The ultimate guide for easy eco lifestyle

Less waste hospitality – a guide on running a sustainable hotel

Less waste hospitality – a guide on running a sustainable hotel

A guide for owners and managers of hotels, apartments, agritourism.

If you run a hotel, rent an apartment, or have a guesthouse

and want to make it more environmentally friendly,

this guide is exactly for you! 

by Jason Briscoe / Unsplash

Still using synthetic detergents?

Worried about the amount of waste from single-use products?

This eco guide will show you how to save the planet and your finances!

More and more brands and businesses try to be more eco-friendly but there are sectors for which it seems particularly hard. One of them is the hospitality industry because many people believe there are top-down laws demanding owners to use strong cleaning supplies or single-use accessories to ensure greater hygiene.

However, there are no such rules and accommodations can still be greener! And you don’t need any paid certifications, massive amounts of work or a big budget – you only need to be willing to implement these changes!

Below you’ll find many tips from international experts which will help you make better choices for your business, your client’s health and the future of our planet.

And if you manage to implement the changes suggested here (primarily in the cleaning sector), we will grant your business the Ethy Certificate – completely free of charge – by adding you to the only global eco map: Ethy Maps.

Thousands of people from all over the world benefit from this multi-industry database of ethical and ecological places. Therefore, the Ethy Certificate will also translate into greater profits for your business!

Natural cleaning products

You would probably agree that the cleaning products you use should be both effective and healthy for your guests, right?

At Ethy, we have one primary criterion for evaluating a place: the detergents. This is because they have a huge impact on the environment – not only on the water and soil in the neighbourhood, but also on the natural resources needed for their production. Moreover, many people are not aware that their cleaning supplies often contain ingredients based on…fuel oil!

by Nefeli Kavva / Unsplash

Which cleaning supplies should you choose then?

In the first place, we highly recommend using solutions such as citric acid, baking soda, alcohol or vinegar – you can find the Ethy guide on eco-cleaning (with recipes!) here.

DIY eco detergents also mean much less waste from packaging – which translates into savings for your business and no need for more fuel oil.

However, in case you don’t have enough time or human resources to make your own DIY zero waste detergents, there are a few brands you can try out with a clear conscience.



sustainable & ethical production
natural ingredients
quality of cleaning
price and volume

Ecozone – an international company making certified cleaning products for bathrooms, kitchens, and floors (all in big containers too!), as well as offering a wide range of useful eco-friendly cleaning tools.

Bio-D – a manufacturer of natural cleaning supplies from the UK which offers products for cleaning floors, kitchen tops or toilets as well as dishwasher tablets, antibacterial soaps, or disinfectants – all in both small and large volumes.

Sonnet – a certified German producer of washing-up liquids, disinfectants, limescale removers, cleaning floors, toilets, or kitchens as well as handy sprays for wiping windows, tiles, or mirrors.

Frosch – a German brand making scouring creams for tiles or sinks, limescale removers, liquids for (wooden) floors, bathroom, and kitchen detergents as well as natural dishwasher tablets or toilet deodorizers.

It is worth mentioning that all the above-mentioned brands also offer laundry detergents, fabric softeners and some of them – also cosmetics. And these are only a few of the best eco-detergent companies.

Obviously, you should search for eco businesses selling their products in your region since there are even smaller brands making great cleaning supplies which might only be available in your country.

Sustainable laundry

Have you ever thought how many detergents are typically used to wash clothes in the hospitality industry? Regardless of the form (powder, liquid, or capsules), if you run a guesthouse, the number of washes of bedsheets, carpets, pillows or blankets is very high.

Sometimes you also need to have certain materials dry-cleaned if they are not suitable for a normal washing machine or are particularly stained.  Unfortunately, using conventional laundry detergents negatively impacts the pH and biodiversity of ground water as well as our own health.

by Dan Gold / Unsplash

Therefore, you should strive to choose non-toxic, natural detergents. But which brands offer them in bigger volumes at good prices? From the above mentioned companies we recommend Ecozone, Bio-D and Frosch since all of them also sell laundry detergents, fabric softeners or even stain removers with ingredients much better than the typical ones.

However, there are more businesses around the world which make natural washing liquids. When looking for eco-friendly cleaning products, try to check certifications or analyze the ingredients (we will publish a “cheat sheet” on that soon!).

