Tuesday, December 30, 2008

How to Turn E-Waste Into Marketing Gold

This is the first time I have heard of any hotel doing something like this but given this particular hotel, I should not be surprised. Today, the Proximity Hotel in Greensboro, N.C., hosted a home electronics recycling drive. Greensboro area residents with old TVs, computers, digital cameras, electronic games, cell phones and other electronic waste were invited to drop off the items at the hotel.

Providing a safe way to dispose of electronic waste is important. It contains toxic metals such as lead, cadmium, and mercury that can contaminate the environment, including water supplies. "With the February 2009 nationally scheduled transition from analog to digital broadcast television signals, this is a convenient way to dispose of old television sets," said the hotel's developers, Dennis Quaintance and Nancy King Quaintance, in an invitation to Greensboro residents.

In addition to the electronic waste collecting, representatives of the City of Greensboro were on hand to collect Christmas trees and greenery that will be recycled into mulch.

Holding this type of event is an outstanding idea. It is great publicity and an opportunity to bring in new business. At the event, every person contributing e-waste received a $10 gift voucher for the hotel's Print Works Bistro and a reusable shopping bag from Friendly Shopping Centers.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Amenity Cutbacks Can Have Green Upside

Given the current economic situation, with occupancies down and rates taking a beating in many cases, where are you making up that lost revenue? Where are you cutting back? According to an article on FloridaToday.com, some hotels are cutting back on the number of amenities they provide to guests. The Residence Inn Melbourne and Courtyard Melbourne West in Florida recently stopped stocking guestrooms with lotion and shower caps. They are still available by request. The hotels have also stopped serving coffee 24 hours a day; instead it is offered only in the morning and late afternoon. At the Holiday Inn in Cocoa Beach, as of September, guests stopped receiving complimentary newspapers at their doors each morning.

These types of steps not only make financial sense; they make environmental sense as well. What portion of your guests actually use the shower cap and lotion? What percentage use sewing kits? What percentage of your guests don't pick up the newspaper each morning? Isn't it better to leave a note card in the guestroom to let guests know these are available upon request? Many hotels already have newspapers available at the front desk or at a central location on each floor (by the elevators, for example).

Simple steps like those mentioned above can reduce costs and the volume of waste needing to be hauled away or recycled. They can also save time and labor without significantly impacting the guest experience. What small steps like these are you taking to reduce costs?

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Some Insight Into Hotels' Green Practices

One of my industry friends, Kit Cassingham, owner of www.environmentallyfriendlyhotels.com, just posted some interesting information regarding the extent to which hotels are participating in green programs. Her numbers are based on what hotels listed on her site are reporting. A total of 3,012 of the properties listed on her site report having green programs. Not surprisingly, the top three action steps the hotels are taking are related to improving indoor air quality (2,447 hotels), and conserving energy (2,300) and water (2,110).

The following are some of the other green initiatives the properties are participating in: durable service items (1,954); educate staff to green (1,787); promote green in PR (1,525); hotel recycling bins (1,454); maintenance for conservation (1,436); educate guests to green (1,326); towel reuse (1,209); environmental cleaning (1,126); sheet reuse (1,145); eco-friendly food (934); organic food (799); recyclable disposables (655); donating to charity (647); and composting (597). For a complete rundown of Kit's findings, click here.

Kit rightly points out that those properties not promoting their green efforts are missing out. "Why only about half of the listed hotels promote their green programs on their websites baffles me," she says. "Only 1,525 hotels mention even in the slightest way they have a green philosophy, much less go into any detail about what green actions they take. With the trend of going green I'd think more hotels would elaborate about exactly what they do that's sustainable."

Monday, December 22, 2008

Looking for Work in Las Vegas?

There is some good news coming in 2009 for those looking to work in Las Vegas. CityCenter, a 67-acre development that is being built to the U.S. Green Building Council's Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) standards, just announced that it will begin accepting applications via www.citycentercareers.com to fill more than 12,000 jobs. It is the largest single new employment opportunity in Las Vegas' history.

"To see this unprecedented undertaking to fruition, we need smart, passionate individuals who bring a diversity of perspectives and abilities to our company," said Bobby Baldwin, CityCenter's president and CEO, in a press release announcing the openings. "We encourage every person in pursuit of a truly rewarding career to apply."

CityCenter will be hiring for positions at ARIA Resort & Casino, Vdara Hotel & Spa and Crystals, the development's retail and entertainment district. In addition, Mandarin Oriental, Las Vegas and The Harmon Hotel, Spa & Residences, each managed by other companies, will be accepting applications through the website beginning spring 2009. Opportunities are available in a variety of categories including food and beverage, hotel operations, casino operations, retail management, entertainment, finance, human resources, facilities, security and more.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Cool Sands Heat Up Environmentalists

A new "cool" sand project in Dubai has stirred up a bit of controversy. According to The Sunday Times, Versace, the developer of the new Palazzo Versace hotel in Dubai, is planning to refrigerate the beach. Yes, that's right. In a place where the temperature can reach up to 122 degrees in the summer, the developer wants to protect the bottoms of its guests' feet. How thoughtful of them! Buried in the beach next to the hotel, a network of pipes beneath the sand will carry a coolant that will absorb and carry away heat from the beach's surface. Can you imagine the look on the contractor's face who was asked to do this? ("You want to do what?")

Unfortunately, this is not a repeat of a Three Stooges bit; it is for real. The developers also plan to refrigerate the swimming pool and there are also apparently proposals to install giant blowers to waft a gentle breeze over the beach. Again: How thoughtful!

All of these plans are not making environmentalists happy. “Dubai is like a bubble world where the things that are worrying the rest of the world, like climate change, are simply ignored so that people can continue their destructive lifestyles,” said Rachel Noble, the campaigns officer at Tourism Concern, which promotes sustainable tourism.

One more nugget from the article: "About 60 percent of Dubai’s huge power bill is for air-conditioning; each person living there has a carbon footprint of more than 44 tons of CO2 a year."

Well, at least some of the carbon footprints in the future will be on cool sand.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

It's All in a Title...

Most of you have heard the phrase "chief cook and bottle washer" used to describe someone who does just about everything in a business. That is not a title, however, that one is likely to see on a business card. During my time as editor ("chief cook and bottle washer") of Green Lodging News, I have seen some pretty creative titles. For example, Pineapple Hospitality, an industry supplier that is connected to a number of different businesses, just named Dave Janicke as CBO of its FreshStay website. FreshStay is a portal leading to hotels that offer 100 percent nonsmoking environments. Can you guess what CBO stands for? Chief Breathing Officer. In addition to other tasks, it will be Dave's job to help develop Version 3.0 of the FreshStay website.

While CBO is certainly creative, two of the craziest titles I have seen are used at the Boulder Outlook Hotel & Suites in Boulder, Colo. There, owner Dan King is known as the Ambassador of Cool and environmental champion Diane Schevene carries the title of Green Goddess. The Boulder property is well known in green lodging circles for its zero waste program.

Creative, crazy titles certainly make "work" a heckuva lot more fun. What crazy titles have you seen in our industry? If you could change your boring title to a more exciting one, what would it be? I will look forward to hearing from you.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Xanterra Lands The Governator for Dedication

In a previous post and in a column on Green Lodging News I wrote about Xanterra Parks & Resorts' one-megawatt solar photovoltaic installation in Death Valley, California. The installation covers five acres in the 3.3 million-acre Death Valley National Park—the sunniest place in the country. I had an opportunity to visit the solar project recently. It meets more than one-third of the total annual electricity needs of Xanterra's Furnace Creek Inn, Furnace Creek Ranch, Furnace Creek Golf Course, employee offices and housing.

