Sevda Oztetik: the hotel should be eco-friendly and we take it for granted

We talked with Sevda Oztetik about the trend for sustainable tourism and its implementation in hospitality. Sevda is a former diplomatic employee with work experience in European countries, she is an eco-activist who managing the direction of sustainable development of Kazan Palace by Tasigo and NEO by Tasigo hotels – the only holders of the Green Globe sustainable tourism certificate in Russia.
Sevda Oztetik: the hotel should be eco-friendly and we take it for granted

- Sevda, you are responsible for the eco-friendliness of two hotels – Kazan Palace by Tasigo and NEO by Tasigo. What does it mean for you to work according to the principles of sustainable development?

Since the opening, I have been responsible for financial issues, and since August 2020, according to the project Stay in Harmony, I am responsible for the sustainable development of hotels. Finance and ecology are quite connected since reducing the negative impact on the environment allows you to save money.

When did you get the Green Globe certificate?

- The Green Globe certificate we got in April 2021. The Green Globe is a leading certification program in the field of sustainable tourism, which focuses on the conservation of natural resources, positive contributions to the development of local communities, and environmental protection. It was a huge challenge to look at all processes inside the hotel in every detail. We had to provide comprehensive confirmation of environmental, social, and personnel-related standards assessed according to 344 criteria, 100 of which are mandatory. Such an experience is a great opportunity to make even more quality changes. Of course, it is impossible to improve in a couple of months, but thanks to the certification, we got a long-term plan. It fully corresponds to our Stay in Harmony strategy, that is, a natural and harmonious transition from habitual actions to more conscious ones. The goal of this strategy is to remain a five-star hotel, where guests keep returning, and at the same time, we want to be attentive to our ecological impact at all stages of the life cycle.

The certificate is not only a quality mark but also a motivation to become more stable, to test ourselves for strength, to implement habits that have been postponed until now. We do not miss unique opportunities to communicate with international experts, we tell them about our problems and get the necessary advice.

Stay in Harmony strategy aim – is to be attentive to our ecological impact at all stages of the life cycle.

Kazan Palace and NEO are both eco-friendly hotels. Who initiated the process of eco-friendliness?

In our opinion, the hotel should be eco-friendly as for granted. Eco-friendliness should be the same standard as high-quality service or delicious food.

The whole Polimeks's work is based on the principles of environmental friendliness, the founders convey this idea, they support pro-environmental regulation and protection of nature and animals, our "Staying in harmony" project is all about that.

Who acted as your adviser, consultant?

- Our consultant was the director of Audit Diagnostic Solutions Tourism Agency Nicholas Dubrocard. He conducted a detailed audit, focused our attention on key problems, and gave irreplaceable advice.

What would you recommend to the hoteliers who have decided to implement environmental initiatives?

- I'd start with communication. Before making any decisions, it is important to communicate with specialists. We started working in collaboration with local eco-activists of the Eco-friendly movement - Zulfiya Taktashova and Guzel Gilmatdinova. In such associations, people are inspired by their business and know all the local difficulties. They explained to us what works in Tatarstan and what does not, recommended effective producers of recyclable materials, and held lectures. It's great if you have access to an expert who can conduct an audit and provide a commercial offer, so as not to work blindly. However, very few companies in Russia provide such services. Therefore, local communities help at the first stage. So, thanks to local activists, we started separate waste collection – this helped significantly reduce the amount of waste sent to the landfill.

We've started with replacement straws for cocktails – from plastic ones to paper ones, which quickly decompose in water, we provide them on request and we did not meet any complaints from the guests. Then plastic toothbrushes were replaced with bamboo ones, and we did the same with ear sticks. The next stage was liquid hygiene products: our hotels switched to a brand of cosmetics, whose composition fully corresponds to eco-requirements. We replaced small disposable containers with large dispensers, which allowed us to reduce the cost of cosmetics.

It is well known that recycling is not the solution to the problem. We need to work on reducing waste generation in general. But this is a long process, so you need to start with what you can implement right now, at least as a pilot. One initiative opens up opportunities for others. Moreover, you may find that what you already think is unnecessary is very necessary for others, for example, charitable foundations or shelters for homeless animals. We send there discarded textiles and food from our dining room. Feel free to share your offers with suppliers, partners, and the team. Solutions need to be found together, this is what will trigger global changes.

How does the organization of waste sorting look like?

We have signed a contract for the processing of many types of waste (transportation, processing, disposal, neutralization, disposal) with the company "Fraction". We work with companies that have licenses for this type of activity. We track the supply chain and processing.

We sort:

- cardboard;

- paper;

- glass;

- metal;

- aluminum;

- hard plastic;

soft plastic;

- textiles;

- hazardous waste;

- equipment.

