Thursday, December 24, 2009

Holiday Greetings to Blog Readers

Just wanted to quickly express my thanks to all of those who participated in the Green Lodging News blog in 2009. Your comments were great. Please continue to follow the Green Lodging News blog in 2010. I will look forward to joining you then. Have a very happy and healthy holiday season. All the best from Green Lodging News to you and your family.

Glenn Hasek, Publisher & Editor
Green Lodging News

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Food Channel, NRA Agree on 2010 Trends

The Food Channel just released its top 10 food trends for 2010. The findings are based on research conducted in conjunction with CultureWaves and the International Food Futurists. One of the top 10 trends is "Mainstreaming Sustainability." According to the Food Channel, "People have mainstreamed sustainability, unlike a year ago, when we were somewhat afraid to use the word. America is just now learning how to be sustainable, and Americans are holding themselves responsible. In 2010 we'll see people and companies becoming sustainable for authentic reasons."

The Food Channel's findings jibe with those of the National Restaurant Association (NRA). In early December the NRA revealed that local sourcing of ingredients, sustainability and nutrition will be the hottest trends on restaurant menus in 2010. (See article.) The NRA surveyed more than 1,800 chefs.

With such prominent organizations as the Food Channel and the NRA stating that sustainability is hot, how should one react if one runs a food and beverage operation? Understanding what sustainability means when it comes to food and beverages is extremely important. Knowing where your food comes from (local is better), how it was produced (organic is preferred), and how workers were treated along the way is key. Ensuring energy and water efficiency in the kitchen, minimizing waste (recycling cooking oil and composting food waste), and using green cleaning products is also important. These are just a few examples.

What are you doing to make your food and beverage operation more sustainable?

Monday, December 14, 2009

Some Thoughts About Conference Planning

I just returned from the second annual Green Lodging and Hospitality Conference. It was held at the Rosen Centre Hotel in Orlando, Fla., from December 9 to 11. I reported on the event for Green Lodging News. My hat goes off to anyone who tried to hold a conference or trade show this year. The economy was a bear. Each event I attended this year had attendance lower than expected. How do you convince hoteliers to spend money on travel and registration when their own businesses are hurting? It is a challenge.

Even in tough economic conditions, however, one cannot always blame just the economy for poor event attendance. There are other reasons events fail to reach expectations. Examples include: too little investment in marketing or public relations; too few staff or volunteers doing too many things; poor calendar management--waiting too long before planning the details of the event (lining up speakers, posting the agenda online, etc.); charging too much; doing a better job at attracting vendors than attracting potential buyers; ignoring or not recognizing partnership opportunities; and inviting guest speakers who are not the best fit for the target audience.

In case you are planning to organize an event in 2010 or 2011, here are a few bits of advice: To get listed in all of the event calendars--places prospective attendees go to when planning their schedules--one must plan at least a year or more in advance. I highly recommend working with a professional marketing/public relations professional with experience in the industry in which you are working. Don't take on too much yourself. Work with a professional meeting planner. Get to know the experts in your field--the best speakers. Go to other events to find them. At the Thursday luncheon at the Green Lodging and Hospitality Conference, the speaker spoke more about green homes than green hotels--disappointing. She also referred to the American Hotel & Lodging Association as the "AS&LA." Yikes. (The majority of the speakers at the conference were excellent.)

The economy of the last year should have taught everyone that in order to get customers to spend money, you have got to provide the type of value they just cannot refuse. That approach applies to conferences and trade shows as well. What do you think?

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

New TripAdvisor Survey Looks at Green Trends

TripAdvisor just announced the results of its annual trends survey of more than 3,000 U.S. travelers. According to the survey, 22 percent of travelers expect to be more environmentally conscious in their travel decisions in 2010 than they were in 2009. Thirty-two percent consider their carbon footprint when they are traveling, and as a result, 44 percent of those travelers choose to stay at "green" or environmentally-conscious hotels, while 26 percent choose to drive rather than fly, and 20 percent travel shorter distances. A hotel having "green" policies also factors into 33 percent of travelers' booking decisions.

While these results are impressive, approximately two-thirds of travelers still apparently do not factor in the environmental impact of their travel decisions when traveling. And, the same percentage do not factor in "green" policies when making hotel booking decisions. That said, it is good to see that more travelers will be considering the environment when traveling in 2010.

What are you seeing in your day-to-day operations? Are more guests and potential guests asking you about your green initiatives? Or, is it about the same as in years past?

Click here to read the entire press release detailing survey results.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Four Seasons Hotel Philadelphia & Composting

When management at the Four Seasons Hotel in Philadelphia learned in 2006 that their recycling program was only catching 3 to 5 percent of the hotel's waste by weight, they were not very happy. To increase the property's recycling volume, the hotel established a kitchen scraps recycling program with local composter and farmer Ned Foley. The program has been a success with the hotel saving almost $5,000 a year by having the compostable waste taken to Foley's Two Particular Acres farm. The waste would otherwise have gone to a landfill.

The composting program has been a success thanks to the efforts of the many employees who work in the hotel's kitchen. Black composting bins stand close to each kitchen work station. Employees deposit all of the kitchen's organic discards--food scraps plus paper, cardboard and biodegradable packaging, napkins and dishware--into the composting bins. At the end of each day, director of engineering Marvin Dixon takes the organic waste by truck to the farm. Dixon's truck runs on biodiesel made from the hotel's used cooking oil.

At Two Particular Acres Farm, Foley uses the scraps from the Four Seasons to make compost. The hotel then purchases that for its gardens and landscapes--closing the recycling loop. With 240,000 pounds of organic waste from the kitchen each year, the hotel contributes to the production of a lot of compost.

According to Dixon, the program took two months to take hold in the kitchen. Thanks to the kitchen scrap recycling program, the hotel has reduced its landfill waste by 29 percent. The EPA put together a case study of the Four Seasons Philadelphia's efforts. To see it, click here.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

USGBC Offering 'Green Venue Selection Guide'

Meeting and event planners and those lodging establishments that offer meeting space should get a copy of a new publication from the U.S. Green Building Council. "The Green Venue Selection Guide--Integrating LEED into Travel & Event Management" is a free resource geared toward helping meeting and event planners incorporate LEED's approach to evaluating buildings' environmental attributes during the RFP process. The guide includes a five-page Hotel & Conference Center Environmental Questionnaire, which planners can use to identify and select the greenest facilities based on LEED criteria. Venue sales staff can also use it to communicate their facility's environmental efforts and accomplishments when submitting proposals to potential customers.

The questionnaire focuses on facility-wide environmental characteristics instead of event-specific features. For example, the questionnaire includes a question that asks for the percentage of a building's total waste stream that it diverts from landfill disposal. The questionnaire also includes questions pertaining to a property's Energy Star score, percentage of the facility's total energy that is provided by on-site or off-site renewable energy, whether or not the property has a sustainable purchasing policy, and whether or not the facility prohibits smoking indoors.

USGBC's new guide should certainly not be the only tool that a meeting planner uses in gathering information from a prospective meeting site. Its questions, however, can be integrated into a much more complete RFP.

To access a copy of The Green Venue Selection Guide, click here.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

A Certification in Green Hotel Management

I was excited to learn that the Virginia Tech Hampton Roads Training Center is now offering a certificate program in Green Hotel Management. To my knowledge, few schools offer this type of course. Why not more? According to the Training Center website, the course is being offered now through November 30 and again in January. It is being taught by Tom Griffin, director and co-founder of Greener Results, and Laura Wood Habr, a 20-year hospitality/restaurant industry veteran.

According to the course description, those who participate in the program will learn how to develop a green hotel program; track and measure waste and recycling; track consumption of water and energy; and learn about other green practices and techniques that will result in cost savings. The course is geared toward hotel owners, managers, and green program coordinators.

Those owning and operating lodging establishments in Virginia have good reason to educate themselves about green hotel management--not only for the operations benefits but also for the marketing benefits as well. Virginia has an aggressive green lodging program called Virginia Green. It is a voluntary green tourism program that features self-certification for green lodging facilities. Virginia also now has its own Virginia Green travel website for visitors to that state.

Are there any schools in your area that offer Green Hotel Management courses? If so, I want to know about them. Write to A list of colleges and universities that offer some type of sustainability-related course can be found at Green Lodging News.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Tennessee Gets Serious About Sustainability

I spoke this week at a Sustainable Tourism Workshop in Memphis, Tenn. It was one of four Sustainable Tourism Workshops held this year throughout the state. The workshops were organized by the Tennessee Department of Tourist Development and the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation. The workshops are part of the education and outreach component of Tennessee's Sustainable Tourism Initiative and focus on sustainable tourism best practices, sustainable resources, and green products.

