This article first appeared in the hospitality journal, the Hospitality Biz, September 2019 edition. Reproducing the article here with due credits to the magazine.
We have had practices that are now being called sustainable; going back 20 years in time there were the reusable cloth bags that were used for grocery shopping, returnable glass bottles for milk whereas single – use plastic was hardly there in the scene. Hotels used flasks in guestrooms for water. Banquets and restaurants used water jugs and glasses for serving water; similarly paper wrappers were used for covering amenities and toiletries. Then progress hit us and we found even the regular pattern of the ‘usage of things’ or our behavior not trendy anymore. We started looking at ways to reduce our work doing everything possible to eliminate inconveniences. We needed all at the tip of our fingers and for our comfort. We adopted cordless, wireless and remote accesses; our wants lead plastic to make way into our lives steadily. The last decade has seen indiscriminate use of plastic that has driven us very close to what can be termed as the panic button. It’s time we pay heed to the wakeup call while we are still in a situation of some control and before being forced with drastic consequences.
Recently I was invited for a lecture by the Indian Navy at their logistic training base. It was a wonderful day spent at a great learning centre; I must add that it is rejuvenating to interact with people from diverse work cultures as it creates win-wins for all. They are the warriors of the seas and show equal responsibility towards sustainable and ecologically conscious efforts. I witnessed many practices and I pledged to incorporate them at my workplace too; also spread the message and get more people across the industry to follow the leaders. Some best practices that I saw were judicious use of water, restricted use of plastic, composting and going organic. I think the hotel industry can take a cue from them.
In hotels, plastic is used in many forms such as water bottles, disposable containers, straws, packaging material as well as wrappers for amenities. If we want to cut down on plastic it needs to be removed from all areas and usages. Hotels have started reducing, reusing and recycling wherever possible but a lot more needs to be done; on a war footing! Probably we can relook at our SOPs in order to replace or redesign certain practices that support sustainability and environmental consciousness. In fact hotel companies can set targets and timelines to become plastic free zones; that will expedite the process. We managed to bring in the practice of not washing linen on a daily basis by sensitising our guests; similarly the newer initiatives too will find acceptability.
According to an article in the Guardian, India will eliminate all single-use plastic in the country by 2022, as announced by Prime Minister Mr. Narendra Modi. He said, “The choices that we make today will define our collective future. The choices may not be easy. But through awareness, technology, and a genuine global partnership, I am sure we can make the right choices. Let us all join together to beat plastic pollution and make this planet a better place to live.”
The pledge is in line with the global actions to combat plastic pollution that are taking place in 60 nations around the world. This move aims to drastically stem the flow of plastic from the 1.3 billion people living in India. Many cities have banned plastic bags; that’s a great beginning as general public is sensitised towards the issue. Let’s team up with our guests and the local communities to create sustainable practices.
Some areas where we can adopt changes:
Possible alternatives that can be considered:
Adopt these practices and contribute towards making our planet plastic-free. Communicate your initiatives with your guests as it is rightly said, ‘together we can and we will’.