Since visiting the site, Xanterra has made two announcements regarding the official dedication of the installation scheduled for Tuesday, December 16. In the first announcement, officials revealed that celebrity and environmentalist Ed Begley, Jr. would be on hand for the ceremony. In the second announcement, Xanterra revealed that another important guest had been added to the lineup for the opening—Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. Xanterra's public relations team of Tom and Mona Mesereau have done a great job putting together this event.

Upon completion of an important green initiative at your property, what kind of dedication ceremony did you have? Or, maybe you did not have one at all? If so, why not? Even if an announcement just warrants local government officials, hotel company representatives and staff, it can be very worthwhile, especially if you invite the media and publicize properly with a well-written press release. If you do something worth crowing about, don't be afraid to tell the world. You are, in fact, in business to make a profit as well as help the environment.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

DNC at Yellowstone Earns EcoStar Award

Delaware North Companies Parks and Resorts at Yellowstone National Park recently received a 2008 EcoStar Award for its successful and efficient waste reduction efforts at the historic park. EcoStar Awards are given to companies and organizations leading the way in pollution prevention. Delaware North expects to recycle more than 175,000 pounds of cardboard and 2,000 pounds of paper at Yellowstone this year. The company will also recycle more than 28,000 pounds of glass and 17,000 pounds of plastic in 2008.

The award is an extension of the success of Delaware North’s GreenPath, the company’s award-winning and innovative resource-management system. Delaware North associates at Yellowstone and all company operations are trained in the values and practices of GreenPath. The program also keeps company associates constantly looking for ways to improve environmental initiatives. The EcoStar Awards were developed in 2000 and recognize the companies, organizations and individuals who have made significant contributions and commitments to the environment. This year, more than two dozen businesses and organizations focused on pollution prevention and championing the sustainability movement will be honored.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Hotel Developer Pursuing LEED Platinum

California's Napa Valley, already home to the LEED Gold-certified Gaia Napa Valley Hotel and Spa in American Canyon, will welcome another green gem in early February. The Bardessono, a 62-room luxury hotel with a 92-seat restaurant, is being developed by Phil Sherburne and is located in Yountville. Sherburne previously developed the Willow Lodge in Woodinville, Wash., and joined with two partners to develop the Inn of the Spanish Garden in Santa Barbara, Calif.

Much of the wood used in the construction of the Bardessono was sourced within 100 miles of the site. Each building's flat roof is fitted with a carefully concealed photovoltaic solar collector and reflective material. A 200-kilowatt solar energy system will provide a significant portion of the Bardessono's electrical energy requirement. Eighty-two 300-foot geothermal wells were drilled to work with a specially developed ground source heat pump system to heat and cool rooms and heat domestic water. Guestrooms are constructed to minimize solar heat gain with wide overhangs and motor-controlled venetian exterior blinds. Motion sensors will determine room occupancy and turn off lights and electrical devices. Guestrooms will feature organic cotton bed linens, towels and robes, and kitchen waste will be composted in an "Earth Tub."

With a goal of achieving Platinum LEED certification, the developer has invested at least 10 percent more than conventional construction would have required. Be sure to look for more details on the the Bardessono soon at Green Lodging News.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

'Green' Premier Inn Tamworth Set to Open

Premier Inn, the United Kingdom's largest and fastest-growing hotel operator, will open its new Tamworth hotel in Staffordshire on Monday, December 8. The flagship green hotel brings together the very best environmental initiatives from Premier Inn's parent company Whitbread, whose approach to the environment is focused on reducing waste and increasing efficiency.

The flagship site will reduce energy consumption by up to 80 percent and is a test-bed for Premier Inn to trial the best green technologies currently available, to see which are viable for their hotels in the future. With Premier Inn's target of 55,000 guestrooms within five years, the Tamworth project has the potential to transform how Premier Inn procures property and construction services. The combination of building materials and low carbon technologies being used at Tamworth is not matched anywhere else in Britain.

Ground-source heat pumps use the earth's natural energy to cool and heat rooms and provide hot water throughout the hotel. Grey water recycling meets 100 percent of the hotel's toilet water needs, saving 20 percent of the hotel's entire water use. The hotel includes high efficiency thermal and acoustic insulation and low energy motion sensor LED lighting. Solar panels will provide enough hot water for 1,000 baths a year.

Premier Inn's commitment to the environment has been welcomed by the Building Research Establishment (BRE) and the Carbon Trust in the expectation that others in the sector will follow Premier Inn's positive lead. Says Alan Parker, CEO of Whitbread, "This hotel is truly groundbreaking in that this combination of technologies has never been used before in the U.K. They were chosen from a range of initiatives that we believe deliver the most positive social and environmental impact on future hotel builds."

Friday, December 5, 2008

New Building Requirements in San Francisco

Hotel developers planning to build new properties in San Francisco will have to pay close attention to a new GreenPoints rating system run by Build It Green (BIG), a Bay area nonprofit dedicated to “healthy, energy and resource-efficient buildings in California.” Effective beginning in 2009, all new buildings and renovation projects in San Francisco will be held to environmental regulation under the GreedPoints system.

Paralleling LEED Certification, the GreenPoints system will increase restrictions each successive year until 2012, when all projects must have 75 GreenPoints, equivalent to a LEED Silver certification. In four years, the code is expected to eliminate 60,000 tons of CO2, save 220,000 megawatt hours of power, conserve 100 million gallons of drinking water, reduce waste and storm water by 90 million gallons, trim construction and demolition waste by 700 million pounds, increase recycled materials’ value by $200 million, curb auto miles by 540,000, and generate 37,000 megawatt hours with green power.

This July, the California Building Standards Commission adopted minimal green building standards but charged “local government [to] retain their discretion to exceed the standards established by this code.” According to BIG, more than 100 local governments have expanded on the statewide standards, and 30 of those have mandatory environmental requirements. Click here to read more.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Our Industry's Largest Solar Installation

This past June, Xanterra Parks & Resorts completed one of the largest solar photovoltaic (PV) energy systems in the United States. Covering five acres of Southern California’s Death Valley National Park—a 3.3 million-acre park that is the sunniest place in the country—the one megawatt (MW) system will generate more than one-third of the total annual electricity needs of Xanterra’s operations in Death Valley, including the historic Furnace Creek Inn, Furnace Creek Ranch, Furnace Creek Golf Course, employee offices and housing. Xanterra’s facility is one of the largest privately owned PV energy systems in the country and easily the largest in the U.S. tourism industry. Xanterra fully owns the system and the energy it produces.

I will be visiting Death Valley National Park this weekend and will have a chance to see the solar installation up close. Be sure to visit Green Lodging News for coverage. Large solar installations, because of their cost, are still quite rare, but increasing numbers of lodging projects are including PV energy systems to meet a portion of the property's power needs. Depending on the state or province where one is located, the payback on an installation can be relatively short because of rebates and tax incentives. Andrew N. Todd, president and CEO of Denver-based Xanterra, says with the savings on energy costs, his company expects to break even on the project in just a few years.

Over the next 30 years, Xanterra's massive system—larger than five football fields—will eliminate the emission of more than 29,000 tons of carbon dioxide, nitrogen oxide and sulfur dioxide—primary contributors to global warming, acid rain and smog. This reduction of pollution is equal to removing more than 5,100 cars from California’s highways.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Vermont Hotel Project Awarded EPA Grant

A project to reduce waste at hotels in Vermont has received $25,000, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency officials said recently. The funding comes from the Resource Conservation Challenge, an EPA program to conserve natural resources and energy by managing materials more efficiently. The Northeast Recycling Council, working with the Vermont Green Hotels program, was given the money for a three-year project aimed at reducing the amount of solid waste generated, increasing recycling, increasing the rescue and composting of food, and reducing the use of toxic chemicals in hotels.

The project will partner with the Vermont Foodbank to increase food rescue and will provide education and technical assistance to reduce the generation and disposal of waste. EPA’s Resource Conservation Challenge program is a six-year national effort aimed at conserving natural resources and energy by managing materials more efficiently.

