In 2012, Americans threw away 251 million tons of trash, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Many Americans are stepping up to reduce the amount of waste thrown out at home through recycling and composting, and now, hotels are following suit.
Extended Stay America (ESA), a chain that boasts 682 locations, is currently in the midst of brand-wide renovations and image refresh. That process involves a number of imperatives intended to make ESA hotels more environmentally friendly, including the launch of a large-scale recycling program that has already significantly decreased the amount of waste produced at ESA properties.
The renovations began in 2012, and ESA aims to update all 682 locations by the end of next year. Ben Simmons, facilities project manager at ESA, says that the recycling and sustainability components of the renovation program developed organically as they planned for the brand-wide refresh. “From the beginning, we knew we wanted the hotels to leave a smaller environmental footprint. The program has evolved so much since 2012, and our properties are now more sustainable than we originally imagined,” he says. For example, with each hotel renovation, ESA incorporates utility-saving features, which may include lowering water efficiencies or the introduction of energy efficient lighting. There is also the recycling program, which has, to date, diverted 25 million cubic feet of materials from landfills, a volume equivalent to 5.3 Titanic ships full of waste. They have also recycled more than 437,4000 cubic feet of cardboard.
According to David Crider, ESA’s director of energy and responsibility, the drive behind the eco-friendly renovations is the company’s community-focused corporate culture. “We viewed every item as an opportunity to give back, repurpose, or reuse. Donating items meant that instead of unnecessarily ending-up in the trash, they were being given to people who found value in them. Even with products such as mattresses, boxsprings, and carpet, which couldn’t be donated, it only made sense to recycle them and give the materials a new life and purpose,” he says. To date, ESA has recycled 9,145,368 square feet of carpet and donated 11.7 acres of fabric. Combined, that is enough material to cover 168 football fields.
Even after such significant strides, the recycling program at ESA hotels is constantly improving, and Simmons says that after the project reaches completion in 2016, it is likely that the properties updated in 2012 will get some extra upgrades to bring everyone to the same level. “We’ve developed so many new and innovative ideas since the start of this project, and we definitely want the staff and guests of our pilot hotels to enjoy the innovations that weren’t available to them at the outset.”
ESA’s approach to a company-wide refresh has already received very positive feedback from guests. Simmons explains, “Guest response has been phenomenal. They love the new amenities, and it’s great to see the guests who are staying at the hotel during the renovation react to the updated design when they were staying in a room with the ‘old’ design the night before.”
As the project wraps up next year, ESA will work to make its environmentally friendly goals even more deeply ingrained in the company culture. Crider says, “We strive to take a holistic approach, viewing sustainability less as a program and more as an important part of the brand-wide renovation and our hotel’s day-to-day operations.”