Eco-Efficiency: Benefiting the Environment and the Wallet
After conducting a rapid feasibility assessment, USAID determined that there was demand and potential for success implementing improved environmental practices in the small hotel sector of El Salvador, Nicaragua, and the Dominican Republic. Overall, 39 hotels participated in an eco-efficiency initiative. All of them committed themselves to implementing recommendations from the completed assessments, with technical assistance from the USAID program.
The Salvadoran hotel Árbol de Fuego (Fire Tree) is one of the participating hotels. Since 2008, the hotel had been struggling to cover fixed costs, in particular a con-stantly rising energy bill. Despite attending trainings on energy efficiency, the hotel staff found cost savings to be minimal and unsustainable. Marketing Manager Carolina Baiza says that with the assistance provided by the USAID Environment and Labor Excellence for CAFTA-DR Program, the hotel has made significant savings on electricity bills, water consumption, and other costs.
Eco-efficiency is a viable option for large and small businesses to increase their profitability. However, for this to occur, proposed changes to current practices must reduce the environmental footprint of the company while also generating cost savings through reduced energy use and water consumption.
Árbol de Fuego, which has 16 rooms, actively participated in this initiative by implementing 18 proposed measures in less than nine months. All of these measures have great potential to generate economic and environmental benefits in the short term. Among the measures proposed by the program, Árbol de Fuego changed 90 percent of incandescent light bulbs to LED and compact fluorescent bulbs, resulting in an estimated $3,000 saving over the bulb’s utility life. By investing less than $5 per room on repairing or replacing faucets and showers, the hotel experienced a 40 percent reduction in water consumption. The hotel has also eliminated the use of disposable water bottles, replaced by glass pitchers placed in the rooms. Through these changes, it is estimated that the hotel will avoid sending 4,500 plastic bottles a year to landfills. Moreover, solar panels were also installed to heat water. A comparison of data from 2009 and 2010 reveals that the average consumption of energy per guest per night fell by 38 percent, and peak demand dropped by 42 percent. This translates to a 59 percent overall reduction in electricity costs, even when hotel occupancy was 30 percent higher for the same period of 2010.
Árbol de Fuego is a model in the region because of the results that have been achieved to date as well as those that the hotel continues to pursue. This is a prime example of the impact that can be achieved through environmental coop-eration and corporate social responsibility.