The Vermont project was one of two in New England to be awarded a grant from the Resource Recovery Challenge.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

An Inspirational Thanksgiving Story

Not to slight the other networks, but I am a fan of ABC News and typically watch its evening news each night. Two nights ago, the network aired a story about a young boy named Brendan Foster who was dying of leukemia. Oftentimes, through reputable organizations such as the Make-A-Wish Foundation, young people have last wishes fulfilled by going to places like Disney World. This 11-year-old boy, however, after learning he had two weeks to live, did something very different. While returning home from a doctor's visit, he saw some homeless people. He decided what he wanted to do with his last remaining days was help them. His effort inspired countless others to do the same—all over the United States.

For many in the lodging industry, the economy is causing some difficulties right now but the challenges are nothing like this boy faced and many others are facing. Please be sure to check out the video that details Brendan's story. If it does not tug at your heart strings, nothing will. Have a very happy Thanksgiving and don't forget to help those less fortunate than you.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Investment in Green Buildings on the Rise

The value of green building construction starts was up from $10 billion in 2005 to $36 billion to $49 billion in 2008, and could triple by 2013, reaching $96 billion to $140 billion, according to McGraw-Hill Construction’s Green Outlook 2009: Trends Driving Change report. The report attributes green building’s expansion to growing public awareness, an increase in government regulations, and recognition of bottom-line advantages. Since 2005, the perceived benefits of green building have increased and differentiated as people become more knowledgeable about green building. The decrease in operating costs is the most often cited benefit (13.6 percent, up from 8 to 9 percent in 2005), followed by the increase in building values (10.9 percent, up from 7.5 percent in 2005).

Friday, November 21, 2008

An Eco-Friendly Pillow-top Treat

The Tysons Corner Marriott is putting a healthy, eco-friendly spin on the traditional pillow-top treat. The hotel near Washington, D.C. is giving guests a special turndown treat of wholesome house-made granola with oats, almonds and dried fruit. The nourishing indulgence is packaged in cups made with 100 percent corn plastic that are fully compostable within 45 to 60 days in a commercial composting environment.

“We’ve always seen our hotel as an alternative to the same-old, same-old for travelers,” says general manager Shelly DiMeglio. “We think guests will be pleasantly surprised by both the taste and the beneficial characteristics of this new amenity.”

A note on the granola turndown amenity encourages guests who like it to make it part of their morning routine at the onsite Shula’s Steak House restaurant, which serves everything from quick nibbles to big bites for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

USA Today: Smoking on Way Out at U.S. Hotels

USA Today reported earlier this week that the number of lodgings prohibiting smoking indoors has tripled in the last three years. USA Today cited American Automobile Association (AAA) data that shows there are now more than 8,300 smoke-free lodging establishments in the United States. California has the most of any state with 1,040. The totals are undoubtedly higher because AAA does not evaluate every lodging facility. This is all good news for travelers who care about their health and for hotel owners and operators who no longer have to clean the residue and odor left by smokers.

Joseph McInerney, president of the American Hotel & Lodging Association (AH&LA), is quoted in the article saying, "Making a hotel smoke free is the right thing to do because it protects guests and employees from secondhand smoke." Ironically, AH&LA did not list 100 percent nonsmoking as part of its just-released green strategy. The strategy includes 11 points including digital thermostats and recycling that define hotels as "green." To AH&LA, it is apparently still OK to allow smoking and be considered a green hotel at the same time. That does not make any sense at all to me, given what we all know about the dangers of secondhand smoke. I should not just criticize AH&LA. Many hotel companies still allow smoking yet position themselves as "green" companies.

The best news revealed in the article? All Sheraton and Four Points hotels will be 100 percent nonsmoking by the end of the year.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

New Book on 'High Performance Hotels'

At the International Hotel/Motel & Restaurant Show last weekend, the Educational Institute of the American Hotel & Lodging Assn. released a book that I highly recommend. The title: "High Performance Hospitality/Sustainable Hotel Case Studies." The book is authored by University of Michigan students Michele L. Diener, Amisha Parekh, and Jaclyn Pitera and includes a forward by Andrew J. Hoffman. Hoffman is the Holcim (US) Professor of Sustainable Enterprise at the University of Michigan.

The authors first define high performance hotels. "High performance hotels, especially those that are designed, constructed, and operated sustainably, use energy, water, materials, and land much more efficiently and effectively than hotel buildings that are simply built to code. High performance hotels capitalize on the opportunity to enhance efficiency in the hotel market—a
market that traditionally has not been concerned with its environmental impact. High performance hotel developers, owners, and managers create healthier working, playing,
and resting environments with more natural light and cleaner air. These buildings improve occupant health, comfort, and productivity. When developers build in an environmentally sustainable manner, they increase profit margins and create a differentiated product that is increasing in demand. Hotel owners and managers save money by reducing the costs of operations and maintenance and by increasing employee productivity."

The book includes case studies of the following hotels: Orchard Garden Hotel, San Francisco; Comfort Inn & Suites Boston/Airport; Inn and Conference Center University of Maryland University College, Adelphi, Md.; Airlie Center, Warrenton, Va.; Hilton Vancouver Washington; Mauna Lani Resort, Kohala Coast, Hawaii; The Fairmont Banff Springs, Alberta; and The Ritz-Carlton, San Francisco.

For more information on this new book, go to the Educational Institute of the American Hotel & Lodging Assn. website.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Marketing Green, But Made in China

Every now and then a green product supplier will send me something by snail mail. Last week I received a coffee mug from a faucet supplier. I turned the cup over and saw the familiar "Made in China" sticker. It got me thinking how far that coffee cup must have traveled just to get to my door, and how much energy was spent getting it there. While it was a nice gesture by the supplier, it ran counter to its green message.

This past weekend while chatting with suppliers at the International Hotel/Motel & Restaurant Show, I encountered a common theme: "green" suppliers getting their raw materials or their entire products from China. I spoke with one vendor who has used the environment as a marketing theme for years. I asked him where a key component of his product is made. You guessed it: China. Another vendor had a sign at her booth touting the eco-friendly nature of her product. What she sells is all made in China.

I understand the realities of a global economy but some of the things I saw at the show just did not sit right. If you are going to paint your company as "green," it is important to tell customers and potential customers the entire story. What I saw was not entirely greenwashing but it is a form of it. The next time you attend a trade show and stop at an exhibit pushing a "green" product, ask some hard questions. It just might get the vendor to think a little harder about sourcing its materials closer to home.

Monday, November 10, 2008

A Feat to Finish, Always Tiring for the Feet

Each year, while attending the International Hotel/Motel & Restaurant Show here in New York, I make it a goal to walk the entire trade show floor. It is always a feat to finish and always tiring for the feet. (Would be great to have a Segway to get around!) When walking the show floor, I scan each exhibit for evidence of an environmentally product or service. Over the last five years, the number of green exhibitors has grown significantly. I have no data to prove this but especially this year it is taking me a lot longer to cover the show floor. There are vendors selling everything from organic chocolates to ozone laundry systems to low-flow showerheads. If you own a hotel or inn and are looking for ways to reduce its carbon impact, the IH/M&RS is a great place to be.

While New York is an expensive town to visit, one can easily justify the expense based on the information one can learn from just one speaker or exhibitor. At a session I moderated, three panelists from hotels in Chicago, Boston and New York talked about steps they had taken to reduce operations-related costs by millions of dollars. If you work for someone who is hesitant to send you to an event like the IH/M&RS, have them give me a call. I will glady make the strong case for attendance.

Be sure to look for complete coverage of the IH/M&RS at the Green Lodging News website beginning Tuesday morning.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Celebrity Sightings While Attending IH/M&RS

I will be traveling to New York City to attend the International Hotel/Motel & Restaurant Show this weekend. I have been trying to figure out how many I have attended so far. The number must be around 12. I have had some interesting experiences during my IH/M&RS show visits. When I first worked for Hotel & Motel Management magazine, the publication would throw a huge party each year. There were usually hundreds of people there. I remember a couple of staff dinners where the bill approached my monthly salary. I suspect those types of events are long gone given the economy we are in today.