At the Memphis workshop, I had an opportunity to meet Susan Whitaker, Tennessee's Commissioner of Tourist Development. Tennessee is fortunate to have such an energetic champion of sustainability. Susan was appointed to her post in 2003 and then reappointed in 2007. Thanks to Susan and others like her, Tennessee is miles ahead of most states when it comes to sustainable tourism development.

I first learned about Tennessee's sustainability initiatives in 2008 when the Great Smoky Mountains Sustainable Tourism Summit was announced. It was held in April in Knoxville that year and drew dignitaries such as Tennessee Governor Phil Bredesen and Tennessee Senator Lamar Alexander. I highly recommend checking out the Tennesse Sustainable Tourism website. The site does a great job summarizing Tennessee's sustainable tourism efforts and includes case studies and videos of previous webinars and other events.

What has made Tennessee's initiative a success so far is the buy-in of so many different organizations representing government and the private sector. Officials in Tennessee also recognize the importance of agritourism, rural tourism and the preservation of historical places in their overall sustainability planning.

In the lodging sector, there are many sustainability stories to tell: a LEED-pursuing Hilton Garden Inn in Gatlinburg, the Hutton Hotel and Opryland Hotel in Nashville, and a new LaQuinta Inn & Suites in the Memphis area that will incorporate solar and wind technologies.

Is what your state is doing comparable to that of Tennessee? I will look forward to your comments.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Times Article Reveals Housekeeping Dangers

Everyone knows that housekeepers are primarily female so it should surprise no one that those housekeepers injured on the job are also primarily female. A new study, to be published in January in The American Journal of Industrial Medicine, and cited in a Nov. 10 New York Times article, says housekeepers have a 7.9 percent injury rate each year, 50 percent higher than for all hotel workers and twice the rate for all workers in the United States.

Interestingly, the study found that Hispanic housekeepers had the highest injury rate--10.6 percent a year--compared with 6.3 percent for white housekeepers, 5.5 percent for black housekeepers, and 7.3 percent for Asian housekeepers. Why are hispanics injured more often? According to the New York Times article, it may because of their smaller stature or the fact that they are given heavier workloads. What do you think? My guess is that there are just more Hispanics working as housekeepers.

The study included 50 unionized properties and examined 2,865 injuries over a three-year span. The study found the highest injury rate for housekeepers was at Hyatt Corp. That is not good news for Hyatt, fresh off of its housekeeper firing debacle in Boston in late August. That said, one would really have to take a closer look at the data to see if it in any way was biased against Hyatt (e.g., there just happen to be more Hyatt hotels in the study). The housekeeper injury rate was the lowest at Hilton--5.47 percent.

I don't think anyone can argue the fact that housekeepers are at a much greater risk of injury--on average--than anyone else who works in a hotel. Do what is necessary to provide your housekeepers with what they need--training, products, etc.--to make their jobs ergonomically and chemically safe. Housekeepers are the unsung heroes of our industry. Treat them with respect and as you would want to be treated. Your thoughts?

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Embassy Suites Lake Tahoe $27,727 Richer

The Embassy Suites Lake Tahoe is at it again. Featured in Green Lodging News in July (see article) because of its green programs that should net it close to $500,000 in savings by the end of the year, the hotel recently received a rebate check of $27,727.20 from Nevada Energy. I spoke with David Hansen, director of engineering at the 400-suite property, and he told me that $4,377 of the rebate was for an ozone laundry system that was installed earlier this year. A total of $24,000 was invested in that system. A return on investment of just seven months was expected.

For the variable frequency drives installed on the hotel's pumps for cooling and condensing water, the property received a $6,750 rebate. Additional rebate money was given for lighting, as well as for occupancy sensors for lighting. "The rebate is incredible," Hansen said. "We were trying to get the largest rebate that we could."

The Embassy Suites Lake Tahoe is so excited about its efforts to save energy and cut costs that it is hosting a series of workshops on sustainability. Hansen said 60 people attended the first workshop and 15 hotels were represented. The next workshop will be held at the hotel on November 17. (Call 775-588-1728 for details.)

"We are trying to rally the hotel community here in Lake Tahoe," Hansen said. "A lot of people want to check out our property because of what we have done."

Hansen said he is even planning a Green Lodging Summit that would be held next August. Watch for details on Green Lodging News.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

'Seaport Saves' Even More with New Toilets

I first wrote about the Seaport Hotel and Seaport World Trade Center in Boston shortly after launching Green Lodging News in July 2006. Matthew V. Moore, director of rooms and environmental programs at the property, leads the hotel's Seaport Saves program. I have gotten to know Matt over the past few years and he has consistently been among the first in the lodging industry to try new green programs and technologies, including an allergy-friendly rooms program and food composting machine.

The Seaport has been 100 percent nonsmoking since 1998 and uses cleaning fluids produced by an electrolyzed water system. Other green highlights include an ozone laundry system, Grander pool water treatment system, yearly recycling rate of 43 percent, thermo-glass windows in guestrooms and public spaces, the purchase of renewable energy credits, a "smart thermostat" system in guestrooms, a green roof on the World Trade Center East Podium, and a Green Wedding Package.

I just learned that the Seaport has completed the installation of 400 water-efficient toilets in guestrooms. The toilets will use just 1.28 gallons per flush (gpf) compared to the older 1.6 gpf model being replaced. The new toilets are expected to reduce annual water consumption by approximately 200,000 gallons. "These new water-saving toilets will help us reduce water consumption by 20 percent per flush," Moore said. What will happen to the old toilets? Through the Institutional Recycling Network, the toilets will be donated for use in various developing countries. The donation will divert 17 tons of waste from the landfill. A great idea.

To learn more about Seaport Saves, click here. Also be sure to search on "Seaport" at

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Virginia Beach Steps Up Green Commitment

The Virginia Beach Convention & Visitors Bureau (CVB) is aggressively positioning its East Coast location as a green destination and justifiably so. The hospitality industry there recently exceeded its goal to certify 100 businesses with the Virginia Green program; 42 percent of the city's hotel rooms are now represented in the program. The CVB is actively pursuing Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Silver certification for the Convention Center and expects to achieve the designation by spring 2010.

The Virginia Beach CVB recently became the first Platinum business member of the Green Meeting Industry Council (GMIC), the leading global organization for sustainability in the meetings industry. The CVB also joined the Convene Green Alliance, a nonprofit industry initiative spearheaded by several high-profile associations that seek to affect positive environmental practices through national, regional and local outreach and education.

As a partner in the EPA's Energy Star program for two years, the Virginia Beach Convention Center has reduced energy consumption significantly. From July 2008 to June 2009, the Convention Center used 49 percent less power, gas and water. This includes a savings of 2.2 million kilowatts of electricity and 468,000 gallons of water.

Virginia Beach's green initiatives include a social responsibility partnership with United Way, an oceanfront recycling program, and, in partnership with Hampton Roads Transit, the city offers hybrid-electric buses that replaced the old trolleys as the oceanfront's seasonal service.

All of these efforts are all good reasons for meeting planners and others to consider Virginia Beach as a travel destination. Check out to learn more.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

A Green Halloween at the Radisson LAX

Savvy hoteliers use holidays to help put heads in beds—or at least in costumes. This Halloween at the Radisson Hotel at Los Angeles Airport, hotel staff are inviting guests and employees to celebrate Halloween in an environmentally friendly fashion. Upon arrival, guests will be treated to green apples and organic candy. Then, they can vote for their favorite Jack-O-Lanterns, decorated by hotel employees using only recycled items. The Jack-O-Lanterns will be on display beginning Thursday, October 29 in the hotel lobby near the main entrance.

The Concorde Lounge is spotlighting Bonterra Chardonnay and True Earth Cabernet organic wines, as well as Mothership Witt and Samuel Smith Lager organic beers. For breakfast, Palmira Restaurant is featuring heart-healthy options, including organic eggs made-to-order, all-natural organic berries of the day, organic Greek yogurt, and a selection or organic cereals and breads.

The Radisson Hotel at Los Angeles Airport just became a member of the Green Hotels Association and is currently expanding its sustainable practices.

What "green" special event(s) do you have planned for Halloween to help bring in new business? What about for Thanksgiving? Christmas? New Year's Eve? If you are doing something creative, let me know about it. I will be sure to share your plans with my readers.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Building the Case for Green Building

Let's assume you have been asked by your boss to put together a report to justify the construction of a green building. Where do you begin? I highly recommend including a recent article by Jerry Yudelson in your report. In "The Business Case for Green Buildings," Yudelson, the author of several books on green building, states that, "The business case for green buildings is solid, no matter whether one builds directly for a corporate client or construct speculative office or commercial space. By 2012, certified green buildings will hold the dominant market share of new commercial buildings. Now is the time to begin getting experience with this type of project."

