Don't be put off - every small step you take towards being green counts, says John Firrell, association secretary of the Considerate Hoteliers Association
The new edition of the Good Hotel Guide spawned the headline that hotels in UK were generally offering poor value and charging top prices - and in a weak moment I agreed to write a response to this.
It was something of a poisoned chalice because clearly there are hotel operators in this green and pleasant land that are offering shoddy products at high prices. However, while accepting this point I also emphasised that there are many genuinely caring and responsible hoteliers in Britain who try their hardest to keep prices reasonable, provide exceptional value and by so doing remain full and highly recommended.
I made this statement in the knowledge that if I were ever interrogated by "Paxo" I could trot out a long list of hotels that more than adequately fulfilled the title of "caring and socially responsible". During the course of its Green Month, Caterer has highlighted some of these hotels - just look at the four shortisted for the Hotel Cateys Green Hotel of the Year award.
Certainly a new breed of hotelier is emerging, driven by a desire to be socially responsible and environmentally sensitive. In the first instance, they're putting their money where their conscience is, but they're also reaping the benefits of a market intent on doing their bit to help the environment. The market - potential guests - have been persuaded by the media, by governments, by personal experience and by their children that something must be done to take better care of planet Earth. The world is changing and all of us in the hospitality industry must change to survive.
So what can we do? I read the other day about the Severn Barrage which would produce 5% of the UK's energy requirements, would take years to build and cost billions of pounds. In the next paragraph, we were informed that if everyone switched off unwanted lights at any given time, it would achieve the same objective.
Surely, the same argument could be put to many similar issues. Should we all become eco-warriors and march on Heathrow, or demand that political parties advocate green taxes over and above what they are already saying to appease our conscience?
Worthy dietitians will tell you that the best way to lose weight and keep it off is by sensible eating, so why not adopt a sensible approach to being green? There are dozens of simple things you can do to reduce energy, conserve water, reduce waste, support local foods and businesses, purchase ethically, care for your local wildlife and flora, involve your staff and support community projects. You can do this without spending huge sums of money, and as a result and as if by magic your business will improve, your profits will increase, you will be seen as socially responsible and caring, and you might even feel better about yourself.
Caterer features a potential hotel of the future and the technology that is or will be available to you in your quest to be more environmentally responsible. Years ago, when word processors first appeared, I was amazed at the magic of cutting and pasting when the equivalent used to be a waste bin full of non-recycled paper balls. Be prepared to be amazed at the advances that have been made in environmental science, much of which will be affordable.
But for now, just being socially responsible is a great start and will improve considerably the value you can offer your guests.
• The closing date for the 2007 Considerate Hotel of the Year awards is 23 November. For more details, log on to: www.consideratehoteliers.com.