Hotels up the fight against plastic and for water sustainability

You don’t have to travel much to realize that plastic water bottles are still a scourge and that good, clean drinking water is an ever more precious resource. I was reminded of these truths as I traveled in Europe recently. The tap water there may be treated and safe at its municipal source, but what about after it has traveled through pipes in an Italian medieval hilltop town that are who knows how old? Italians, and most Europeans, decidedly favor bottled mineral water from pristine sources.

So do hotel guests everywhere. And that, of course, typically means tons and tons of plastic bottling. At least 1 million single-use plastic bottles are consumed each minute globally, according to official estimates. And about a third of them end up in our oceans.

At the same time, climate change has accelerated the crisis of water scarcity in many parts of the world, with megadroughts and dramatic shifts in the reliability of groundwater sources that rely on seasonal snowfall and monsoons.

Paris-headquartered Accor, whose 40-plus hotel brands include Fairmont and Raffles, is pioneering a novel solution in the hospitality sphere to both problems. Recently, the hotel giant announced a partnership with SOURCE Global, a Scottsdale, Arizona, certified B-corporation operating in 52 countries on six continents that has innovated what it calls “the world’s first renewable drinking water system” for drinking water “made entirely off-grid, almost anywhere in the world.”

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Coupled with reusable glass bottling, this seems as perfect a solution to hydrating your group attendees, other hotel guests and staff as can be imagined.

Goodbye to 50,000 Plastic Bottles

blue water bottleSpecifically, the SOURCE Global system harvests endlessly renewable water vapor and transforms it to premium drinking water. The harvesting is done by SOURCE Global Hydropanels, a solar-powered technology. Fans in the panels draw ambient air through a water-absorbing material that traps the vapor, which is extracted and collected as water. Quality is monitored continuously. Minerals are added before the water is delivered in reusable glass bottles.

In its initial application, single-use plastic bottles of water at select Accor properties in Singapore will be replaced with SOURCE Global water. The company says each of its Hydropanels can offset more than 50,000 plastic bottles in its lifetime. Empty glass water bottles are collected, then cleaned and refilled near the SOURCE Global “Water Farm.”

“The SOURCE Global system harvests endlessly renewable water vapor and transforms it to premium drinking water.”

“We are really proud to be partnering with SOURCE Global on this incredible solution that allows us to serve sustainable drinking water at our hotels,” says Nigel Moore, Accor’s senior vice president of food and beverage for the Southeast Asia, Japan and South Korea. “This partnership was a natural extension of the work we are doing to ensure our hotels operate more sustainably and make a positive impact on the communities in which we are present.”

Water, Water Everywhere?

The project aligns with the Resource Sustainability Bill passed by the Singaporean Government in 2019 as part of its zero-waste initiative. In 2021, Accor was the first international hotel group to make a long-term commitment to decarbonize all its operations and achieve net zero by 2050—including a 46% emission reduction by the end of this decade, validated by the Science-Based Targets initiative.

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The big question, of course, is the scalability of a solution like SOURCE Global. The company says that “although water production can vary depending on the weather in your location, SOURCE technology is optimized for a wide range of conditions and can even produce water in low to medium sun and humidity. Today, SOURCE is making water for people in some of the most arid deserts in the world.”

And Singapore is not the first hospitality location to use this technology. On remote Denarau Island in Fiji, The Westin Denarau Island Resort & Spa relied on drinking water from a local wastewater treatment plant with uneven water quality. As at so many other group destinations around the world, visitors opted for single-use bottled water in plastic, which only added to the sustainability challenges of the region.

With SOURCE Global Hydropanels installed on the property, notes the company’s website, “the resort now exceeds guest’s expectations by providing premium, waste-free drinking water made renewable from sunlight and air.”

This article appears in the July 2023 issue. You can subscribe to the magazine here.