Lately, as I fall asleep, trashy thoughts have been filling my head. For that, I thank Hyatt Hotels & Resorts. Not because of any particular steamy hotel fantasies, but because of a conversation I had with their head of Corporate Social Responsibility, Brigitta Witt. We spoke because Brigitta is part the panel I am moderating in Singapore at the Condé Nast Traveler World Savers Congress on Oct. 20. Our discussion is titled “To Preserve and Protect—Can Going Green Coexist with Luxury?” I wondered about the challenges a global operation like Hyatt might have vs. a smaller outfit like Costa Rica’s Cayuga Sustainable Hospitality that I wrote about previously.
What I got was a lesson in trash—the complexity of recycling, to be exact.
“We operate in 45 different countries. Even in the United States, what a hotel in San Francisco can do is different than what one in Wichita can do. Our hotels in San Francisco can recycle all of their waste, they can compost, because they have the support of the city and municipality. Hotels in a lot of other places have a tremendous challenge in recycling—it takes a lot of infrastructure to pick up tons of glass. Some cities don’t have a program, or even businesses to support us. Even in California, we have hotels that physically must transport the waste on their own to a recycling center, because we can’t find someone to hire to do it. Then the economy takes a dive, and it becomes too expensive to recycle because no one even wants it. If we face that in just the United States, imagine what it’s like in other parts of the world.”
But all is not lost. As Brigitta explained, even in cities or countries without a culture (or business) of recycling, hotel employees are coming up with inventive solutions.
“At our fairly large property in Santiago the employees were frustrated that they couldn’t recycle. There was no recycling service spearheaded by city. The hotel put out tons of glass and aluminum and paper every single week. Our team there came up with a great idea—organize local charities that help children and families to come by once or twice per week and take the waste to local centers, and the charities get all the money. It was a perfect solution for everyone.”
In fact, the team has been able to divert approximately 110 metric tons of waste from local landfills per year while helping local organization like Cenfa, which helps families in need, and Coaniquem, which works with child burn victims. Now with a grant from Hyatt’s corporate office, the hotel is working with a non-profit called Fundacion Casa de la Paz to give the community a new waste management system and educate them about the importance of recycling.
At the panel, Brigitta will have much more to say about that despite the challenges of measuring carbon emissions and energy usage at various hotels around the globe—Hyatt is committed to reducing both by 25% (they even post their progress on their website).
For me, no more complaining about the extra clear recycling bag I have to drag to my NYC curb every Tuesday.