And what to do with the dry-cleaning? It is easier than you think! You can search on Ethy Maps for professional eco cleaners who use certified detergents, wash clothes using steam and never rely on strong chemicals and bleaches. Luckily there are a more and more places like that so maybe there is one near you?

Ethy Maps is constantly being updated by the Ethy contributors, which is a very relevant aspect of our global network. If you know of any eco-friendly place, please be so kind and check if it’s already on Ethy Maps. If you don’t find it, we would highly appreciate if you add it to the map.

Eco-friendly cosmetics

If your hotel, apartments or resort provides clients with cosmetics such as soaps, shampoos or shower gels it is worth taking into consideration that guests are becoming increasingly more aware of their impact on the environment, the influence of the products they use on their health as well as the ethics of the companies they support (like testing on animals). 

Because of that, we should all strive to run our businesses more sustainably and choose cosmetics with no adverse effects for the planet and no nasty oil-based ingredients. From our experience you might also want to choose smaller brands as this way you support your local economy, and you have a chance to negotiate better terms of cooperation.

At the moment there is an incredible number of companies making eco-friendly cosmetics and we will not list all of them here. We can recommend you, though, to check out brands local to you on Ethy Maps or browse through web pages such as Ecco Verde, Plastic Freedom, Amazingly or even iHerb. There are many companies specialized in making natural, certified cosmetics and accessories for hotels so you should definitely look for one from your area!

by Paul Postema / Unsplash

Plastic-free accommodation

European Union has already banned the use of single-use plastic cutlery, dishes, straws or cotton swabs. Moreover, from the regulations it seems that even the take-away containers and cups will have to be limited to minimum. What does it mean for hotels and restaurants? Changes!

They will luckily not be as hard as they seem – if you apply the tips presented below you will easily manage to make these environmentally-friendly swaps!

What can replace single-use plastic?

Cups and straws

> on site: regular cups and reusable straws with your company’s logo (made of glass, ceramic, porcelain – for sure the choice of local handicraftsmen and producers is large)

> take-away: compostable disposable cups (made of raw paper, plant cellulose or wheat bran)

Dishes and cutlery

> on site: regular dishes and cutlery (glass, ceramic, porcelain, aluminium, silver…)

> take-away: ecological take-away packaging such as Husky, Stasher or Huli (as an additional commercial offer for your business)

> take away: compostable disposable dishes and boxes (made of bran, raw paper or wood)

Food and water in the rooms

> reusable glass bottles and siphons with filtered tap water

> healthy snacks from the minibar without the plastic packaging (fresh fruit, nuts, dried fruits)

by Toa Heftiba / Unsplash

Miniature hotel cosmetics

> liquid version in dispensers (which is also more hygienic)

> bamboo brushes and ear buds

> if you care about the consistency of the decor, and you have plastic soap dishes and brush cups – you can replace them with the ones made of glass or porcelain, but think about what to do with those you give up – it’s worth finding a second home for them, because using it is the most ecological to use what you already have or hand it over to subsequent owners.

And when speaking of plastic, there is one more extremely important aspect: make sure to recycle properly and provide separate bins also in each guest room. It is vital for the environment since improperly managed waste contributes to greater emissions while some materials (like glass, paper plastic or metal) could be used again and organic scraps could be composted, returning the nutrients to the soil.

Saving water, energy and gas

We don’t think anyone needs to be reminded how important it is to save resources such as water, electricity and gas. In recent years, droughts have increasingly affected not only our gardens, but also farmlands, significantly increasing food prices, and in some regions there was even a shortage of water for the inhabitants!

The ONZ reports show that we need to lower the carbon footprint by 40% until the 2030 and untill then, the global water demand would raise up also by 40%. We need to go zero waste by 2050.

In turn, electricity and gas are called non-renewable resources, which means that they will soon run out, and their extraction pollutes the environment to a great extent. Therefore, the point is not to exploit them completely, but rather to use energy sources that are much better for health, the environment and finances.

Take a look at the offer of the photovoltaic industry (currently there are many companies offering favourable solutions) and the new Red Snake technology, which is based on heating rooms using infrared.

Consider replacing your gas furnace with a heat pump, which not only saves the Earth’s resources, but also significantly reduces your bills!

