Improved Housekeeping in the Hotel Industry

Hotel Inter Continental Sydney

To improve its environmental performance and save nearly $300,000 per year, the Hotel Inter Continental Sydney changed some practices that seemed insignificant in themselves but which collectively, wasted massive resources. The changes cost around $275,000 and no adverse affect on guest amenity. They included lowering the power of lights that were too bright, lowering the temperature of unnecessarily hot water, and better control of air conditioning. The Hotel, like all within the Inter Continental Group, is committed to reducing waste, improving energy efficiency and recycling where practical.


The Hotel Inter Continental Sydney
117 Macquarie Street
+61 2 9240 1215 ph
+61 2 9240 1310 fx


The Hotel Inter Continental Sydney is a five-star hotel near Circular Quay in the Sydney CBD. It has 498 guest rooms and 500 staff, four restaurants, extensive banqueting facilities and 24-hour room service. Food preparation, laundering and cleaning are constant activities.

The Hotel was constructed so as to preserve the facade of the nineteenth century Treasury building located on site. It was opened in 1985. Since operations started, Hotel management had been sensitive to environmental issues and in early 1991, a decision was made to formalise an environment policy. A group of delegated staff was selected by the Hotel Inter Continental Group to develop environmentally sensitive procedures for all group member hotels. The group’s efforts resulted in the publication of a comprehensive Environmental Procedures Manual.

Using this Manual, The Hotel Inter Continental Sydney, has formulated a policy to:

The process

In any large hotel, there are individual occurrences that are relatively insignificant, but contribute to unnecessary waste and expense when measured overall. These include lights and air conditioning in unoccupied rooms, water and energy use in laundering, and disposal of recyclable materials.

Twelve areas were identified by the hotel as priorities. These included:

Cleaner production initiatives

An environmental committee was established, and a waste management audit was conducted. An action plan was then devised, based on the audit report. This covered a wide variety of materials including paper, glossy magazines, cardboard, glass, plastic, plastic milk containers, metal, food, corks, linen, oils, batteries, styrofoam, toiletries, packaging, miscellaneous garbage, and even candles.

Paper and stationery was an area where significant cost savings were able to be made. All offices now have boxes for recyclable paper collection. The fully used paper is collected by a private contractor for recycling, while the re-usable paper is used internally for photocopying, notepads or stationery. Shredded paper is used for packaging when required.

Waste removal was another expensive area, requiring three collections a week. In 1992 the hotel purchased a cardboard bailer at a cost of $5,000. The cardboard is now compacted in half cubic metre bales and secured with string, greatly reducing its bulk. The number of weekly collections of garbage required has been reduced from three to two. Savings for the hotel were in excess of $25,000 per year, as calculated when installed.

Wine is consumed in substantial quantities at the Hotel Inter Continental Sydney, creating a rather unusual problem: over 6,000 corks every month for disposal. These are now being recycled into cricket balls, car gaskets and floor tiles. The hotel donates all corks to the war veterans village who then recycle them and use the proceeds to purchase items such as, wheel chairs, a lifting hoist for patients etc.

The hotel has developed an ongoing commitment to reduce energy consumption, and the 1997 reduction target was 2% from the previous year. A number of measures where energy and water use could be reduced, without adversely affecting guest amenity or staff safety, were introduced. They include:

Community involvement is central to the hotel's environmental commitment. The hotel is involved in a tree planting program in collaboration with the Hawkesbury Nepean Catchment Management Trust, which utilises old styrofoam boxes for native tree seedlings. The tree seedlings are housed in a greenhouse - donated and built by the hotel's engineering department - and the final saplings are then planted by hotel staff along the Nepean River catchment area. About 1500 native trees have already been planted in this ongoing program.

The hotel has assisted over 50 university students in their environmental related assignments. Many tours have been conducted for Tafe colleges and schools, illustrating the Hotel's environmental programme.

The hotel's environmental and resources policies are underpinned by a philosophical commitment to responsible use of materials. The hotel is also committed to sharing its expertise and systems with other businesses and the community, to promote waste reduction and energy efficiency.

The Hotel chefs have created a herb garden on the rooftop where various herbs, such as parsley, chives, basil, rosemary, lemongrass etc are grown in recycled styrofoam boxes. The herbs are grown free of chemicals and are used to garnish and flavour our restaurant dishes. In summer, approximately 40% of our herbs are subsidised by this herb garden.

Currently the hotel is cultivating a small worm farm. The worms are kept in recycled styrofoam boxes and fed with "green" kitchen scraps. The liquid waste from the worms or "worm tea" is used to fertilise the herb garden.

Advantages of the process

The environmental initiatives of the Hotel Inter Continental Sydney mean that:

The dollar savings have totaled an impressive $279,588. This figure was calculated prior to energy deregulation at the previous energy rates. Energy deregulation has assisted in further savings of $250,000 per annum.

Cleaner production incentives

In the checklist against the Inter Continental Hotel Group's Environmental Procedures Manual, the hotel scored 68% in 1991. Since reviewing the hotel's operations and procedures the hotel now scores 91% and plans further improvements.

The hotel is now considered to be the leader in Australia in hotel environmental and energy management.

The Cleaner Production Case Studies Directory is part of EnviroNET Australia.
For more information contact:
Environment Australia
Environment Protection Group
PO Box E305

Last modified: 10 July 1998