recycling of all obsolete electronics throughout the property
Communication and Customer Engagement
Technology is fast becoming the main vehicle for guest communication. A green hotel can employ a variety of technology tools to effectively communicate green initiatives and engage stakeholders. Examples include:
- Interactive TV Guest Services information (replace traditional printed guest directory binder)
- Interactive video service requests, room service ordering, and check-out
- Mobile applications for booking and accessing group info
- Green initiatives and CSR activities communicated through internal TV channels
- Website page dedicated to green initiatives and green travel tips
- Virtual site tours and photo slideshows
- Video conferencing services for clients
- Digital signage
- Use of social networking sites to engage guests in sustainability efforts (Foursquare, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Google+, etc.)
Energy represents one of the biggest controllable operating costs in a hotel. Every employee must do their part to conserve energy to reduce costs as well as the hotel’s carbon footprint. Office employees can do this by turning things off, turning things down, using resources wisely, and caring appropriately for equipment.
SHUTTING DOWN EQUIPMENT
It is an urban myth that leaving a computer on all day is more efficient than turning it off when not in use. Leaving one computer on all day can add up to 1,000 kilowatts of electricity use over a year, and will result in more than a ton of carbon emissions, not to mention the cost of electricity. Turn your office equipment off when leaving for extended periods or when leaving for the day.
Do you believe in vampires? They often reside in offices! A vampire refers to an electronic device that draws power when it is plugged in, even if the power is turned off. It is estimated that wasted “vampire power” accounts for as much of 5% of energy use in the United States. To conserve this wasted power, unplug machines that are not in use and simply plug them in when you are ready to use them. Another option is to use a power strip or surge protector – plug your vampires into the power strip and turn them all off with one click when you leave for the day.
NATURAL LIGHT & VENTILIATION
Lighting accounts for approximately 44% of the electricity used in an office, while cooling and ventilation add another 22% (Energy Information Administration). If you have access to a window, you can help save money, improve air quality, and enjoy the benefits of Mother Nature by taking advantage of natural light and ventilation whenever possible. Just open up your drapes, blinds, and windows to allow the fresh air and light in. Natural ventilation can help balance and neutralize the negative affects of HVAC systems, and the combination of fresh air, sunlight and views can improve employee satisfaction and productivity.
So much of business communication can be done through the use of email, smart phones, or other electronic means. This includes communication we receive and communication we send. Going paperless not only saves the expense involved with printing, paper, and postage, but also allows you to organize, file and retrieve information much faster! Oh, yes, and we save LOTS of trees!
When sending communications, ask your intended receiver if you may send letters, receipts, billing, contracts, brochures or other materials via email.
When receiving communications, request that letters, publications, confirmations, and receipts are sent to you via email or other electronic means.
One important way that hotel office employees contribute to a hotel’s environmental goals is to purchase wisely. This means selecting products that are less harmful to the environment than traditional products. To be less harmful, the products should have reduced and/or reusable packaging, conserve energy, be non-toxic, and be recyclable.
Many office supply vendors have a line of environmentally friendly products that are usually competitive with traditional products. Make a habit of checking for these products first before making your purchasing decisions, always making the greenest feasible choice.
PURCHASING OFFICE SUPPLIES
Following these best practices:
- Paper: ensure office paper contains a minimum of 30% recycled content.
- Pens: Americans buy more than 5.1 billion pens every year, most of which are disposable and end up in landfills. Look for refillable pens made from recyclable plastic.
- Ink/Toner: When possible, use refillable ink cartridges or refurbished toner cartridges for printers.
- Pay attention to the VOC content of products you choose, selecting low VOC whenever possible.
PURCHASING OFFICE EQUIPMENT
Ensure equipment meets the following guidelines:
- Energy Star rated, or energy efficient
- Options for auto shut-off, sleep mode and duplex printing
- Rated highly for durability and performance
- Supplies and accessories are readily available, economical, and recyclable
- Product can be reused or recycled at the end of its useful life
Every employee plays an important role in the successful operation of your hotel – that is, after all, why you hired them! Just as it is vitally important that every employee understands their role in contributing to the company’s financial success and service objectives, employees must also know and accept their responsibilities for performing their jobs according to the Green Policies & Procedures that have been established. Including a green segment in your employee orientation program will help employees to embrace the identity of a green employee.
Add a section in your employee handbook that outlines your hotel’s environmental mission and vision, and clearly states your commitment to operating in a sustainable way. Explain that every employee is responsible to work in a manner consistent with the goals of the hotel.
Add a paragraph or bullet point to each job description that requires a commitment to follow the green standard operating procedures related to each position.
Commit to providing clear and dedicated training to each new employee that gives them the tools and instruction they need to fully understand how to work in support of your environmental goals.
