Opinion: Small steps towards sustainability make a big difference

Opinion: Small steps towards sustainability make a big difference

Nikki White, Abta head of destination sustainability

On a recent trip to Copenhagen, I was booked into a sustainable hotel by my hosts. If you don’t know the city, I was staying in the area near the main station.

As I pulled my bag along the cobbled streets, in an area that I now know to be the red light district, I was intrigued to see if the concept of a sustainable hotel had translated well.

It is little surprise that there is still some confusion as to what sustainability means when you start to get into the details.

The word is used in so many ways.

It took me a year of studying to get to grips with it. In my experience, ‘sustainability in action’ is a more practical way to see it.

My hotel experience in Copenhagen was a great example of this. It wasn’t immediately obvious that I was in a sustainable hotel. It was a perfectly nice hotel, much like any other business hotel.

It wasn’t until I started to experience some of its facilities that the sustainability approach became more apparent.

For dinner I went down to the hotel’s organic cafe. There was only one option on the menu, a large plate of locally produced Scandinavian specialities, plus a basket of bread, all served on handmade crockery made for the hotel.

It was delicious. The staff were happy to recommend local restaurants as they are keen to support the local community.

There was minimal excess packaging. In the bedrooms all of the organic products in the bathroom were in large stylish refillable bottles, the towels were all made of organic cotton.

Tea and coffee was available in the lobby to reduce the need for all those individual packets, and at no extra charge. And at breakfast, the previous day’s bread was used for toast, in an effort to discourage food waste.

But that’s not all. Power sockets had small labels to let you know the hotel is powered by renewable energy. And by the front door there were apples for guests to take on their way out.

Bikes were available to hire and local maps were on hand to help you find interesting local shops, galleries and restaurants. The overall atmosphere was informal and welcoming.

My stay showed me that experiencing the benefits of a sustainable approach makes it much easier to understand sustainability.

Making sustainability an integral part of the experience really is the way to bring it to life for customers. Taking simple steps is a great place to start.


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