The Top Eco-Brands

Travel/Tourism: Fairmont

Pioneering Hotel Company Encourages Locations to Compete for Environmental Innovation

By Published on .

Composting may not be the first thing you look for in a high-end hotel, but at Fairmont Hotels & Resorts, it's a perfect pairing.

Fairmont environmental ad
Leading the way
  • Retrofits older properties with compact fluorescent light bulbs and reflective windows
  • Purchases 390 megawatt hours of wind power
  • Effective Eco-Meet program for meeting planners.
Finding value in leftover food and recycling hotel wastewater are some of the dozens of conservation and environmentally sustainable practices embedded in the Fairmont business model, says Michelle White, 32, director of environmental affairs.

At the Fairmont Orchid Hawaii, the hotel company participates in a research project with the University of Hawaii to monitor the health of a coral reef alongside the hotel, where guests snorkel among sea turtles. And in Barbados, at the Fairmont Royal Pavilion, the company is working on a project to prevent beach erosion.

Fairmont's core environmental principles include buying local food and supplies wherever possible; conserving energy through efficient lighting, heating and materials; using green approaches to waste management, recycling and composting; and protecting local habitats.

"No two hotels are exactly alike in the way we approach environmental initiatives. ... We look for the best ways to conserve and to protect environmental resources," says Ms. White, who joined Fairmont in 2004 as manager of environmental affairs and was promoted last year to director. She has a master's degree in environment sciences and has served as an environmental protection officer for the provincial governments of Newfoundland and Nova Scotia.

Ms. White oversees a team of six, including two marketing and communications execs and four more with a scientific focus who help coordinate the hotels' environmental programs. Each hotel also has its own staff "green team."

Each year, two Fairmont hotels are recognized for superior environmental practices and performance in an internal competition, and one person receives an award for an outstanding idea or contribution to eco-friendly principles.

A pioneer among hotels in environmentalism, Fairmont in 1991 laid down its principles in a green-partnership guide outlining best practices and made it available to other tourism companies, Ms. White says. The latest edition was published last year.

To promote its initiatives, the company created print ads describing its commitment to the environment that appear in semiannual editions of Fairmont magazine, which is placed in all guest rooms. Up, Toronto, handles advertising.

The company also solicits feedback from guests. "Our hotels are located near oceans and rivers and mountains," Ms. White says, "and as much as we want to protect these environments, our customers also share a passion for these spots, and they show a lot of enthusiasm for our green-marketing principles."
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