Eco-friendly housekeeping: How to keep hotels, the planet clean and safe

Eco-friendly travel has gone from niche to normal in recent years, but the COVID-19 pandemic and the need for strong sanitizing agents to keep hotel workers and guests safe has put owners and managers in a bind. How do you keep your property free from dangerous pathogens without using dangerous chemicals? 

Over the last year, the Aspen Meadows Resort in Aspen, Colo., took advantage of its position as home to a branch of The Aspen Institute to learn more about keeping the property operating sustainably. The Aspen Institute is a global nonprofit organization committed to helping solve important challenges facing the United States and the world, including environmental issues.

“‘Balancing is the key word here,” said Richard Stettner, VP for Aspen campus facilities and operations. The property uses a peroxide multisurface cleaner and disinfectant from Ecolab, and housekeepers spray all high-touch surfaces like door handles and faucets first and let it sit for between five and 10 minutes while they clean other areas. 

The hotel team, Stettner said, has spent significant time with both Ecolab and managing company Wyndham Hotels & Resorts to make sure that the peroxide cleaner is the best pick for the hotel and that it is being used correctly. The hotel team has diagrammed the guestrooms and trained the staff with a list of specific steps to make sure each area and touchpoint is cleaned in a specific order for maximum efficacy. “Everyone's following that same process so that we are making sure that all the rooms are cleaned up to our expectations,” he said. 

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The hotel also has scheduled extra attendants in the public areas to wipe down all doors and other high-touch points. The extra staff costs the property about $200 per day, Stettner estimated.


In September, “beneficial bacteria” company Novozymes launched the Microvia line of probiotic cleaning products. The microbial technology is meant to achieve deep cleaning on hard surfaces without using harsh cleaning and disinfection agents. “Instead of cleaning with the harshest chemistry possible, we see that there's a biological alternative that actually adds more bacteria—changing the paradigm—to the surfaces,” said Clemens Heikaus, head of microbial cleaning at Novozymes. Those probiotics can fit into microscopic cracks in the surface and continue eliminating germs after the initial cleaning is done.

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Harsh chemicals like bleach and other disinfectants can have “unintended consequences,” Heikaus said, crediting lung disease and allergies as possible side effects of exposure: “And on top of that, of course, the consumers are [thinking], ‘Yeah, killing everything is not the answer. What if I work with the microbiome? What if I work with the bacteria, the good bacteria, and create an environment that is actually more sustainable, more natural and better for me and for my family?’” 

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