A Conversation With The Waldorf Astoria On Sustainability

o Fare Share Friday: an event held the day after Thanksgiving in Saint Bartholonew’s church for homeless and paying guests. In 2014, the event raised $90,000 for Crossroads community.

The Waldorf Astoria was one of three winners of the inaugural 2014 HANYC Sustainability Awards, given out by the Hotel Association of NYC. What have they been doing in the year since their win? How have their efforts made a difference in their operations? We found out:

[Related: How Green Are NYC Hotels?]

Q: What did winning the first HANYC Sustainability Award mean to you?

A: Winning meant not only recognition of our hard work but also motivation to brainstorm new and fresh ideas to introduce an even higher level of sustainable practice within the Waldorf. After winning the HANYC Sustainability Award, our sustainability committee and team members received the needed drive to continue our sustainable efforts through composting and recycling.

Q: What sustainable feature are you most proud of?

A: We are most proud of our composting efforts in the recent months. Our composting weight has more than doubled from April to March. The sustainability committee has been working hard to increase our composting rate. This includes monitoring during peak hours to see the effect of personal involvement in proper composting, and brainstorming modifications for our action waste management composting bins. This brainstorming effort, monitoring, and producing signage and awareness for our team members have all showed their effect on our composting rate, as we proudly acknowledge a 6.1% in recycling and diversion from landfill from our recent waste management consulting reports.

Q: What other features have you implemented since winning the award?

A: The property operation and purchasing office have worked hard to modify bin tops that adhere to our tray size and modify trash bin covers with circular holes for cups and bowls. We believe these modified bin tops will prevent contamination and allow us to send a large weight amount to composting, and therefore diverting even more waste from landfill. Once we implement these bin tops, we project we will see a much higher rate of successful composting.

We have also recently signed a service agreement with Clean the World after their Global Soap merger to not only recycle bar soaps but bottled amenities such as shampoos and lotions as well. Our previous partnership with Global Soap only provided recycling for bar soaps.

Not only that, but this year we expanded our rooftop garden to provide more square footage to plant herbs, trees, and flowers.

Q: How have your sustainable/socially responsible efforts made a difference to you or your guests?

A: Our sustainable efforts in food waste diversion have been extremely impactful. Just with our Orca waste to water machine, we divert roughly 104 tons/year. With our composting effort, we have diverted a total of 53 tons in just 2015 alone. This makes a large difference to us because our biggest concern is reducing the impact on our environment as much as possible, and reducing the weight of waste we send to landfill. The progress we have seen with our food waste diversion so far gives us the drive and confidence to complete our diversion goal.

Q: What is your advice for other hotels wanting to be more sustainable?

A: We would recommend for hotels of all sizes to form an impact sustainability committee with directors and management from across the hotel so that the sustainability practices and messages can be spread throughout instead of only in certain departments.

We also suggest implementing corporate programs to use as building blocks for sustainable practices that everyone can be a part of.

It is vital that the sustainability committee reaches out to all team members, making sustainability a holistic team effort instead of a concentrated effort.

This increases the opportunity to make a process sustainable and also provides awareness to a larger amount of the team.

Q: If you could do one thing to make your hotel more sustainable/socially responsible, without worry about cost or practicality, what would that be?

A: Hotels accommodate many guests with a promise of a clean, comfortable, and enjoyable stay but the lengths team members in the hospitality industry must go through to provide such accommodation for their guests can have a severe impact on the environment. If cost wasn’t a factor, all hotels should implement food digesting and composting technology so there is no food waste in the waste stream. They should also use as many recyclable products as possible for their team members, such as in their cafeterias. This is an obstacle for most hotels because recyclable products are often more expensive. If cost wasn’t a factor, there are several products a hotel could purchase that are more eco-friendly than standard purchases of the same materials, such as cups, cutlery, trays, even containers, other utensils, etc.

There should also be some diverting technology in every outlet of the hotel, ensuring 0% food waste is sent to landfill and all related items are recycled.

There should be a minimal amount of product going to landfill. Hotels should also be able to recycle glass. At present, there is no formal system for recycling glass, which we have large amounts of because of alcohol and beverage consumption. If this could get recycled without the worry of cost or practicality, we would be able to divert our largest wastes from landfill- food, food items, and glass.

Related:

— Magdalene Sim is Director of Communications at Great Forest Inc., a leading sustainability consultancy, and a member of the Hotel Association’s Sustainability Committee. Get more sustainability news in the Sustainability 101 blog.

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