In his article, Yudelson lists the 10 "Major Business Case Benefits of Green Buildings." They include:

1. Energy and water cost savings.
2. Increased building valuation from higher profits owing to such savings.
3. Possible incentive payments from government and utilities.
4. Increased rent and occupancy.
5. Productivity and health benefits for office occupants.
6. Risk management (economic, financial, market, legal, political, etc.).
7. Marketing and public relations.
8. Increase in reputation value for public companies.
9. Recruitment and retention of key personnel.
10. Access to capital from responsible property investing funds.

In his report, Yudelson successfully pulls together highlights from some of the most convincing recent studies that support green building. Be sure to check it out. Of course there are many good stories to support green building at as well.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

The Green/Preventive Maintenance Connection

Going green means nothing if preventive maintenance is not part of your routine. This past Sunday I stayed at a hotel in Portland, Ore., very close to the airport. It was my last night on vacation and I was tired, knowing that I also had to get up at 4 a.m. to get ready for a 6 a.m. flight back to Ohio. After entering my room, I noticed several signs--on the bed and on the towel rack--reminding me that I had the option of not having my towels and linens washed. I am always happy to see these, even though oftentimes, from my experience, housekeepers disregard the practice. I was only staying one night so there would be no need to inform housekeepers about my towel and linen intentions but, as I said, it was good to know the hotel's owner had some interest in saving water and energy.

After spending about 15 minutes in the room, I noticed a nasty odor. I could not quite figure it out. Then I saw it. In the bathroom there was a puddle of water on the floor. I looked up and the the paint on the ceiling above the tub was bubbled and flaking off in a big way. There was also some brownish, gooey droplets of some kind hanging from the ceiling. Lovely. What I had been smelling earlier was mold. Arrgh. It was pretty obvious nobody had been in this room for quite some time, and if they had been, they obviously had not bothered to examine the bathroom. So much for preventive maintenance.

I went down to the front desk to explain the situation and was promptly given another room--not a free night but another room. After packing everything up again I moved to the new room. By this time I was not a very happy camper. After just a few hours of restless sleep--the kind you get when knowing you have to wake up early--I headed for the shower. Another disappointment. This time there was no mold but a very "limp" shower flow. I suspect you can all relate to this but I really had to work to get wet and clean. Again, frustrating. The water pressure was fine but the showerhead was not. It was obvious nobody had bothered to check the showerhead in quite some time.

In one night, in two different guestrooms, I experienced two different maintenance issues. Whether or not the hotel was trying to be "green" meant nothing to me after my bad experience. At checkout I explained my overnight adventure to the gentleman at the front desk. I received no sympathy and no refund whatsoever.

Folks, let's not forget the importance of preventive maintenance. If you do not practice it, your guests will inevitably leave your property as mad as a hornet, never to return again. And your green message, if you have one, will mean absolutely nothing.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Report Says 'Organic' is No. 1 Food Trend

If your guests are asking for more organic food options, there is good reason. According to recent research conducted by NPD Group, “organic” is the No. 1 top food trend expected to grow more important during the next decade. Forty-one percent of those responding to a national survey selected “organic” above other trend options such as “restaurant meals eaten in-home” and “Light/lite/diet/low calorie labels. The survey report, “A Look into the Future of Eating,” is a 10-year forecast of eating trends based on generational influences, population, and other trends. The survey took into account eating patterns at 2,000 households (about 5,000 individuals) over a 14-day period.

I am not surprised at all by this trend. It is now quite common for hotel chefs to procure local, organic ingredients for their menu options. Gardens are being constructed on hotel and resort grounds, and in urban areas some chefs have started rooftop gardens to grow pesticide-free herbs and vegetables. Kimpton now offers organic wine in its restaurants, and at least one Fairmont property, the Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn & Spa, offers organic produce, wine and coffee as an option in its Green Wedding package.

What are you hearing from your guests? Are they requesting organic options? I would love to know. Write to

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Good to Be Online in a Struggling Print World

This week I learned that Questex Media Group Inc., publisher of Hotel & Motel Management magazine, Hotel Design and more than 20 other publications, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. According to bankruptcy documents, the company has $321 million in debt and $299 million in assets. Questex's struggles are a reflection of the overall current state of the print publishing business. Newspapers, consumer and trade publications are all experiencing tough times. This week, Conde Nast folded Gourmet magazine. Also shut down were two wedding magazines: Elegant Bride and Modern Bride. I just received a copy of one of the leading hotel trade publications yesterday and it was barely more than 40 pages.

Not all trade publications are struggling but many are. One industry publication still makes a thud when it hits my coffee table. And my publication, Green Lodging News, is doing just fine. Being Internet-based, my company exists in a different world than that of print publishers. It certainly will be interesting to see if all of the lodging trade publications make it through this downturn. I suspect they will.

I worked for Hotel & Motel Management magazine from 1989 to 1996 and then again from 2000 to 2001. During both stints with the publication, the magazine experienced some tough times but also some great runs as well. One low point was when Robert L. Edgell, former chairman of Edgell Communications Inc., which owned Hotel & Motel Management at the time, took his own life in 1991. It was reported then that he may have paid $100 million too much for publishing company HBJ Publications. Another low point: Edgell Communications filing for bankruptcy protection in 1991.

There will always be a need for trade publications in our industry, just as there will always be periods of prosperity and struggle. My competitors all work hard and deserve success. Support them with your ad dollars and your readership support.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Do Green Buildings Enhance Productivity?

Are employees who work in green buildings more productive? According to green cleaning advocate Stephen Ashkin, president of The Ashkin Group and Sustainable Tool, LLC, they are. In a release recently sent by Ashkin to Green Lodging News, he cited a September 2009 University of San Diego study that found that employees working in green buildings are more productive than their counterparts in non-green facilities. “The researchers identified a green building as one that is LEED-certified or Energy Star-labeled,” Ashkin says.

The comprehensive study involved more than 2,000 workers from 154 different green buildings. Formerly, these staffers worked in conventional, non-green facilities. For the study, researchers looked at two key measurements: number of sick days reported and self-reported productivity percentage changes. Among the findings:

• Forty-five percent of respondents reported an average of 2.9 fewer sick days in the new green location;
• Nearly 43 percent of the employees agreed they were more productive in green buildings; twelve percent said they strongly agreed they were more productive in green buildings and 45 percent noted little change;
• Ten percent actually reported an increase in the number of sick days after moving to a green facility.

“Some clarification is needed to explain the last two statistics,” Ashkin says. “Many of these folks reporting no changes or even an increase in sick days were in Energy Star-labeled buildings that do not have indoor air quality (IAQ) requirements. LEED-certified buildings do have IAQ standards and that makes a big difference.”

Ashkin goes on to add that these findings are similar to other studies conducted over the past few years. “They remind us of the many benefits of green buildings, which [are] not only fewer sick days and greater worker productivity, but enhanced employee retention, recruitment, and worker morale.”

What are your thoughts? Are those who work in green hotels more productive?

Thursday, October 1, 2009

The Waring House Benefits from 'Green Story'

After turning away business with just 17 rooms, the owners of The Waring House in Picton, Ontario, decided to add an additional 32 rooms—16 suites in two buildings. The recent additions are highly energy efficient thanks to geothermal heating and air-conditioning and a solar hot water heating system. Guests entering the new buildings through automatic doors notice that the second set of doors will not open until the first set has closed—further helping to save energy.

Other green features include a bio-filter septic system that returns water to the earth as pure water, mattresses with replaceable tops, flapper-less toilets, biodegradable amenities (content & bottles), and the use of natural cleaning products. When it was time to purchase new furniture for the property, the owners chose solid wood furniture made by one of Canada's oldest furniture manufacturers. Towels and robes are made from natural fibers. Energy-efficient electric fireplaces in guestrooms provide supplemental heat. The list goes on....

According to a representative of the property, The Waring House's green story is making a big difference as it attempts to attract group business. In fact, for some groups it has been a deciding factor. What is your property's green story? How are you telling it? At The Waring House, going green is THE story and front and center on the property's website. The Waring House is a good example of a small property doing what it can to minimize its environmental impact. Kudos to the owners for making smart, green decisions when it came time to expand and grow.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Take a Tour, Then Tune Into Solar

Almost every week now, I learn about one more lodging establishment incorporating solar technology to either heat water or generate electricity. The latest one is the Irving House at Harvard in Cambridge, Mass. This month they are installing a system that will provide about 30 percent of the energy needed to heat water for the hotel. The system is expected to last 20 to 30 years.

For those of you interested in learning more about solar systems, I highly recommend participating in the 14th Annual National Solar Tour. The event will be held on October 3 all over the United States. According to the American Solar Energy Society, which is organizing this year's event, more than 150,000 people are expected to participate. Those attending this year’s tour will discover a diverse solar landscape—including solar-powered duplexes, houses, condos, businesses—even solar-powered funeral homes, schools, farms, courthouses and donut shops.

