The Star of the North: Sustainable Stays
Because sustainability is a core value for Four Seasons Hotel Minneapolis, every department contributes to eco-friendly initiatives. This is especially true for Director of Purchasing Samantha Langs’ five-person team. Tasked with sourcing every item that comes into the Hotel – from individual sugar packets to large plush mattresses – they ensure products align with our commitment to caring for people and planet.
Researching, finding and approving items for use at Four Seasons Hotel Minneapolis is an almost dizzying process. When a team member requests an item, Samantha and her team hit the ground running, turning to current vendors, colleagues at other Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts and the internet to find options. Then, they examine each one with a sustainability microscope.
“What does the packaging look like?” Samantha says. “What is the label glue made of? Is the item itself compostable, but the packaging is not? How are we going to bring it in? How do we decrease our carbon footprint from a logistics standpoint? How do we increase our drop sizes so we're reducing the number of trucks that come in? How do we dispose of the product? It’s more than what looks pretty or makes the most cost sense. It has to be a full, well-rounded sourcing dynamic.”
In short, it’s not as simple as paper versus plastic. She points to boxed water as an example. “It’s not plastic, which is fantastic,” she says. “But it's plastic lined and the cap is 100 percent plastic. So, if you put that boxed water in the recycling bin, it actually goes to the landfill because of that plastic cap.”
Samantha recognizes that moving from an 8-cent plastic bottle to a 1-dollar post-recycled aluminum water bottle comes with sticker shock. “It’s going to impact your budget. But it's a bigger impact on the entire world,” she says. “We need to change the mindset.”
Sustainability Game Changers
Because of her role, Samantha has her finger on the pulse of sustainability game changers — specifically in the hospitality realm. “Custom Water is a woman-owned company that creates sustainable water bottles from 100 percent post-recycled aluminum,” she says, adding that the company also uses recycled ink for their labels, offsets their carbon emissions, and has large minimum pallet requirements to create fewer deliveries.
She also cites Restaurant Technologies for their innovation when it comes to fryer oil. Rather than dispose of oil and send the jugs to the landfill (they can’t be recycled due to the oil), Restaurant Technologies uses an auto-filtration system. “You plug the machine into your fryer, it fills it up with fresh oil and cleans out the old oil, automatically filtering it and putting it back in for two or three more uses to try and get the most out of it,” she says. “A sensor automatically communicates to the company when the waste tank is completely full, they pick it up and reuse it as biofuel.”
On a local level, Samantha applauds seafood distributor The Fish Guys for hearing their clients environmental concerns and making changes to their model. After Samantha pointed out how many plastic bags, plastic straps, cardboard boxes and ice packs the company used to deliver seafood, The Fish Guys revamped their entire delivery model. “They’re starting to use post-recycled bins that they're going to deliver their product in, then collect the bins and take them through a washing process to reuse and eliminate their packaging.”
Samantha is the right person for the role. The San Diego native attended college in Northern California, where she focused on ecological restoration. She started cooking in restaurant kitchens, then applied that knowledge to ingredients and how they’re sourced. After 15 years working with hotels in the San Diego, California area, in 2021 she relocated to open Four Seasons Hotel Minneapolis.
“It’s amazing how everything I have learned through my journey 100 percent applies to what I do on a daily basis — and I’m able to magnify it. It’s a great responsibility, and it’s so exciting,” she says. Under Samantha’s watchful eye, our commitment to sustainability has a ripple effect through the hospitality industry - and beyond.
“If we have this sustainability focus in all of our hotels, there will be more support for that market to thrive and grow,” Samantha explains. “It will be easier for other hotels, and it’s going to flood into big box retailers too and make eco-friendly products more readily available.”