Ever see a recycling bin under the desk of your hotel room?

Even if the answer is “no,” a sustainability push is underway in the hotel industry. In an effort to recycle more and waste less, hotels are experimenting with eco-friendly practices – like installing water filters on sinks and soap dispensers in showers to reduce the number of individually wrapped bath products – reports the New York Times.

It’s no secret that hotels can be bastions of wastefulness, with the average hotel guest trashing about two pounds of paper, plastic, cardboard and cans each day.

But in recent years, the hotel industry has seen a green push. In Seattle, Hyatt opened the city’s first LEED-certified hotel, the Hyatt at Olive 8. The 17-story hotel is water and energy efficient, has an eco-friendly spa and boasts a green roof covered with plants that absorb excess rainwater.

Indeed, hoteliers are finding a double incentive in pleasing eco-conscious guests while at the same time saving a few bucks through sustainable practices.

“Doing in-room recycling is important because the guest sees that,” Pat Maher, an environmental consultant to the American Hotel & Lodging Association, told the Times. By recycling paper and plastic, hotels can trim waste disposal bills by up to 50 percent, Maher said.

About 40 percent of hotels have recycling programs, according to a 2008 survey by the American hotel and Lodging Association. This spring, Marriott International said it would stop delivering newspapers to guests’ rooms, cutting back on 18 million papers annually. Starwood has eliminated tiny shampoo bottles, instead installing dispensers in showers at its Element and Aloft hotels.

To address the copious food waste produced daily, several Atlanta-area hotels and restaurants are composting food scraps. Greenco Environmental removes 35 tons of “organic waste” from local hotels, including the Hyatt Regency Atlanta, InterContinental Buckhead Atlanta and Doubletree Hotel Atlanta. Waste is then hauled to a 32-acre composting facility in Barnesville, Ga.

“We have been targeting grocery stores, hotels and restaurants, anyone who has a kitchen or cafeteria,” Greenco co-founder Tim Lesko told The Atlanta Business Chronicle. “Everything from their potato peels to their leftovers from chafing dishes from buffet lines are put in trash.”

Doubletree, a Greenco client, has reduced 45 percent of its waste from the compactor and it now can go two months before emptying its industrial waste bin. Greenco also helped the hotel set up a chef’s garden on the premises.

So far, hotel operators aren’t seeing major savings associated with going green. And they have had some resistance from guests. While Starwood’s Element hotels have put water filters in bathrooms (in lieu of offering water bottles), Fairmont Hotel and Resorts reports that their customers still want the plastic bottles.

“That’s the conundrum with offering green but operating as a hotel,” a spokeswoman told the Times. “At what point do you deliver your luxury hotel experience, but also balance that with acting responsibly?”

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How can hotels go green?
Eco-friendly hotels are putting recycling bins under the desk and water filters in the bathroom. The days of tiny shampoo bottles are numbered.