Green Hospitality: Sustainability and Efficiency through Connected Technology

man sitting on couch in hotel room using laptop

Amid growing environmental concerns globally, all industries are thinking more sustainably. But in hospitality, a market that inherently needs to maintain a large enough footprint to comfortably house guests while offering top-notch experiences, providers must get creative. To make the most impact when it comes to sustainability, hotel operators are turning to an entirely new set of tools and technology.

Hospitality’s climate impact

The Sustainable Hospitality Alliance claims the hotel industry needs to reduce carbon emissions by 66% per room by 2030 and 90% by 2050 to stay on track toward the Alliance’s sustainability thresholds. However, the most recent version of Cornell University’s Hotel Sustainability Benchmarking Index showed that while the industry is progressing, there is still much room for improvement if benchmarks are to be met. Cornell reported that since 2017, hotel energy usage has only dropped by 3.3%, while water usage has dipped by 3.73%.

Sustainability as a board-level imperative for hotel operators

The issue of sustainability—and how it can be better achieved through smart technology—has found firm footing in the executive boardrooms of the world’s largest hospitality organizations. Aside from the ethical concerns—that the pursuit of sustainability is the right thing to do for the health and future of the planet—there are compelling business reasons to accelerate sustainability in the hotel space.

  • Customers demand it: According to a recent survey from, 71% of travelers say they want to travel more sustainably in the next year, 35% say the sustainability efforts of hotels strongly influence their accommodation decisions, and 70% say they are more likely to choose a sustainable accommodation, even if they aren’t actively looking for one.

  • It saves money: Conventional hotels incur substantial annual costs of over $2,000 per room for energy and water consumption. By contrast, sustainable buildings exhibit resource efficiency levels at least 20% higher than their conventional counterparts, as reported by the Sustainable Hospitality Alliance.

  • It keeps hotel operators ahead of regulations: In cities and states across the country, local and state regulators are taking up green building and operations policy proposals at an accelerating clip. By aggressively pursuing sustainable practices now, hospitality organizations can stay ahead of the curve, implement change at a self-determined pace, and avoid being caught flat-footed to meet new standards.

Smart technology’s role in the sustainable hotel

One of the critical enablers of sustainability and efficiency in the hospitality industry is the implementation of Internet of Things (IoT) and automation technologies. IoT refers to the network of interconnected devices that collect and exchange data, facilitating informed decision-making and streamlined operations. On the other hand, automation systems enable processes to be performed automatically, reducing manual labor and enhancing productivity. These technologies pose immense promise for sustainability, particularly in avoiding waste, whether wasted energy, water, resources, or labor. The combined use of IoT and automation presents a range of possibilities for achieving sustainability goals in the hospitality sector.

Although there are myriad ways in which hospitality organizations can use IoT and automation to foster sustainable practices, let’s take a look at a few specific use cases here:

  • Energy management: Using IoT sensors and smart thermostats, hotels can reduce energy waste significantly. These devices can monitor room occupancy and adjust heating, air conditioning, and lighting accordingly, leading to substantial energy savings.

  • Water management: IoT sensors can also monitor water usage, detecting leaks and overuse in real-time. Automated irrigation systems can use weather data to water gardens only when necessary, reducing water waste.

  • Food waste mitigation: IoT can help reduce food waste in hotels. Sensors in refrigerators can monitor expiration dates, alert staff to use food before it spoils, and automatically flag when refrigerators are malfunctioning, avoiding spoilage. Automated inventory systems can help kitchen staff order only what they need, reducing waste from over-ordering.

  • Smart housekeeping: Using automation and IoT, housekeeping can be alerted when a room is empty to clean, preventing unnecessary cleaning. Furthermore, sensor-embedded towels, bedsheets, and linens can send signals to be cleaned only when they are dirty, thus reducing water and energy usage.

  • Building automation systems (BAS): These systems use IoT sensors to collect data about building operations, such as energy usage, HVAC system performance, and lighting conditions. Operations teams can then use this data to identify inefficient areas and implement measures to mitigate waste, like improving insulation or replacing inefficient appliances.

  • Guest involvement: IoT technology can also help to involve guests in sustainability efforts. For example, guests can track their own energy and water usage through in-room displays or apps, encouraging them to reduce their environmental impact.

A strong foundation: The prerequisite for tech-enabled sustainability

Automation and IoT for sustainability tools are only as successful as the network they sit upon and the control hotel operators have over them. In order to achieve optimization in IoT and automation—and to realize meaningful change when it comes to sustainability—hospitality organizations must implement those new tools atop a strong foundation consisting of a few key elements:

  • Wireless technology: WiFi and LoRaWAN (low-power, wide-area networking) are critical to connecting distributed IoT devices. LoRaWAN, with its low power and long-range features, is ideal for IoT applications that do not require high bandwidth but operate on a long-lasting battery, such as sensors for temperature or energy usage. WiFi, meanwhile, can be used to effectively transmit device data to the cloud and is critical in unifying interoperable systems to monitor usage and progress toward sustainability goals.

  • SD-WAN: Software-defined networking can help improve network efficiency, giving greater control over devices at the edge, and can enhance the analysis of IoT device performance through network management and traffic prioritization. This can ensure IoT devices function optimally, enhancing their effectiveness in achieving sustainability goals.

  • Managed services: Hotel operators can leverage a trusted third-party provider with deep expertise in networking, advanced wireless, and security to help ensure fast, reliable connectivity is available to support a bevy of connected devices.

At Comcast Business, we partner with hospitality leaders to reimagine what’s possible, delivering technology solutions that help streamline hotel operations and create unforgettable experiences that inspire loyalty and help keep guests coming back. Learn more.

See how emerging technology can foster sustainability in the hospitality sector.

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