Case Study: How Great Forest Helped Hotel Receive Top Honors for Mayor’s Zero Waste Challenge, Become Role Model


In 2016, Great Forest worked closely with the NYC Mayor’s Zero Waste Challenge team to help clients complete the challenge and emerge as role models. Great Forest’s NYC clients emerged as top performers in the Challenge, with The Peninsula New York leading the way in the “hotel” category.

“The Mayor’s Zero Waste Challenge resulted in the total diversion of 36,910 tons of material from landfill and incineration, which results in an enormous environmental benefit to our city."

“Great Forest played an important role in helping participants like the Peninsula New York reach a 66% diversion rate… It's organizations like these that are helping forge the way to the city’s goal of Zero Waste to landfill by 2030.”

-- Sarah Currie-Halpern, program Lead for the Mayor’s Zero Waste Challenge.

Results of the Challenge Provide Roadmap For Hotels

The Peninsula was among some of New York City’s most iconic businesses and institutions that took up the Mayor’s challenge of cutting its waste. A total of 31 different businesses across all five boroughs joined the effort.

The Peninsula, with Great Forest’s help, was able to double its diversion rate in just a few months during the Challenge mostly through improving its management of food waste. Lessons from The Peninsula's win offer useful insights into how hotels and other businesses in the hospitality industry can deal with food waste.

So How Did The Peninsula New York Do It?

1) Evaluate

One of the first things the Great Forest team did was to conduct a waste audit to evaluate the hotel's current situation.

Waste audits help businesses understand what is going into their waste and recycling streams, identify problems, and set benchmarks and goals.

2) Target

Next, we formulated a plan, based on what we learned from the waste audit.

The Peninsula was already doing a good job recycling, so we assisted with simplifying and fine tuning their existing recycling program. But they did not have a system for dealing with organics, and we knew that was what we needed to target to expand their efforts.

There are multiple ways to deal with food waste. Businesses have to choose what works best for them, depending on the type of organics they generate, the space they have, their location, and other variables.

For The Peninsula, the Great Forest team evaluated the multiple food waste technologies available, and helped the hotel select the system that was best suited to their location and needs.

This led to the installation of an Orca machine, with staff training to ensure correct use of the new food waste disposal technology, which digests food waste on-site, transforming it into safe, clean waste water that goes down the drain.

3) Educate

To ensure the new program worked properly at the hotel, we conducted educational training sessions, and even met with management and employee unions involved to make sure everyone was on board with the new system. Even the best recycling program or technology cannot guarantee success if there is no buy-in and cooperation from staff.

4) Support

The Great Forest team also adjusted the hotel’s existing waste and recycling program to accommodate the new food waste technology. The hotel added more bins to collect the organic material, made sure containers were properly lined, and that all bin locations had clear signage and instructions.

5) Monitor

With the new system in pace, the Great Forest team performed regular waste audits to help the hotel track the amount of waste and recycling diverted, providing reports to the Challenge, and ensuring that the new system was working properly.


By fine-tuning the hotel's existing recycling and waste program and expanding it to include organics, the Great Forest team was able to help The Peninsular double its diversion rate in just a few months, emerging as a role model for addressing organics.

And because the hotel was now sending less material to the landfill, their waste removal cost could be renegotiated down. While this potential savings is a plus, what’s more important is that their new recycling and waste program is now more effective, leading to smoother daily operations.

Read the full story, which first appeared in Green Lodging News.

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