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A Green Business Plan for an Environmentally Friendly Hotel

October 15, 2006

by Kit Cassingham

Writing a business plan for your bed and breakfast that focuses on the actions you will take to make it an environmentally friendly hotel is a good step toward impressing your lender. Because of the money that is saved with water and conservation, planning to operate with that degree of awareness will show your lender your business savvy.

Your bed and breakfast business plan is where you demonstrate all the thinking you've done for making your business successful. It should cover creating and growing income, and managing expenses. Also, you should address keeping your operating expenses down through conservation measures without hurting customer service or the guest experience.

Income is a reflection of success. To be successful you have to create a wonderful home-like atmosphere with B&B inn, with lots of creature comforts and hospitality. You have to get the word out through various marketing avenues and activities. Expenses support your income creation, like paying for advertising, food, amenities, and the little touches needed to create the atmosphere that will bring guests back, and have them refer their friends to you.

Expenses can get out of control, though. That's what this article is about; learning to manage expenses without detracting from the guest experience. Being environmentally sensitive, active and friendly is one aspect of controlling costs. Costs that can be managed through environmental steps include laundry, utilities (water, gas, electricity and trash), and lawn care. Developing a plan and policies around these costs will make a noticeable impact on keeping your expenses down without impacting your guests' experiences. Some environmental steps can even enhance the guest experience.

How can laundry policies have an environmental impact and keep your expenses down? By deciding that you will change laundry (sheets and towels) less frequently than daily -- say every three days, unless a guest requests a change sooner. Savings from that policy include labor, replacement of sheets and towels, water, energy, and cleaning supplies. Many people recognize the water and energy savings of implementing a sheet and towel re-use program, but they often forget about both the labor savings and replacement costs. If you wash your sheets and towels every three days instead of every day, it makes sense that they'll last at least twice as long, and probably even longer.

Water conservation is an easy policy to implement as you plan for your bed and breakfast. Low-flow fixtures and toilets will save you perhaps hundreds of gallons of water daily. Water costs are something I expect to start rising sharply, especially in the west, as the impending water crisis hits. If you are buying new fixtures and toilets, they'll be water conserving anyway. But you can readily retrofit existing fixtures for minimal money so that you can start realizing those savings immediately. Also, there are options that increase water savings. Federal law restricts toilets to 1.6 gallons per flush, but there are toilets available which reduce that consumption by half. Caroma brand toilets from Australia, a country which has had more severe water problems than the U.S. for years, makes a dual flush toilet. Dual flush toilets allow the user to select a half flush (.8 gallons) or full flush (1.6 gallons). And they do a great job flushing, too: you don't need to flush it two or three times to get the job done.

A front-loading washing machine is more water conserving than a top-loader, so give serious consideration to buying a front-loader as you outfit your laundry area operations. Commercial dishwashers tend to be more water conserving than home models, making them a good environmentally friendly purchase.

I think there is going to be both a water and energy crisis in this country, causing the costs of both to skyrocket. Taking steps now to minimize that impact on you and your B&B is smart planning. We already are seeing evidence of an energy crisis. How will you survive increasing water costs? How about rising energy costs?

Energy conservation is another easy way to save money. Using compact fluorescent light (CFL) bulbs anywhere you would put an incandescent bulb will save energy (25 percent of your energy bill goes to lighting), labor and thus money. The energy savings can be two-fold: you burn less electricity on a daily basis, and in the summer, because the bulbs generate much less heat, your air conditioning will be used less too. Labor savings come about because CFLs last up to ten times longer so you don't have to change burned-out bulbs nearly as often. CFLs are much better than they were in the old days, when they took several seconds to come on and cast a greenish light, and maybe made a buzzing sound. All of these problems have been solved: look for an "Energy Star" rating on the package, which ensures it meets current standards.

Improved insulation also helps save energy; both cooling and heating costs are lower with better insulation. Curtains and insulating window coverings are also important for energy management. By opening and closing them according to the weather, you can cut heat gain or loss, reducing your need for cooling and heating.

By recycling, with bins in guest rooms as well as in the common areas, you save on trash removal. If there is a recycling program in or near your community, you can reduce your trash by 50-75%. Recycling keeps reusable items out of the landfill and helps create products from used materials you can use in the inn. When you are taking sheets and towels out of service, give them to a local charity, like Salvation Army, Hospice, Goodwill, and other places that can use such items. You can also recycle furniture and equipment, helping others in a variety of ways.

Landscaping can help save money in a variety of ways. If you plant vegetation that's native to your area, it won't require as much additional watering. The time and water savings is fabulous, but you also don't have to worry about pests, fertilizing and mowing/trimming as much either -- all saving you money. Planting trees, vines and shrubs around the inn will also save energy by blocking sun in the summer and wind in the winter.

It's never too soon to start planning your savings program. Your banker will be impressed with your thought process and planning. Help yourself, attract guests, and help others in various ways by developing and implementing a green business plan. It's good business, and a good way to live.




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