By Paul Schlienz

Increasingly, the hospitality industry is embracing green initiatives. More and more hotel and
restaurant operators are seeing the value of waste reduction, energy conservation and other
measures that help improve the environment while also improving a business’ bottom line.

It’s never too late to get started, and here are some ideas.

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Waste Reduction

“If you can do a good job separating your waste – composting and recycling and minimizing the
amount you’re putting in the garbage, you can really save a lot of money that way,” said Lynn
Knapp, green business solutions specialist with EnviroStars, a Seattle-based organization that
helps Washington businesses get information, assistance and recognition for various green

One restaurant that strives to produce as little waste as possible is Spokane’s Cochinito
Taqueria. Since opening in 2014, this eatery’s goal was to have 80 percent of its waste either
recyclable or compostable. Now, in 2019, nearly all its dining room waste is compostable.
And it’s not only restaurants that are engaged in these waste reduction efforts.

“A lot of hotels do a good job of this, too, making sure that housekeeping and, if applicable,
café and kitchen staff are trained to properly sort things,” said Knapp.

Water Conservation

Hospitality operators are also discovering that water conservation can be very kind to their
bottom lines while also providing environmental benefits.

One hotel operator, Ron Oh, general manager of the Holiday Inn Express and Suites North
Seattle-Shoreline found that installing new water-efficient toilets saved around $100,000 in
water and sewer in the four years since the installation.

Knapp noted that Seattle Public Utilities and the Saving Water Partnership, which encompasses
many utilities in Western Washington, offer good rebates for switching out toilets in addition to
custom rebates for other energy-efficient items, including kitchen equipment.

She strongly recommends that businesses get on-site water audits, either from her organization
or from a local utility to determine how they can cut water usage and save money.

Sustainable Packaging

Packaging food in ways that will not contribute to the waste stream is very much on many
restaurateurs’ minds.

“It’s projected that third-party delivery over the next 10 years could cover 10 percent of all
restaurant sales,” said Samuel Larsen, owner of Tacoma’s Waffle Stop. “That’s a lot of single-use
packaging as delivery, and as to-go expands, there is going to be more garbage generated.”

All packaging, utensils and everything else that goes with the Waffle Stop’s to-go bags, are
either recyclable or compostable.

Knapp notes that all to-go packaging must be recyclable or compostable, in Seattle, while in
other parts of the state this is optional. She also recommends buying these products in bulk in
order to save money.

Energy-Saving Equipment

Knapp urges businesses to contact EnviroStars or your local utilities to learn of the rebates that
are available for energy-saving measures.

“We’ve done things with exterior lighting," said Oh. “We’ve replaced it with commercial LEDs.
While you save on electricity with them, I think one major saving you have is you don’t have to
have to replace bulbs. You save a lot on that with labor, but there are also considerable
electricity savings.”

Oh also replaced an inefficient water heater with more efficient one, saving $2,000 in cash.
Additionally, he switched his hotel’s laundry from a hot wash to a colder wash, saving on gas.
Knapp also recommends occupancy sensors, which shut down lighting if they detect no activity
in a room.

No Regrets

It takes some work to get your hotel or restaurant on a more environmentally sustainable path,
but the operators who’ve made this journey don’t regret it.

“There’s no reason not to do it today,” said Karin Springer, owner of Mount Vernon’s
Trumpeter Public House. “It’s simple. It’s easy. Don’t be afraid of how much more money it’s
going to cost you. Do it because you can sleep better at night. All this stuff is good for the
environment. Our earth is precious. For me, it”s all about doing the right thing.”