This is a guest post from our climate technology partner, Cooler.
Driven by customer interest and corporate responsibility, large segments of the hotel industry have, for well over two decades, sought to make their operations more environmentally sustainable. The last decade has seen an expansion of focus from the use of key resources like energy, food, fuel and water at specific properties to concern over how hotels can reduce their overall impact on climate change.
Hotels can most effectively fight climate change in two ways.
The first and increasingly mainstream practice is for hotels to take stock of the contributions to climate change that they directly control and work to reduce factors. In greenhouse gas accounting terms, these components of a hotel’s carbon footprint are called scope 1 (direct emissions through on-site and transportation fuel use and, occasionally, refrigerant leakage) and scope 2 (usually purchased electricity). The Hotel Carbon Management Initiative provides one standard tool for conducting this analysis.
The practice of measuring Scope 1/Scope 2 emissions valuably directs hotels towards the things they can most immediately affect. Hotels sometimes further buy carbon offsets for these emissions as a way to be “net-zero” -- reducing emissions where possible and buying offsets for the measured portion of their footprint.
A second, more comprehensive approach to reducing impact, is to look at the full footprint of hotel operations, encompassing what is technically known as Scope 3 emissions.
Scope 3 analysis is conducted quickly using environmentally-extended life cycle analysis (EEIO) about hotel stays. Because it accounts for all inputs to a hotel stay (including, for example, the materials used to build the hotel), it is environmentally conservative. Depending on the class and price of a hotel room night, EEIO analysis returns a footprint anywhere from 15% to 300% higher than HCMI -- a result consistent with the fact that EEIO includes all inputs to a hotel’s footprint.
Figure 1 illustrates the contributors, in a Scope 3/EEIO analysis, to a typical hotel stay. EEIO has been used internally by some of the world’s largest retailers (including Amazon, Walmart and eBay), can be calculated quickly, and aligns fully with the more site-specific approach embodied in the HCMI.
Some of the elements that HCMI omits, like food service, are clearly visible in Figure 1 (beef farming and grains). On the other hand, like HCMI, EEIO highlights the importance of electricity in the accommodation “supply chain” while providing guidance about how much of the full footprint can be eliminated by switching to renewable energy and taking other Scope 1/Scope 2 actions.
Besides being quick and environmentally conservative, EEIO footprinting allows hotels to move beyond net-zero. Comprehensive footprinting combined with high quality carbon neutralization or removal means that sustainability leaders can offer stays that are carbon neutral (or even carbon positive) on an absolute basis.
In this way, a new, high-integrity option is available to the hotel industry that is complementary to existing Scope 1/Scope 2 approaches. Green hotels can come out of the box combining a rapid, demonstrably complete footprint analysis (EEIO) with action that removes greenhouse gases from the atmosphere permanently.
In a second, longer stage, they can use complementary Scope 1/Scope2 methods (like HCMI’s) to reduce their footprint further and further up their supply chain.
Early adopters of this approach will be both absolutely positive in their contributions to the fight against climate change and able to engage their customers in a richer, ongoing dialogue about all the factors that drive a hotel’s climate impact and sustainability strategy.