There was a time not so long ago when my children and I would walk the beaches here on Maui collecting beautiful sea shells, each one with it’s own colorful and intricate design that could only be the work of mother nature herself. These days, however, the shells seem to be gone. Instead we collect small colorful bits of plastic known as micro plastics that can only be the result of human indifference.
You may have heard, plastic pollution is a problem. The use and disposal of plastic products, even the reusable kind, results in over 8 million metric tons of plastic entering our oceans every year. This is like one garbage truck full of plastic being dumped into our oceans every minute of every day. The toxic impacts that this has on our water ways, oceans, marine life and yes humans, is staggering.
Maintaining the tourism experience and protecting the natural beauty of our beaches for our guests and visitors is critical and these days, more important than ever. With tourism being the dominant industry here in the islands, it is our responsibility to not only to act in the best interest of our guests but more importantly to act in the best interest of our planet.
After over 25 years of working in the food and beverage industry I understand that making changes in a hotel environment can be a challenge. Often, even the smallest change can take months to come to fruition. It seems the bigger your property the more hoops to jump through and longer the road to implementation of a new product or certainly, new policy. However, there are ocean friendly alternatives available. It is time for hoteliers to stop talking and take action.
Here are 7 areas where you may find an opportunity to make changes on your property…
- When checking into your hotel some properties may require guests to wear wristbands to gain access to the pools and special services. Consider offering a braided or woven alternative.
- Items like pens can easily be swapped for pencils. Or if ink is a necessity there are options on the market that replace most of the plastic in a traditional pen with wood, bamboo or even paper.
- Another easy swap is the plastic key card. There are lots of sustainable alternatives out there. We offer key cards through Wahi made from bamboo that can be customized and engraved with a brand logo.
- Welcome amenities such as plastic water bottles are very popular and are certainly appreciated in warmer climates. Consider offering boxed water or an aluminum bottle alternative. Lately we’ve seen hotels going the extra mile and installing water refill stations close to guest rooms and across properties that allow guests to refill with reusable containers. A more costly swap for sure but what a huge impact!
- Instead of disposable plastic cups wrapped in plastic, offer a glass cup.
- Whatever happened to the paper wrapped bars of soap? Now all toiletries seem to come in little plastic bottles; shampoo, conditioner, body gel. Many properties are switching to refillable dispensers or going back to the bar alternative.
- Other opportunities in the bathroom are toothbrushes. Over one billion plastic toothbrushes end up in landfills every year but we found some great bamboo toothbrushes that can be swapped for plastic to help reduce that number.
- Another item that is easily overlooked in rooms is the guest directory. Often plastic laminated pages are used to extend the life of the pages. Yet those pages get tossed and cannot breakdown due to the plastic coating. Try going back to paper or only offering your guest directory digitally via app or through in room TV service.
RESTAURANTS, KITCHENS AND BARS
- Plastic straws and stirrers can be offered on request only. Or swap to a paper or biodegradable options. For smaller outlets consider using reusable straws like bamboo or steel.
- As for plates and cutlery, there are too many resorts using take-out boxes and plastic cutlery. Even when these items are biodegradable it is still waste that can take a long time to breakdown. Consider reusable options. Go back to stainless cutlery or for a more eco friendly and sustainable option try bamboo. If single use plate-ware is the only option then reach for alternatives made from bamboo, palm leaves, wood, corn or wheat.
- For pre portioned food items such as ketchup and mustard try using dispensers or reusable ramekins instead of plastic pouches.
- Buy kitchen and bar mats made from recycled materials.
- Try using refillable bottles for cleaning supplies. A lot of hotels buy their chemicals and cleaning agents in bulk and refill individual bottles as needed but many do not.
- Plastic trash bags is a tough one to eliminate but there are companies out there that are offering compostable or biodegradable options made from starch.
- Plastic water bottles can be replaced by reusable water carafes or dispensers and glass cups.
- Pens can be swapped for wooden or bamboo options.
- Coasters can be replaced with reusable cork, bamboo or slate.
- Don’t offer snacks that are individually wrapped. Offer food on plates or in baskets.
POOLS AND SPA
- The spa, similar to guest bathrooms has an opportunity to eliminate the small disposable plastic bottles for scrubs and lotions and opt for bulk dispensers or bar products instead.
- Why are we wrapping slippers in plastic?! Consider putting slippers in reusable cotton bags.
- Poolside is were we see an abundance of waste. Sure, it’s easier to offer disposable cups but think about the amount of cups that are hauled out with the trash each day. These don’t just disappear, they are here forever. If you must use disposable be sure that you are using a biodegradable option made from paper or natural starches.
- Try to incorporate items made from local natural materials. These types of products usually have the added benefit of being wrapped in natural or reusable packaging instead of plastic.
- Don’t offer a plastic bags to carry purchases home. Many places that have bans on plastic bags still offer a “reusable” bag made out of thicker plastic. Do one better and give guests the option to purchase a reusable canvas bag.
The suggestions presented here merely scratch the surface of what is possible. I understand that some ideas are easier to make happen than others. Some are more costly than others. The idea here is to inspire you to hop on board with a swap that makes sense to you and present that idea to the decision makers on your property. Remember, even the small changes matter. Good luck!
WAHI HAWAII is a small family run business offering ocean friendly alternatives to single use plastics. After being inspired by a beach clean up on world oceans day 2018 we committed ourselves to helping create a world free of plastic pollution. We are members of 1% for the planet and donate a portion of every sale to local honu conservation programs.
We would love to hear your ideas and experiences on tackling the plastic crisis within your community or establishment and are happy to assist in finding solutions. Please share your thoughts and questions with us here: firstname.lastname@example.org