The Sustainability Manager works with the purchasing department, bars and restaurants, the cleaning service, receives feedback and suggestions from the team. Another employee sorts the waste at the final destination. At the moment, we do not plan to spend additional funds on organizing sorting. Our manager works to ensure that every employee knows everything about sorting recyclables.

- Let's talk about the main types of garbage in hotels. How to deal with food waste, plastic, hazardous substances – how to deal with them?

The biggest problem has the main waste – food and plastic. On the one hand, this is a problem, on the other – a unique opportunity to find a solution and share it with those representatives of the industry who can not yet find it themselves.

Due to the lack of industrial composting, the only way to solve the problem of food waste is to purchase your own composter. Now we are just in search of a suitable solution: either dehydration or processing into vermicompost.

Working with disposable items is more complex: it is important not just to replace plastic with paper, but also to understand what the carbon and water trace of these items is, what will happen to them next, what we can do so that this initiative does not turn out to be great harm to nature. Undoubtedly, we understand that reusable is always better than disposable. We managed to replace some items, for example, laundry bags, bonfires for glasses in the rooms, bottles for shampoo and gel. Where replacement with reusable is impossible, we are looking for the most suitable alternatives – either recyclable or compostable. The main thing is to use such disposable items that are not sent to the trash.

We have practically no hazardous waste: batteries, light bulbs and equipment are sent to a licensed manufacturer. Other electronic waste is collected separately and sent for recycling. Masks and gloves are utilized according to the new covid standards of Rospotrebnadzor.

What is the hardest part?

- Interaction with waste processors in the region. The terms of cooperation are unfavorable, they are not ready for negotiations, since they will not receive profit from it.

General: problems:

- Weak, closed, and opaque waste market (there are no processors of disposable cups in the region, there are few processors of plastic bottles, there is no recycling of soft plastic and plastic marked PP, etc.).

- ONLY PURE PLASTIC is accepted.

In Russia, there are too many requirements for sorting at this stage. The main reason is that the companies working with plastic are too small, and they do not have the means to clean it.

What else has been done in your hotels, except for the replacement of disposable items?

- It is important to note that the reconstruction of the historical building in which the Kazan Palace by Tasigo hotel was opened was carried out in such a way as to create all the conditions for greening (not all buildings have these conditions).

In our hotels:

All equipment has a European certification.

A lot of storages, which allow us to create conditions for storing purchases and organizing the separate waste collection.

Energy saving:

Kazan Palace uses a special energy-saving system that saves up to 44% of electricity.

Heating and cooling systems in vacant rooms are set to a minimum value or completely disabled.

As lighting fittings (external and internal), LED lamps are used, which are controlled automatically and have a system for regulating the time and dimming the lighting.

Secondary use (recovery) of heat has been introduced.

All windows in the guest rooms have low-emission glass and a high level of insulation.


The hotels have an innovative water supply and sewerage system that reduces water consumption.

A Green Package has been implemented, offering the client (minimum stay of three nights or more) to refuse cleaning services and get a 15% discount on accommodation.

In guest rooms, a maximum of 6 liters of water per flush is required in all toilets. The toilets are equipped with a half-flush function.

Aerators are installed in all washbasin mixers, their maximum flow rate is 5 l / min.

Waste management:

The system of separate collection is extended to conference halls and offices. The garbage containers are appropriately labeled and are easily accessible to guests and staff.

There is the monitoring of collected waste by category, and these data are compared.

When sorting, "similar" items are combined into bales. They are then prepared for conversion into new materials during the processing. Eventually, a certain polymer will be crushed to a small size and washed, which will turn into a commodity on the plastic market, which will be purchased by a certain manufacturer for further use as raw materials.

Disposable plastic:

We do not use any disposable plastic bottles in canteens, rooms, restaurants, at events – only glass ones.

We do not use disposable dishes and disposable cutlery in the dining areas.

Soap and shampoo dispensers are installed in the bathrooms/toilets, spa, and guest rooms.

We provide the following accessories on request: a notebook, a comb, a sponge, a shoe bag, a pencil, a shower set, a shower cap, a sewing kit.

How to build a proper system for sorting waste and disposing of hazardous substances?

This takes some time. We were lucky: in our region, there is a collector who accepts a large number of fractions, takes recycled materials, and even carries out additional sorting. However, every hotel employee must understand WHAT materials they work with, HOW they need to be sorted and WHAT happens to them after use. This should not be done automatically and thoughtlessly. We regularly hold short meetings where we explain to the staff the technology of sorting and preparing the necessary containers. However, the construction of the sorting system does not end there. Our task is to draw the attention of other hotels in the city to this problem and set the bar for sorting. Then the producers will be sure of receiving the necessary volumes: our recyclables are collected in large batches and sent to different parts of the country to processors or directly to factories. Our collector also works with hazardous waste, directing them to neutralization – he has a license for this.

