Carlos Albir Jr.With multiple effective COVID-19 vaccines emerging, hotels are looking forward to hosting more guests in 2021 and beyond. Even after most of the population has been vaccinated, many guests will likely maintain heightened awareness of hotel cleanliness. At the same time, the environmental crisis is worsening, and a growing number of Americans are feeling its impact. A recent Pew Research Center survey found a majority (62 percent) of Americans see the climate crisis affecting their local communities.
These conditions create a perfect opportunity for hotels to emphasize sustainability in their cleaning programs. It is crucial to understand that green cleaning does not equate to less frequent or less effective cleaning—with the right green cleaning tools and procedures, a truly sustainable cleaning program can be just as successful as any other. In fact, green cleaning can even benefit a hotel’s bottom line.
The Business Case for Sustainability Implementing a sustainable cleaning program offers numerous benefits, including:
Environmental Improvements—Many hotels have been cleaning more frequently and thoroughly during the pandemic. This can result in properties generating more landfill waste as cleaning bottles are emptied and disinfectant wipes are used. To mitigate waste while still cleaning frequently, facility managers can train staff to clean correctly the first time to reduce product overuse, implement dispensers to accurately dilute chemicals rather than relying on manual mixing and closely review the environmental impact of their supplies. Introducing more sustainable cleaning solutions can help hotels reduce plastic waste, save water and energy, and promote good indoor air quality.
Cost Savings—Building a sustainable cleaning program without sacrificing cleaning effectiveness is not only possible—it can be financially beneficial. There may be a perception that effective green cleaning requires significant up-front investment, and that cost savings will not materialize until later, if at all. However, sustainable cleaning can provide short- and long-term fiscal benefits by reducing energy, water and chemical consumption and generating less waste.
Enhanced Brand Reputation—Americans may be more likely to stay at a hotel if it engages in green cleaning and other sustainability efforts. Young people in particular are more likely to choose to stay in a sustainable hotel, and are willing to pay more for it, than they would for less sustainable lodging, according to a Nielson study.
Stronger Company Culture—Seventy percent of Millennials would prefer to work for a company with a “strong sustainability agenda,” according to a Fast Company survey. This means that hotels with more robust sustainability initiatives, including a green cleaning program, are likely to attract young talent over their less sustainability-focused competitors. This dynamic can ultimately make hiring easier and help reduce turnover, delivering further competitive advantages.
The Path to Sustainable Hotel Cleaning Implementing the right green cleaning solutions enables hotels to make a seamless transition to sustainable cleaning.
Sustainable Tools—Hotel facilities managers can consider multiple factors to gauge the environmental performance of cleaning tools. First, they can ask themselves if a tool, such as a broom, is built to last or if it will wear quickly and become landfill waste. Second, it is important to seek out sustainably manufactured cleaning tools, such as mops made from recycled textiles or brooms and brushes made from recycled plastic. These environmentally friendly manufacturing processes contribute to waste reduction and promote circularity in supply chains. Finally, ensure a cleaning product is as “green” as it claims. Look for certifications from reputable third-party organizations such as Green Seal or Forest Stewardship Council.
Greener, Safer Solutions—Look for cleaning and disinfecting solutions that won’t cause health issues among staff and guests. Some all-purpose cleaners and disinfectants contain volatile organic compounds (VOCs) that can trigger allergies, asthma symptoms, eye irritation or other adverse health effects. For this reason, it is important to review the ingredients of all cleaning and disinfecting solutions and look for safety and sustainability seals of approval whenever possible.
Transitioning to a sustainable cleaning program involves integrating new cleaning tools, solutions, and procedures without creating financial strain on the organization. Facility managers can select cleaning tools, such as wet mops, dust mops and brooms, that are sustainably manufactured but do not require a sizable investment.
It is also critical to train cleaning professionals not to overclean—overusing cleaning tools can shorten their life cycle and force managers to purchase more. In addition, a cost-effective green cleaning program accounts for the specific layout of each hotel. Understanding which tools or solutions are needed in each specific area can help facility managers make wiser, cost-effective purchasing decisions.
The Future of Cleaning is Green While the spread of COVID-19 may soon slow down, the climate crisis is accelerating, and Americans are taking notice. Now is the time for hotels to strongly consider integrating sustainability into their operations, including their cleaning programs. Guests will expect hotels to adhere to high cleanliness standards after the pandemic—and green cleaning offers many benefits. From manufacturing to purchasing to cleaning processes, there are opportunities throughout a cleaning program to reduce environmental impact. Hotels that do so effectively will reap reputational, sustainability and financial rewards.
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