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  • Cicero Construction

Make Sustainability Your Hotel's New Year's Resolution

Solar panels on hotels have a payback of as little as 5 years after installation, and as solar technology becomes more mature, the costs keep decreasing year after year

PLAINFIELD, IL, DECEMBER 27, 2021 — The pandemic forced hotels to modify how they operate, pushing safety to the forefront of the hospitality community’s consciousness, and derailing a burgeoning industry trend to make facilities more sustainable. Yet, hoteliers would be wise to make sustainability a New Year's resolution, says Sam Cicero, President of Cicero Construction Group, a general contractor specializing in hotel renovation.

"Decreasing a hotel’s impact on the environment, no matter its size or location, attracts guests in the short term and saves money in the long term. When customers choose to spend money on a hotel room, many want to select a place to stay that is kind to the earth," explained Cicero. "And while you’d be excused for assuming sustainability was the last thing on travelers’ minds these days, a recent poll by found that 68% of respondents are searching out eco-friendly hotels, and 87% state that they want to travel sustainably."

Beginning a sustainability journey may seem like a daunting task since it crosses all sectors of hotel life, from housekeeping to operations to the restaurant. Here are ten tips from Cicero Construction Group that will help you avoid common and often costly mistakes while building your hotel's sustainability strategies.

  1. Recruit employees from each hotel department to participate in a Green Team. They will take the lead in proposing eco-friendly best practices in their department, giving them a sense of ownership, and encouraging their commitment to seeing that their suggested practice is adopted.

  2. Hire a power quality contractor to conduct audits of the hotel's HVAC system and other electrical equipment to make sure they are using the right amount of power when in use, as well as in standby mode. An audit will assess current energy use, identify energy-saving opportunities, and help quantify potential short- and long-term savings. Opportunities range from big-ticket items like solar panels and Energy Star appliances to less costly occupancy sensors, digital thermostats, and LED light bulbs. Other relatively inexpensive projects are planting trees or installing awnings and overhangs that keep the sun off hotel walls and windows to reduce energy use. It is important to note that the average hotel spends $2,196 on energy expenses per room.

  3. Water use in hotels is responsible for approximately 25 percent of total utility expenses. In addition to bathrooms, there is laundry, landscaping, and kitchens where water is used. Common water conservation practices that hotels can implement are regular water tracking and low-flow toilets, as well as putting in more efficient faucets and shower heads. High-efficiency bathroom fixtures use at least 20 percent less water. Even small steps like installing additional racks for guests to reuse towels reduces laundry requirements, therefore cutting down on energy and water use.

  4. Among the most environmentally damaging products on the planet, plastic water bottles can be found inside virtually every hotel room. Make plastic bottles obsolete by equipping faucets with a filtration system so that quality water is available. Also, add a water-bottle filling station in the lobby.

  5. Add a recycling bin to hotel rooms so guests can recycle when they travel like they are accustomed to doing at home.

  6. Automated irrigation systems cut down on unnecessary water use. Further reduce water requirements by planting drought-resistant native plants and ground cover instead of grass. This change also eliminates dangerous pesticides and fertilizers.

  7. Housekeeping is another area to shore up costs and implement sustainable practices. While a clean hotel is critical to the success, you can do that with eco-friendly products. Instead of individual bottles, install refillable dispensers for shampoo, conditioner and soaps.

  8. Go paperless by sending room, restaurant and bar bills to an email address instead of automatically printing it. Or at least give such option to guests and let them decide.

  9. Contemporary plastic key cards are made from PVC plastic containing dangerous chemical additives. Many hotels are shifting to card options made from paper, wood, and bioplastic that are better for the environment but equally as durable.

  10. Hotel restaurants can take sustainable initiatives by choosing to promote the use of local, organic food in their breakfast and meal choices.

"In 2022 and beyond, hotels should focus on promoting a sustainable environment for their guests by conserving energy, minimizing waste, and reducing their overall carbon footprint," said Cicero. "In the long run, it’s an investment towards a good cause and a great way to cut down on the everyday costs of doing business."

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