Since plastic started being mass-produced in the 1950s, around 6,300 million tons of it have been thrown away. With just 9% of global plastic waste recycled, these items are rapidly building up in landfills and oceans.
It might be difficult to imagine running a property without plastic. After all, plastic items like water bottles, mini toiletries, and straws have been part of the standard set-up for decades. Guests have become dependent on these convenient and “safe” items, too, as the shiny wrapping signal freshness, newness, and cleanliness in an unfamiliar environment.
The good news is that properties of all shapes and sizes are already making the switch to sustainable alternatives – and it’s working. From bamboo straws to stainless steel water bottles, new solutions are changing the hospitality industry’s old habits, proving it’s possible for guests and partners to adapt. In this section, we’ll discuss the environmental, social, and financial benefits of reducing your property’s plastic consumption. We’ll also share practical advice on how to start making changes, with help from the experts at Travel Without Plastic.
- Plastic takes up to 1,000 years to break down – We may use, dispose of, and forget about our single-use plastic items, but most of them will outlive us all. From straws with a lifespan of 200 years to plastic bottles with 450, all the way up to plastic bags at a staggering 1,000 year-lifespan. This harms wildlife, damages ecosystems, and puts microplastics into the food chain.
- Production is still growing – and so are our carbon emissions –300 million tons of new plastic are produced each year. If we continue with our current habits, that number is expected to quadruple by 2050. The carbon emissions generated actively contribute to climate change, and also use up non-renewable resources like oil and coal. We’re rapidly using up our global carbon budget.
- It can save your business money – A trial by Travel Without Plastic found that an average-sized hotel of 150 rooms saved an average of €5,000 over a 6-month period when they cut out all single-use plastic. Savings vary based on the size of your property, the plastics you use now, and the solutions you choose, but these statistics show that making a change can benefit your business in the long run.
- Plastic pollution = Lost revenue – The State of California estimates that plastic debris washing up along the shoreline costs the region around $68 million a year in lost tourism revenue. For an even more extreme example, Boracay Island in the Philippines had to be closed to visitors for a 6-month clean-up in 2018. Since reopening, it has banned single-use plastic completely.
Take an inventory
To cut down your plastic usage, first you need to understand what your current consumption is. Take inventory of the single-use plastic items you stock at your property, noting down amounts and costs. By doing so, you’ll be able to identify where the big opportunities are.Greener Guest, an initiative from Travel Without Plastic, offers a downloadable toolkit with a pre-made spreadsheet designed to help you with all calculations. They’ll walk you through the process step-by-step so you can decide where to start more easily.
Consider the essentials
With a full inventory gathered, you might be surprised at the volume of plastic items you use throughout your property. Look critically at this list and consider if everything is really necessary. Can you skip some of these items altogether or consider multi-purpose alternatives?
Research the changes you can make
There’s no one-size-fits-all solution for cutting out plastic. The changes you make will vary depending on the type of property, its facilities, and the guests you attract. Researching the many sustainable alternatives on the market can help you decide what will work for your property. To return money back to the local economy and minimize your carbon footprint, you can also look into which products are available to source in your surrounding area.
Here are a few suggestions for some simple plastic changes:
Involve your team
Whether you’re a team of two or 200, it’s important that everybody feels motivated about the changes you’re planning. One way to achieve this is to hold a workshop. In this session, you can discuss why cutting plastic is important and ask team members to share their own ideas.
If your team is enthusiastic and engaged, they’ll be committed to making sure new solutions are a success. They’ll also feel more empowered to talk about the topic with your guests, passing along that enthusiasm to them, too.
Tell guests about your initiatives
Research shows sustainable travel is becoming a priority for travelers, with 58% more determined to make sustainable choices than they were a year ago. This means your guests are more likely to feel happy about rather than inconvenienced by your commitment. But, in order for that to happen, they need to know about your efforts. To start, make sure you update your sustainability settings on the Extranet. This will help eco-conscious guests find and book your property.
Next, make sure you’re educating and encouraging guests during their stays. Think about placing signs, cards, or info booklets around the property. Ideally, these should:
- Tell guests what you’re doing e.g. “We’re reducing the amount of plastic we use at our property.”
- Share the impact e.g. “Going plastic-free has saved x% of water bottles from going to landfills so far.”
- Provide some social proof e.g. “x% of guests take their reusable bottles home. Let us know if you’d like to keep yours.”
The info you give to guests can influence them long beyond check-out. If they adopt your initiatives during their stay, that’s already a great result. If they go home and change their habits, you can be proud that your property is creating long-lasting impact as well.
Discover our other sustainability guides:
Reducing water consumption
Fresh water is becoming increasingly scarce. That’s why we need to start cutting water consumption today – and it’s going to take more than just asking guests to reuse towels. But the environmental and financial upsides are worth the investment.
Certification shows the world your commitment to sustainability. While the badges lend credit to your efforts and help attract more eco-conscious guests, the process itself is even more valuable – helping you prioritize and fill gaps in your sustainability plans.
Setting the environmental baseline
On the journey towards sustainability, your baseline is like your compass. It’s only once you measure your performance—for example, by carbon emissions or water consumption—that you can set goals and plan how to reach them.