One of the things I have most enjoyed about my New York visits are the celebrity sightings, and I am not usually the type of person intrigued by this. I am more apt to get excited about meeting a prominent journalist—like Tom Brokaw, for example. (I did see Tom during one of my visits.) Last year, Alec Baldwin emerged from a building just as I was walking by. (He did not say hello or congratulate me on my Green Lodging News success. Sooo disappointing.) I will never forget one of my first years in New York for the Show when my boss called me down to the bar at the Essex House Hotel where Telly Savalas was having a drink. I sat next to him and got his autograph. He was on the phone with a lady he called "baby." Anyone familiar with Telly would agree that would have been no surprise. Telly's famous line: "Who Loves Ya Baby?"

I will never forget seeing Tony Randall filming a commercial at the Museum of Television and Radio, or running into Pat Robertson of Christian Broadcasting Network fame in one of the aisles at the Show. Or, of course, seeing the Dallas Cowboy cheerleaders at the Show. (Hey, I AM a guy.) Last year, while walking down one aisle at the Show, a gentleman recognized me from my website and newsletter photo. He got so excited, I thought he was going to have a panic attack. To be honest, I did not particularly enjoy the moment. In fact, if it happens again this year, I am out of there. :-)

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

A Good Place for Good Food Still Worth Eatin'

What do YOU do with leftover food? I am referring to food that has not yet been served to guests. In Amelia Island, Fla., the Ritz-Carlton, Amelia Island is taking advantage of the Florida Restaurant Lending a Helping Hand act to donate thousands of pounds of unused, excess food. Each night, members of the resort’s culinary team package and prepare any unused food for pickup. Community volunteers then transfer the large food quantities into individual containers in accordance with federal health regulations. Packaged meals are distributed to residents by the Barnabas Center, a locally operated USDA-authorized food pantry. The remaining food is served following a weekly church service at the Salvation Army Hope House, and provided to a local homeless shelter and transition home.

The food donation project was initiated by executive chef Thomas Tolxdorf as he searched for a beneficial way to contribute the untouched, edible excess food generated by the 1,500 meals served daily at the 444-room oceanfront resort. Nearly 90 percent of the donated food is generated by catered group events.

The food donation program is one of three primary initiatives within the framework of Community Footprints, a companywide corporate social responsibility effort of The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Co., L.L.C. Other core focus areas include environmental conservation and the well-being of disadvantaged children.

Monday, November 3, 2008

More on Marketing During a Recession

In this week's column I wrote about the importance of advertising, public relations and other forms of marketing when the economy is not doing so well. What inspired me to write the column was a conversation I had with a prospective client and another I had with an existing client. Both gave me the impression, in regard to their current marketing intentions, that they intended to "shut 'er down" for the time being. Not smart, in my opinion. Unless you are able to survive on the orders of existing customers for months, you need to be getting your company in front of prospective new customers—even if they don't currently have the dollars to do business with you. Eventually, they will have the dollars and they will remember you, especially if you target them in a highly personalized manner.

One of my readers, Malcolm McPherson from Power Save Solutions, responded to my column and had this to say, "If potential clients don't know who you are or what you do, how can you expect them to come to you? Success stories are usually penned by those who scream from the rooftops. A terrible thing will happen if you do not promote your business...NOTHING!"

Finally, Malcolm offered this gem: "Doing business without promotion is like winking at a girl in the dark; you know you are doing it, but nobody else does!"

One final thought: If you are reading this on Tuesday, November 5, get out and vote. You will be glad you did.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Atlantic City Convention Center's Sunny Day

Thursday, November 6 will be a historic day at the Atlantic City (N.J.) Convention Center. The first section of a large array of photovoltaic solar panels will be installed on the center's rooftop. When completed at the end of 2008, this will be the largest single-roof solar power array installation in the United States. The solar power system will be comprised of approximately 13,321 modules/panels and is part of a 20-year power purchase agreement with Pepco Energy Services of Arlington, Va.

This 2.36-megawatt rooftop solar power system will cover two-thirds of the main roof of the convention center or about 290,000 square feet. The generation of renewable energy from the Atlantic City Convention Center solar project will avoid release of 2,349 tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere each year.

The solar panel project is one of a series of green initiatives at the Atlantic City Convention & Visitors Authority (ACCVA). The ACCVA is a founding member of the Convene Green Alliance, a grass-roots, industry initiative spearheaded by several associations that seek to affect positive environmental practices through national, regional and local outreach and education. The ACCVA is also planning a wind turbine at the Atlantic City Convention Center as part of their ongoing green initiatives.

Here's hoping for a sunny day in Atlantic City on November 6—and for many days to come.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Bad Bad Bedbugs Everywhere

Seems like everywhere I turn these days I run across something having to do with bedbugs. In recent days I have learned about numerous companies that offer natural remedies for bedbug infestations. (No, heavy metal music is not one of the remedies being offered; it just gets them fired up and chases away every other guest in your hotel.) Seriously, I really should not joke about bedbugs; they are no laughing matter. Just two weeks ago, The Daily Times in Farmington, N.M., reported that the owner of a Days Inn was spending $63,000 to get rid of the little critters. "We are replacing everything," said Rez Chowdhury, who owns the bedbug-infested structure. (See article.)

I will be writing about natural bedbug solutions soon. Be sure to watch for the article that will include everything from bug-sniffing canines, to heat treatments, to tiny sensors, to natural oils. When I go to sleep tonight, I will try not think about the fact that female bedbugs can lay up to 500 eggs in a lifetime. The size of the eggs? A speck of dust. Yikes!

Monday, October 27, 2008

Rosen Hotels Adds Green Meetings Website

Rosen Hotels & Resorts of Orlando has launched a website aimed at providing information on hosting eco-friendly meetings. The site, www.rosengreenmeetings.com, is designed to help meeting planners reduce the environmental impact of large meetings and conventions. Information includes 10 tips for holding greener meetings, web links for more about going green, and green-meeting information from Rosen Hotels. Rosen’s three convention properties—Rosen Plaza, Rosen Centre and Rosen Shingle Creek—are all recognized under the Florida Green Lodging Program, an initiative launched in 2004 to designate properties taking steps to conserve natural resources.

While Rosen's site is a little light from a content perspective, and could use a little proofing, it is a concept other hotel groups may want to consider as an increasing number of corporations demand green meeting space.

Friday, October 24, 2008

More Travelers Preferring Smoke-Free Hotels

J.D. Power and Associates recently released its 2008 European Hotel Guest Satisfaction Index Study results. The study, now in its fourth year, examined the overall satisfaction of European hotel guests based on seven measures (in order of importance): costs and fees; guestroom; hotel facilities; food and beverage; check-in/check-out; hotel services; and reservations. Forty-five hotel brands were measured and ranked in four segments: upper upscale, upscale, mid-scale, mid-scale full service, and economy. (Click here to see study.)

What was the most interesting finding from a green lodging perspective? The number of European hotel guests who say they prefer a nonsmoking hotel environment has increased considerably during the past two years—from 69 percent in 2006 to 84 percent in 2008. Hotel guests who reside in Spain are the most likely to report a preference for nonsmoking hotel environments—with 93 percent saying they desire nonsmoking hotels—compared with residents of other European countries. According to J.D. Power's North America Hotel Guest Satisfaction Index Study, which was conducted earlier this year, nearly nine of 10 U.S. travelers (89 percent) now prefer a smoke-free hotel environment. That is up from 79 percent in 2006.

With so many travelers now preferring smoke-free environments, what is stopping hotel companies from eliminating smoking altogether? Are they afraid to lose business from that tiny percentage of travelers who still like to light up in their guestrooms? What do you think?

