Small changes, big steps.

The hospitality industry consumes vast amounts of resources.In the UK alone, over three million tonnes of food and plastic packaging is dumped by the hospitality industry every year, with the service sector accounting for almost half of the UK’s waste.

As attitudes change, with sustainability becoming a key goal across countries and economies, the hospitality industry is under pressure to align itself with the new green economy. For those hotels that wish to remain relevant and in line with society and consumers’ values, updating their practices to meet this new demand will is key. This, of course, is challenging given the need to address the issues of food waste, recycling and sustainable sourcing while retaining a sense of identity

It is best to start with small steps as even the smallest of initiatives can have a positive impact on a hotel’s sustainability and contribute to a greener future for us all.

Food for thought

Today, delivering the best possible meals to guests isn’t simply reliant on the quality of the chef. It is also dependent on the origin of the food that is served. Ingredients sourced from local areas will not only be fresh but typically have the added benefit of reduced food-mileage. At Burgh Island for example, 80% of our food is sourced from within a 10 mile radius.

There is certainly appetite for responsibly sourced food. A recent study by research consultancy CGA found that 65% of British consumers expect this sort of practice as standard, with 25% of respondents willing to pay more for ethically sourced food and drink.[1]


Of course, local sourcing isn’t always an option but is something we are privileged to have at Burgh Island, with the incredible delicacies of Devon on our doorstep. Among the sustainable food initiatives, we have introduced at Burgh is having home-grown herbs. Ingredients such as mint and thyme are easy to grow and will do so in abundance. For those herbs which are less easy to come by, relatively inexpensive poly-tunnels can be used to regulate temperature and encourage new and exciting ingredients to grow.

Waste not, want not

Recycling is widely accepted as a standard practice, at home and at work. With pressure mounting on all aspects of daily life to reduce waste and prioritise efficiency, industries large and small are evaluating their practices. In hospitality, exciting initiatives have emerged. For example, a restaurant in Canada has been praised for its resourcefulness by turning old tablecloths into napkins and chef’s aprons into neckties. Another, for installing bright blue bathroom tiles made out of old cars.

Indeed, this industry pressure invites creativity. For those hotels that are at the beginning of their sustainability drive, taking small steps is the best way to start. Take plastic straws for example. Facing global scrutiny and a subsequent mass overhaul of the product, the average consumer in the UK will find it difficult to come across anything but paper straws. With this in mind the hospitality industry can use this as a template and case study in addressing the use of other environmentally damaging products to spur innovation and develop creative solutions.

For example hotel toiletries, so often considered a little luxury, have a fate that is far from luxurious. With some 200 million tonnes of miniatures reaching the UK’s landfills every year, pressure is mounting from consumers and legislators to remove these products from hotels. To address this owner’s need to seek innovative solutions to this growing problem and provide dispensers, source organic soap bars or partner with those toiletry companies that are innovating. At Burgh Island, we are lucky to have partnered with Noble Isle, a high-end brand that is committed to delivering plastic free products by the end of 2020.

Love local

Reduce, reuse, recycle. The 3R’s have commonly dictated consumer and business practice to minimise waste, improve sustainability and limit environmental impact. However, responsible business now means going beyond waste efficiency, and looking at the bigger picture – assessing the impact of operations, not only for the local environment but also the local economy, to deliver a better future for everyone.

Hotels can empower community growth by not only sourcing from local areas but also recruiting from them to drive positive, and lasting community change. Implementing these initiatives can improve carbon efficiency with regards to food miles and staff travel, while also enhancing guests’ experience. For example, local staff can make interesting tourism recommendations and recall unusual local histories that can make a guest’s visit memorable.

Preserving identity

Being sustainable doesn’t have to come at the cost of identity. For those hotels with a unique theme or history, this can be a key concern and barrier. There are, however, a variety of discreet initiatives that can be introduced, which don’t impact visual aesthetics, a hotel’s ambience or its authenticity.

A little goes a long way. For example, introducing new recycling, or water-waste initiatives can reduce a hotel’s impact on its surrounding environment, while also saving money.

Considering the efficiency of a historic building remains a key hurdle for hotel owners, with old windows, stone walls and outdated building methods affecting heat retention. However, the right commitment and research, there are ways to overcome this. At Burgh Island, for example, we retained an essential 1930’s feature by installing the original Crittal windows fitted with double glazing – conserving heat during the winter months on a wild coastal island, while staying faithful to the hotel’s art deco heritage.

Hospitality’s green thinking continually improving

There is no quick fix to solve the climate crisis, but recently there has been an evolution in “green thought” in the hospitality community as well as a wider social responsibility drawing its inspiration from  consumers and government action… Hoteliers have begun to realise that they can provide an enhanced guest experience by integrating natural elements into the range of hospitality and services that they provide.

Taking a more strategic approach, However, we need to think about how the industry functions on a larger scale hotels could look to partner with carbon trusts, local environmental groups and the wider industry to understand more about their impact on the environment, learn new practices and share their own experiences to help develop new initiatives to support the industry as it continues to build sustainable practices into its  ethos, strategy and operations. For example, from simply prioritising Fair Trade products through to joining initiatives such as Clean Conscience,[2]  or the Green Apple Organisation, hoteliers can play their part.

[2] Noble Isle (toiletries) is a partner

The hospitality industry is taking increasingly greater and more significant steps in contributing towards a more sustainable society and at the Burgh Island Hotel we are honoured to be part of this trend, which will help deliver a greener future for us all.