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Concept to Save Hotels Money on Lost, Left-Behind Items Wins Cornell Sustainability Competition


ITHACA, N.Y.—“The Giving Bag,” a concept to save hotels money on lost and left behind items, is the winning concept in the third annual Cornell student sustainability competition, sponsored by Schneider Electric, a partner of the Cornell Center for Hospitality Research. The competition is conducted in conjunction with the annual Sustainability Roundtable at the Cornell School of Hotel Administration (SHA). The roundtable brought nearly three dozen international hotel practitioners and researchers to the school to discuss current sustainability trends and strategies.

Creators of “The Giving Bag,” Lilia Karimi and Quinn Cox, both students at SHA, won the first-place prize of $2,000, thanks to Schneider’s sponsorship. They sought to solve an expensive problem for hotels—what to do with lost and left-behind items. Their research determined that about 20 percent of the items left in guestrooms are intentionally left behind. By providing a bag for guests to stash these items, hotels could easily donate them to charity.

“Each year, these student concepts become more comprehensive,” said R. Sean O’Kane, director, hotel strategic alliances and thought leadership for Schneider Electric. “I can see any of these concepts being developed for implementation.”

In an unusual outcome, two other concepts tied for second place, winning $750 each. They were “Challenge of the Rising Cost in Food Waste Processing,” presented by graduate students Mingjue Yin, Minjia Yang, and Xiaoyi Yin, and “Glocal Hospitality,” developed by SHA undergraduates Nicole Andress, Rodney Harris, and Theresa Williams. To address food waste, the graduate student team designed a comprehensive approach that includes guest feedback on portion sizes and identifying donation opportunities for surplus food, as well as timely purchasing and composting. The “glocalization” concept involves ramping up existing international development practices to incorporate local customs, practices, and materials in international hotel operation, with a goal of integrating the hotel with its local environment.

Six student teams presented their concepts to the roundtable participants the night before the actual session. Roundtable participants then voted to rank the three finalists—after another look at the concepts during a break in the roundtable proceedings.

Go to The Center for Hospitality Research.