“With thousands of practical examples of how solar works in homes, businesses and public agencies similar to theirs, the National Solar Tour demystifies the allure of solar while inspiring people across the U.S. to harness its power and the many economic benefits it brings,” said Charles Hanasaki, president of Sanyo’s Energy USA Solar Division, a National Solar Tour supporter.

Solar tour locations, dates and times are listed by state at Those attending the open-house tours will learn how to use solar and energy efficiency tactics to save on monthly utility bills, enjoy big tax incentives, improve property values, create a hedge against rising energy costs, and help preserve the environment.

For additional information on lodging establishments that are using solar technologies, go to Green Lodging News and search using the word "solar."

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Yet Another Reason to Go Smoke Free

Those U.S. hoteliers still hanging on to smoking rooms or still allowing smoking in public areas such as restaurants, bars and casinos should pay attention to research detailed in two new reports. In the studies analyzing the dangers of passive smoking (detailed in an article in the Wall Street Journal), researchers found that smoke-free laws reduced the rate of heart attacks by an average of 17 percent after one year in communities where the bans had been adopted. After three years, the rate had dropped about 26 percent. The biggest declines in heart attacks were seen among non-smokers and people between the ages of 40 and 60 years.

The studies, conducted since 2004, involved a combined total of roughly 24 million people. David Meyers, a preventive cardiologist at the University of Kansas School of Medicine, and lead author of one of the reports, said that on a national basis, a 17 percent decline would amount to avoiding more than 150,000 heart attacks annually.

Currently, 17 states, Washington, D.C., Puerto Rico and more than 350 cities and towns in the United States have regulations banning smoking in workplaces, bars and restaurants, according to advocacy group Americans for Non-smokers Rights. The bans cover about 40 percent of the U.S. population. An additional 14 states prohibit smoking in one or two of those public locations. And 19 states—mostly in the South and the Midwest—don't completely outlaw smoking in any public area, the group says.

According to the Wall Street Journal article, "While smoking tobacco is known to heighten risk of heart attacks over a lifetime, there is some evidence that even short exposure to second-hand smoke can raise the risk of heart attacks. It can increase blood pressure, cause blood platelets to become sticky and injure cells that line the interior walls of blood vessels—all factors that can promote heart attacks."

Numerous hotel chains and many independents have eliminated smoking anywhere within their lodging establishments. (See With so much evidence linking second-hand smoke to cancer and heart attacks, isn't it time every lodging establishment and restaurant in the United States banned smoking? What do you think?

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

A Bicoastal PR Blitz for Courtyard by Marriott

Marriott's public relations team deserves some kudos today for organizing a bicoastal event to celebrate the greening of two Courtyard by Marriott properties. Two press conferences are being held simultaneously. One of the conferences--to be held in Chevy Chase, Md. to celebrate the opening of the Courtyard Chevy Chase--will include Marriott chairman and CEO J.W. "Bill" Marriott, Jr. The other press event--in Portland, Ore., to celebrate the earning of a LEED Gold designation by the Courtyard Portland City Center--will include U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) senior vice president Scot Horst.

In Maryland, where the Courtyard Chevy Chase is expected to earn LEED Gold by the end of the year, Marriott's chairman and CEO will be joined by USGBC COO Chris Smith and senior vice president of Grosvenor USA Ltd., Mark Darley (the hotel's developer). The Maryland property’s green features include 100 percent renewable energy provided by wind power, which greatly reduces the operational carbon footprint; a reflective roof; energy-efficient lighting and HVAC systems that do not use ozone-depleting refrigerants; energy-efficient windows; low-VOC adhesives, paints, carpets, and sealants; low-flow shower heads and dual-flush toilets; an energy management system; special parking for hybrid cars; a bike to work program for employees; a centralized recycling station for on-site sorting; and a solar-powered trash compactor.

In Portland, Scot Horst will present the Gold plaque to the CEO of Sage Hospitality, Walter Isenberg (the hotel's developer), and general manager of the Courtyard Portland City Center, Mike Castro. The Courtyard Portland City Center is designed to lower overall energy consumption by 28 percent (equivalent to the energy consumption of 42 households per year) and reduce carbon emissions. Water consumption was reduced by 26 percent through the use of dual flush toilets and more than 75 percent of the construction waste was recycled and reused. All of the hotel’s electricity comes from renewable sources, including wind and hydroelectric. To further reduce waste, recycling containers are situated in each guestroom and on each floor. Additionally, kitchen grease from the Original Restaurant is recycled into biodiesel fuel and food waste from the restaurant is composted.

Click here to access a site that will include press event coverage. Information about both Courtyard by Marriott hotels can also be found at

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Starwood Capital's "1" Back in the News

Almost three years ago, Starwood Capital Group, led by Barry Sternlicht, announced the launch of "1" Hotel and Residences, a new green luxury brand. The goal was to have 15 hotels signed or under construction within 24 months. The Natural Resources Defense Council signed on to be an advisor for the brand and Starwood Capital Group said that each property would donate 1 percent of revenues to local environmental organizations. The announcement generated a lot of publicity at the time.

According to the "1" website, there are "1" properties in the works in Seattle, Scottsdale, Ariz., Washington, D.C., and New York. Reading the descriptions about each property, one gets the impression that some are already open, but are they? No. I recently called Starwood Capital Group to get an update on "1." A representative of the company said that plans are well under way for several projects, although that could change depending on economy/finance-related factors. Given the lending environment of the past year, it is no surprise the brand has had a difficult time getting off the ground.

This past week an article in the Austin Business Journal stated that a Dallas company--Woodbine Development Co.--intends to develop a 250-room "1" Hotel in Austin, Texas. Construction on the 20-story hotel, according to the article, is expected to begin late next year. The property's owner is Starwood Capital Group. Stay tuned to Green Lodging News for more details on "1."

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Have We All Had Enough of Green?

I subscribe to all of the different lodging publications and try to read as many of them as possible. Having been in the lodging industry about 15 years, I know most of the editors personally. One of the editors I have gotten to know pretty well over the years is Paul Heney. Paul is editorial director for Hotel & Motel Management and Hotel Design. Toward the end of Paul's most recent column in Hotel Design he said that he knows plenty of people who are "greened out."

That is the first time I have read or heard that phrase but it surprised me. Do you know anyone who is feeling this way? It is possible that one could be tired of all of the companies touting their environmental commitment on television. I can see that happening. But in the hotel world, are people really getting tired of environmental responsibility and sustainability? I have not heard anything close to that. In fact, I believe it has been the exact opposite and "green" is still in its infancy and has not yet even come close to peaking.

The day will come when sustainable business will become the norm but that day is still far away. In lodging, there are still large companies yet to make any formalized commitment. Most companies still do not produce a sustainability report. Most companies have yet to set conservation goals. I could go on and on.

What do you think? Are you feeling "greened out?" If so, I would like to know why. Write to:

Friday, September 11, 2009

Hilton San Francisco's Big Laundry Savings

The Hilton San Francisco, located in the heart of the city's restaurant, theater and shopping districts, is doing an incredible job wringing savings out of its laundry operations. According to Jo Licata, community projects manager at the 1,908-room hotel, last December the property installed new, state-of-the-art laundry equipment. The equipment includes a continuous batch washer and press, 255-pound washer-extractors, 400-pound pass-through dryers, and 165-pound front load dryers. The new equipment replaced washers and dryers purchased more than 25 years ago.

Estimated water and energy savings for 2009 will be 10.7 million gallons of water, 27,000 therms of natural gas, and 786,000 kWh of electricity. Using an EPA calculator, this equates to 700 tons of CO2 emissions saved or removing 128 cars off the road.

Kudos to the Hilton San Francisco for finding an easy way to reduce its carbon footprint. If your property's laundry equipment is as old as the Hilton San Francisco's was, don't you think it's time to consider an update? See the Kitchen & Laundry section of Green Lodging News and the Green Product & Service Directory on the Green Lodging News website for additional guidance on saving energy and dollars in your laundry.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Maine Puts Foot Down on CFL Recycling

This Saturday (September 12) will be a historic one in Maine. On that day a bill will go into effect requiring compact fluorescent lamp (CFL) manufacturers to share the costs and responsibility for recycling mercury-containing bulbs. Manufacturers will have until 2011 to implement a lamp recycling program but they must submit plans by 2010.

"Passage of this law sends a clear message out nationally (and globally) that a new day is dawning for total life cycle management and shared responsibility—from 'the cradle to the grave' for products containing mercury and other hazardous substances," said Mercury Policy Project Director Michael Bender.

