A hotel operator’s interest in increasing sustainability and environmental friendliness should include moving from on-premises laundries to an outsourced model. This is not only greener, it makes better economic sense.
Hotel owners are rightfully concerned that guests have clean linens; it is one of the key measures of a guest’s satisfaction with the property.
But consider this: running at 65 percent occupancy, a 400-room hotel with an average of 11 pounds of linen per room needs to launder an average of 1,043,000 pounds of linen per year. That adds up to a lot of resources used, both environmental and financial.
According to the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), hotels and lodging businesses account for about 15 percent of the total water consumed in commercial and institutional settings in the United States. Though restrooms, landscaping, and kitchen functions combined use the most water, a significant 16 percent of water used in hotels is used for laundry.
The EPA’s Energy Star program found hotels spend on average $2,196 per available room each year on energy, which represents 6 percent of all operating costs. Reducing laundry expenses would reduce overall costs and save energy.
And customers are not fooled by the pressure on them to be “green” when they stay in a hotel.
In a recent TRSA survey of consumers, 77 percent of respondents said it is definitely or probably true that the real reason hotels press guests to reuse linens and towels is to save money by cutting utility and laundry costs. And, 56 percent said that instead of applying such pressure, they’d prefer hotels getting their linens and towels laundered in a more environmentally friendly manner.
Outsourcing to a large central commercial hospitality facility can reduce water consumption by 90 percent per laundry pound (2.5 to .25) if the hotel has older or smaller-scale laundry equipment and the outsourced facility uses the latest washing technology and recycles drained water. Fuel to heat water (usually natural gas) could drop upward of 50 to 60 percent if similarly aged in-house equipment is retired in favor of such high-tech central washing with heat recovery. Electricity conserved would be about 50 percent.
These numbers are only meaningful, however, if verified. Some commercial laundries have older equipment, too. That’s where certifications such as Clean Green come into play. Certified laundries must report their energy and water consumption and pass inspection to prove they use the most efficient technologies and therefore represent a truly green alternative.
Clean Green provides evidence that outsourcing laundry reduces a hotel’s carbon footprint (compared with operating an on-premises laundry) while distinguishing one outsourced laundry provider from another in efficiency and waste minimization.
The certification enforces standards for water and energy use per pound of laundry, energy efficiency, water conservation, solid waste recycling, delivery vehicle fuel use and wastewater discharge control.
Leaders in the industry are taking note.
Wyndham Worldwide includes certification in its survey of suppliers, which analyzes environmental practices, policies, tracking, documentation, and reporting. The company’s best practices call for properly identifying and recording all green products and services, as well as sustainability metrics and performance for internal and external reporting. Management aims to include a green supplier in each RFP that Wyndham disseminates. It’s anticipated that the operation will meet its goal of 30 percent of all spending on suppliers with such providers by 2020.
Similarly, Hyatt Hotels is working on folding supplier sustainability—including laundries—into its green goals.
Gains in sustainability, particularly through outsourcing, indicate that when hotel operators think “green” in terms of the environment, they can see more “green” financially.
About the Author
Joseph Ricci is president and CEO of TRSA.