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Environment and Sustainability

By Laxmi Todiwan, Professor, Corporate Trainer & Founder, Indian Women in Hospitality (IWH)

Tuesday, July 23, 2019, 12:51 Hrs  [IST]

Sustainability is defined as the ability to be sustained, supported, upheld, or confirmed. It also highlights measures that don’t harm the environment or deplete natural resources and thereby supporting long term ecological balance. I was at an international summit for hospitality professionals where every speaker had a segment of his presentation dedicated to sustainability. It is the wakeup call; time to pull up our socks’ and gear up.

All our resources would get scarce and we’ll have to fight for even the very basic needs such as water and food. Nature and its resources are an inheritance that needs to be passed on to our future generations. With the advent of technology, modern living, and our own greed; we are going away from our roots with rampant destruction everywhere. We know the carbon footprints and all the fancy words used in connection with sustainability but what are we doing in reality?

Creating promotional materials or campaigns in isolation are not enough. A lot needs to be done by all of us – individuals, corporate organisations, local governments, as well as at the national and international levels. Each has to work on a war-footing; a plan for the future date is already a delay. Let’s see what we can do as hotel companies and hoteliers:

It’s time that hotel and resort owners initiate natural resource conservation strategies, energy saving and recycling initiatives across their hotels. The measures could be rainwater harvesting, recycling waste, reusing materials, water conservation, making use of solar energy, adapting to eco-design that conserves power and energy. At the same time, hotels must create awareness and undertake sensitisation programs for their employees and guests on areas that require immediate intervention. Hotels can fulfill their responsibilities by way of ensuring energy efficiency through green practices in all operational areas such as adopting the 3 R’s-Reduce, Reuse and Recycle.

The housekeeping department including laundry uses various supplies, amenities, chemicals, and equipments can contribute greatly by adopting the eco-friendly approach in their operations. Above all, hotels should have control mechanisms such as regular inspections and audits to ensure that these measures are firmly rooted in their operations; much beyond eco-sensitivity tent cards placed in their guestrooms!

In 1997 while in the third year of my Hotel Management, my research project was on ‘Eco-friendly hotels’. It was a nouvelle topic at that time as hotels were waking up to use eco-friendly practices; some were merely marketing gimmicks than working on the conservation part of it. The recommendations that I had made in my research and the concerns that I had expressed have become a reality today; to the extent that we have reached a ‘do or perish’ stage. I had highlighted the power of reducing our dependency on non-renewable resources and non-biodegradable materials as well as reducing wastage. Reusing paper, wood etc, recycling water in STPs and using it for gardening or in toilet flushes. Another suggestion that I had made was; using organic waste from kitchens to generate biogas and vermi-composting to produce manure that could be used for growing plants, vegetables, herbs etc. Most of these practices are being used today.

During one of my work visits at The Park New Delhi, almost 3 years ago I saw the housekeeping department making use of the discarded bathtubs. The hotel had renovated some rooms and bathtubs were removed from some, again a step in the right direction. What would have happened to the discarded bathtubs? They would have reached the junkyard and remained there for ages creating waste that wouldn’t decompose; adding to the already existing filth. Instead Mrs. Arora, Director Housekeeping; came up with an idea that was three-pronged, one - remove the bathtubs and help the hotel save water, cleaning time, cleaning agents, etc. Two - not add to the pile of non decomposed junk and three - create beauty and life by using the old bathtubs as pots for planting different vegetables. This was happening outside the training classroom, I saw the bathtubs being painted in bright colours one day, the next day mud and manure being added and the third-day saplings planted. I literally saw life being created and beauty housed in junk! Organic vegetables were grown in the bathtubs and used in the restaurant; fresh from the farm. The plants displayed small placards with their information and nutritive facts that created awareness among the staff.

It takes one ordinary idea to create something that’s meaningful; an effort towards being eco-friendly and sustainable.

The views expressed within this column are the opinion of the author, and may not necessarily be endorsed by the publication.

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