"With this bill, Maine twice reduces the mercury in our environment," added Rep. Seth Berry, the bill's sponsor. "First, we reduce our electrical consumption; second, we ensure that CFLs are correctly disposed of. Equally important, Maine once again demonstrates to the nation that it is good business practice for manufacturers to participate in the end life of the products they bring to market."

According to the Environmental Leader website, which reported on the new bill, Massachusetts, Vermont and California are expected to follow Maine’s lead. All three states have similar bills pending. The state of Maine will oversee its lamp recycling program.

Hoteliers in the four aforementioned states should pay attention to the progress of the lamp recycling programs. No matter where your property is based, however, you need to have a CFL collection policy in place. You cannot just throw them away; they contain mercury and should be disposed of properly. Be sure to visit Green Lodging News for additional news and guidance on CFL recycling.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

The Videoconferencing Conundrum--Part Two

In my most recent blog entry, I addressed the videoconferencing conundrum—how videoconferencing is good for the environment on the one hand but bad for the travel industry on the other. For those who are concerned about travel disappearing thanks to technology, there is some reason not to fear according to a Hospitality Sales & Marketing Association International (HSMAI) Affordable Meetings National and Event Technology Expo pre-conference survey. The survey, conducted by J. Spargo & Associates, Inc. and independently analyzed by 2020 Assessment—a service of HVS—found that many planners believe that certain elements of face-to-face conferences cannot be duplicated with today’s technology.

Seventy-six percent of meeting planners attending the HSMAI Affordable Meeting at Walter E. Washington Convention Center in Washington, D.C., on Sept. 9 to 10, 2009, stated that they used technology mostly for marketing efforts, followed by making presentations (68 percent) and networking (56 percent). However, survey results suggest that technology reportedly cannot replace at least six elements of the conference experience: 1) socializing and networking spontaneously, 2) helping attendees best put names with faces, 3) allowing more free and open dialogue between attendees and vendors/presenters, 4) training effectively via live and personal interaction, 5) paying greater attention to others when face to face, and 6) engaging in real-time conversation that is not interrupted by technical glitches.

“While the ‘always on the job’ mentality of meeting planners tends to rely on the latest technological tools for marketing, presentations and networking, there is clearly a ‘man over machine’ mindset when it comes to other elements of meetings and conferences,” says Dr. James Houran of 2020 Assessment. “Thus, the popular push for more teleconferences or Internet-based meetings, even for smaller groups, may ultimately not meet critical needs of attendees.”

What are your thoughts? At what point is a face-to-face meeting necessary or not necessary? Even if it is a meeting within your own organization and not with a client or potential client?

Thursday, August 27, 2009

The Videoconferencing Conundrum

As a cheerleader for protection of the environment, my initial reaction to video conferencing is, of course, that it is a great idea. It almost eliminates the carbon impact of travel entirely. All you have to do is show up at your office or a nearby location where video conferencing is available, have your "face-to-face" meeting, and return to your work. Not bad, eh? Not having to sweat making a flight, getting through security, and going through all of the other inefficiencies of travel? Well, in the case of video conferencing what is good for the planet is not necessarily good for the travel business—especially hotels. And that is the conundrum.

According to an article appearing recently in the Chicago Tribune, many companies are slashing travel budgets and real face-to-face meetings and transitioning to video conferencing. Cisco Systems Inc., for example, has cut its annual travel budget by two-thirds, to $240 million from $750 million, by using video conferencing technology. Video conferencing technology has improved in recent years to the point where it is highly reliable.

As the recession resides, business travel will pick up once more but one has to wonder if companies like Cisco will ever allocate the same kind of dollars for business travel again. What is a hotel company to do? Offering video conferencing services is certainly a good idea, of course. Finding new ways to identify and market to prospective customers is also important—through social networking tools like Twitter, for example.

As an environmentalist and lodging industry supporter, the issue of video conferencing tears me in half. What do you think?

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Pillows for Patriots Worth Supporting

Most of us take a good night's sleep for granted. We also think very little about the pillows we sleep on each night. It is difficult to believe but many U.S. troops in Iraq and Afghanistan do not have pillows to sleep on. Their pillow each night is often rolled up clothing. When you think about it, a standard-size pillow would be cumbersome to carry in a backpack. But a small pillow that is packable and half the size of a standard one? That is possible.

When a client of mine—Beaufort, S.C.-based Harris Pillow Supply—received a call from a local mother in late July asking for filling to make pillows for her son—a captain in the U.S. army—and some of his soldiers, the company offered to make and donate the pillows. Harris Pillow Supply committed to donating and making 250 pillows and since has been making additional pillows at cost as part of a "Pillows for Patriots" program that was launched by the aforementioned local mother and another family. Harris Pillow Supply has now made approximately 3,000 pillows for U.S. troops.

"We will continue to participate as long as we can," says Patrick Harris, vice president of Harris Pillow Supply. "It was the least we could do. I am honored to do a small thing for those guys that sacrifice so much. The pillows are small enough to fit in a backpack and we vacuum pack them for shipping."

To learn more about Pillow for Patriots and to donate dollars for the program, contact either Barbara and Dave Farrior at (843) 525-9262 and, or Jenny and Ken Bush at (843) 525-6578 and*

*Pillows for Patriots is not a registered charity. All of the donations are used to actually make and ship the pillows directly to troops.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Good News for Renewable Energy Advocates

An increasing number of hotels are investing in solar technology for the purpose of generating electricity and heating hot water. Cooper Hotels just announced that two of its hotels in Tennessee will be implementing solar thermal systems. The Hilton Asheville (N.C.) is about to open with a solar water heating system atop its roof, and the Allison Inn & Spa in Newberg, Ore., will soon be using solar technology for both electricity generation and water heating. Solar thermal systems (for water heating) have become especially affordable lately thanks to available incentives.

The growth of renewable energy in lodging reflects an overall trend in the U.S. economy. According to the latest figures released by the Energy Information Administration (EIA) in its "Electric Power Monthly" report, net U.S. electrical generation from renewable energy sources (biomass, geothermal, solar, water, wind) reached an all-time monthly high in May 2009. Combined, those sources accounted for 13 percent of total electrical generation.

More specifically, renewable sources generated 40,395,000 megawatt-hours (Mwh) of electricity in May 2009 (the latest month for which EIA has compiled and released data). That level is 7.7 percent higher than that produced in May 2008 (37,515,000 Mwh) and appears to be the highest monthly figure ever reported by EIA for renewably-generated electricity. Total net electrical generation from all sources, including renewables, fossil fuels, and nuclear, in May 2009 was 311,411,000 Mwh—a drop of 4.1 percent from the 324,589,000 Mwh generated in May 2008.

To learn about lodging establishments that have invested in renewable technology, go to Green Lodging News and search on phrases such as "solar thermal" and "wind turbine."

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

'Responsible Hotels' Featured on New Travel Site

If one were to put together a collection of green, socially responsible hotels, you could not find a much better name than "Responsible Hotels of the World." That is the name of a collection of 40 hotels now found at The site, launched last month by those running travel website, also includes a dedicated travel agency division to book the hotels.

According to the Responsible Hotels site, all hotels within the collection have been carefully screened for their commitment to responsible tourism. Some of the criteria required for inclusion include the following: evidence of an initiative to reduce waste and a company policy that requests waste management be practiced by suppliers; evidence that the company policy requests destination suppliers to employ local people wherever possible; and evidence that travelers are provided with relevant suggestions to minimize damage to the environment, wildlife and marine ecosystems. Click here to read additional criteria.

Hotels currently listed can be found in the Caribbean, South East Asia, the Indian Ocean, Central America and East Africa. Featured properties include: Banyan Tree Phuket, Thailand; Beachcomber Royal Palm, Mauritius; and Chumbe Island Coral Park, Tanzania. No U.S. properties are currently included. Be sure to check out this new site.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

A Valuable Resource for Electronics Recycling

I recently learned about a great resource for those interested in recycling electronics--computers, TVs, audio equipment, etc. I highly recommend checking it out. It was published by (Click here to access the site.) The Electronics Recycling Superguide details a range of ways you can recycle properly--through maufacturers, local electronics stores, and on the Web.

Electronics waste is a huge problem in the United States. The EPA estimates that the number of obsolete consumer electronics sold between 1980 and 2007 is 235 million--a total weight of 2.25 million tons. Where are the 235 million units now? Eighteen percent of the products were collected for recycling; the rest are, unfortunately, sitting in landfills.

Hotels generate a huge amount of waste in the form of outdated televisions, as well as computer equipment. The article suggests that one should consider donating items before considering recycling--possibly to a local school, church or other organization. A great idea. You should also ask vendors you are purchasing new equipment from if they accept used items for recycling--even if they are from another manufacturer--or if they have a take-back program for the newly purchased items once they are no longer useable. Do business with those vendors who support your efforts to recycle.