For hotel employee training products, please visit Department Training.
An Environmental Compliance Program is a written system designed to ensure that your business will remain in compliance with applicable laws and regulations and will adhere to your established Green Standard Operating Procedures. This written program will outline HOW you intend to monitor your efforts, and WHO is responsible for monitoring and evaluating your environmental performance.
The Environmental Compliance Program is important for a Green Hotel for several reasons:
- Provides accountability and outlines responsibilities
- Sets checkpoints to verify that green initiatives are being followed
- Provides system for evaluating effectiveness of green initiatives
- Provides system for measuring and analyzing performance
- Ensures business remains in compliance with government regulations
- Requires top management support and commitment
For help with writing your Environmental Compliance Program, check out these resources.
Is being green a selling point? It could be; it should be. But it depends on if your sales staff approaches it as a feature or a benefit.
Getting back to Sales 101, a feature is meaningless unless you can relate it directly back to a need that the client has acknowledged. The way a salesperson communicates green initiatives to their clients and prospects is the determining factor of whether or not being green is a selling point.
Being green is NOT a selling point if: A) your clients are unaware; or B) your sales team cannot relate the benefits to your clients in a meaningful way.
Not only does the sales team need to understand the reasons why sustainability is important for your business, but they need to know why it is important to your clients.
Green Selling Basics for the Sales Team:
1. Know what makes your business green.
The best sales people are experts on the products and services they sell. For a green business, this means understanding what your company does differently that makes it green, and how this benefits the customers, the employees, the owners, and the community. Take the time to fully understand the concepts of operating sustainably, and be ready to answer your client’s green questions.
2. Know your clients needs.
Although many of your clients may buy the same products or services, they do so for various reasons. Every client is motivated differently. You must find “the need behind the need” before you can use green initiatives as a selling point. Do your homework on your prospect or client to learn what motivates their buying decisions. Find ways to relate your green initiatives directly to your clients needs.
3. Connect the dots: #1 + #2 = SALE
#1 builds confidence, for both you and your client.
#2 demonstrates true desire to meet your client’s needs.
#3 creates winning partnership.
Realize that not everyone has the same reasons for doing business with a green certified company, but everyone does want to feel that they are making the best buying decision. Understanding the many benefits of doing business with your green company and effectively communicating and relating those benefits directly to the client’s needs will be the key to turning your green status into a valuable selling point.
Greening your business operations may seem like an overwhelming process. Just getting started can be the hardest part. We know it’s important, but where do we start? You can demystify the process by breaking it down into manageable steps.
- Define Your Goal
Having a goal to “be green” is like saying “do better.” Without a clearly stated objective, how will you know if you achieved it? Decide on a specific measurable goal, such as “Achieve Green Seal Certified at the Bronze Level.”
- Make Sure You Really Want It
Your convictions should be strong enough that you won’t get talked out of it. You will face challenges and adversity – be ready to stand strong. BELIEVE you are meant to do this. Let the strength of your commitment shine through. “Desire is the starting point of all achievement.” ~ Napoleon Hill
- Build Your Confidence
If you believe in the concepts of sustainability, then you know you are doing the right thing for your business. Trust yourself, and know you are making your company stronger. Remember – if you decide that failure is not an option, then success is inevitable.
- Plan it Out
Realize that sustainability is a journey, and you wouldn’t take a trip without planning things out in advance. The things you consider when planning a trip are the same to consider here:
- Where are we going?
- When will we leave, and how long will it take?
- Who will go with us?
- How will we get there?
- How much will it cost?
- Do we anticipate any detours or road blocks?
- Get on a Schedule
Your goal will remain an idea until you put it on a schedule. Without a timeline, the goal has no sense of urgency. It will sit on the back burner while more “time sensitive” tasks are attended to. Hold yourself accountable with deadlines, and you’ll be amazed what you can get done.
- Get Busy
Don’t wait for the stars to align to get started. Take action now. Every step, no matter how small, moves you closer to your goal. Plus, the more you do, the more you learn. The sooner you start, the closer you get to achievement.
- Rally the Troops
You may be good, but no one can do this alone. Greening your business requires the strength of the whole team. Besides, why should you have all the fun? Let others be part of the process – they can share in the work and the successes. Keep people motivated by giving them short-term goals and celebrating the successes along the way.
- Don’t Get Emotional
You will get frustrated at some point, but don’t take it to heart. Bear in mind that emotions, both positive and negative, are energy-intensive. You want to be energy-efficient, and conserve your energy for constructive action. So, if you are tempted to feel discouraged, disheartened, or even angry at a setback, try to channel that energy into positive action that will move you toward your goal.