CINCINNATI—Going green is nothing new, and with the hospitality industry all over sustainability trends, hotels are finding creative ways to stay eco-friendly. Imagine a recycled hospitality employee’s uniform being repurposed as acoustical padding for the auto industry. It may sound like a reach, but through a collaborative effort between JW Marriott and Cintas, these types of sustainable efforts are not far off.
In addition to its new collection of Cintas-designed garments, JW Marriott is implementing a garment-recycling program, putting retired uniforms to use.
“After a hotel receives its new garments, we may send back its retired wardrobes to Cintas for recycling. We ship these using the same boxes in which the new garments arrive. Each box holds 25-30 pounds of textiles,” said Mitzi Gaskins, VP/global brand leader, JW Marriott.
This collection process will continue through Aug. 31 and, once received by Cintas, the uniform provider will collaborate with Leigh Fibers Inc., a company that manages textile waste. The uniforms will then be recycled into fibers that will be used for multiple purposes, giving life to otherwise wasted wear.
“This program is the first of its kind in hospitality, and it is an honor that we are taking the lead on this groundbreaking initiative,” Gaskins said. “It’s a unique closed-loop program that helps hotels divert waste from landfills.”
According to Gaskins, the hotel brand’s role will be to encourage its properties to ship these garments to Cintas, which is responsible for managing the relationship with Leigh Fibers.
“While the hospitality industry has implemented numerous other sustainability initiatives, it’s always great when innovative and creative ideas can further support the environment,” Gaskins added.
It may seem like a small effort, but textile waste—considered municipal waste—poses a major problem, totaling 16 million tons in 2016 (according to the Environmental Protection Agency), a significant increase from 1.76 million tons generated in 1960 (according to the American Apparel & Footwear Association).
JW Marriott currently has 26 properties in the U.S. with 29 set to open in the next few years, Gaskins said, making the recycling program that much more impactful.
“JW Marriott is continuing to grow and carry on the Marriott heritage of excellence and intention through these sustainability initiatives. With so many new properties in the pipeline, the potential impact JW Marriott can have on the environment is incredible,” she said.
Although the program has the potential to reduce these numbers, these types of initiatives start on a small level and, in this case, grow with employee enthusiasm. Hotel workers are responsible for bringing their retired wardrobe to their management team for recycling, and then hotel leadership packages and returns them to Cintas.
“Today’s workers are increasingly invested in their company’s sustainability initiatives. This program is a great way to get our associates engaged in an initiative that will have a large impact on the environment,” Gaskins said.
Gaskins, however, acknowledged the challenge of getting employees on board, something common with any new brand program.
“With any new initiative being launched across numerous locations, there may be a challenge in securing buy-in from employees,” she said, but explained Cintas’ hands-on help with getting it going. “Ahead of the launch, Cintas provided detailed information about how the recycling process works and its value. By communicating to our associates the importance of diverting garments from landfills, we can reach higher participation and recycling rates.”
In addition to the garment recycling program, JW Marriott is launching JW Gardens, sustainable sourcing for fresh herbs and vegetables to be used throughout all F&B experiences at new and existing properties. This also includes kids programming that educates children on sustainable living and exploring natural elements, Gaskins said.
“We will continue to see an increase in green initiatives in the hotel industry. As people become more aware of environmental concerns, it is important for leaders in the hospitality industry to expand their own knowledge of different sustainability practices. Hotel brands seem to be incorporating sustainable practices, and it is likely that we will see more of this as environmental concerns become more and more prevalent,” she said.
Many of the JW Marriott properties have also switched to all-natural bath amenities in recyclable containers; many room keys have switched from plastic to paper, wood or bioplastic; and the brand is moving away from plastic water bottles with more filtered water dispensers and complimentary refillable water bottles.
“As both JW Marriott and Cintas are deeply committed to environmental initiatives, we wanted to ensure we incorporated sustainability into the process,” Gaskins said. “One of JW Marriott’s core values as a company is to be intentional and deeply understand our environmental impact in the world around us.”
JW Marriott has also launched a new uniform collection with Cintas across 51 of the brand’s properties worldwide. Approximately 10,000 associates are outfitted in the new collection, which includes Chef Works and Design Collective by Cintas garments.
“The Design Collective by Cintas designers worked closely with associates at our hotels to solicit their feedback regarding wardrobe concepts. This level of involvement ensured that each piece of the collection is both functional and fashionable, and that employees would be excited to wear the garments,” Gaskins said.
The new collection is for all departments and was designed to allow more freedom for employees to mix and match and incorporate more style into their wardrobe through color choices and prints.
This, along with the properties encouraging sustainability, keeps with the brand’s interest in employee satisfaction, while also instilling a sense of social responsibility into its staff.
“JW Marriott is inspired by the natural beauty of the world, and our brand is deeply aware of the impact the hospitality industry has on the environment,” Gaskins said. “JW Marriott takes pride in committing to this kind of sustainability initiative.” HB