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

It's Blue Skies and Sunny for Platinum Proximity

Green Lodging News reported almost two weeks ago that the Proximity Hotel in Greensboro had received word that it and its Print Works Bistro had been awarded a LEED Platinum rating by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC). The hotel is the first in the United States to reach the Platinum level—a well earned honor and one sure to interest every type of media imaginable for months. Even prior to that announcement, the Proximity Hotel had already received media coverage in publications such as Travel & Leisure, Southern Living, Fortune, Outside, The New York Times and Travel Weekly. The hotel is appealing because it features some highly unique attributes. For example: a solar thermal system on its roof meets 60 percent of the 147-room property's water heating needs. The hotel is also led by a guy who gives a great interview: Dennis Quaintance, the CEO and CDO (Chief Design Officer) of Quaintance-Weaver Restaurants and Hotels, the company that owns the Proximity.

If you would like to see why the media is paying attention, turn to the Weather Channel on Tuesday, October 28 at 7 p.m. The Proximity Hotel will be featured.

Monday, October 20, 2008

More Thoughts on Hotel Certification Programs

Travel Weekly reported last week what I had known for quite some time (and mentioned in a previous blog entry)—that the American Hotel & Lodging Association had abandoned its plan to pursue a nationwide hotel-specific certification program to measure and rate the extent of a property's green programs. Joseph McInerney told Travel Weekly that getting involved in an independent certification process is too complicated and costly. The AH&LA's decision begs the question: What next?

I have heard rumblings from a couple of different organizations about starting a national certification program that would be separate from the U.S. Green Building Council's Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) program, Green Seal, Energy Star, and all the others. I am waiting to see if they actually happen. The one thing I have not witnessed is a clamoring for another national certification program—by our industry or by consumers. What I am seeing most is efforts by individual states to set up their own programs. Maybe those types of programs will gain the most traction in the next year or two? What do you think? Does the U.S. lodging industry really need another certification program? Or, are there more pressing matters at hand?

Sunday, October 19, 2008

UF Professor Takes Pulse of Caribbean Efforts

The accommodation industry in the tourist-heavy Caribbean region has started on an environmentally conscious or “green” campaign to lessen stresses on natural resources, according to a recent University of Florida (UF) study. The study found that two-thirds of 197 hotels in 19 countries in the English-speaking Caribbean are taking steps to protect the environment, from changing linens less often to urging guests to recycle. It also found that success in environmentally-friendly reform often was pegged to a “green champion,” an individual in the workplace who pushed for green practices.

“This is a real effort by hotels at all levels to try to minimize, to reduce, to mitigate their influence on the environment,” said Mechelle Best, who completed the study for her doctoral dissertation at the College of Health and Human Performance at UF and who is currently assistant professor at California State University at Northridge.

Even if hotels did not begin comprehensive environmental programs, they still enjoyed benefits—such as reduced resource use and decreased operating costs—from the green practices that were put into place, the study also found. Environmental management or “greening” can range from a comprehensive system undertaken by a hotel, to informal practices undertaken by individuals on an as-needed basis, Best said. To read the complete article, click here.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Environmentally Friendly Hotels Site Hits 3,500

One of the things I have most enjoyed about being in the hospitality industry is making new friends. I am fortunate in that I have made many new industry friends since launching Green Lodging News in July 2006. One of those, I am happy to report, is Kit Cassingham. Kit runs the highly popular website http://www.environmentallyfriendlyhotels.com/. I learned today that the website just topped 3,500 hotels. If you run a green property and are not currently listed on Kit's site, get moving. The website is one of the most visited green travel sites in our industry and gets more traffic, I freely admit, than Green Lodging News.

The popular site allows a traveler to search for green places to stay by property name or location. Using the Advanced Search, one can check off green criteria to narrow one's search. Some of the criteria include: bulk soap and amenities, water conservation, guestroom recycling bins, and composting. The site makes it easy to submit new properties for consideration.

Kit's site links back to Green Lodging News. Ya gotta love that. Kit, congratulations on hitting the magic 3,500 number!

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Lyndall DeMarco Departs ITP

According to a report in TravelMole, Lyndall DeMarco, Executive Director at the International Tourism Partnership (ITP)—a part of the Prince of Wales International Business Leaders Forum (IBLF)—has left her job to spend more time in her home country of Australia. Green Lodging News wishes DeMarco the best. She has played an instrumental role in spreading the message of sustainability throughout the travel and tourism industry.

Said Ed Fuller, Chairman of the ITP Governing Council and Trustee of IBLF: “Lyndall is leaving at a time when ITP is flourishing. She has taken the organization from a single focused environment initiative to one that embraces every aspect of sustainable tourism. From the Green Hotelier Magazine, to the Sustainable Hotel Sitting & Design Guide and the Youth Career Initiative, Lyndall has made her mark on our industry. She has made a difference to the lives of many individuals through her personal generosity and by inspiring us as industry leaders to move social responsibility up the corporate agenda. Her leadership, enthusiasm, energy and dynamic style will be greatly missed.”

To read the complete article, click here.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Chipotle Goes Green in Gurnee, Illinois

Chipotle Mexican Grill will open a green restaurant in Gurnee, Illinois with a 6-kilowatt wind turbine on-site that will generate a portion of the restaurant’s electrical needs. “The wind turbine is a symbol of our intent to design and build our restaurants more efficiently and environmentally friendly,” Steve Ells, founder, chairman and CEO of Chipotle said. “We want to incorporate some elements of sustainable design into all of our new restaurants.”

In addition to the wind turbine which will generate about 10 percent of the restaurant’s electrical power, the free-standing restaurant will feature: use of recycled drywall, recycled barn metal, and primers and paints that contain fewer chemicals; a variety of energy and water conservation elements inside the restaurant, including LED lighting, highly efficient faucets and toilets, and Energy Star rated kitchen equipment; a 2,500-gallon underground water cistern that will harvest rainwater to irrigate the landscape; native plants outside that will require less watering and fertilizer; and asphalt in the parking lot that will reflect the sun’s heat, rather than absorb it, making the entire site cooler.

Chipotle will seek LEED certification for the new restaurant, which would make it among the first LEED-certified restaurants in the country. Chipotle is a participant in the U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED for Retail pilot program. Chipotle is also seeking LEED for Retail certification for a Minnetonka, Minnesota restaurant that is part of a pre-existing building and shopping center. That restaurant will include energy efficient plumbing, lighting, and other green initiatives. Chipotle also operates two green restaurants in Austin, Texas (certified by the city of Austin).

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Energy Costs Heading in Two Directions

With the price of oil plummeting by almost 50 percent since the summer, and gasoline prices dipping below $3.00 a gallon in many areas of the country, those planning on traveling in the coming weeks will finally have some relief. But will the lower cost of oil be enough to offset the shock Americans have had to their retirement accounts? Not by a longshot. (My retirement account has lost 28 percent of its value in the last year.) The lodging industry needs to continue to brace itself for some difficult times.

Complicating things for hoteliers this winter will be rising energy costs. In its final winter fuels outlook, the U.S. Department of Energy this week projected that natural gas prices would rise 17 percent, heating oil 12 percent, electricity 5 percent and propane 9 percent. Businesses and consumers alike are getting squeezed from all directions.

If you own or operate a lodging establishment, there is no better time to take a serious look at your operations to identify where there is the most potential for energy savings. Compact fluorescent light bulbs, towel and linen reuse programs, and proper preventive maintenance are a few examples of simple things that can be done. There is so much more, however, that one can do to reduce costs. Check out the "Money-Saving Tips" and other sections of Green Lodging News for ideas. Do you have an idea to share? Add a comment to this blog posting.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Two More Element Projects Announced

Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide's Element brand keeps growing and growing. Starwood recently announced an agreement with Mutual of Omaha to open an Element hotel in Omaha, Neb., in late 2010. Element Omaha Midtown Crossing will be part of a million-square-foot, mixed-use project that combines luxury condominiums and apartments with restaurants, retail and entertainment venues. Almost at the same time it was announcing its new Omaha project, Starwood announced that an Element hotel will be built in Orlando, Fla. It is also slated to open in late 2010. It will be located close to downtown, theme parks and Orlando’s business community.

