Hotel sustainability is a process, not a yes-no thing: Eric Ricaurte [Video]

by | Jun 2, 2019 | Experts

Sustainability isn’t about a hotel or guest being perfectly eco-friendly; it’s waves of change where all of us do our bit, says Greenview founder Eric Ricaurte.  

Eric Ricaurte is a self-confessed treehugger. But, don’t worry, he doesn’t expect you to be one as well to help save the environment.

All he asks is that everyone do their bit in considering the environment with the end goal of addressing climate change – with the hospitality industry being no exception.

Eric founded Greenview as a boutique firm specializing in the metrics, measurement, and reporting of carbon and other sustainability performance indicators within travel & tourism. He began his career canoeing people through the jungle, spending 10 years working in ecotourism across Costa Rica, Mexico and Brazil in operations and as a consultant.

Throughout these formative years, Eric became fascinated with the concept of carbon sequestration for value it placed on nature and the opportunities it provided for conservation as well as tourism. He started researching the topic in 2001 and fast forward 10 years later, ended up as a research fellow at Cornell University where he authored the study “Developing a Sustainability Measurement Framework for Hotels: Toward an Industry-wide Reporting Structure.” Eric was also selected as the technical consultant to facilitate the development of the methodology for the Hotel Carbon Measurement Initiative.

On the sidelines of TOPHOTELWORLDTOUR Singapore, Eric spoke exclusively to TOPHOTELNEWS on how sustainability in hospitality involves us all and how he’d like to see hotels source 50% of their energy from renewables in his lifetime and toward a 100% by 2050.

Sustainability is hospitality equals many waves of changes

Eric: 500 years ago, most people didn’t believe that the Earth revolved around the Sun, right? It was blasphemous to say that. And 50 years ago, most people didn’t actually believe that what we do on the ground affects the sky. And what we do on land affects the water. But now, most people, and we’ve reached that tipping point, recognize that. And so, it’s the change and the gradual change, and how that then plays out in our industry, is what I really want to make sure we can just not inhibit by that old thinking.

Really for sustainability, everybody needs to talk about it, everybody needs to look at it. It doesn’t have to be your self-identity, you don’t need to live, eat, breathe it. You don’t need to have that as part of your every day, but you do need to at least consider it. And so, that’s my biggest frustration is people tend to think that either you’re an eco person or you’re not, so a hotel has to be green or not, that it’s a yes-no thing. When really it’s just waves of changes that we need to bring about in everybody.

End goal is addressing climate change & renewables

Eric: We have to think and be practical about what’s going to move the needle. And what is really going to actually solve climate change, because obviously climate change is the biggest issue. There’s so many issues around sustainability, environment, and social issues, but climate change has to be number one and we’re kidding ourselves if we think it’s not. And so, the number one metric I’d like to see going forward is what percent of my energy at the hotel is generated from renewable sources? That needs to be at least 50%, in my lifetime it actually needs to be more toward a 100% by 2050.

But I think the mindset is, some things are going to cost us more, some things are going to save us money, but we need to bucket it collectively in the sustainability lens. Guests care much more about waste now, which is why it’s getting attention, and plastic, and materials. What we’d like to see is people approaching sustainability with this holistic view.

How is Greenview a catalyst for hotel sustainability?

Eric: At Greenview, we really want to be the catalyst. We want to be that bridge between the hotel industry and sustainability. We want to speak both those languages. Our business model, first and foremost, is we are a sustainability consulting and research firm and we differentiate ourselves in that our base is the company and not the property. So, we consult for hotel companies, the brands, the operators, the owners, at that company level on sustainability strategy, on programs, data, and reporting. And so, we work within that niche and we’ve had over 10 years of experience in it.

The second is really the other advantage of sustainability which the basic premise is we can’t solve it ourselves. It’s a problem, an issue, a challenge, a sustainable development that everybody needs to collectively do. And so, that means that we need collaborative solutions. So, we at Greenview have found collaborative solutions, we keep seeking, what are the things that we can do that bring the industry together: where they win and we win?

We started that with common metrics, common measurement on carbon, benchmarking of carbon. We started that then with the Hotel Owners for Tomorrow Coalition to help actually get the dialogue going more. If we can get the credit for planting the seed, then one day we get to see the beautiful trees grow.

Thoughts on the TOPHOTELWORLDTOUR

Eric: Let’s not kid ourselves, we’re here to network, let’s do networking right. What I like is the actual, the intro sessions on how to network better. We come out knowing everybody, knowing more people. I personally would probably not gravitate toward the collective industry representation and knowledge body that I would here because I’m talking with people who sell lights. I’m talking with people who design hotels, architects, developers, owners.

And then finally, the most interesting things to me about TOPHOTELWORLDTOUR is how much you really, really value that cocktail at the end of the day. Because it’s like if we’ve been hanging out, we’ve been bonding together, we’ve been in this room, let’s have a drink, we deserve it. And, this is F&B, this is hospitality, so you always get some great cocktails. 

Eric Ricaurte was a delegate at TOPHOTELWORLDTOUR Singapore 2019. To attend, address or sponsor future TOPHOTELWORLDTOUR events around the world, contact TOPHOTELPROJECTS Head of Global Events & Conferences Kayley van der Velde.

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