W San Francisco Approaches 80 Percent Waste Diversion Rate

6/25/2010

Three years ago, the W San Francisco, a 404-room property located in the heart of the city’s downtown, had a waste diversion rate of 40 percent. Today, the hotel is approaching 80 percent with its 77 percent diversion rate and saving $60,000 a year. What changed? First of all, the hotel hired a new general manager, Michael Pace, formerly with the Kimpton Hotel & Restaurant Group. Pace helped create and launch that company’s Earthcare program. Hiring Roger Huldi, director of operations, has also turned out to be a very smart decision. Huldi is leading the effort to pursue zero waste, a goal Huldi readily admits is currently impossible in a hotel the size of the W San Francisco.

What has gotten the hotel close to 80 percent is an aggressive recycling program, food waste composting, smart purchasing, donation programs, employee incentives, and a lot of training. Housekeepers (considered part of the “style” department—not housekeeping—at the W) are a big reason the hotel’s recycling program is successful. Their floors are audited regularly and given a rating of from one to 10. Those most effective at recycling are rewarded. This approach, Huldi says, has given traction to recycling efforts. “We have training at our 8 o’clock briefings,” he says. “We talk about our scores.” The culinary team at the hotel was already on board with the initiative.

Composting Has Huge Impact

Recycling containers in guestrooms allow guests to participate. San Francisco has single-stream recycling which makes it easier to sort (or not sort) items. Partially used soap and shampoo is donated to an area organization. Cooking oil is collected and converted into biofuel. Organic food waste from the kitchen is hauled away and composted into useable soil. “Anything that’s organic, we compost,” Huldi says. “It has made a huge difference.”

Most companies delivering items in boxes or palettes take those items back for reuse or recycling. E-waste is properly recycled. Paper towels and printing paper purchased include 50 percent recycled content. Batteries and hangers are recycled, in-room telephone directories have been eliminated, and disposable utensils, plates and cups have been removed from all employee areas. Check-in is paperless and reusable laundry bags save more than 250,000 plastic laundry bags per year. Furniture items are donated when possible. For example, when office chairs were replaced, the used ones were donated to a local school.

The W San Francisco still has some work to do. Huldi says they are looking at eliminating plastic water bottles from guestrooms. Still, the hotel’s employees have accomplished a lot in a relatively short period of time. When the hotel reached a 75 percent diversion rate, employees were treated to a hot breakfast. The hotel’s overall approach to sustainability resulted in a LEED for Existing Buildings Silver rating earlier this year. The W San Francisco is one of only a handful of properties that have earned a LEED for Existing Buildings rating.

Congratulations to Michael Pace, Roger Huldi and everyone else at the W San Francisco for getting ever closer to zero waste.

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