Edge Hotel School Hospitality Management students keen to play their part in supporting the University’s sustainability agenda have made real progress towards a more sustainable future at Wivenhoe House Hotel.

Thanks to their initiative, plastic waste has been cut significantly with the introduction of new wooden key cards.

An inspired idea

As part of their sustainability module, five students decided to take on the project of reducing plastic usage at Wivenhoe House.

They were inspired by the Sustainability Hospitality Alliance which in 2021 reported that “there are currently between 75-199 million tons of plastic waste in the ocean. Plastics are the most harmful and persistent marine litter (UNEP, 2021). Hotels use plastic and single-use plastics within their operations and should do everything they can to reduce the use of plastics as it demonstrates the commitment to reducing their environmental footprint.”

The challenge

The students observed that one of the ways that Wivenhoe House was using plastic in their operations, was by using plastic key cards made of Polyvinyl chloride (PVC) and were inspired by debates at COP26.

Hospitality Management student Toby Barratt explained: “Hearing from environmental scientists, who have explained that it is critical to reduce emissions now in order to limit global temperature rise to 1.5C, was the main inspiration for our project. COP26 had a profound impact on our group and made us determined to look at ways we could improve Wivenhoe House Hotel.”

They decided it was time to switch to a more sustainable option.

The biggest obstacle for the team when they started exploring a contemporary digital key card system for the hotel was the cost.

Undeterred, they persevered.

A sustainable solution

Hitting upon the idea of wooden key cards, the team found they offered the best sustainable and affordable solution.

“The reason why we chose to go for wooden key cards is because this contingency plan still follows our key aim which is to reduce the amount of plastic used in WHH whilst being more economically friendly for the hotel,” they said.

It was important to the students that these were produced in the UK, to keep the carbon footprint as low as possible and increase the overall sustainability of Wivenhoe House Hotel.

The impact

After pitching the idea to the hotel manager at Wivenhoe House, their idea was accepted, and the hotel immediately replaced the plastic key cards with the sustainable wooden ones.

Lecturer Dimitri Lera who leads on the sustainability project, is proud of the real change his students have made: ‘it is great that change was promoted by students and solely by students, while WHH and EHS are making efforts towards sustainability they are still part of a larger organisation and change will require time and perseverance.”

That’s why Edge Hotel School is putting sustainability at the heart of their operations. Workshops have helped embed sustainability into the curriculum and this summer Dimitri has presented his sustainability module to University partners and at the AdvanceHE conference.

Get in touch if you’d like to find out more or suggest ideas for the Edge Hotel School’s sustainability agenda.