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.