Washington DispatchAHLAA Legacy of Sustainability: Building on the Hotel Industry's Environmental Stewardship

A Legacy of Sustainability: Building on the Hotel Industry’s Environmental Stewardship

Earlier this year, AHLA introduced and began implementing a new five-year strategic plan to build a brighter future for guests, employees, and hoteliers alike. A key pillar of the plan is to grow our industry into a recognized national leader in sustainability. We’ll achieve that by spotlighting the impressive work hotels are already doing to protect the planet and expanding the industry’s commitment to a sustainable future.

Sustainability is increasingly important to our guests. In fact, according to Amex Trendex research, 50 percent of travelers say they have become more interested in responsible tourism, and 87 percent want to have a positive impact on the community they are visiting.

And when it comes to business travel, 76 percent of travel buyers globally have already incorporated or are planning to incorporate sustainability objectives in their travel policies, according to a 2022 study by the Global Business Travel Association. Fortunately, hotels have a longstanding legacy that runs the gamut of sustainability programs, from water conservation and waste reduction to carbon emission reduction.

Water Conservation

Many hotels have successfully implemented conservation programs to reduce water usage without compromising the guest experience or safety. Implementing more water-efficient practices in core operational areas such as laundry, food and beverage, and landscaping have all contributed to lower water and energy usage on property.

Some practices that were either put in place or accelerated during the pandemic, such as optional daily room cleaning, also have sustainability benefits. In a recent AHLA survey of U.S. adults, respondents ranked the option to reduce the frequency of room cleaning as the most important sustainability practice hotels could take. That’s not surprising given that less frequent room cleanings are likely to result in less water, energy, and cleaning products being used in daily operations.

Waste Reduction

Hotels are working to keep waste out of America’s landfills by reducing single-use plastic usage, increasing both staff and guest recycling programs, using innovative kitchen management practices, and expanding involvement in community composting programs.

Hotels have been leaders when it comes to eliminating single-use plastic items. By replacing single-use toiletries with larger bulk amenities, hotels prevent millions of small bottles from going to landfills each year. Food waste contributes to 10 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions, and our industry has made its reduction a top priority. In 2017, AHLA and the World Wildlife Foundation (WWF) launched Hotel Kitchen to help the industry fight food waste and assist local communities in meeting the needs of the food insecure. With support from The Rockefeller Foundation, AHLA and WWF created a toolkit to help hotels prevent food waste, donate what cannot be prevented, and divert what remains to those who need it. Hotels participating in the Hotel Kitchen program saw reductions of up to 38 percent of food waste in just 12 weeks.


America’s hotels are significantly reducing their carbon footprint with initiatives such as energy-efficient lighting, smarter climate controls, water conservation, waste reduction, and other operational improvements. In fact, more than a decade ago, AHLA member companies contributed to the development of the Hotel Carbon Measurement Initiative, which provides industry-specific guidance on carbon footprint metrics. Meanwhile, many hotel brands and individual properties have set emission reduction targets and are reporting various relevant climate figures pursuant to globally recognized frameworks.

Future Efforts

While America’s hotels have made significant strides in the effort to be more sustainable, we also recognize that there is still more to do. In the coming months, AHLA will be launching an exciting new initiative to showcase the industry’s sustainability efforts. Sustainability is a journey we’re on together—one that will help protect our planet, strengthen our communities, and grow opportunities for everyone in the hospitality industry. Thank you for your support, and stay tuned for exciting things to come.

Lauren Pravlik
Lauren Pravlik
Lauren Pravlik is senior director of committee initiatives and member relations, American Hotel & Lodging Association.