It’s one thing to aspire to be greener, it’s quite another to do something about it. This is especially true when you’re one of Jersey’s largest hospitality companies, owning three hotels and a beachfront diner.
The big question is, where do you start? How can you incorporate new technology and change business practices in order to make a genuine difference, all without adversely impacting customer experience?
There is no quick fix or one-size-fits-all solution, according to Matthew Seymour of Seymour Hotels, which recently received the Green Award at the Jersey Hospitality Awards. It takes meticulous research, staff initiative, the good-will of customers and, above all else, commitment.
‘It is daunting and the feedback we get won’t always be positive because not everyone is on the same level of concern when it comes to environmental impact. But five to 10 years down the line, people will get what we’re doing,’ said Matthew, group operations co-ordinator.
‘Taking a more sustainable approach does not mean lowering service standards, but changing the standards of service and trying to encourage new customer behaviour – and hotels are in a position to do that.’
Not just a box-ticking exercise
Seymour Hotels has implemented a strong environmental programme across the group, which has included a £2.3m investment to move from steam to low temperature hot water systems across the Merton Hotel, reducing oil consumption by 225,000 litres per annum.
The group has slashed its usage of single-use plastic by more than half-a-million items, partly by introducing large multi-use bottles or refillable dispensers at all properties in place of single use plastic soap, shampoo and shower gel bottles. The group, which also includes Pomme d’Or Hotel, Greenhills Country House Hotel and The Watersplash diner, has also switched from gas and steam to electric induction appliances in all kitchens, reducing energy used for cooking by approximately 45%.
‘The programme has been very much driven by a sense of moral responsibility and an acceptance of this is what needs to be done. We consider ourselves to be responsible employers and we didn’t want to pay lip service to being seen as green. It’s not been a box-ticking exercise – we wanted to be pro-active and be able to stand by our actions.’
The business incentives of going green
The group’s eco-friendly initiatives have required an initial cost outlay, but with long-term savings expected, there is an incentive to invest. For example, the new low temperature hot water system will be cost efficient and improve safety.
‘When you’re looking at a large investment decision, these are persuasive factors. Just 10 years ago, systems like these didn’t exist so there wasn’t the option to make the switch,’ said Matthew.
‘A new low temperature hot water system isn’t something that is necessarily going to be noticed by guests – there’s no immediate benefit to them – but cost savings for us can be passed down to customers.’
Encouraging a change in customer behaviour
In 2018, the group started investigating its usage of single-use plastics, such as plastic cups, hotel toiletries, straws, plastic stirrers and cutlery, and condiment sachets. It tallied up its total purchases of these items over the course of a year and set about identifying viable alternatives. The results were pretty shocking.
‘The Watersplash alone went through 50,000 condiment sachets a year, so now we use squeezey bottles, which while aren’t reusable, have massively reduced our single-use plastic waste. Why don’t we use reusable bottles? There are so many issues around hygiene control.’
Plastic straws have been swapped for paper, multi-use plastics have been introduced where possible, and shampoo and soap bottles have been replaced with dispensers.
‘Not all our guests are going to like it but we’re trying to change their behaviour and educate people. Instead of plastic conserve pots, for example, we’ve introduced a premium product that comes in glass, and rather than issue them automatically, because many end up wasted, customers can ask for conserves and will get them for free.’
Relying on the initiative of staff
Rolling out a huge environmental programme doesn’t just require the good will and acceptance of customers, but relies on the commitment of staff. Seymour Hotels have encouraged employees to identify areas where wasteful practices happen and change the way they operate in order to combat them.
‘You can’t do something like this without getting staff on board. Their buy-in is essential so clear communications are key in raising awareness as to why we are changing certain systems or products now that we’re confident staff are on board and rigid processes are in place, we’re comfortable promoting the actions we have taken’ he said.
‘Whilst we don’t claim to be the finished article, my advice to others in the hospitality industry would be to do some internal analysis and start with the easy wins. Making big changes doesn’t have to be hugely costly, and in some instances it can even mean cost savings. If you really want to make a difference, however, I think your intentions have to be genuine.’
Seymour Hotels identified how many single-use plastic items were purchased during one year of operations. Since rolling out its plastic reduction programme, it has reduced its single use plastic waste by over 560,000 items annually.
The annual approximation of single use items removed from operations:
- 185,000 polystyrene food and drink takeaway containers
- 130,000 condiment sachets
- 100,000 single use plastic cups
- 80,000 straws
- 40,000 shampoo, bodywash and soap bottles
- 15,000 stirrers
- 8,000 plastic conserve pots
- 6,000 cutlery