Sustainability in hospitality: Initiatives for boutique hotels

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Giles Fuchs, owner of Burgh Island Hotel, shares some advice on the ways in which boutique hotels can adopt sustainable initiatives.

Truly sustainable, luxurious travel can be oxymoronic. However, with emerging trends seeing the hospitality industry take sustainability by the storm, luxury shouldn’t be a sacrifice in a bid to be more environmentally friendly. Of course, we must be mindful of the impact running hotels has on the planet, but it is our responsibility to find sustainable solutions to minimise it.

The hospitality sector still has work to do in achieving this. In the UK alone, over one million tonnes of food is wasted by hotels per year, the equivalent to 1.3 billion meals. In addition, 2.26 million tonnes of plastic packaging waste was reported in 2017, with the service sector being the largest single contributor, accounting for 53 per cent of all waste. 

Unlike the larger chains, boutique hotels in particular have a harder task, as they often do not have the resources and funds to invest in complete sustainable solutions. However, with the correct understanding, planning and delivery, there should be no reason why boutiques can’t play their part in having sustainable practices whilst still retaining their identity.

At Burgh Island, we are constantly finding new ways to meet all of these requirements that can also meet the needs of the business. As we look to the future, it is exciting to see the industry begin to share their new initiatives so that we can learn and build on our collective experiences to deliver high quality service that makes sustainability a priority.

Environmental practice

On an island like Burgh, we have the responsibility to protect and preserve our unique natural landscape. This means carefully considering pollutants that can damage the surrounding land and areas, and waste disposal is a key focus. Reducing single-use plastic remains high on the social agenda, and for many hotels this is now an expected standard. 

Introducing simple initiatives like glass water bottles, reusable straws and limiting the amount of packaging used are subtle changes that can make a difference. In fact, this year our toiletry partner Noble Isle will be rolling out plastic free products, made with formulas designed to have minimal impact on the environment.

Recycling waste and products is also an easy yet vitally important initiative to implement. Making the most of any opportunity to recycle is hugely beneficial, and we have found it makes a difference to our guests knowing recycling is a priority.

Embracing your environment is also essential, and making the most of the natural elements has been key for us at Burgh Island. We have introduced a solar panel array, which has significantly helped with our energy consumption, and we are even exploring how we can make the most of the tidal forces.

Responsible operations

Every boutique hotel significantly relies on their staff to keep the everyday operations of the hotel smooth and ticking over. To ensure the running of the hotel remains in line with sustainable practices, you should be looking to invest in staff training to raise awareness of what they can be doing differently, even if they are subtle changes. For example, at Burgh Island we provide our staff with training in energy awareness, so they can be responsible for their own actions, each others and the guests in reducing energy consumption. 

On a larger scale, hotels can look to partner with carbon trusts and local environmental groups to get a better understanding of what they can be doing by learning new practices, and sharing experiences to support the local area and the industry as it continues to develop sustainable initiatives into their strategy and operations. 

Sustainable sourcing

Running as a sustainable business also means considering the impact of operations on the local community. For example, by creating partnerships with suppliers in the local area, hotels can prioritise fresh, local produce which supports the local economy whilst limiting unnecessary and costly transportation. At Burgh Island, we are proud to say that we source 80 per cent of our produce from local farms and suppliers, all within a 30 mile radius.

Indeed, this is a luxury that we are afforded at Burgh, with countryside, farmland and the wonderful sea on our doorstop. For those who aren’t quite as ideally situated, even the smallest change can have a positive impact on the local economy. Prioritising serving local ingredients on your menu where possible and recruiting from the surrounding area can help to create better relationships with the local community and improve your hotel’s environmental and social impact at the same time.

Preserving identity

As boutique hotels, we pride ourselves on uniqueness and character which separates us from the rest. Understandably, retaining  identity is of great importance, however making the hotel sustainable does not mean having to sacrifice the service your guests recognise you for. There is now a variety of discreet products and eco-friendly initiatives that don’t compromise the way a hotel looks and feels. At Burgh Island, where authenticity is paramount, we had the original Crittal windows fitted with double glazing, to preserve the building’s heat during the winter months and retain an essential art-deco feature. 

With the next few years looking set to embrace a greener economy, it is exciting to see what innovations and initiatives come next. With pressure from consumers, governments and now the industry itself, the world of hospitality is changing for the better and it is a privilege to be part of it.


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