Don't ever just throw away TVs, computers, and other electronics. They include toxic metals and are a danger to our environment. Sending the items to a landfill is the easy thing to do but not responsible at all. (See article in Green Lodging News for additional information.)

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Some Hope On the Travel Horizon?

I receive a lot of e-mail newsletters on a daily basis. Not many have included good hotel performance news as of late. In fact, here is the typical preface of a Smith Travel Research press release: "The U.S. hotel industry posted declines in all three key performance measurements during the week of...." That is why it was refreshing to read yesterday's travelhorizons survey results report from Ypartnership and the U.S. Travel Assn. According to the quarterly report, almost two-thirds (63 percent) of U.S. adults expect to take at least one trip for leisure purposes between August 2009 and January, 2010, up from 61 percent who expressed the same intention in July 2008. Assuming Americans act on their stated intention, this will translate into an estimated 142 million U.S. adults taking at least one overnight trip during the next six months.

It is certanly not a huge increase but an increase it is. According to the national survey of 2,362 respondents conducted between July 21 to 28, 2009, the average number of overnight trips U.S. adults intend to take during the next six months increased to 2.8 from 2.6 in July 2008. The July Traveler Sentiment Index also reflected consumers' improved sentiment. After falling slightly between February and April 2009, the index rose to 92.1 (against a base of 100 in March 2007), and three points above the number recorded in April 2009 (89.1).

Was there bad news in the report? Yes. Survey respondents indicated they plan to spend less on travel this year. That means they will be shopping for the best deal and will most likely do that online. Still, it is good to see some favorable trends emerging. The stock market has recovered substantially over the past several months, the number of those losing their jobs on a monthly basis is also decreasing. Here's hoping there is more good news on the travel horizon.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Greenbuild Bucks Trade Show Attendance Trend

In the past year I have attended many conferences and trade shows and all but one have had one thing in common: attendance lower than in previous years. In fact, you would have had to be pretty brave to launch a new conference or trade show this year. The one trade show and conference that actually grew in the past year is Greenbuild. It is an annual event planned by the U.S. Green Building Council and focused on green design, construction and operations.

Greenbuild was just selected by Tradeshow Week magazine as one of the 50 fastest growing trade shows in the United States and Canada. Greenbuild has been one of the 50 fastest growing events the past four years. Greenbuild 2008, which I had the opportunity to attend, was held in Boston and drew more than 28,000 attendees. Attendance the previous year in Chicago: approximately 21,000. In Denver in 2006: 13,500. You get the idea. This event has been wildly successful. Event planners in our industry would love to have to worry about accommodating such growth.

This year's Greenbuild International Conference and Expo is scheduled November 11-13 and will be held in Phoenix. The event is immediately after the International Hotel/Motel & Restaurant Show in New York City (November 7-10).

What I wonder is why nobody in our industry has had the desire or capability to capitalize on the growth of green building and operations in the form of a national conference or trade show. Given the success of Greenbuild and our industry's gravitation toward LEED and other certifications, one would think it would be a no brainer. Any takers?

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

The Plaza Pours Out 100-Mile Drink

As part of its 100-Mile Menu, New York City's The Plaza recently unveiled its new signature drink, the POMONA. It was rolled out in front of a national television audience on the Today Show. The POMONA is made from ingredients that hail from the 100-mile area around New York City, including American Fruits’ Black Currant Cordial, Lieb Family Cellars Blanc de Blancs, New York sparkling wine, and local honey. The beverage was commissioned by CPS Events, the partnership entrusted with the hotel’s famed Grand Ballroom, and designed by mixologist Brittany Chardin of Atlanta’s iMi Agency.

“Creating a signature drink for The Plaza was both an honor and a challenge,” Chardin said. “At the onset of the project, CPS Events required the drink be developed utilizing ingredients produced within a 100-mile radius of the city. I was thrilled and surprised by the interesting array of amazing products produced in New York City and the 100 miles that surround it. The enthusiasm of the local distilleries and producers to work on this project was infectious. I know guests will truly celebrate in a memorable way with this drink.”

The signature drink was named the POMONA for the Roman goddess of abundance and orchards. A statue of POMONA adorns the fountain outside The Plaza’s main entrance.

I have read and written a lot about the importance of sourcing local but this is the first time I have come across a hotel developing a signature drink with a sustainability angle. It is certainly a great opportunity to generate some publicity about the property's 100-Mile Menu. Has your property done anything similar? If not, give it a try. Develop the formula for your local drink and then hold a contest among your guests and in your local community to name the drink. Give away a room for a night and bottle of wine to the winner. Invite the media to the unveiling of the new drink.

Practicing sustainability can be fun; use it to your advantage when you can.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

New Website Offers Green Dining Best Practices

The Environmental Defense Fund, in partnership with Restaurant Associates, has developed a new website that includes Green Dining Best Practices. The Best Practices fall into 12 categories: Meat, Dairy and Eggs; Produce; Seafood; Food Transport; Coffee and Tea; Bottled Beverages; Cleaning Chemicals; Cooking and Refrigeration Equipment; Dishwashing and Water Use; Facility Construction and Design; Serviceware; and Waste and Recycling.

A separate web page is dedicated to each of the categories. Under "Coffee and Tea," for example, it is suggested that dining managers buy organic coffee and Rainforest Alliance Certified products. Under "Dishwashing and Water Use," managers are encouraged to rinse smarter, purchase water- and energy-efficient equipment, to serve water upon request, and to spot and fix leaks.

The Environmental Defense Fund and Restaurant Associates contend that significant cost savings can be achieved by deploying the Green Dining Best Practices. They encourage dining managers to take a "No Net Cost Challenge." It encourages dining managers to invest savings captured from one or more of the Best Practices to offset costs that might occur in others, thus maximizing the environmental, reputational and customer experience benefits at "No Net Cost."

The new website also includes case studies and links to other helpful sites. Be sure to check out the site. For additional green dining best practices, visit Green Lodging News.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Green Nuggets Found in JD Power Study Results

JD Power and Associates just released the results of its 2009 North America Hotel Guest Satisfaction Index Study. Now in its 13th year, the study measures overall hotel guest satisfaction across six hotel segments: luxury, upscale, mid-scale full service, mid-scale limited service, economy/budget and extended stay. The study is based on responses gathered between June 2008 and June 2009 from more than 66,000 guests who stayed in a hotel between May 2008 and June 2009.

The study provides some good news for the green lodging movement, with two important findings:

1. Guest awareness of property-initiated green programs has increased significantly in 2009, with 66 percent of guests stating that they were aware of their hotel's conservation efforts, compared with 57 percent in 2008. Among these guests, 72 percent say they participated in their hotel's conservation programs.

2. Awareness of green programs has a strong impact on overall hotel guest satisfaction. On average, satisfaction is more than 160 points higher among guests who report being aware of their hotel's green programs, compared with guests who are unaware of them.

Why are guests more aware of properties' green programs? The amount of information online has increased significantly over the past year—whether on individual properties' websites or other sites that either list or rate green lodging properties. Hotels are also doing a better job educating guests once they are at the property.

I am not surprised at all to learn about the strong connection between green programs and guest satisfaction. Travelers like to know that property owners care about more than their bottom lines.

In a year filled with a lot of bad news for lodging, JD Power's report has some great news for "green" lodging.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Bayside Hotel Starts 'Bay it Forward' Campaign

The Bayside Hotel in Santa Monica, Calif., has come up with a great way to promote itself while doing a good deed—all while using Twitter as a promotional tool. As part of its new “Bay It Forward” initiative, the hotel will randomly distribute 2,000 “Bayside Bucks”—reward certificates offering $50 off standard room rates—to Southern California’s firefighters, teachers and other unsung community heroes to say thanks for all they do to make the world a better place.

Inspired by the pay it forward concept, Bayside Hotel’s “Bay It Forward” campaign encourages recipients of the certificates to pass them along to individuals who go out of their way to perform good deeds, make people happy or perform common acts of courtesy. Those who follow the hotel’s Twitter feed at will receive tweets about special upcoming dates when the certificates can be applied for free stays at this beachside respite. Additionally, anyone who e-mails a personal story about someone whose actions are inspiring to the hotel at will have a chance to receive a certificate as well.

“We believe that treating people well and staying positive about life is what the world needs more of today,” said Ann Kleinhenz, manager of the Bayside Hotel. “We want to recognize random acts of kindness with more random acts of kindness and hope that it spreads!”

