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Applying Living System Principles to Enhance Hotel Operations.

Updated: Mar 22, 2023

How to tackle the disconnect between humanity, nature and business?

What are living systems?

Nature living systems refer to the living organisms and ecological systems that exist in the natural world. These systems include a wide range of organisms, such as plants, animals, fungi, and microorganisms, as well as the ecosystems and habitats in which they live.

These systems are interconnected and interdependent, with each organism and ecosystem contributing to the overall functioning of the natural world.

Examples of natural living systems include forests, coral reefs, grasslands, wetlands, and oceans. Each of these ecosystems is made up of a complex web of interactions between living organisms and their physical environment, including factors such as climate, water availability, and nutrient cycling.

Understanding and protecting these natural living systems is critical to preserving biodiversity, maintaining ecosystem services, and ensuring the health and well-being of human societies.

Both living systems and hotels are complex systems with many moving parts. Living systems, such as ecosystems or even the human body, are made up of many interconnected parts that work together to create a functioning whole. Hotels, too, are complex systems with many departments and employees working together to provide a seamless experience for guests. Living systems and hotels require careful management and maintenance to function properly. Both living systems and hotels can have a significant impact on the environment around them. Living systems can impact the local climate, water quality, and soil health. Hotels can impact the local economy, culture, and environment through their use of resources and their interactions with the local community.


Intersectionality between nature living systems and hotels

Hotels can incorporate sustainable practices and design elements that support and promote the health and well-being of the natural environment and its living systems. Hotels can embrace the principles of intersectionality and incorporate sustainable practices that benefit their environment.


  1. Design with Wellbeing in mind. Ensure that the concept is promoting physical and mental wellbeing of guests, communities and employees.

  2. Replenishing the area.Nature-inspired design: Hotels may use design elements inspired by nature, such as natural materials, plants, and views of the outdoors.


  1. Building design: Hotels can incorporate green building practices that reduce energy consumption and minimize environmental impact. This can include using renewable energy sources like solar power, implementing rainwater harvesting systems, and using natural ventilation to reduce the need for air conditioning.

  2. Landscaping: Hotels can create green spaces and gardens that provide habitats for local wildlife and promote biodiversity. This can include planting native species, providing nesting boxes for birds and bats, and using natural fertilizers and pest control methods.


  1. Circularity and supporting social entrepreneurship. Hotels can implement impact programs that reduce the amount of waste generated and minimize its impact on the environment while maximizing local communities support.

  2. Food sourcing and producing. Hotels can source food locally and prioritize sustainable and ethical food production practices. This can include supporting local farmers and growers, using organic and preventing food waste. Producing onsite can also benefit local biodiversity and lower the risk of supplier disruption.

  3. Education. Hotels can educate guests and staff about sustainable practices and promote environmental stewardship. This can include providing information about local ecosystems and wildlife, hosting educational events and tours, and encouraging guests to reduce their impact.

End Of Life

Permaculture design

- Implementing permaculture design principles such as using natural building materials, incorporating edible gardens, and composting can create sustainable and regenerative End of Life facilities that have a positive impact on the environment.

Donating FF&E

- Ensure that furniture and equipment is donated or fixed.

Building materials

- Companies such as Recircular in Spain allow your hotel to sell materials that are no longer in use.

How to develop resilient, and adaptive hotel systems ?

In a critical context presented by the latest IPCC report, hotels have to efficiently manage and adapt to current and highly likely scenarios. This means promoting cooperation and embracing adaptability. In living systems, diversity and redundancy are critical for ensuring resilience and adaptability.

  1. Promote cooperation and interdependence. Living systems rely on cooperation and interdependence among different organisms and components. In a hotel context, this might mean creating a culture of collaboration among staff or developing partnerships with local businesses to support each other's operations.

  2. Embrace adaptability. Living systems are adaptable, able to adjust to changing conditions and evolve over time. In a hotel context, this might mean being flexible in responding to guest needs or changing market conditions, and being open to new ideas and approaches.

The importance of Context when operating hotels.

There is not one-size-fits-all approach that works when thinking about innovation, progress and measuring impact.

It is recommended and we encourage hoteliers to use metrics such as Sustainable Development Indicators to measure and monitor progress.

Scientific papers related to living systems and Tourism

The study revealed that regenerative tourism is informed by living systems' thinking. The authors identify five diverse, interdependent and interconnected stakeholder roles from the case studies and scoping review. All stakeholder roles are vital for constituting tourism systems that contribute to the healthy evolution of social-ecological systems.- (Rohrbeck, 2021)

Projects can be designed and redesigned as change agents that have the capacity to influence and develop the vitality and capacity for evolution of these living systems as a whole. Resilience and sustainability become by-products of a strong and better structured whole system. (Dias, 2019)

Sources of interest

  1. Sustainability in the Hospitality Industry: Principles of Sustainable Operations (2nd edition) by Sloan, P., & Legrand, W. (2021). Routledge.

  2. Biophilic design. (n.d.). Terrapin Bright Green. Retrieved March 21, 2023, from

  3. IPCC. (2021). Climate Change 2021: The Physical Science Basis. Contribution of Working Group I to the Sixth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change [Masson-Delmotte, V., P. Zhai, A. Pirani, S. L. Connors, C. Péan, S. Berger, N. Caud, Y. Chen, L. Goldfarb, M. I. Gomis, M. Huang, K. Leitzell, E. Lonnoy, J.B.R. Matthews, T. K. Maycock, T. Waterfield, O. Yelekçi, R. Yu and B. Zhou (eds.)]. Cambridge University Press. In Press.

  4. Dias, B.D., 2019. Regenerative development–building evolutive capacity for healthy living systems. Management and Applications of Complex Systems, 13(8), pp.315-323.

  5. Bellato, L., Frantzeskaki, N., Briceño Fiebig, C., Pollock, A., Dens, E. and Reed, B., 2022. Transformative roles in tourism: adopting living systems' thinking for regenerative futures. Journal of Tourism Futures, 8(3), pp.312-329.

Other Practical resources

- How can your company ensure a good practices, avoid greenwashing guide by B the Change.

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