Do you have a large team?

Now we have 113 employees in two hotels, only three of them are responsible for environmental issues. It turned out to be a great discovery that there are many like-minded people among the staff who have adopted the new rules of the game, give very powerful feedback, offer ideas, and provide great support. We were lucky here. There are difficult situations when one of the team lights up with the idea of environmental friendliness, but cannot reach the management and explain the importance of changes, or when the management insists on rules without any explanation. Fortunately, we have the other way. We are attentive to everyone who works in our hotels, and this is also an important element of our overall sustainable development.

Why are the principles of sustainable development still unpopular in Russia?

- Perhaps this is a hasty conclusion. Over the past five years, there has been a significant move, and more and more companies are thinking about their concept of sustainable development, and consumers support these ideas. Sustainability implies social and economic development, so brands are happy to become more flexible and open because their success depends on it. Of course, to further consolidate the "green" principles, we need a maximum audience - from children to the older generation. It is important not only to educate people but also to apply regulatory tools. This will be possible if the business unites, builds active communication with its visitors and consumers, creates associations, goes beyond its niche with educational and social projects, supports local experts, helps them grow and improve. So the system will certainly be rebuilt.

Sustainability implies social and economic development

- How do guests react to this new environmental policy?

We received complaints from guests, especially when individual guest accessories (shampoo and shower gel) were replaced with dispensers in the rooms. But this reaction seemed to be normal since the culture of eco-friendly consumption is not so popular yet. It is necessary to clearly and consistently build communication with guests: explain to them that we have not deprived them of attention or amenities and our decision is related to caring for the environment. We are happy to invite our guests to join our policy. And if they need something, we are always here to help.

What should be done to make the hotelier community recognize the importance of eco-friendliness?

- We all need to work together. Many hoteliers deal with the international market, which means that they are already aware of global changes and trends in greening. The main problem is that hoteliers do not know how to start. That's the reason why we need more communication. We are ready to share our experience but this is not enough. We need to build a united infrastructure - an ecosystem, which will then actively involve related industries: logistics operators, spa centers, restaurants, and cafes. We can compete in the best service or design – there is enough creativity for everyone here. But in matters of environmental protection, we should not compete, it is more logical to work together.

Combining the efforts of hoteliers will bring the following bonuses:

Demand for eco-friendly products: the more hotels will order eco-friendly alternatives, the more affordable and cheaper they will be for everyone.

Support for processors and suppliers: the more uniform and easy to process our waste, the more reliable the processing niche will become. There are fewer risks that the suppliers will unexpectedly abandon certain types of waste. Therefore, we will be able to plan long-term purchases.

A new culture of consumption: if it is considered normal to have a minimum set of disposable items in all hotels, then guests will no longer have questions about this.

What prospects have you outlined in the use of green technologies?

Several companies are planning a pilot launch of industrial composting in our region, and we want to become part of the infrastructure in the future, and working on it while the project is being developed. We weigh all the pros and cons, based on what kind of organic matter is formed to produce the most suitable product. Fortunately, we have plants that we can fertilize. Also, there is an opportunity to establish mutually beneficial cooperation with local farms where we buy products.

- Environmental marketing is becoming more and popular. How to create an eco-hotel brand?

We are entering the era of smart and conscious consumption. Today, any self-respecting company helps the environment. It is important not only to pack yourself under "eco", but also to be like this – to have a sincere desire to save the environment. First of all, you need to honestly and transparently talk about your initiatives. This makes a lot of sense: "telling" means sharing, not leaving problems without attention, not forgetting them. "Honestly and transparently" means not trying to give out wishful thinking, but to talk about the difficulties that we face. There are many controversial points in ecologization: what is better – a paper bag or a plastic one? Any eco-activist will tell you that it depends on the situation. In our work, we make certain decisions and are ready to explain them but this does not exclude other decisions. It all depends on the circumstances. It is important to be open to the discussion, and not just to declare your decision. I am sure that the guests of our hotel are happy when they learn that we sort the garbage and send it for recycling, buy useful local products. Souvenirs that we sell in the hotel store are also eco-friendly and made in the center for creativity and social rehabilitation "Anton tyt riadom" ("Anton is here nearby"). It is important not only to look eco-friendly by purchasing beautiful wooden or craft items but also to be eco-friendly in practice.

By Maria Tabarovskaya, Editor in Chief

Photo: by Tasigo

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