Changing people's behaviour and attitudes towards climate change isn't something that can be done overnight. Since July, when Defra launched its Act on CO2 campaign, we have been encouraging people to think about the amount of carbon they produce and what they can do to reduce it - from fitting energy-efficient light bulbs, to boiling only as much water as they need for a cup of tea.
Although the focus of the campaign has been on the actions people can take in their own homes, there is a lot that the hotel industry can do to help guests behave in a less wasteful way, too.
Every day, hundreds of almost-clean towels get left on the floor to be washed when they don't need to be. Taps are left dripping, food is readily discarded and lights and air-conditioning are left on for convenience. So what can the hotel industry do to encourage their guests to be less wasteful?
Over the past few years I have seen the cards appearing in hotel bathrooms suggesting that guests should consider how often the towels need washing and the small plastic bottles of toiletries are being replaced with larger, non-disposal bottles. But there are lots of other things you can do that will make a big difference.
Energy-efficient light bulbs can be installed quickly and easily, and air-conditioning can be deactivated when guests are not in the room through key systems that are already commonplace in European hotels. Less obvious to visitors is the fact that hotels also produce a large amount of electronic waste - including kettles, TVs, trouser presses, and stereos.
From 1 July 2007, new European regulations - The EU WEEE (Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment) Directive - came into force for the treatment of such items. Producers are now required to set up systems to provide for the collection, treatment, recovery and environmentally sound disposal of such waste. All hoteliers should be aware of this and be ready to advertise their eco-friendly electrical waste policy.
What is good for the planet is also good for business. Reminding guests about their responsibility to the environment even when they are not at home does not diminish luxury, but can easily reinforce the hotel's ethical reputation in the mind of a guest - which will only mean they will want to come back.
Green facts and figures
- The Carbon Trust reckons the UK restaurant and hotel industry could hack its £1b-plus annual energy bill by 20% - or more than £200m.
- The Hospitable Climates Programme (run by the Institute of Hospitality on behalf of the Carbon Trust) reckons its 5,000 participants save £13m a year in energy costs.
- Simple and inexpensive water-efficiency measures could save businesses 20-50%.
- A recent YouGov poll found that about 70% of workers in London wanted their employers to have sound environmental policies.
- The Soil Association claims that the food system accounts for 40% of all UK road freight - and road and air food miles generated nearly 18 million tonnes of CO2 in 2004.
- A leaky tap producing one drip per second wastes about four litres of water a day, and 90 litres if the drips break into a stream.
Minister for Climate Change, Biodiversity & Waste