Remember not only to encourage guests to save water, electricity and gas, but also to:

> clean the rooms and wash sheets less frequently when guests stay in for longer (more and more hotels notify their clients about such eco approach)

> run the dishwasher only when it is full

> choose flowers, shrubs and trees that do not require frequent watering.

by Flash Dantz / Unsplash

Less food waste

Did you know that if food waste was a country, it would be the third biggest emitter of greenhouse gases right after China and the USA? It means not only that we throw out a lot of edible food, which is scarce in other regions but also that we lose the opportunity to produce a valuable fertilizer: compost.

What can you do to limit the amount of wasted food?

> if your guests are unable to eat the whole meal, suggest packing the rest for later (in reusable or compostable containers)

> check on Ethy Maps or find out from your neighbours if there is a social fridge or a foodsharing station in the area – this way, food that you do not use (semi-products or ready-made meals) has a chance to feed those who especially need it. You can also use applications such as Olio and TooGoodToGo to prevent food waste.

> if you can, introduce meals to order instead of a buffet – this way you have more confidence that everything will be eaten, because guests ask for what they really want. This way you will also certainly spend less on food for the guests and generate less bio waste!

> take advantage of so called “ugly fruits” initiatives like the Imprefect Produce, Wonky Veg Box, OddBox or the Portuguese Fruta Feia, which offers vegetables and fruit straight from the local farmers – but much cheaper due to their “not perfect” shape, which is not (yet) accepted by large stores.

by Wojna Warzyw

Equipment and interior design

You probably already have the furniture equipment for your guesthouse, hotel or resort, but if you need to buy chairs, tables or any other objects, think about whether you can buy them in this way:

Second-hand furniture: there are plenty of them on websites such as OLX, eBay, Facebook or Craigslits. Some are ready for immediate use, and some encourage you to let your imagination run wild and transform them into truly extraordinary, unique designs that will probably catch the attention of your guests.

Upcycled furniture: more and more handicraftsmen and women make beautiful furniture from recycled materials. You can find some of them on Ethy Maps in the Buy> Home> Furniture category (here you can select the “Upcycling & Recycling” filter). And we encourage you to create some things yourself, e.g. coasters and trays made of wine corks.

Furniture from certified natural materials: pay attention to how furniture and interior accessories are produced, especially wood, which should be FSC certified (meaning that it comes from sustainably-managed forest).

Bedsheets made of linen, hemp, bamboo or organic cotton: they stay beautiful and soft for much longer and are safer for health. Linen and hemp need up to 80% less water than cotton!

Scents greatly influence our emotions: they are often used by hotels in the hall, at the reception and in guest rooms. Instead of toxic, pseudo-natural flavoured sticks or sprayers, invest in organic, ecological essential oils and diffusers – they have many advantages, for example: they reduce the amount of toxins and allergens in the air, instantly improve your mood, increase mental efficiency and moisturize the air. The highest quality essential oils on the market we have verified so far are Young Living essential oils of therapeutic grade, which we also use at Ethy all the time (check them out here). We also recommend you to check for your local organic essential oils and herbs producers.

by Young Living

Gadgets / accessories

If you sell souvenirs from your hotel, instead of plastic toys, magnets falling of the fridge or key chains falling apart and missing, you can offer your guests much more elegant, durable and practical gifts, maybe even with your company’s logo:

> reusable bottles, cups or lunchboxes
> wooden pens or pencil
> material bags

Local collaborations

We all know that supporting inhabitants from our surroundings is very valuable from the community-building perspective. This is, however, also important for the quality of the purchased goods as well as their carbon footprint – the less a given products must be transported, the better!

If you can, try cooperating with nearby businesses and buy locally – you can do it by getting involved in co-ops nearby or by talking to the producers directly (for ex. on farmer’s markets). Such cheeses, fruits and vegetables or preserves will be also much tastier!

Concluding remarks

We know the amount of suggestions in this guide may seem like a lot. However, all you need to do is start with what the current situation allows you to do – step by step you can strive to create a greener business without scolding yourself for minor mistakes along the way, but focusing on gradual improvement.

Remember that all the elements mentioned in this guide are really important for our common future and the more you introduce, the better for you, your guests and our environment!


With love – good luck!
Małgorzata Bukowczyk & Julia Mafalda