Green Hotel Housekeeping Practices to Sustain the Environment
Dr Monica Choy, Faculty of Management and Hospitality
Providing a clean and comfortable environment for guests is a standard requirement of hotels. In so doing, however, hotels have become a major producer of commercial waste. To minimize the impact on the environment, many hotels incorporate environmental sustainability strategies into their daily operations. Although many of these strategies involve the housekeeping department, its role in achieving sustainable development is little studied.
Dr Monica Choy of the Department of Hospitality Management studied the green housekeeping policy of an international chain hotel in Hong Kong, and interviewed the hotel’s room attendants, supervisors, and assistant managers to understand their views of the benefits and hurdles in executing green practices at work. Multiple environmentally friendly strategies were turned into actions by the housekeeping department. For instance, clean, leftover amenities in guestrooms were collected for reuse; light-weight, compressible plastic amenity bottles were used to save space for recycling; the linen reuse programme turned ripped linen into cleaning cloths and dusters; and the use of electronic key cards, low-flush toilets, and new vacuum machines were all part of the hardware and equipment enhancement program. Hotel employees generally viewed these strategies positively, feeling that the strategies protected their health, and significantly reduced the physical demand of cleaning. They also agreed that green housekeeping practices would contribute to achieving the environmental sustainability goals of the hotel and the industry at large. Nevertheless, green practices created extra work for the housekeeping staff. Labour shortage and heavy workload had been the major barriers for frontline employees to implement green practices. Hotel management’s inadequate support and monitoring decreased the effectiveness of implementation also.
The study’s findings suggested that green hotel housekeeping practices should be operationally practical and sustainable. Good communication and mutual understanding between hotel management and frontline employees are fundamental to efficient housekeeping practice in hotels. Frontline employees could be further motivated to implement green practices if these practices lead to convenience and rewards. Meanwhile, hotel management could facilitate implementation by starting with the basics – improving communication with frontline employees, creating a decent and caring work environment for employees, and raising environmental awareness amongst employees.
Implementing green practices in housekeeping can exhibit a notable impact on waste reduction, and create employment opportunities and economic values for all people. Environmental sustainability is a continuous journey that requires on-going improvement in the micro and macro levels within the hotel industry.