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How to become a sustainable hotel, B&B, or guest house

While there are several large hotel chains in the UK, the hospitality sector includes around 35,000 small bed and breakfasts and guesthouses.

With the hospitality industry responsible for up to 15% of the UK’s greenhouse gas emissions, small accommodation businesses have a crucial role in helping the UK reach its target of net zero carbon emissions by 2050.

Benefits of becoming a sustainable accommodation business

There are many reasons why companies should become more environmentally friendly.

Annual energy costs for the hospitality sector are more than £1.3 billion, with carbon emissions of over eight million tonnes per year.

These figures demonstrate how becoming more sustainable can generate significant cost savings.

Customers are demanding it too. Visit England data found 58% of people want to stay in accommodation with environmentally friendly practices, while a survey of 29,000 travellers by Booking.com found 83% think sustainable travel is vital.

Going green is an opportunity to stand out from competitors and attract new business.

The Booking.com study found that 53% of travellers get annoyed if the place where they are staying stops them from being sustainable.

Regulatory pressures on businesses are growing too, with new measures such as the Plastic Packaging Tax showing the UK Government’s increasing focus on sustainability.

Below are some tips to start your journey to becoming a sustainable tourist accommodation business.

Good lighting is essential for a positive guest experience, but the Carbon Trust says energy costs can be reduced by up to 50% by implementing lighting controls.

Light Emitting Diodes (LEDs), the most energy-efficient lighting technology which can reduce energy costs by up to 70%, are a good option to consider here.

Light sensors can turn off lights in areas when they are not being used, such as function rooms, toilets, and corridors.

This can reduce lighting costs by between 30% and 50%.

Keycards that turn off lights when removed from a docking point will also help to ensure guests don’t leave lights on when they leave their rooms.

Heating can be responsible for more than 40% of energy use in non-domestic buildings, so businesses have significant opportunities to make savings.

By taking the simple step of ensuring appropriate temperatures are maintained, the Carbon Trust says heating costs can be reduced by up to 20%.

Recommended temperatures are:

  • Bars & lounges (20-22ºC)
  • Guest bathrooms (26-27ºC)
  • Guest bedrooms (19-21ºC)
  • Restaurants & dining rooms (22-24ºC)
  • Corridors (19-21ºC)
  • Kitchens (16-18ºC)

Other measures to take include:

  • ensuring that boilers are regularly serviced
  • ensuring thermostats aren’t influenced by draughts, sunlight, or heat sources like radiators
  • creating ‘zones’ with different temperature controls, such as lower temperatures on unoccupied floors

Plastic toiletry bottles have been a staple feature of hotels for many years, but the backlash against harmful single-use plastic means many businesses are opting for alternatives.

Actions to consider include:

  • replacing single-use plastic with refillable dispensers.
  • ensuring soaps and shampoos are organic and fairtrade.
  • providing reusable mugs, bottles, and glasses instead of plastic.
  • only stocking Coffee pods and tea bags that are biodegradable.

It is estimated that 18% of the food purchased by the UK hospitality industry every year is wasted, at a cost to businesses of £3.2bn.

Steps to consider include purchasing smaller orders more often, focusing on local suppliers, and ensuring food supplies are stored and labelled appropriately so older items always get used.

A review of cooking processes will help you make the most of ingredients and you could think about making use of any surplus, such as vegetable stock, for soups.

You can also monitor the amount of food diners don’t eat and adjust portion sizes accordingly or remove unpopular dishes.

Other changes to think about include offering doggy bags or takeaway options and using refillable containers for products such as cereal, jam, and yoghurt.

WRAP’s Guardians of Grub has a tool for calculating food waste with resources for tackling it.

According to the Sustainable Hospitality Alliance (SHW), a hotel can use an average of 1,500 litres of water per room per day, so reducing your water use will be beneficial.

Laundry is responsible for a significant amount of water use by accommodation businesses.

Reducing the number of times you have to clean towels and linen will help you cut back and reduce costs.

It is common practice to ask guests to leave towels on a bathroom rack if they want to use them again or on the floor if they would like them to be washed.

Display cards explaining your laundry policy with engaging language that emphasises the benefits to the environment.

Installing low flow technology for showers and taps that automatically switch off will also help reduce water use.

You could also carry out regular checks for water leaks in toilets, swimming pools, and boilers.

A leaking toilet can waste 750 litres of water per day, and a dripping tap can lose 70 litres.

The SHW has a tool for hotels to calculate water use.

Regional support

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Reference to any organisation, business and event on this page does not constitute an endorsement or recommendation from the British Business Bank or the UK Government. Whilst we make reasonable efforts to keep the information on this page up to date, we do not guarantee or warrant (implied or otherwise) that it is current, accurate or complete. The information is intended for general information purposes only and does not take into account your personal situation, nor does it constitute legal, financial, tax or other professional advice. You should always consider whether the information is applicable to your particular circumstances and, where appropriate, seek professional or specialist advice or support.