In recent years the hospitality sector, a resource-guzzling industry has had to take a hard look at itself and confront its ecological impact. Brazen use of resources at the cost of the environment is no longer an option in the time of climate change. Hotels have been raising their standards of eco-friendliness to accommodate their duty to the world around as much as to demanding guests. These efforts to ‘green up’ have led the industry across the globe to move towards resource efficiency with the use of renewable energy, efficient water management and plans to reduce energy usage wherever possible. But these efforts go beyond just energy usage. Today, green housekeeping is an important aspect of sustainability. Hotels that really mean business when it comes to sustainability and are interested in more than just ‘greenwashing’ are taking steps to relook their housekeeping.

Having a ‘green cleaning policy’ has now become a standard of sorts in the industry. A ‘green cleaning policy’ involves several aspects, most important among which is the reevaluation of current cleaning products and methods. LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) the world’s forerunner in the environmental certification of buildings has in fact made such a policy a mandatory part of its indoor environmental quality section for certification and recertification.

Here are some steps hotels can take to make their housekeeping ecofriendly:

Keep Out Chemicals

Over the years there has been an increased awareness of indoor air pollution and toxicity of cleaning solutions. The scale and nature of the hotel industry results in far greater usage of chemicals than households and offices. The most important part of a cleaning policy is to relook indoor air pollution caused by chemicals. Several paints and sealants contain harmful Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs), while vinyl floors, carpets, foam coatings etc. can expose guests and staff to ‘red list’ chemicals.  Some common ‘chemicals of concern’ have been identified as phthalates, PBDE flame retardant, perfluorinated chemicals, chlorinated paraffins, bisphenol A and HBCD flame retardant. While purchasing cleaning products, hotels must pick biodegradable solutions that are least harmful. This will keep guests and cleaning staff safe from exposure to these chemicals. The water run-off from hotels can pollute water sources if toxic cleaning solutions are used. Even pesticides and fertilisers used within the hotel premises must be used minimally and safely. Room air fresheners can be another source of various toxins such as benzene, formaldehyde, styrene, and phthalates. Therefore, looking out for natural and safe options is important.

Clean Green

The hospitality sector has to maintain high standards of cleanliness, this means constantly making sure surfaces are spotless and clean at all times. This pressure demands that effective cleaning options that work efficiently are picked for the job. There is a misconception that cleaning products only work when full of chemicals, however, there are many effective green alternatives available in the market today. When picking cleaning solutions, the products must be tested stringently for how well they work.

An example is the Leela Palace in Udaipur, that tests chemicals before approving them for use in the hotel premises. Areas are cleaned with the sample chemical, following which the hygiene department takes swabs from each area and tests the samples for any bacterial growth. Only if the chemicals are cleared by the hygiene department are they introduced in the hotel.

Sunil Chandran, Executive Housekeeper, The Leela Palace, Udaipur says in an article on Hospitalitybizindia, “The chemicals used in the kitchen adhere to all food grade specifications. Since these chemicals come in concentrated form, which need to be diluted with water, the overall cost incurred is less. Apart from that, they also contribute to a lesser usage of plastic, as lesser storage cans are required. They also help reduce the storage space for chemicals.”

Other measures can include using alcohol-based waterless hand sanitizers, paper garbage bags instead of plastic, recyclable linens. Hotels are actively looking at sourcing high quality, non-toxic shampoos, soaps, toothpastes, shaving kits etc. as part of guest toiletries.

Use Chemicals Safely

Cleaning chemicals must be handled with care and vigilance. Exposure to harmful chemicals can have a negative health impact particularly on the cleaning staff and therefore must be minimised as much as possible. They must be provided with proper equipment such as gloves and safety goggles when working with strong chemicals. Cleaning solutions must be appropriately diluted. Accidents that cause leakage of chemicals can turn dangerous, therefore, any chemicals used must be stored in appropriate containers in a secured place. Hotels must have emergency plans in place in case of spillage of hazardous materials.

Invest in Green Equipment

Hotels must go a step further and invest in green cleaning equipment that use resources minimally. Sustainable products must be used for floor and carpet care. For example, Green Seal that provides environmental certification in the US recommends vacuum cleaners that comply to Carpet and Rug Institute’s Green Label Program requirements and work at a sound level of less than 70 decibels. Energy efficient air conditioners must be used in the hotel including guest rooms.

Have a Pest Management Plan

Every hotel must have a good indoor integrated pest management (IPM) plan that defines how pests will be managed in the hotel in a manner that is least harmful to humans and the environment. Pesticides and pest management methods must be sensitive to the environment. The pesticides picked must be least toxic, preferably natural and must be used minimally. The circumstances under which they are used must be defined in the plan. According to LEED guidelines, guests are to be intimated before and after usage of pesticides. It states that IPM should include, “A communications strategy directed to building occupants that addresses universal notification, which requires advance notice of not less than 72 hours before a pesticide under normal conditions and 24 hours after application of a pesticide in emergencies, other than a least-toxic pesticide, is applied in a building or on surrounding grounds that the building management maintains.”

The Indian hospitality industry is making all efforts to comply with international standards of green cleaning. In a study on ‘Green Practices in Hospitality and Tourism Industry in India,’ researchers Rakhi Rani and Rashi from K.V.M. College of Education investigate some sustainable measures being employed by the industry in India. Sandeep Sinha, Housekeeping Manager, Grand Hyatt Goa explains in the study, “The concept of green products is catching up with hotels in India, and more so with cleaning chemicals and equipment. There is a conscious effort to be less harsh on available resources and nature. There are various cleaning chemicals for different locations in a hotel, and these are very effective. The new range of cleaning equipment also focuses on using more of water and mechanical action rather than involving complex chemicals.”

While Jai Prakash, Executive Housekeeper, Hyderabad International Convention Centre, an Accor group property, attests this growing interest in sustainability. “Green products are developed to facilitate sustainable development. They ensure your organisation does not play a part in polluting the environment in the name of business. The green cleaning products have positive environmental attributes like biodegradability, low toxicity, low Volatile Organic Compound (VOC) content, reduced packaging, and low life cycle energy use. These products have proven to be very effective in the cleaning process, which is environment-friendly and humansafe, and are used in almost all cleaning applications at Novotel Hyderabad Convention Centre and Hyderabad International Convention Centre,” he said.

The success of green cleaning policies across hotels around the globe offers a great opportunity for quality eco-conscious products to make a mark in the sector. It is also a proof to the effectiveness of solutions that can be good for both business and the environment.

Arsha Consulting has an interesting portfolio of sustainable and eco-friendly products for the hospitality Industry. Our most recent addition is an innovative waste to energy product from Terragon Environment Technologies. To know more, get in touch with us.

Elizabeth Raj | Blogger

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