Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Ritz-Carlton's U.S. hotels to ditch plastic bottles, replace with green bottles

It's not strictly "unbottled" but a step in the right direction when a major hotel chain starts using bio-degradable water bottles.

By Barbara De Lollis, USA TODAY

Ritz-Carlton hotels today serve around 5 million, 16-ounce bottles of water each year. Concerned about the waste, the luxury hotel chain is switching to a bottle made 100% from plants that can decompose in 30 days in a commercial composting facility, or can be reprocessed and remade 100% into new bottles.
By Barbara De Lollis
To wean itself off of plastic and boost its "green" reputation, 40 of Ritz-Carlton's 73 hotels will switch to plant-based, biodegradable material for their water bottles - a move that's believed to be a first among hotel chains.
The hotels making the switch are in the U.S. and the Caribbean. Chainwide, the company goes through through about 5 million, 16-oz., water bottles per year, according to the Marriott-owned brand.
Ritz-Carlton hotels provide the bottled water to guests at jogging stations, in guestrooms for turn-down service and in pool areas. Valets also leave a bottle of water behind for a guest after retrieving their vehicle for them.
According to Ritz-Carlton's press release: The new bottles are made 100% from plants, are all natural, can decompose in 30 days in a commercial composting facility, or can be reprocessed and remade 100% into new bottles. Making one new bottle uses 49% less fossil fuels, 45% less energy, and 75% less greenhouse gases than a classic bottle.
About two years ago, Ritz-Carlton chief Simon Cooper challenged his management team to find a better solution for bottled water.
"Plastic bottles are made from crude oil, take a significant amount of energy to produce, and less than 20% are sent to recycling facilities," Cooper said in a statement. "Even when recycled, these bottles cannot be used to make the same quality of plastic."
Finding the right bottle vendor involved 18 months of research and ultimately led the chain to PrimaTM, which is manufacturing the new, 16-oz. bottles for Ritz-Carlton.
The precise timing of when each hotel will make the switch will depend on their plastic-bottle inventory, Denise Naguib, Marriott's corporate director of environmental program, wrote me in an email. She expects the hotels to have a supply of new bottles within a month.
The change isn't a cost cutting move, although Ritz-Carlton stands to save some money on the new bottles up front. The environmentally friendly bottles - with a price break for the first 18 months - will cost the same as the old bottles, Naguib told me, underscoring the fact that going green can sometimes add costs for companies.
Whether a hotel's water bottles are green or not may sound like a small detail, but it can be a big deal to people who want their hotels and hotel events to be green.
Washington D.C.-based meetings consultant Joan Eisenstodt said the move to environmentally friendly water bottles should go over well, considering the growing desire among companies and groups to ensure sustainable meetings.
"There have been lots of discussions about water usage," Eisenstodt said. "If we don't use bottled, we get pitchers with questionably clean ice and glasses, or those large "tank-like" things that no one is ever sure about. People like individual bottles and this makes sense."
The backlash against water bottles has been growing for years, and has lately started taking on new momentum.
For instance, a small organic food chain - Bowie, Md.-based MOM's Organic Market - stopped selling bottled water last week as part of its "Battle the Bottle" campaign. Noting the alarming rate by which oceans are being contaminated by plastic, the stores now sell only water from a filteration machine.
Readers: What do you think? Should more hotels switch to environmentally friendly water bottles or perhaps stop using water bottles?
Posted Jun 18 2010 10:36AM

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