ECI Investment Advisors, with offices in Chicago, Omaha and Richmond, Va., is the Omaha hotel's developer. Aimbridge Hospitality, a hotel management company based in Carrollton, Texas, will manage Element Omaha Midtown Crossing. Champ Hospitality of Carrollton serves as the hotel development consultant and The Weitz Co. is the general contractor on the project. The new-build hotel in Orlando will be owned by JHM Hotels and developed by JHM Enterprises Inc.

Element is Starwood's newest hotel concept and the first hotel brand to mandate that all hotels pursue the U.S. Green Building Council's (USGBC) LEED certification.

Monday, October 6, 2008

A Million Reasons to Attend the IH/M&RS

At this year's International Hotel/Motel & Restaurant Show in New York City, I will be moderating a session entitled, “Energy Miser All Stars: Conservation Lessons from the Best.” The session will be held Saturday, November 8 at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center from 3:45 p.m. to 4:45 p.m. The session is part of a day-long series of events that are part of the Hospitality Leadership Forum. If you are planning to attend the show this year, please be sure to attend the "Energy Miser All Stars" session. The three panelists—Jeff Hanulec, director of engineering, The Westin Copley Place; Raymond M. Kemph, CEM, director of engineering, InterContinental Chicago O’Hare; and Joe Kinney, chief engineer, New Yorker Hotel—will share how they have collectively been able to reduce operations-related costs by more than a million dollars from 2007 to 2008. How have they been able to do that? Find out by attending the session or by reading Green Lodging News after the show.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Casino Workers' Health Up in Smoke in Pa.?

The Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board recently announced that the agency and the seven operating casinos in the state that it overseas are prepared to follow the guidelines of the state's Clean Indoor Air Act, which took effect on September 11. The act not only prohibits smoking in most public places, including restaurants and the workplace, but also prohibits smoking on at least 75 percent of the casino floor. Penalties will be imposed for individuals who smoke in prohibited areas.

Here is where things get funky. The new law provides a process that would enable a casino to increase the smoking area to include up to 50 percent of the floor. How could that happen? If a report from the Department of Revenue shows the average gross terminal revenue (GTR) per slot machine in the designated smoking area exceeds the average GTR per slot machine in the designated nonsmoking area, the licensee may increase the designated smoking area in proportion to the percentage difference in revenue.

In other words, if a casino happens to attract a large volume of smokers, and those smokers are freer with their spending, floor workers and everyone else will ultimately suffer more from second-hand smoke as the smoking areas grow. That makes a lot of sense. It is nice to see that the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board is so progressive when it comes to the right to breathe clean air.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Keep Asbestos in Mind Before Renovation

In recent days I posted an article on Green Lodging News that discussed the importance of paying attention to potential asbestos issues when renovating a hotel. Click here for that article. Asbestos is a leading cause of mesothelioma cancer and should not be taken lightly—especially when the safety of your employees and your guests is at stake.

Coincidentally, just before the asbestos article was sent to me, I came across a story in The Salem (Mass.) News about problems with asbestos at the Holiday Inn Hotel and Suites Boston-Peabody in Peabody, Mass. The state of Massachusetts' Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) discovered asbestos at the site while construction crews were renovating the property. Because of the discovery, the DEP disallowed employees and guests from working or staying at the 183-room hotel. Guests staying at the hotel during the closure had to be relocated—not exactly the kind of PR you dream about. According to the article, hotel management had not sought or obtained a permit to do any kind of asbestos abatement.

For any hotel built or remodeled before or in the 1980s, assume the presence of asbestos. You will save yourself the types of problems encountered by the owners of the Holiday Inn mentioned above.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Social Networking Meets Green Lodging

While at The Lodging Conference in Phoenix last week, I had the opportunity to meet with Richard Varner, founder of istaygreen.org. I highly recommend that you check out his site. There are many websites that feature green hotels and almost as many that include booking engines to access them. What istaygreen.org does, however, is go far beyond your typical green hotel site to include a social networking structure much like Facebook. Visitors to the site can create their own profiles, add friends, upload photos, form groups, create and respond to forum threads, and add comments and reviews to hotel profiles. The new site provides a means for travelers to police those hotel owners and operators who make false claims about environmental programs. Hotel owners can respond to traveler comments. The site also provides a way for hotel owners and operators to promote all of the good green things they are doing. For example, an owner can upload photos that show a hotel's green programs in progress.

With iStayGreen’s rapidly growing searchable directory of almost 3,000 Green Leaf Rated Properties, it’s easy for anyone to quickly locate and compare green lodging worldwide. To earn a Green Leaf Rating, hotels must complete a thorough self-audit and are then rated based on their eco-initiatives. Varner said the site already has more than 100,000 hotels listed. Is your property currently listed? Check out the site to find out.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

A Green Meeting? You Decide.

I have often featured articles on Green Lodging News regarding the greening of meetings, the minimization of waste at meetings, etc. This week I am attending The Lodging Conference in Phoenix, an event that has drawn more than 1,400 attendees. Upon check-in at the conference, each attendee was given a goodie bag full of items, with each item featuring the logo of a sponsor (kind of like Halloween for adults). I was astounded at how heavy the bag was; it must have weighed 10 to 15 pounds. I had to make a special trip to my car to drop it off so that I would not have to lug it around. I am not looking forward to trying to pack these items in my suitcase for the trip home.

I do understand the reasoning for wanting to give conference attendees sponsored items. Without event sponsors, it would be much more difficult to run a profitable event. But is it necessary to give away so many items that probably will just end up in the trash? Why not make a donation to a green organization instead? Or, purchase carbon offsets on behalf of each attendee? Or buy something locally made that an attendee will want to keep?

Was what was given away at The Lodging Conference excessive? I will let you decide. Here is a list of what filled my goodie bag: three bottles of water (thankfully, one was made from Ingeo, a bioplastic that biodegrades easily); a baseball squeeze ball; a leather coaster; a pocket guide for the conference in case you don't want to haul around the more than one-inch thick conference guide; a 42-page attendee list; a CD with the same attendee list; a luggage tag (I will need that one for the extra piece of luggage I will have to purchase to carry my "goodies" home); a flash drive packaged within two boxes; another foam squeeze item in the shape of a dollar bill; a nightlight for reading; a miniature scale (probably to weigh that extra piece of luggage); a bottle of sunscreen; sticky notes; a laser pointer; yellow magic marker; lip balm; measuring tape; three peppermint candies; and a bath robe. Did I forget the kitchen sink? Just kidding about that one. I am not kidding about the fact that many of the items were made in China.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Some Talk About Toilet Paper

I had the pleasure of chatting with Diana Beltran today. She is the Environmental Development Manager at the Grand Hyatt New York, a property with 1,311 rooms. Diana told me that the hotel used to throw away unused rolls of toilet paper. (It is the hotel's policy to provide each guest with a full, new roll.) The tossed paper amounted to 65 pounds a week—3,380 pounds a year. That is the equivalent of more than a ton and a half of unused paper. Yikes! Thanks to an environmental initiative that has picked up steam this year, unused rolls of paper are no longer thrown away; they are donated to a homeless shelter. Congrats to the Grand Hyatt New York for choosing to spare a lot of wasted squares of TP.

So tell me, what does your property do with its unused rolls? Throw them away? Donate them? At what point is a roll removed from a room? After it is used by one guest? I will look forward to hearing from you.

