Room for the environment at Moor Hall Hotel
Hotels can have a massive environmental impact. Patrice John visits a Sutton Coldfield establishment that is determined to do all it can to be green.
All those towels and bedclothes that need washing. All that hot water that disappears down the plug hole as guests take long showers. The rooms that need heating. Hotels hardly seem like the most environmentally-friendly enterprises.
But the management and staff of the Best Western Premier Moor Hall Hotel in Sutton Coldfield are determined to change that.
And its paying dividends commercially, too.
Angela Burns, chief executive of the Webb Hotels and Travel Group, of which Moor Hall is part, says transforming the hotel into a greener, more sustainable establishment has helped attract a different kind of clientele.
“Customers know we are conscious of the environment which I believe is a good thing,” she says.
“And we have found that more and more companies are asking about our environmental policies before they decide to do business with us.
“They are conscious of it and they want to know that we are environmentally sound.
“We wanted to be a part of a ‘green scheme’ that was all encompassing and looked at everything, including how we interacted with the whole community.
“As a consequence we have looked at our suppliers and looked at how we can increase energy efficiency, but becoming greener is a lot more than just concentrating on the energy we use – it means more than that.”
The hotel and spa is part of the Green Tourism Business Scheme, a sustainable tourism certification scheme for the UK.
Originally developed in partnership with Visit Scotland, it is now the only certification scheme validated by Visit Britain, through the International Centre for Responsible Tourism (ICRT).
Best Western Premier Moor Hall has been awarded silver status and businesses pushing for accreditation are assessed according to energy and water efficiency, waste management and biodiversity.
Ms Burns says the success of the hotel in gaining silver status can be attributed to the creation of a Green Team on site who are made up of different staff members from across hotel departments.
Members of payroll, staff porters and those in the maintenance teams leave no stone unturned in their quest to go green. They are determined to achieve gold status.
Ms Burns says: “Doing this is not just about a little bit of recycling, it’s about much more and there were lots of criteria we had to meet.
“They looked at everything including the way we interacted with the natural environment, like installing bird boxes, as well as everything else we were doing on site.
“From their assessments we were able to identify what we were doing at present and then look at where we could improve.
“So the assessment became a living document that we could use and build upon.”
The Green Team draws on different experiences and perspectives of staff to make sure every part of the business is green.
But Angela says it was important to work with those in the kitchens and leisure departments as they are the biggest users of resources.
“They use a huge amount of water and power and so we had to be proactive in working with those departments,” she says.
“The Green Team leads on this and they also produce a newsletter with statistics that keeps us up to date on the progress of their work.
“Making these kinds of changes was more than just looking at recycling – it was more involved.
“Lots of businesses look at going green and that’s all they look at. They recycle a bit more and then do nothing else, believing that they’ve ‘done their bit’ but you must do more.
“Any business taking this seriously must come up with new ideas and practical ways to change the way they do business.”
Angela and the team have certainly done that and so far they’ve installed a bio-diesel plant that turns chip oil into diesel.
This investment allows them to produce up to 60 litres of oil every four days, but they’re also saving on the cost of having to dispose of the oil, which was something they used to do.
But some of the biggest changes have involved the food at the hotel.
“We include a large amount of locally sourced food and it has made a real difference to the amount of food miles we contribute to,” Ms Burns says.
“But instead of keeping this quiet, we make sure it is printed on our menus in the restaurant so diners are aware of what is happening. It might not influence the customer, but it means they know we are looking at this as an issue.
“Doing this also allows us to support local suppliers. It used to be the case that businesses would only think about things in terms of price, but that has started to change.
“We’ve decided to look at things we can do to reduce our carbon footprint as opposed to just thinking about price.”
Ms Burns’ reasons for pushing for a greener working environment are not just purely motivated by business interest though as she believes it’s important to think of what kind of world will be left for generations to come.
She says: “It is important for businesses to get involved in this as we are some of the biggest consumers of resources and energy in the country.
“We need to be responsible. Households can do their little bit but everybody has to do something for our efforts to have a real impact as it is our social responsibility.
“I have children and grandchildren and I want them to have a better world to live in.
“What we do now will not really help us, but it will help those in generations to come.”
* WEB: visit www.green-business.co.uk or call 01738 632162 for more information