The importance of being green

Sustainability is the new mantra of the hotel industry that, in recent years, has been developing business plans and management policies inspired by the major issues of ecology: conservation and protection of natural heritage, reduction of environmental impact, harmonious inclusion of human artefacts in the landscape, in order to protect and enhance the local flora and fauna.

People, profit and the planet are the three macro areas of reference for the great change taking place in the hospitality sector: promoting social inclusion (personal) without penalising economic growth (profit) and without ever mortifying the protection of the environmental and cultural heritage (the planet), this is the objective of the new development model for the hotel sector.

The green revolution

2017 was the year of sustainable tourism. The UNWTO (United Nation World Trade Organization), the United Nations division that deals with international trade, has formally decreed the need for a change that is as necessary as it is desirable in the business and commercial policies of private entrepreneurs and large hotel groups.

Tourism has been identified as the driving force behind the green revolution, which should make an effective contribution to the global objectives of the Sustainable Development Agenda. All operators in the sector are therefore formally invited to take up the appeal of the institutions, and to present themselves as a virtuous example of the green lifestyle that should inspire the future of the planet.

Considering that one of the main cost items in the management of a hotel is related to expenditure in the energy field, therefore closely linked to the use of highly polluting fossil fuels, and that hotels are continually forced to deal with the problem of waste, resulting from poor management of the resources made available to their guests, the challenge of sustainability promises to be quite challenging.
For several years now, this issue has been on the agenda of the multidisciplinary discussion tables of the European Union, which has made available to the competent bodies a tool to certify adherence to development policies that include respect for the environment and encourage a more responsible use of natural resources. The EU Ecolabel is the certification that suppliers of hotel products and services can apply for on a voluntary basis, if their actions are in line with the relevant EU provisions.

In order to obtain the eco-label, it is necessary to demonstrate the ability to work in favour of environmental sustainability, with business plans oriented towards the protection of the environment and the enhancement of local resources. The bodies responsible for issuing the certification follow a specific procedure, which includes an inspection to analyze the characteristics of the structure, suggest any improvement activities, and raise awareness among staff in all departments about the conduct to be maintained to remain true to the principles of eco-sustainability hotel.

The eco hotels: a sustainable journey

Tourist facilities that succeed in obtaining EU Ecolabel certification, are called eco hotels and are automatically registered in the EU Ecolabel Tourist Accommodation Catalogue database.

The guidelines for remaining a member of the network are quite strict:

  • a large part of the energy supply must come from renewable sources (solar or wind);
  • the lighting must be mainly led;
  • waste must be differentiated, and the newspapers available to users must be part of recycling programmes for paper and cardboard;
  • organic and zero-kilometre food must be an integral part of the food supply;
  • towels and sheets will be mainly made of organic cotton and guests will be expressly left to decide if and when to use the change of linen and laundry service;
  • for cleaning, we recommend eco-compatible detergents;
  • the use of packaging plastics must be reduced to a minimum, therefore no disposable glasses or cutlery in the dining room, and no single-dose soap containers in the room.
The eco philosophy therefore includes a holistic approach to the management of the hotel structure and involves choices and initiatives that aim to protect and protect the natural environment, to preserve the balance between man and the environment necessary for economic growth compatible with social equity and ecosystems.

Eco chic, eco rich

According to some sector studies, adopting strategies that are functional to the environment also has a positive impact on profits, because it favours savings on operating costs and attracts large segments of the public, determining a consistent return on the initial investment necessary to adapt its structure to the canons of eco-sustainability. In recent years a renewed ecological interest from customers, is the master of the demand side. On the practical side, on the other hand, on the supply side, the solutions to be adopted go through the optimisation of resources and the reduction of waste.

If electricity consumption accounts for 60% of the running costs of the hotel, technological innovations must be implemented to effectively manage the environmental and water heating systems. The structural interventions involve the use of insulating covering materials, such as certain types of plaster and floors, and the choice of double glazing and curtains that can help maintain the temperature of the room.

For artificial heating, on the other hand, it is possible to adopt computerised management systems that, through an infrastructure of sensors and algorithms that process data relating to user flows, keep the ambient temperature at optimal levels, concentrating heating where necessary and shutting down heaters and air conditioners in uninhabited rooms and in less frequented places. Part of the energy must be produced by alternative methods such as photovoltaic panels and, where possible, from small domestic power plants processing the waste. Every waste product must be recycled. The organic, for example, can be composted to produce fertilizer for garden care and the cultivation of fruit and vegetables in the garden, which can be watered with rainwater collected (and purified) in special tanks. More generally, all taps must be fitted with flow reducers to ensure prudent water management.

A large part of these precautions is invisible to guests who, however, can and should be made aware of the initiatives taken by the hotel to protect the environment.

But the eco hotel can also be revealed to its guests in more direct ways, through the choice of furnishings built from recycled raw materials and recycled materials. And so, the undisputed protagonist of the furnishings becomes natural wood, which creates relaxing and welcoming atmospheres. Rooms with raw parquet and exposed beams for the ceiling, alternate with rooms with ceramic and terracotta flooring and brick wall inserts, which give the structure a touch of country, elegant and refined. When choosing upholstery, raw fibres such as linen, cotton and hemp should be preferred where water-based varnish plastering is not sufficient. The eco-chic character then passes through the choice of furniture and furnishing accessories.

The design solutions for eco-sustainable furniture are varied and vast; a brief online search for images categorized under the eco-chic tag will immediately give an idea of the countless proposals by creatives, designers and producers of eco-friendly living, inspired in their creations by their love for Mother Nature.

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