Friday, September 19, 2008

U.S. LEED-Certified Hotel Total Now at 12

Three years ago, Marriott's University of Maryland University College Inn and Conference Center became the first U.S. hotel to receive Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification from the U.S. Green Building Council. Since that time, 11 additional U.S. properties have earned the LEED designation. They include: Avalon Hotel and Spa, Portland, Ore.; Gaia Napa Valley Hotel and Spa, American Canyon, Calif.; Len Foote Hike Inn, Dawsonville, Ga.; Orchard Garden Hotel, San Francisco; Aspen Skiing Co.'s Snowmass Golf Clubhouse, Aspen, Colo.; The Ambrose, Santa Monica, Calif.; The John James Audubon Lodge & Camp, Charlotte, N.C.; The Lodge and Spa at Callaway Gardens, Pine Mountain, Ga.; Hilton Vancouver Washington, Vancouver, Wash.; The Palazzo Las Vegas; and the Unity Village Hotel, Kansas City, Mo.

There are now more than 200 LEED-registered hotel projects at some stage of development. Be sure to visit Green Lodging News frequently for the latest updates on LEED projects.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Fairmont Loses Director of Environmental Affairs

Green Lodging News has learned that Michelle White, director of environmental affairs for Fairmont Hotels & Resorts, recently left the company to pursue another opportunity. Fairmont is currently working to find a replacement for her. I had the opportunity to meet Michelle several times and wish her the best. Fairmont will miss her leadership. She played an integral role in developing and promoting the company's Green Partnership program and was one of our industry's leading champions for the environment.

Wyndham Steps Up Environmental Commitment

One hotel company after another is hiring V.P.-level executives to oversee sustainability efforts. It is a reflection of how seriously they are taking the importance of reducing their overall impact on the environment. You can bet that is not the only reason for the hirings, however. They also make a lot of sense from a profitability standpoint. When a company is large enough, it does not take long to recover the investment in a sustainability officer. Just a few energy-saving initiatives rolled out by that person can quickly result in millions of dollars in savings.

The latest company to hire a vice president, Sustainability and Innovation is Wyndham Worldwide, the world's largest lodging franchisor with nearly 6,500 hotels under 10 brands. (See article.) Wyndham actually promoted someone from within the company: Faith Taylor. Faith most recently was vice president of Innovation and Product Development for the Wyndham Hotel Group.

The hiring of Faith is just part of Wyndham's recent environmental commitment. The company has developed a Green Council and will roll out a WyndhamGreen Website this month. On October 2, the company is planning a "Global Green Day and Green Fair."

Green Lodging News applaud's Wyndham's efforts. If every franchised Wyndham property does what it can to reduce its resource consumption, it will have one whale of a positive impact.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Gatlinburg Hilton Garden Inn to Pursue LEED

According to WATE, Channel 6 in Knoxville, Tenn., construction is set to begin soon on a Hilton Garden Inn in Gatlinburg, Tenn., that will pursue Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification. The hotel will be built where the River Oaks Shopping Center now sits. "We want to do this to protect the environment and protect all the natural resources of the Great Smoky Mountains," said developer Logan Coykendall. Coykendall says they will reuse materials from the existing River Oaks Center. They will also use up to 20 percent recycled materials on the new building. It is a project slated to cost $15 million. The new hotel will also be made with regional materials. "Instead of getting materials from China or somewhere, we will try to get them from as close to home as we can," Coykendall said. The project should be complete by the summer of 2009. Click here for more details.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Random Thoughts on Green Hotel Certification

By the end of this year, it is likely that the Hotel Association of Canada's (HAC) Green Key Eco-Rating Program will have 1,000 hotels participating—quite an achievement. HAC has made it easy for hotels to join with its Web-based application process and 140-question survey. While Canada's program is not perfect, it is an example of one that can be ramped up quickly. Canada's accomplishment begs the question: Why doesn't the United States have a user-friendly rating program that encourages widespread participation? There are many answers to this question.

The American Hotel & Lodging Assn. recently studied the idea of running a program and/or endorsing one but decided its role is to present the different alternatives to the industry and let hoteliers decide for themselves which certification programs to pursue. Meanwhile, numerous entrepreneurs have come out with their own programs. In some cases they have gained some traction but in other cases they have not. These well-intentioned entrepreneurs often suffer from small staffs, little capital and a lack of marketing muscle and creativity. In fact, I rarely see them at industry events. Meanwhile, excellent programs such as the U.S. Green Building Council's LEED (not originally designed for hotels), the EPA's Energy Star, and Green Seal's rating program grow at a snail's pace—each with their own positive agendas. A number of states also have their own programs—some thriving, some on life support.

The certification dilemma will not be solved quickly. There are those that justifiably argue for a national certification program that includes a mandatory on-site audit, while others are willing to accept a program similar to Canada's that offers more of a self-certifying model.

As far as the environment is concerned, the more programs there are the better, but it is confusing for the consumer. What our industry really needs is a certification summit—a conference at which the certification challenges and complexities are finally settled. But could it really happen? Would entrepreneurs be willing to check their ambitions and egos at the door? Would so many different stakeholders be willing to share the potential spoils of a certification program that has the potential to have tens of thousands of members? Don't count on it. What do you think?

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Let's Do the Opposite of Haiti

We need look no farther than Haiti to understand the importance of trees in a tropical environment. The impoverished country, which has been hammered over and over by this fall's tropical storms and hurricanes, has lost 98 percent of its forests--and not from the storms. Desperate for income, farmers have been chopping down their trees to sell the wood as charcoal. With few trees remaining, the topsoil is extremely vulnerable to erosion. That is why the recent storms have been so devastating. There was no earth to absorb this summer's deluge. Haiti is an example of how not to manage the environment. Why does Dr. Seuss' "The Lorax" come to mind? Do you remember the story about a "mossy, bossy" man-like creature who speaks for the trees?

According to an article in USA Today, over the past 20 years, the U.S. Agency for International Development has planted 60 million trees in Haiti, but the poor chop down 10 million to 20 million trees each year. At one time, Haiti was a country ripe for ecotourism. Today, it is a country in desperate need for fast-growing trees. In Haiti, there is a lesson for all of us. Taking trees for granted can be a deadly mistake.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

DNC Spurs Denver Marriott Tech Center's Efforts

The Denver Marriott Tech Center wrapped up August in a "green" fashion. Accepting the challenge of the Democratic National Convention, Barbara Readey, area general manager, put together a Green Team, which is made up of hourly associates, middle management and senior leadership. She asked the team to not only think about short-term solutions for the DNC, but also long-term sustainable goals. The hotel ended up replacing 628 toilets (3 gallons per flush) with low-flow 1.6 gallons per flush versions and replaced 3.5-gallon-per-minute showerheads with 2.5-gallon heads in all guestrooms. These two items saved 60,000 gallons of water during the DNC. Long term, the hotel anticipates saving 6 million gallons of water annually.

The hotel also built a 3,000-square-foot "green" patio using recycled concrete from the old Stapleton Airport. Mike Monroe, co-chair of the Green Team and director of engineering, used xeriscaping around the patio with river rock and mulch. An in-room recycling program was kicked off in time for the DNC. This program allowed the hotel to recycle more than 1,000 tons during the DNC week alone. The program was deemed so successful that the hotel will continue this effort and estimates recycling more than 70,000 tons annually. The property's in-room towel & linen reuse program was also initiated for the DNC, which helped reduce the hotel's carbon footprint to 2,000 tons lower than the average of a building its size.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

We Need More Risk Takers Like Jiminy Peak

One of the things that impresses me most about the lodging industry is the number of individuals willing to take risks—oftentimes huge financial risks. In green lodging I see this time and time again—entrepreneurs willing to spend a lot of money upfront, knowing that their return on their investment may be many years away. In fact, that seems to be one of the factors that separates green hotel and resort entrepreneurs from the typical developer who often has his or her eyes set on turning over the investment in just a few years. Green developers are patient.

