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.