Talking Point: Dreaming of a green Christmas – Can hotels have a Christmas with a conscience?

Use natural or re-useable decorations

Use natural or re-useable decorations

With social consciousness bang at the top of the news agenda, reducing waste and adopting environmentally friendly practices has never been more important. But with Christmas just around the corner – and one of the busiest times of year for hotels – extra customers bring additional food and other waste, meaning hotels must work harder to prove their sustainability credentials during this festive period. Gareth Brown, market development manager at Duni offers tips to tackle the festive flab.

It’s highly likely that Christmas 2018 will reflect the mood of the nation in the collective quest to reduce the use of unnecessary plastics, with hotels looking to ensure the whole Christmas experience offered to customers is as green as possible. Putting a strategy in place now to reduce waste including the use of any unnecessary plastics means hotels will be well on their way to having a green Christmas.

So, how can hotels ensure that their well-meaning words translate into actions? Below are five top tips for having your greenest Christmas ever:

Source local where possible

Sourcing your food from local suppliers not only supports local businesses, but also significantly reduces your carbon footprint as food has to travel shorter distances. What’s more, customers love the notion of local food so it’s a win-win. To take this further, think about what’s possible within the grounds of your hotel. Many hotels create food gardens on the roof so they can grow organically and serve under one roof, reducing emissions at the same time. Composting is also a great way to recycle various materials from natural sources and many products can be composted these days - even napkins!

Reduce food waste

Millions of tonnes of food waste from hotels, restaurants and bars is dumped in landfill every year.  Although Christmas is one of the busiest times of year, it’s often easier to predict how much food you’ll need over the festive period as more meals tend to be pre-planned, with booking almost always required for festive set menus.

If possible, design your Christmas menu so that you’re able to reuse things like fruit rinds in dishes and drinks, and don’t overload customers’ plates. There are lots of ways to be both creative and conscious and today’s increasingly aware customer will appreciate effort put into creating a conscious menu.  It goes without saying but compost your food wherever possible and use it to fertilise the plants and green spaces within your hotel and donate still-edible food to a local charity that redistributes food to those in need.  

Cut down on unnecessary plastics

Research shows that two thirds of consumers think the amount of waste generated at Christmas is ‘unacceptable’ and in 2017 it was estimated that 300 million plastic straws and cups would be used at Christmas parties. While the campaign against plastic straws will mean this number is likely to drop drastically in 2018, there is still a long way to go.

Plastic straws are just the start. There are more sustainable options for a wide range of products used at Christmas. Take Christmas crackers for example - Duni estimates that approximately 35 million crackers go pop each year in the hospitality sector alone so it is worth considering more sustainably designed options, which are plastic free.

Ensure your Christmas decorations are green

It wouldn’t be Christmas without a tree with all the accessories, festive table decorations and festive lighting. However, your favourite festive accessories can often be damaging to the environment, so work with partners who can offer you sustainable alternatives.

Choose wooden tree accessories where possible and try timeless ones that can be used year after year rather than buying a new collection each year – saving both money and the environment. You can also get creative by making your own decorations, something which works well particularly in boutique hotels. Try slicing oranges and baking them in the over before stringing them up, or using acorns on your tree for a rustic feel.

Christmas lighting can be a significant power drain, so use LED lights which require much less energy, saving both costs and resources. Naked flame tealights at Christmas pose both safety and wastage issues for hotels. Replacing naked flames with LED lights will not only prevent unnecessary fire hazards but also help to reduce waste as you require considerably fewer LEDs compared to traditional tealights.

Hotels can up their game when it comes to other table decorations by moving to compostable, and FSC® certified festive tableware such as napkins and table coverings. It’s an old notion that ‘green’ designs are bland and boring – you can source responsible products in a range of colour options and designs these days, giving you the freedom to showcase your hotel’s personality, but be conscious at the same time.

Educate employees

It’s all good and well trying to implement sustainable practices, but this must be followed through; a top down approach won’t work. Invite all of your employees to get involved with your sustainability efforts from the beginning, by involving them in planning sessions, educating them on why your business is taking this approach and offering them the opportunity to suggest improvements.

It’s important to fully educate employees on how to carry out the sustainable practices you’re trying to implement. This could include education around the correct use of recycling bins, which products are compostable and which aren’t, and how they can alter their working practices to ensure they’re being as environmentally friendly as possible.

The most wonderful time of the year

The festive season is a great time to set your intentions for the rest of the year. As consumers increasingly seek out socially conscious alternatives in all aspects of their lives, hotels should consider the steps they can take to create a more sustainable businesses model – it will not only help the world, but it makes common business sense too.

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