I was struck by this when writing an article about the Jiminy Peak Mountain Resort and the recent one-year anniversary of their $4.2 million investment in a 1.5-megawatt wind turbine. It took a lot of guts to make such a groundbreaking investment, knowing that it could take seven or eight years for the system to pay for itself. It is obvious that the resort owners believed it was very important to make a strong commitment to renewable energy.

For Jiminy Peak Mountain Resort, the investment has been well worth it so far. The turbine, which stands taller than the Statue of Liberty, has become a symbol of the resort's commitment to sustainability. Our industry could use a lot more Jiminy Peaks.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Magnolia Hotels Eliminates Smoking Indoors

Another hotel company—Magnolia Hotels—has joined the elite group of companies that forbid smoking indoors. The company announced that each of its hotels—in Dallas, Denver, Houston and Omaha—has eliminated smoking.

“We recognize the importance of offering our guests a healthy lifestyle while they are staying at a Magnolia hotel, and that includes a smoke-free environment,” said Leigh Hitz, president of Magnolia Hotels. “It’s definitely a growing industry trend to eliminate smoking rooms, and we are pleased to have adopted a smoke-free policy.”

Over the past year, requests for smoking rooms at Magnolia hotels have declined significantly, reflective of the overall health movement, and helping to spur Magnolia Hotels’ decision to eliminate smoking. Guests can still smoke outdoors on property grounds, but smoking indoors is prohibited. Guests who violate the smoke-free policy will be charged a cleaning fee of $200 per guestroom, per night.

Kudos to Magnolia Hotels for recognizing how much sense it makes—from both a health and operations standpoint—to eliminate smoking.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Fort Lauderdale CVB Gets Busy Planting Trees

Increasingly, hotel companies and other organizations are formalizing efforts to link their businesses with good causes. Green Lodging News just learned that the Greater Fort Lauderdale Convention & Visitors Bureau, in partnership with Broward County, Fla., has started a new program for meeting planners to help offset the carbon footprint of their meetings in the area. According to the program, dubbed Plan.It.Green, the CVB and the county will plant a tree anytime a planner visits the CVB’s booth at any trade show. The CVB and county will also arrange a “volunteer planting day” for groups, or donate to the parks division when a planner submits an RFP to the bureau. What a great idea. Green Lodging News has had its own tree planting initiative since December of last year. Check it out.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Green ELEMENT Brand Keeps on Growing

Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide, Inc. announced plans to open an Element Hotel in June of 2010 in Palmdale, Calif., one of the fastest growing communities in the United States. Inspired by Westin Hotels & Resorts, ELEMENT Palmdale will offer a new extended stay experience with modern style and eco-friendly design. Element is Starwood’s newest hotel concept and the first hotel brand in the country to mandate all hotels pursue the U.S. Green Building Council’s (USGBC) LEED certification, the nationally accepted benchmark for the design, construction, and operation of high performance green buildings. The hotel will be owned and developed by Condor Hospitality.

Element Hotels are equipped with energy-efficient, stainless steel appliances and lighting, water-efficient faucets and fixtures. Guests can maintain daily routines such as recycling paper and plastic and using green materials, while those driving hybrid cars are rewarded with priority parking. Filtered water in guestrooms and amenity dispensers in the showers reduce plastic bottle waste. In addition, Element Hotels use low VOC (Volatile Organic Compound) paints and carpets with up to 100 percent recycled content and anti-microbial carpet pads to improve indoor air quality for guests and staff.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

A Different Take on Towel Re-use Programs

People are more likely to reuse hotel towels if they know other guests are doing it too, U.S. researchers suggest. The study, published in the October issue of the Journal of Consumer Research, found that the types of signs posted in hotel bathrooms had different effects—signs that focused on the environmental benefits were less effective than signs that pointed out the level of participation of other guests. Study authors Noah J. Goldstein of the University of Chicago, Robert B. Cialdini and Vladas Griskevicius, both from Arizona State University, got a hotel chain to allow them to create a series of different towel re-use cards, which were placed in the hotel's bathrooms. Some cards read "Help Save the Environment" and others read "Join Your Fellow Guests in Helping to Save the Environment." Cards that focused on the level of participation of other guests increased the percentage of participation from 35.1 percent to 44.1 percent. In a second study, the researchers were able to boost towel re-use even further by placing a sign in the room that said 75 percent of guests in that specific room re-used their towels. The above information is from a recent UPI.com article.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

More on Guestroom Amenities...

Earlier this month, I completed an article on guestroom amenities with the following headline: 'Green' Definitions Can Confuse Conscientious Amenity Purchasers. (Click here for the article.) In the article I described how difficult it is to determine how environmentally friendly an amenity is. The reason is that terms such as "natural," "organic," "pure," and "biodegradable" are used rather loosely. I referred to not only the amenity ingredients but also the bottles themselves. While I described the reasons it is important to reduce bottle waste, I did not go into much detail in regard to why true natural, organic and biodegradable amenity ingredients are important.

One reader, Rick Reibstein from the Office of Technical Assistance for Toxics Use Reduction in Boston (Rick.Reibstein@state.ma.us), helped me out and wrote the following in response to my article: “I thought your questions were great, but it’s important for people to think about the impact on aquatic and microbiological life. All that stuff goes down the drain. If it doesn’t break down by the time it gets to the sewage treatment facility, or into the river, or into the back lawn by way of the septic leaching field, and it has aquatic or microbiological toxicity, it’s going to kill the little bugs who break down the sewage or septage, or which keep the soil healthy, and/or living organisms in the water.”

A very good point. Too often we take for granted what goes down the drain.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Welcome to the Green Lodging News blog!

I am excited to introduce the Green Lodging News blog. It is something I have wanted to do since I launched Green Lodging News in July 2006. What can you expect to find here? As the name of the blog indicates, its primary emphasis will be news. At least several times a week and sometimes more than once a day, I will post news about the latest green hotel developments and products, trends and provide inside industry information gathered during phone conversations, conferences and trade shows. At times I will provide commentary and even a little humor. Included with each posting will be helpful links to click on for additional information. This blog will not be successful if it is just a conversation with myself. While I will always be the conversation starter, it is up to you to respond with your comments and suggestions to make the blog the growing online community that it can be. I am looking forward to hearing from you.

Tennessee Hilton Garden Inn to Pursue LEED

A Hilton Garden Inn will open next summer on River Road in downtown Gatlinburg, Tenn., as part of a revitalization of that part of the city and a project expected to boost the nearby convention center. Hospitality Management Solutions Inc., a locally-owned company, will manage the $15 million hotel, which will be built where River Oaks Center is now located. The company bought that property and the adjacent parking lot where King's Court used to be located. River Oaks will be torn down in the coming weeks. Logan Coykendall, president of Hospitality Solutions and a Gatlinburg native, said the Hilton hotel will include 118 guest rooms. It also will be a certified Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design facility. For additional details, click here.

Marriott to Publish Chain's Green Policies

Marriott recently told Economically Sound it will be publishing the hotel chain’s environmental policies on its website in fall 2008, with each hotel listing their specific green actions. This fall, the hotel will add a page to their corporate website outlining their environmental policies. Individual hotels will be encouraged to discuss their specific environmental policies on their Marriott Internet pages, not just their individual home pages as is presently done. Click here for more.

James Bond & Green Hotels

Could Green Lodging News have been the inspiration? I don't think so, but it is exciting to see that a green hotel will appear in an upcoming film. In the latest James Bond flick, Quantum of Solace, due out November 7, Bond duels it out with a character named Dominic Greene. The setting is the fictional Greene Planet Hotel in Bolivia. In real life the building is a retreat for astronomers at the European Southern Observatory in Chile's Atacama Desert. Thanks go out to Sierra magazine for alerting me to this green hotel news.