Hotels in UAE use green innovations to reduce costs and improve guest experience

Published on May 7, 2024

Strong ROIs and rising guest expectations encourage hotels to prioritise investments in more sustainable operations. We present three case studies:

Hot water

The Radisson Blu’s diesel hot water boiler was expensive to operate and highly polluting. The hotel replaced it with a thermodynamic solar system.

The hotel used an approximate 20-square-meter section of roof space to install 80 thermodynamic solar panels. Thermodynamic specialist Energie supplied the panels and created a tailor-made structure to fit the space. By placing the panels in front of the existing cooling towers, Energie was able to create a symbiotic relationship between the cooling towers and the panels, improving the operational efficiency of both.

The thermodynamic solar system is now producing all the domestic hot water needed for the hotel whilst assisting the chiller by reducing the temperature and the humidity level of the inlet air being pulled by the cooling tower.

This is possible because the byproduct of the thermodynamic solar panels heat exchange is cooling, which is then transferred to the surrounding air, which in turn is the inlet air for the cooling towers. This has led to a significant decrease for this inlet air when compared to the original condition of the ambient air temperature.

The switch from a diesel boiler to the thermodynamic solar system allowed the hotel to reduce water heating costs by 82%, giving a payback of 1.5 years.

To measure the results/performance, monitor the operation and enhance the system, a smart system was installed comprising of the following elements:

Drinking Water

Guests are increasingly concerned about the environmental impact of their travel. Single use products are common in hospitality and many hotels are looking at ways to reduce them. For example, many hotels have replaced soap and shampoo bottles with wall mounted dispensers which can be refilled by housekeeping.

Tackling water bottles is more challenging but JA Resorts and Hotels has successfully made the change.

JA Resorts and Hotels installed a reverse osmosis water treatment system, a bottle cleaning and filing system, and water dispensers at three Dubai properties – JA The Resort, JA Ocean View Hotel and JA Hatta Fort Hotel. By producing its own drinking water, the Group has removed 3 million plastic bottles per annum from its waste and is delighting guests with its complimentary filtered water and access to refill stations across the resorts. On top of that, JA Resorts and Hotels’ branded water flasks are a popular guest purchase.

The Group invested just over AED 1 million and expects to achieve an ROI over 4-5 years. They obtained HACCP certification and test the water three times a day.

JA Resorts and Hotels welcomes other hotels to visit the plant and learn from them (Atlantis, Jumeirah, Sofitel, Hayatt and others have visited). After their visit, Atlantis implemented their own on-site bottling plant (

Food waste

In an industry where every detail counts, the management of food waste stands as a crucial aspect of sustainable operations. Hilton, in a groundbreaking collaboration with Ne’ma (the national food waste initiative of the UAE), the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) West Asia and Winnow, has set a new benchmark with its Green Breakfast initiative.

In order to serve large numbers of guests in a short period of time, most large hotels provide a breakfast buffet. But buffets come at a cost in terms of food waste. The Green Breakfast initiative aims to address three barriers to food waste reduction: lack of awareness, unhelpful social norms, and misaligned incentives. By collecting and analyzing consumer behavior data, the project sought to implement scalable, meaningful corrective actions, not just within Hilton but across the hospitality industry.

At the heart of the initiative was the deployment of waste measurement systems across 13 UAE-based Hilton hotels, which collectively serve 1.8m breakfasts annually. Each hotel was equipped with Winnow’s AI technology and plate waste systems. 

These systems helped gather baseline data on pre-consumer and post-consumer waste, setting the stage for targeted interventions. These included regular review and coaching sessions with culinary teams, daily and weekly waste trend reports to inform production adjustments, optimized buffet designs, reduced plate sizes, strategic communication nudges, and comprehensive staff training.

The results of the Green Breakfast initiative were nothing short of remarkable:

  • A 62% reduction in overall food waste, translating into significant annualized savings in meals and CO2 emissions.
  • Pre-consumer waste saw a dramatic 76% reduction, while post-consumer waste decreased by 55%.
  • Bread and pastries emerged as the most wasted items post-consumer, leading to specific interventions like portion and size reductions.

Winnow’s role in providing data-driven insights was pivotal. The data revealed critical waste trends, enabling Hilton to implement effective strategies such as batch cooking, surplus redistribution, and encouraging guests to take pastries in doggy bags. The insights also highlighted the challenges of diverse guest profiles and the effectiveness of communication strategies.

The project distilled several best practices in food waste management:

Staff training on efficient food preparation, menu adjustments to decrease high-waste items, and operational efficiencies like batch cooking and made-to-order cooking approaches. Reducing portion sizes, using smaller plates, and engaging consumers with options like doggy bags were also key strategies. 

Hilton’s Green Breakfast initiative, in partnership with Winnow and other stakeholders, demonstrates the power of collaborative, data-driven approaches in tackling food waste in the hospitality sector. The project not only achieved significant waste reduction but also paved the way for broader industry adoption of sustainable practices.

For hospitality leaders, these insights and strategies offer a roadmap to implement similar initiatives, driving the industry towards a more sustainable, responsible future.

ISO 14001

These three case studies illustrate the very real financial and environmental opportunities for investment in the hospitality industry. ISO14001 is a great way to raise staff awareness, improve processes and tie initiatives together in an on-going programme of continuous improvement.

That’s why all Millennium hotels in Middle East and Africa are mandated to implement ISO14001.

The majority of hotels in the group are now certified and the rest are in the process of applying for it. As a result, staff are more mindful of their impact on the environment and the processes that have been put in place ensure that ‘what gets measured, gets done’ to quote Samuel Njoroge, Regional Quality Assurance Manager at Millennium Hotels and Resorts.

The Group is building on ISO14001 with the first draft of a group sustainability policy now prepared and a sustainability committee into place at a corporate level.

Source: Keith Bradley