Can the hospitality industry unlock the secrets to sustainability?

Regina Inn Hotel & Conference Centre

The Regina Inn Hotel & Conference Centre is, with innovative programs in recycling, energy conservation, composting, and more

Business people and vacationers alike can’t help but notice those recently posted little pasteboards—prominently placed in hotel bathrooms—that encourage towel reuse.

This modest signage underscores how seriously the hospitality industry takes its emerging role as an environmental steward. The Regina Inn Hotel & Conference Centre, located in Regina, Saskatchewan, positioned itself at the vanguard of this direction, and its efforts are substantial.

Established in 1967 (and part of the SilverBirch Hotels & Resorts chain), this traveller’s haven is one of its community’s oldest, but it has always embraced modernity. Boasting 235 rooms, the Regina Inn includes a comprehensive range of advanced amenities and services, such as business and fitness centres, high-speed Internet access, and more than 20,000 square feet of meeting space. Its forward-thinking approach now includes green programs and best practices.

“We continually research methods and technologies to reduce our environmental footprint,” says general manager Kay Koot.

the word on green

General manager Kay Koot has worked in
the hotel industry for 30-plus years and is gratified by the direction the industry is heading in, with positive environmental initiatives. She shares a few thoughts on the way sustainability is shaping the business climate.

Sustainable initiatives
“It’s now clear that this is a direction that every company—no matter its industry—needs to take. Moreover, they need to go above and beyond. The future of the planet is at stake.”

Communication
“Our organization first pushes and then pushes even harder, lighting a fire beneath the people that will make a difference. For us, events such as Earth Day and Earth Hour are cause for celebration. They enable us to engage with hotel associates and community members, and to compel volunteerism.”

As part of an ongoing multimillion-dollar renovation, the 45-year-old hotel is installing a variable-refrigerant-flow (VRF) system, an energy-efficient solution to heating, ventilation, and cooling. “We’re excited that our owners approved $2.9 million of the renovation-project investment to the VRF system installation.” Koot says.

The system allows efficient transfer of energy from room to room. If one guest demands cooling and another needs heating, the system works to transfer the energy instead of placing a bigger burden on either the chilling or electrical-heating elements. The result: reductions in energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions. And as a plus, the implementation improves guest comfort. After all, Regina’s raison d’être is hospitality.

“Also, we’re installing new patio doors,” reports Angela Lockhart, director of sales and marketing. “All rooms have balconies—one of our unique features—and we’re making them more energy efficient by replacing old sliding doors with garden doors, stopping heat escape and cold incursion.”

Such improvements reflect the Regina Inn’s commitment to further investments, but many are already in place, including a compost program for organic materials, usage of locally grown food, a linen-reuse program that conserves energy and water consumption, recycling to reduce landfill waste, usage of paper products made from postconsumer recycled materials, and energy-efficient lighting in rooms, public areas, and offices.

These efforts have garnered the Regina Inn recognition. Regina received four Green Keys from the Hotel Association of Canada’s Eco-Rating Program, a graduated rating system that recognizes hotels, motels, and resorts for environmental performance. Ratings range from zero to five, and the Regina Inn is one of only two hotels in Regina to receive the score. Assessment is based on five operational areas—corporate management, housekeeping, food and beverage, conference facilities, and engineering—and sustainable practices.

“Evaluation is quite specific,” Lockhart says. “For instance, what’s done with unused toilet-paper rolls? At the end of our self-audit, we came up with a three rating. Then an auditor from the program visited us to make sure our self-evaluation was accurate. The auditor determined we were doing better
than we indicated and upped our rating to four!”

Success involved significant challenges. The biggest, relates Lockhart, was the building’s age and the upgrading expenses.

Climate posed another hurdle. “It gets very cold here,” Koot says. “Everything freezes in winter, which poses problems for our composting program, which is located on the third-floor roof.”

The major challenge was acquiring buy-in, by both employees and customers. “We have more than 160 employees and needed everyone onboard to make the green program successful,” Lockhart says. “We’re there now, thanks to a condition of employment agreement that requires support of our green initiatives. But through training and seminars, staff has embraced policies, even if it means extra work.”

Customer buy-in has included marketing and education. Signage was placed in all rooms to announce various green policies. “They’re not as fussy about the reuse of towels or having bed sheets changed every day,” Lockhart says. “What we’ve learned is that our guests appreciate our efforts. They even inform us when they suspect that an unused towel has been replaced.”

“We ask guests in our online satisfaction survey if they consider the hotel’s contribution to the environment to be important” Koot says.  “Over the past year, 85 percent have replied yes, and since we anticipate this to continue, so too will our efforts!”