Tourists and hotel guests are increasingly looking for hotels and restaurants that take sustainability seriously. Numerous labels and certifications are popping up everywhere, but the difficulty is in knowing what is greenwashing and which establishments really take sustainability to heart. To this end, the Michelin Guide has introduced a “Green Michelin Star” to highlight restaurants that are leading the way in sustainable practices, such as Silo in London, the first zero-waste restaurant.
Sustainable practices are by far not the norm in hotels and restaurants, nor in events and travel. However, change can wait no longer! What better place to lead this change than a hospitality school that has students from around the globe who can take these best practices far and wide?
So, how to be more sustainable?
Knowing where to start the process can be difficult, but just starting one project at a time can make a huge difference over time. With so many products or areas of the business that could be the starting point, the overwhelming nature of diving into so many areas means that we might not even start. Most people in our industry are already working very hard, long hours and often don’t have the time and headspace to invest in thinking beyond what is currently at hand.
Who will make the changes we need to see?
We at Cesar Ritz Colleges feel a responsibility to do some of this legwork so that future hoteliers can go out into the industry with sustainable solutions at hand and already second nature. We aim to set an example, so we are living the change we want to see.
Many of our initiatives come from our Sustainability Committee, a dedicated and passionate group of faculty, staff from all departments, and students. Not only is the committee engaged and active, but we have found that many other students can be a fantastic driving force to challenge us and nudge us in the right direction.
A second group, the Student Sustainability Club (SSC), also mean serious business. During their weekly meetings they cover two main pillars: (1) lessons about climate change, sustainability, and solutions that are already known in the industry and the world, and (2) student-driven projects focusing on what students observe and care about. Projects are real-life, applicable to our school and context, and of a scale to be able to see results within a term. This could mean researching a topic, creating a prototype, or starting on a small scale with a lighthouse project.
One project looked for more sustainable alternatives to single-use consumables such as plastic piping bags, plastic gloves, or paper chef’s hats, and proposed ways to use fewer of these throwaways. Others have focused on how to make the Student Ambassador Committee events more sustainable, and how to reduce food waste in the less obvious places, such as a pastry kitchen. Some have looked at how they can communicate more about recycling, food waste, and energy consumption around campus and on the student sustainability clubs Instagram channel (@ssc_cesarritz).
How complicated can it be to look at plastic piping bags? Students thought this would be simple, but once they started to dig into the topic, they began to see the complexities. What kind of material is really more environmentally friendly? If no compostable or reusable option exists, how else could they reduce the impact of that material or item? How could they ensure the hygiene of reusable items? How could they inspire and educate others on all these topics in a fun and engaging way?
This journey is all about the learning curve, the process of researching, finding options, hitting a wall, then finding a new way while always being guided by sustainability (less waste, less energy). The journey is about not giving up until a solution is found.
Our hope is that students learn about their specific projects, materials, and topics, and also about how to think critically, persevere, and be resourceful while driven by deep values. Students and their projects make important contributions to our school’s journey to becoming increasingly environmentally sustainable and forward-thinking. But more importantly, the high bar we set is for students to take these best practices out into the world where they can multiply and avoid further climate change by protecting the environment.