What a great idea.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

It's Time to Phase Out the Pesky Plastic Bag

Let's assume your property has a gift shop or another type of shop or shops. Once a customer purchases an item, in what type of bag is the item given to the customer? Plastic? You may have read or heard about the problems with plastic bags. I was recently sent a press release about an effort by the Greenhouse Neutral Foundation to ban nonbiodegradable plastic bags. The release does a pretty good job explaining the problems that plastic bags cause. Here are some facts to consider:

  • Around the planet, almost one million plastic bags per minute are distributed. Only 2 percent of those bags are recycled.
  • Those plastic bags that are not recycled persist in the environment for 500 to 1,000 years or more.
  • Two million birds are killed yearly from ingesting or becoming entangled in plastic debris. Plastic bags cause more than 100,000 sea turtle and other marine animal deaths every year when animals mistake them for food.
  • Every single piece of plastic ever manufactured is still on the planet (well, maybe there are a few items on the moon or floating in space).
  • There are an estimated 46,000 pieces of plastic in each square mile of ocean.

There is currently an initiative under way to ban the plastic bag by the end of 2010. Until plastic bags are outlawed, do what you can to avoid using them. Offer your guests paper bags instead. Or, better yet, offer them reusable bags—the kind often found in grocery stores today. Put your property's logo on them. Make them attractive—something your guests will be excited about reusing. Do what you can to eliminate plastic bags from the waste stream.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Wyndham Walks Green Talk at N.J. Home

I just completed an article that summarizes the many ways Wyndham Worldwide has greened up its new headquarters in Parsippany, N.J. Opened to its 800-plus employees in April, the two-building complex should earn LEED for Commercial Interiors certification from the U.S. Green Building Council sometime next year. Here are just a few examples of the complex's green features: 83,000 square feet of white roofing material to help keep the building cool in the summer; motion sensors to turn lights off when they are not needed; low-flow toilets and faucets; and an on-site green dry cleaner (Green Apple Organic Dry Cleaning).

When I spoke with Faith Taylor, vice president, sustainability and innovation for Wyndham Worldwide, she said Wyndham really wanted to walk its green talk by building a LEED-worthy office complex. Wyndham's Wyndham Green program has been gaining momentum lately with energy conservation, water conservation, education, recycling, and destination/local conservation at its core.

Wyndham Worldwide's leaders should be commended for their decision to build to LEED standards. Taylor says the company is already reaping financial benefits from installing efficient building systems. Employee morale has also improved; they have access to an on-site gym, credit union, and gift shop where they can purchase items such as milk and eggs. These amenities will help reduce the amount of miles employees will have to drive to and from work.

Wyndham is not alone in its quest to green one's headquarters. Marriott International is also pursuing LEED certification for its headquarters in Bethesda, Md. Marriott should also be congratulated for its environmental commitment.

What is your company doing to green up its home? Write to to let me know. And, watch for the article about Wyndham's new headquarters on Green Lodging News.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Greenstay Hotel & Suites' Bold Branding Move

Over the last few years there have been a number of new hotel brands introduced that have a strong environmental focus—Starwood's Element and NYLO come to mind. Others such as Hyatt's Andaz and Hilton's new Home2 Suites have what I consider to be some green attributes. What has been very unusual so far is for the word or words in a brand's name to strongly reflect the brand's attention to the environment. One could argue that "Element" is about as green a word as one might find but it really does not scream, "Stay here, we're green." The word "NYLO" certainly does not prompt one to think about waterfalls and forests.

Since launching Green Lodging News three years ago, I have been waiting for someone to come along and create a green brand that actually includes the word "green" in its name. I just learned about a property in Springfield, Mo., that has the name of Greenstay Hotel & Suites. It is not a new property but a converted Hampton Inn hotel. The owners tout the fact that the hotel follows and exceeds the American Hotel & Lodging Association's 11 Minimum Guidelines for Going Green. The guidelines includes such steps as forming an Environmental Committee, replacing incandescent bulbs with compact fluorescents, etc.

On its website, Greenstay Hotel & Suites says, "Our goal is to reduce our energy usage and carbon footprint but not the enjoyment of your stay." While there certainly are many other hotels around the world that are far greener—that have implemented renewable energy systems, etc.—Greenstay Hotel & Suites is among the first to be "in your face" bold about its environmental efforts. I am glad that somebody has finally taken that risk.

Is a brand like Greenstay Hotel & Suites franchisable? Time will tell. Watch for more details about Greenstay Hotel & Suites at

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Students Savor Chance to Study EcoGastronomy

A major in EcoGastronomy? Where do I sign up? The University of New Hampshire (UNH) just announced that it is hosting a group of Italian students this summer who are the first foreign exchange students to participate in the university’s new EcoGastronomy dual major, the first such program at any U.S. university.

Fourteen students from the University of Gastronomic Sciences in Pollenzo, Italy, are spending the summer living on campus in Durham and learning about the science of food and eating, ecotourism, and advertising. They also are participating in a number of field studies, including those focused on organic gardening, maple syrup production, historic gardens and food preparation, and aquaculture.

In the fall, a group of UNH students will spend the semester at the University of Gastronomic Sciences as part of the joint student exchange program. While in Italy, UNH students will complete a series of upper level core courses such as history of cuisine and gastronomy, food communication, aesthetics, food and wine tourism, food business economics, and sensory analysis. Sensory analysis? I certainly have the nose for that.

A one-of-a-kind learning experience that links the fields of sustainable agriculture, hospitality, and nutrition, the EcoGastronomy program is a partnership of UNH's Whittemore School of Business and Economics and College of Life Sciences and Agriculture, in collaboration with the University Office of Sustainability. EcoGastronomy—the word connects "gastronomy," meaning "the art and appreciation of food," with agriculture and the environment, connoted by "eco"—came about after Slow Food International founder Carlo Petrini came to UNH to receive an honorary degree in 2006. Petrini is founder of the University of Gastronomic Sciences.

"Today’s hospitality students are interested in food and sustainability and how it connects with the local, regional and global food systems. The EcoGastronomy program gives them an advantage in the job market because it sets them apart in a competitive industry that is becoming more sustainably aware," says Dan Winans, faculty coordinator of the dual major and an adjunct professor in hospitality management at the Whittemore School of Business and Economics.

More information about the dual major in EcoGastronomy is available at

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

AAA to Highlight Green Properties in TourBooks

AAA currently publishes 26 TourBook guides that have a total circulation of 16 million. The guides include detailed information on more than 31,000 hotels. Millions of travelers rely on AAA TourBooks to help them make their travel plans. Those travelers who prefer to stay in green lodgings will soon get a little help from AAA. Beginning this fall, AAA Publishing will include an "eco-friendly" icon in the 2010 TourBook editions to indicate those properties that promote environmental and energy conservation. The icon will appear in both print and online editions.

How is AAA deciding which properties to include? It is currently working with those organizations that run state and national green lodging programs to get lists of certified properties. For example, all Green Globe International certified properties will be included, as well as those hotels in Canada that are part of the Hotel Association of Canada's Green Key program. What about those properties that practice environmental stewardship but are not part of a state or national green lodging program? That is a question I am currently trying to get answered. Look for details no later than next week at

While AAA's attempt to point out green properties in its TourBook guides is a good one, you can bet travelers are going to be wondering exactly what the icons mean. Let's hope AAA does a good job explaining its methodology.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Be Thankful For Your Freedom on July 4

I have always wondered what drives leaders in government to hold on to power. Is it some form of mental illness? A phobia? An addiction? A warped view of religion or politics? Too much testosterone? (It usually is men.) It is probably a combination of all of these. I thought about this recently while watching the images on TV of Iranians being beaten and shot for expressing their opposition to the results of their recent presidential election. What kind of person would order his followers to use any means necessary to stop democracy in action? Two words come to mind: thug and coward.

Just two days before July 4, our Independence Day here in the United States, I am thankful for all of the freedoms we have. It is something we all too often take for granted. In my case, as editor and publisher of Green Lodging News, I am most thankful for the First Amendment to the United States Constitution that guarantees freedom of speech and freedom of the press.

While times may be difficult in the lodging industry today, our problems are nothing when compared to those who face death for saying what they think or feel. On July 4, be thankful for the freedom that you have. And for goodness sake, don't forget those who do not have that same freedom.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

LEED Buildings Not Always More Efficient

Research conducted by several researchers from the National Research Council Canada—Institute for Research in Construction, Ottawa, Canada, reveals some interesting information about the energy performance of LEED buildings. The researchers conducted a re-analysis of data supplied by the New Buildings Institute and the U.S. Green Building Council. The energy use data was from 100 LEED certified commercial and institutional buildings. The data was compared to the energy use of the general U.S. commercial building stock. The researchers also examined energy use by LEED certification level, and by energy-related credits achieved in the certification process.

On average, LEED buildings used 18 to 39 percent less energy per floor area than their conventional counterparts. However, 28 to 35 percent of LEED buildings used more energy than their conventional counterparts. Further, the measured energy performance of LEED buildings had little correlation with certification level of the building, or the number of energy credits achieved by the building at design time.

