Sustainability Solutions for the Hospitality Industry

Hospitality Q&A with Sustainability Director Natalie Cooke

Based on your experience, what are the leading sustainability concerns you are addressing with the hospitality sector?

For the past nine years, I have collaborated with industries across the States to help implement projects that uphold environmental sustainability. Sectors like the hospitality industry are setting goals and analyzing motivational key factors such as: decreasing costs and satisfying (attracting new) guests to address the innovative ways they can improve their sustainability and operational practices.

The hospitality industry, as we already know, is a significant generator of waste and consumer of natural resources, i.e., energy and water. Since Waste Harmonics is a vendor managing waste contracts, we actively look for ways to engage our clients and suggest practices for improvement. For example, capturing food that is thrown into traditional trash receptacles is a huge opportunity. Or, items outside of the traditional trash stream such as linens, toiletries, bed springs and electronics typically have room for program improvements.

Where do you recommend a hotel management company or brand that is interested in investing in sustainability to begin?

I completed a preliminary consultation with a potential client: a national hotel chain with nearly 200+ locations. They previously had no investments in sustainability at the corporate level nor had considerations been made at the managerial level. Thus my recommendations began with investing in Waste Harmonics, our Sustainability Group and the basic programming we provide. Since then, this hotel chain has become a current customer of Waste Harmonics. As the Director of the Sustainability Group, my approach with this hotel, and with others, is always to begin by reviewing existing programs because there are always ways to capture more value. We also evaluate your waste stream to get an understanding of your complex waste profile and will review your operational procedures to consider opportunities for improvements.

What are your thoughts on how to provide continuous commitment to sustainability?  

Analyzing both initial and long-term ROI’s are at the forefront of any discussion regarding continuous commitment and investments to sustainability. The Hospitality industry can benefit from creatively thinking of ways to use their sustainability investments to connect with their guests, ultimately impacting the ROI. I am continuously challenging our Sustainability Group and corporate team members on how to use sustainability goals and programming to attract and engage clients in an unforgettable way. This is particularly fitting for the hospitality industry because offering an “experience” is paramount. Why not leverage sustainability to this end?

How do you quantify sustainability for the hospitality industry?

There are several certification programs designed to help the industry measure and track sustainability efforts. Varying in their degrees of investments, these programs can serve as great resources.  On the waste side, it’s typical to see companies note how many pounds of annual materials were diverted from the landfill. Although, these numbers often do not capture the whole story. The majority of my work representing the Sustainability Group at Waste Harmonics consists of gathering all the data points of a corporation’s waste output, consulting on the most cost effective and operationally solutions and designing interactive reporting to capture otherwise neglected data points. This not only incorporates traditional trash and recycling services but all waste streams. Surprisingly, this can be hard to gather. Most companies do not have a consolidated, systematic way of collecting data. In addition, the waste industry has lacked the transparency needed for insightful reporting. At Waste Harmonics, we quantify sustainability through transparency and analytics that empower businesses to understand their waste streams. It is this foundation that allows us to drive change.

Our strength in waste management consolidation and innovative recycling approaches make us a true partner for achieved sustainability. Contact Natalie at or give us a call at 585-924-9640 to find out how we can customize solutions for your business.