In 2017, the Chicago Recycling Ordinance took effect, bringing with it new regulations aimed at boosting recycling in buildings of five or more units and expanding the list of materials that must be recycled. Waste separation was a key point within the ordinance while educating tenants or guests on proper recycling practices was also high on the list.

Consumers are also encouraging companies to take a more sustainable approach to doing business and many hoteliers have identified these new pressures as a golden opportunity—not only to save the planet but also to tap into a sustainability movement that guests are quickly latching on to. Put simply, engaging guests in hotel recycling programs could boost brand awareness and push businesses above the crowd of an increasingly competitive market.

Hotel recycling and waste reduction as a unique selling point

As sustainability issues have become mainstream, the tourist industry has recognized the need to keep customers engaged with hotel waste recycling and other initiatives. In fact, using sustainable hospitality as a unique selling point is now a priority for both independent and chain hotels alike, giving potential guests the opportunity to travel conscientiously as well as comfortably.

For example, the Hotel Felix in River North was the first Chicago hotel to receive Silver LEED certification from the US Green Building Council (USGBC). To achieve this status, numerous forward-thinking elements were adopted, including; renovating the original structure of the building rather than tearing it down, introducing USGBC cleaning supplies, and using low-energy lighting throughout.

However, where the Hotel Felix really stands out from the competition is with its designated recycling room, a “behind the scenes” hub used by staff to sort materials and get them ready for collection. While this may not be the first unique selling point hotel managers may bring up to guests, it is arguably more important than some of its customer-facing elements—directly supporting its LEED certification and giving the Hotel Felix a level of authenticity that goes way beyond simple greenwashing tactics employed by less committed establishments.

Engaging guests with hotel recycling ideas

The LEED program is well-known for its comprehensive approach to sustainable buildings, covering all aspects of construction, renovation, maintenance, and day-to-day operations. There are plenty of simple changes that can be made, whether you are working towards LEED certification or you simply want to engage guests with your hotel recycling programs, the benefits to brand image and reputation are priceless. Here, we take a look at a few methods that can be implemented in any establishment, boosting your eco-credentials and pushing your sustainability practices forward.


Source: RadissonBLUE

Set up a garden to recycle hotel food waste

If your establishment has space, then setting up a garden with composting facilities is the ideal way to recycle organics from the kitchen or from your guests. Naturally, your garden could feature prominently in your marketing, and reinforce the point that it is supported through circular practices – a great way to boost guest engagement.




Educate guests on using hotel recycling bins

Introducing properly labeled recycling bins in shared spaces, hotel rooms, and behinds the scenes is an effective way to let guests know that you’re all working together towards the same goal. However, this is only part of the story, and educating guests and employees through signage, literature, and training will not only improve recycling rates within your building but also give guests the knowledge of how they can recycle properly when they return home.



Use refillable containers and dispensers to reduce waste

All methods of sustainable waste management should follow the three Rs – reduce, reuse, recycle. Reduction and reuse are always preferable to recycling and using refillable containers and dispensers with bulk-bought cosmetic and cleaning materials can help your hotel save a lot of plastic waste.




Upcycle old furniture or materials

Among the many sustainable building methods used by the Hotel Felix, reclaimed materials and upcycled pieces are perhaps the most striking. Recycling older items in this way can give a unique, bespoke aesthetic to your hotel that resonates with guests and provides lasting memories. It’s also the ideal way to keep items and materials out of landfill, particularly when it comes to used furniture or construction materials.





Engage in outreach programs with the local community

Reaching out to the local community surrounding your establishment is a great way to engage with sustainability initiatives. It can be anything from providing organic waste to community gardening programs (if you don’t have your own green space) to donating old furniture, forgotten clothing, or even food. Detailing your programs in your marketing materials and keeping a healthy community will ensure guests know you are serious about your sustainability measures.




There are hundreds of ways to engage guests with your hotel recycling and waste reduction initiatives. However, starting with a comprehensive waste audit is perhaps the ideal place to start, giving you and your staff the opportunity to identify particularly wasteful areas of your business and work towards reducing, reusing, or recycling materials.


For more information on how RTS can help your hotel with a waste audit or to discuss your sustainability initiatives,  complete our form and one of our TRUE advisors will contact you to discuss your specific requirements.

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