Trash and luxury travel are topics rarely uttered in the same sentence, but next month the two will be linked like never before when Four Seasons Hotel Austin undertakes one of the most ambitious waste diversion initiatives in the country – by a hotel or otherwise.
As the rest of the nation celebrates America Recycles Month in November, the downtown luxury Hotel will be celebrating the launch of its new Zero Waste program, a goal two years in the planning.
“The amount of passion and dedication that’s already gone into developing this initiative is inspiring,” says General Manager Rob Hagelberg. “I’m so proud to be part of a team that’s truly breaking new environmental ground in the state of Texas and beyond.”
Made possible due to an innovative partnership with Texas Disposal Systems (TDS) – the only facility in the US to handle all three components of waste (recycling, composting and landfill) – the new program aims to increase the Hotel’s waste diversion rate from less than 10 percent to 90 percent, effectively limiting the property to six square feet (half a square metre) of uncompacted trash daily. Most environmental groups define Zero Waste as diversion of 90 percent or more.
“We are proud to bring closed-loop recycling solutions to businesses in Austin who have similar goals as TDS, to divert as much as possible from the landfill,” says Jennifer Gregory, Marketing Director at TDS.
Once the program is up and running, Four Seasons Hotel Austin will join an elite group of Austin organizations with diversion rates greater than 50 percent, including Whole Foods and Dell Diamond, which divert 70 percent and 60 percent of their waste respectively, according to TDS. The City of Austin also has a goal of achieving Zero Waste, although the deadline for compliance isn’t until 2030.
In addition to buy-in from the Hotel’s 400+ employees, many of whom personally toured TDS’ state-of-the-art Materials Recovery and Compost Facility last month, part of the success of the program will rely on guest participation.
To this end, the Hotel is replacing the trash cans in all 291 guest rooms with specially designed containers featuring two compartments, one for recycling and another for trash. Rooms will also now contain a compost bag with easy-to-understand instructions.
“Many of our guests have been asking us to do more, so we know there’s a large number who will welcome the chance to participate,” says Hagelberg. “If guests choose not to, that’s fine too, but we’re going to make it so incredibly easy for them we’re confident many will at least make an effort.”
Those guests who do will find that their assistance reaps not only environmental benefits, but also real rewards since those who recycle or compost during their stay will receive a small card in their room acknowledging their support with a special thank you.
Complementing the efforts of the housekeepers, who will sort guest room materials further when needed, employees in every department of the Hotel will have revamped trash containers with instructions about which items constitute trash, compost and recyclable materials.
Ultimately, the hope is to make the program a closed loop by utilizing compost-enriched soil – made by TDS from the Hotel’s own compost supply – to fertilize the restaurant chef’s garden and the lawns and greenbelts surrounding the Hotel.
“Being able to literally see the benefits of our efforts will hopefully bring home the importance of this initiative, for both our employees and our guests,” says Hagelberg.