The Hotel Inter Continental Sydney is a five-star hotel near Circular Quay in the Sydney CBD. It has 498 guest rooms and 500 staff, four restaurants, extensive banqueting facilities and 24-hour room service. Food preparation, laundering and cleaning are constant activities.
The Hotel was constructed so as to preserve the facade of the nineteenth century Treasury building located on site. It was opened in 1985. Since operations started, Hotel management had been sensitive to environmental issues and in early 1991, a decision was made to formalise an environment policy. A group of delegated staff was selected by the Hotel Inter Continental Group to develop environmentally sensitive procedures for all group member hotels. The group’s efforts resulted in the publication of a comprehensive Environmental Procedures Manual.
Using this Manual, The Hotel Inter Continental Sydney, has formulated a policy to:
- actively conserve natural resources and energy
- use resources more efficiently
- minimise waste production
- use products and materials that have the least negative impact on the environment, both in use and source of origin
- pursue action programs that benefit the environment in the local community
- foster the education of environmental awareness, both internally and externally
In any large hotel, there are individual occurrences that are relatively insignificant, but contribute to unnecessary waste and expense when measured overall. These include lights and air conditioning in unoccupied rooms, water and energy use in laundering, and disposal of recyclable materials.
Twelve areas were identified by the hotel as priorities. These included:
- waste management
- energy conservation
- product purchasing
- water use
- community action
- laundry and dry-cleaning
Cleaner production initiatives
An environmental committee was established, and a waste management audit was conducted. An action plan was then devised, based on the audit report. This covered a wide variety of materials including paper, glossy magazines, cardboard, glass, plastic, plastic milk containers, metal, food, corks, linen, oils, batteries, styrofoam, toiletries, packaging, miscellaneous garbage, and even candles.
Paper and stationery was an area where significant cost savings were able to be made. All offices now have boxes for recyclable paper collection. The fully used paper is collected by a private contractor for recycling, while the re-usable paper is used internally for photocopying, notepads or stationery. Shredded paper is used for packaging when required.
Waste removal was another expensive area, requiring three collections a week. In 1992 the hotel purchased a cardboard bailer at a cost of $5,000. The cardboard is now compacted in half cubic metre bales and secured with string, greatly reducing its bulk. The number of weekly collections of garbage required has been reduced from three to two. Savings for the hotel were in excess of $25,000 per year, as calculated when installed.
Wine is consumed in substantial quantities at the Hotel Inter Continental Sydney, creating a rather unusual problem: over 6,000 corks every month for disposal. These are now being recycled into cricket balls, car gaskets and floor tiles. The hotel donates all corks to the war veterans village who then recycle them and use the proceeds to purchase items such as, wheel chairs, a lifting hoist for patients etc.
The hotel has developed an ongoing commitment to reduce energy consumption, and the 1997 reduction target was 2% from the previous year. A number of measures where energy and water use could be reduced, without adversely affecting guest amenity or staff safety, were introduced. They include:
Lighting levels: hours of operation and light intensity were reviewed. Various 'uplighters' were subsequently found to be too bright, so the 150 Watt globes were changed to 100 Watt. Similarly, the service areas underwent lux testing. Removing one fluorescent tube from each fitting maintained necessary lighting levels. These changes resulted in substantial annual savings in energy use and expenditure.
Air conditioning use was contributing to considerable energy wastage. A variety of measures were taken to overcome the problem: chiller demands and controls were reviewed, master controls activated to regulate heat throughout the building, many units became time-switch activated, and air conditioning levels were reduced in unoccupied guest rooms. Subsequently in 1995 a Building Management System (BMS) was installed, fine tuning the comfort conditions and further minimising the wastage. The BMS has also assisted in considerable payroll savings and maintenance is based on usage rather than time schedules.
Water temperatures were found to be too high throughout the building. In the laundry, linen cleaning was conducted at 96 degrees Celsius. A new process was implemented which required water temperatures of 60 degrees Celsius. Simply lowering hot water tank temperatures in this way saves energy.
Guest room showers were using too much water, so shower restrictors were installed. These reduced water consumption from 22 to 12 litres a minute. To assess whether the restrictors would affect the quality of the shower, the first one was installed in the General Manager's apartment, to gauge his reaction. He didn't even notice. They were then installed in guest rooms.
The laundry was also using excessive water, so a laundry water reclaiming unit was designed and installed at a cost of $20,000 to reclaim the water from the rinse cycles and re-use it for the first wash.
Other measures included:
- compact fluoro installation
- picture lights time switching
- training housekeeping staff
- gas modulation to steam generator
- timer on heating pump in guest rooms
- kitchen lighting and exhaust time-switching
- guest room sink restrictors
- urinal sensor flushing
- function room lighting adjustments for cleaning and set ups
Over 50 submeters were installed in 1989 for electricity, gas and water, to monitor where the energy was actually consumed. This investment was recovered in under 12 months. Subsequently most of these meters have now been connected to the BMS and through a data migration package. We are currently setting up benchmarks and an alarm feature, so that if the benchmark is exceeded, the alarm is activated.
Purchasing policy has also been used to improve the hotel's environmental performance. Price and quality are still primary considerations, but suppliers are also requested to reduce excess packaging, use biodegradable or recyclable products, and to provide environmentally preferred products wherever possible.
Community involvement is central to the hotel's environmental commitment. The hotel is involved in a tree planting program in collaboration with the Hawkesbury Nepean Catchment Management Trust, which utilises old styrofoam boxes for native tree seedlings. The tree seedlings are housed in a greenhouse - donated and built by the hotel's engineering department - and the final saplings are then planted by hotel staff along the Nepean River catchment area. About 1500 native trees have already been planted in this ongoing program.
The hotel has assisted over 50 university students in their environmental related assignments. Many tours have been conducted for Tafe colleges and schools, illustrating the Hotel's environmental programme.
The hotel's environmental and resources policies are underpinned by a philosophical commitment to responsible use of materials. The hotel is also committed to sharing its expertise and systems with other businesses and the community, to promote waste reduction and energy efficiency.
The Hotel chefs have created a herb garden on the rooftop where various herbs, such as parsley, chives, basil, rosemary, lemongrass etc are grown in recycled styrofoam boxes. The herbs are grown free of chemicals and are used to garnish and flavour our restaurant dishes. In summer, approximately 40% of our herbs are subsidised by this herb garden.
Currently the hotel is cultivating a small worm farm. The worms are kept in recycled styrofoam boxes and fed with 'green' kitchen scraps. The liquid waste from the worms or 'worm tea' is used to fertilise the herb garden.
Advantages of the process
The environmental initiatives of the Hotel Inter Continental Sydney mean that:
- 1,581,749 kilograms less carbon dioxide is released to the atmosphere every year as a result of reductions in electricity and gas consumption.
- 24,950 cubic metres less waste water is discharged each year.
The dollar savings have totaled an impressive $279,588. This figure was calculated prior to energy deregulation at the previous energy rates. Energy deregulation has assisted in further savings of $250,000 per annum.
Cleaner production incentives
In the checklist against the Inter Continental Hotel Group's Environmental Procedures Manual, the hotel scored 68% in 1991. Since reviewing the hotel's operations and procedures the hotel now scores 91% and plans further improvements.
The hotel is now considered to be the leader in Australia in hotel environmental and energy management.