Creating the Eco-Friendly Hotel Bathroom

Research has shown that there’s a great deal of waste involved with the old-fashioned standard hotel bathroom. From the materials used in the construction to the resources and products provided for guests to the manner in which they used and disposed of them, there was little or nothing that could be described as Earth-friendly or promoted sustainability.

Accordingly, hotels that aspire to be eco-friendly are placing considerable emphasis on creating bathrooms that reflect more eco-responsible practices without detracting from the experiences of their guests. They’re making improvements in five areas: materials, water consumption, energy consumption, choice of amenities, and amending the behavior of staff and guests alike.

The Eco-Friendly Hotel Bathroom: Materials

When weighing construction options, hotels should consider what something is made of, what goes into its manufacture, and what’s involved in transporting it to its destination. Ideally, materials used in constructing a hotel bathroom (or anything, for that matter) should have one or more of the following features:

  • They are natural.
  • They are sustainably sourced.
  • They are recycled or incorporate reclaimed or salvaged materials.
  • They contain low levels of binding agents
  • They are produced with minimize release of greenhouse gases.
  • They are produced with the lowest possible carbon footprint.

In times past, many hotel bathroom fixtures failed to meet these eco-responsible standards. Pressed steel and acrylic baths, for example, had a high carbon footprint and took a lot of non-renewable resources and energy for extraction, manufacture, and transportation.

Fortunately, things are improving. There’s increasing emphasis on using natural products, salvaged aluminum, brass, and other alloys and recycled glass, plastic, and polyester.

Meanwhile, advances in technology provide still more eco-friendly options. One excellent example is Densicor®, a sustainable, fire-resistant material from Ecofixtures that looks and feels like wood and can be used for vanity bases, cabinets, desks, end tables, and hotel furniture in general.

The Eco-Friendly Hotel Bathroom: Water Consumption

Showers, toilets, and taps account for a whopping 30-40% of the average hotel’s water usage. Accordingly, many hotels are making Earth-friendly changes in the following areas:

  • Simply checking for leaks and performing maintenance and repairs as necessary can conserve a great deal of water.
  • Eco-friendly fixtures and equipment. Low-flow showerheads, instant-heat showers, aerator taps, waterless urinals, controlled-flesh toilets, and tubs with lower overflow holes all conserve water compared to their more old-fashioned, less Earth-friendly counterparts.
  • Gray-water harvesting and recycling. New technology allows for the capture and reuse of water from sinks and showers. In one example, water from a bathroom sink is then used to flush the toilet.

The Eco-Friendly Hotel Bathroom: Energy Consumption

The following eco-responsible measures reduce energy consumption in a hotel bathroom:

  • Faucet temperature controls.
  • Sensor-controlled faucets (and other fixtures.)
  • Digital showers with timer settings.
  • Insulated pipes.
  • Hand driers that dry hands very quickly.
  • Energy-efficient hair driers.
  • Low-energy extractor fans.
  • Solar heating of bath water.
  • Low-energy LED lighting (often coupled with light-reflecting paint so the bathroom is still well lit despite the use of lower wattage bulbs.)

The Eco-Friendly Hotel Bathroom: The Amenities

Fortunately, today’s manufacturers offer many choices for bathroom amenities that are sustainable and eco-friendly. When deciding which products to provide, Earth-friendly hotels often opt for the following:

  • Toiletries made with natural ingredients and organic extracts.
  • Toiletries that come in biodegradable or recyclable packaging. Paper bottles and packaging produce as much as a 92% reduction in waste by volume as compared to hard plastic bottles. Bottles made from PET can be recycled.
  • Bulk pump dispensers. These also reduce landfill waste although hotels must manage batch traceability through controlled stock rotation.
  • The right toilet paper and paper products. The eco-friendly choice is biodegradable paper manufactured unbleached or with a bleached but chlorine-free process employing recycled material. As opposed to the old-fashioned toilet roll, paper dispensers cut down on paper consumption.

While they’re not strictly speaking amenities for the guests, eco-friendly hotels must also consider which cleaning products they’re using. They should avoid products whose manufacture and use creates handling, storage, or disposal problems. They should also find an alternative to anything that could irritate the skin, eyes, or respiratory system.

The Eco-Friendly Hotel Bathroom: Changing Staff and Guest Behavior

Naturally, a hotel must train its staff to recognize the importance of sustainability and Earth-friendly practices. Once they have that basic orientation, management can suggest that employees do the following:

  • Take advantage of natural daylight. When it’s practical, don’t switch on lights. Open curtains and drapes instead.
  • Conserve water. For example, when cleaning a room, only flush the toilet once.
  • Use the recycling facilities to dispose of waste guests leave behind.
  • Make sure signage relating to the potential reuse of linens and towels is properly displayed in every guest room.
  • Only run washing machines when they have a full load.
  • Report maintenance issues without delay. Catching problems like leaks and running toilets can save a lot of water.
  • Use cleaning products economically. In other words, use only the recommended amount.

Despite a hotel’s best efforts, it may not run in an eco-friendly manner if the guests aren’t onboard with the program. Of course, hotels can’t simply command customers to behave in an eco-responsible manner. But there are subtler ways to encourage green behavior. Here are some examples:

  • Make sure guests know about the hotel’s commitment to eco-friendly practices and sustainability. This message should emphasize the role guests have played in the process.
  • Establish norms for guest behavior. Messages about the linen and towel reuse program could contain the information that most guests use a single towel.
  • Make it easy to be eco-friendly. If it’s obvious there’s a timer in the shower, some guests won’t use it, but some of them will.

The bottom line here is that there’s a great deal that can be done to make a hotel bathroom eco-friendly, and as the world becomes more environmentally aware, many hotels are adopting such measures.