The researchers concluded that, at a societal level, green buildings can contribute substantial energy savings, but further work needs to be done to define green building rating schemes to ensure more consistent success at the individual building level. While the researchers did not focus on hotels in their work, their findings should ring alarm bells for any architect, owner or developer involved in the construction of LEED-ready hotels. Energy savings are not always a given.

Click here for more information on the research.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

El Dorado Adds Greenhouse to Hotel Grounds

Farm fresh. Local. Organic. These are just some of the buzz words I read or hear a lot in reference to food being offered by food service establishments within the lodging industry. Increasingly, food service staff are growing vegetables and herbs on site. In some cases, it is more than vegetables and herbs. Where space is available outside of the building, gardens are being grown. In some cases, rooftops have been utilized to grow fresh food items.

The El Dorado Royale in the Riviera Maya, Mexico, has added a 20,000-square-foot greenhouse for the purpose of planting 30 types of fruits and vegetables. The hotel intends to offer guests tours of the greenhouse and include them in planting activities and cooking seminars. The first seeds will be planted on June 30 and guests can expect the first harvest on August 15. Cilantro, thyme, onions, tomatoes, honeydew melons, lettuce and squash are some of the fresh produce guests will enjoy.

By growing fruits, vegetables and plants on its own property, El Dorado Royale is saving money while reducing emissions created via the transportation of products from their harvest locations to the resort. The greenhouse is the latest addition to El Dorado’s extensive Passion for the Environment program, which includes solar heated water, tree plantings and major recycling efforts. Congratulations to El Dorado Royale staff for launching the greenhouse initiative.

Are you growing vegetables, fruit or herbs for your guests? If so, what kind of success have you had? Let me know by writing to

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Canada Expands LEED to Existing Buildings

If you visit the Canada Green Building Council website, you will discover a list of all of the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) projects throughout Canada. Of the more than 1,200 projects, many include hotels. For example, there are currently Element and aloft hotels under way in Toronto that have registered for LEED certification. Those hotel projects that are listed at the Canada Green Building Council site are only new construction. That may soon change.

On June 10, At the second annual National Green Building Summit, the Canada Green Building Council (CaGBC) announced details of the LEED Canada for Existing Buildings: Operations and Maintenance 2009 (LEED Canada EB:O&M) program. Available later this summer, this new rating system will provide ongoing certification on the performance, operations and maintenance of commercial, government and institutional buildings that have either never been LEED certified or that have been certified under other LEED programs such as LEED Canada for New Construction and Major Renovations.

“Examining actual performance and not design expectations, LEED Canada EB:O&M 2009 recognizes the ongoing efforts of building owners and managers to continually improve the performance of their buildings,” said Thomas Mueller, president and CEO of the CaGBC. “It also provides those operators with the opportunity to demonstrate to their tenants, occupants and the wider community their ongoing commitment to green buildings.”

The new rating system considers the building as a whole, accounting for both common and tenanted areas. It looks at building exteriors as well as site maintenance programs, the optimized use of water and energy, the commitment to purchasing environmentally-preferred products and food, waste management and recycling programs and continual indoor environmental air quality.

If you own or operate a hotel in Canada, or even if you do not, be sure to check out the Canada Green Building Council's new program. And, be sure to visit Green Lodging News for future updates on LEED Canada EB:O&M.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Let's Not Forget the Importance of a Phone Call

I recently received an e-mail invitation to moderate a panel discussion at a well-known industry event. It is an event I have spoken at before. I e-mailed the person back to say I was not quite ready to make a commitment. Time went by and the person e-mailed me again, this time framing the e-mail as if I had already committed to speaking and asking me to supply the name of the presentation I would be moderating. I e-mailed again to say that I was not quite ready to make a commitment. Time went by and I received another e-mail, this time saying that the deadline had passed and that the person needed to know when she should expect to receive all of the information from me for the presentation. Keep in mind that I still had not committed to attending the event!

What I was really waiting for was a phone call from the person to ask me to moderate the session. I thought I deserved at least that much after helping at the event in years past. I finally called the person and expressed my disappointment at not receiving a call. It was the protocol that I had expected and believe I deserved. I still have not made a final decision about participating.

Am I making too much out of nothing? What do you think? What would you do in this situation? Would you have felt hurt? My point in all of this is that we cannot forget how important a phone call is when dealing with a customer, a potential client, business partner, friend, or anyone for that matter. There are times when e-mail just does not cut it. Has e-mail, instant messaging, text messaging and all of the social networking tools out there gotten us to a point where we have forgotten how to communicate over the phone? I frequently deal with people who respond to my phone calls with e-mail. It bugs me to no end.

For goodness sake, we are in the hospitality business. Let's not forget the importance of a simple phone call. Your thoughts?

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Florida Green Lodging Program Downsized

Green Lodging News reported back in March that the Florida Green Lodging program faced the possibility of cuts. Well, it has happened. The program run by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) is being restructured as of July 1. According to an article in the Orlando Business Journal, funding and staff for the program was slashed from $337,000 and four workers to $63,000 and just one employee. The DEP is trying to sound optimistic about the changes. On its website it describes some of the coming changes to the program as "program improvements."

The highly successful Florida Green Lodging Program has been unique because of its mandatory on-site audit. With the cuts, however, DEP will conduct "selected" facility assessments on a regular basis. Other changes to the program include a streamlined online application process, more hosted webinars to provide technical assistance, additional online marketing and educational tools, and a more robust set of best management practices.

As of June 12, there were 520 properties in Florida designated as Green Lodging properties. In the last two years, participation in the program has increased significantly. Growth was sparked by Governor Charlie Crist’s 2007 Executive Orders and 2008’s House Bill 7135 which requires all state agencies to contract with hotels that have received the Florida Green Lodging Program designation.

I feel for the person who now has to run such a large program alone. It will be a daunting task. You have to wonder if giving government the task of funding and running a green lodging program is really the best business model. What do you think? Be sure to visit Green Lodging News for additional details on the changes to Florida's program.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

NEWH's New Sustainability Site Worth Visiting

The Network of the Hospitality Industry (NEWH) recently launched its Sustainable Hospitality website. Be sure to check it out. The site includes a Sustainability Directory that includes products listed by category. The Beds & Bedding category, for example, currently includes five companies. Dig deeper into each company's listing and you will find its Environmental Mission Statement and answers to questions about its efforts in the local community and how it is reducing its overall environmental impact.

The website includes a "Tales from the Envirohood" column, green tips for event planning, events calendar, glossary of sustainability-related terms, links to helpful sites (including our own Green Lodging News), information on NEWH's Sustainable Design competition, chapter news, a page with chapter level sustainability directors and their contact information, a page featuring NEWH Sustainable Hospitality volunteers, and a link to information on the Sustainable Suite Design Competition, for which NEWH is a cosponsor.

I have been fortunate to get to know many of NEWH's members and congratulate them on the launch of this new website. While the site is still a work in progress, it is already a helpful portal for architects, designers, developers and anyone else with a stake in sustainable hospitality.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

China Aims to Build 10,000 Green Hotels

The publication is reporting that China will try to build 10,000 green hotels by 2012. Di Jiankai, the director of the Trade Service Division of China's Ministry of Commerce, disclosed the plan to the Chinese media. Of the 10,000 hotels, 1,000 will be created in 2009, 2,000 in 2010, 3,000 in 2011 and 4,000 in 2012. When compared to their predecessors in China, these green hotels are expected to reduce water consumption by 20 percent, cut electricity consumption by 20 percent, and cut carbon dioxide emissions by 45,000 tons over four years.

According to, Han Ming, a director of the China Hotel Association, told a recent conference that a national green hotel working commission has been established by the Ministry of Commerce, the National Development and Reform Commission, the Ministry of Environmental Protection, The State-owned Assets Supervision, the Administration Commission of the State Council, the National Standards Commission, and the China Hotel Association. Han said that, from now on, five-leaf green hotels will be appraised by a national appraisal department and four-leaf and below hotels will be accredited by provincial level departments.

What the article fails to bring up is the net impact these 10,000 new hotels will have on the environment in China. Ten thousand new buildings are going to require a lot of energy, a lot of water, and they certainly will generate a lot of waste. How many new power plants will have to be built to generate the electricity for these new buildings? How many of those plants will be fueled by dirty coal? Yes, it is great that if hotels are going to be built anyway, they should be efficient, but their overall net impact has got to be considered—especially when one is talking about thousands of buildings. The media has got to ask the tough questions. Understandably, in China that may not be so easy.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

What to Do With Leftover Soap & Shampoo

What does your property do with its partially used soaps and shampoo bottles? Throw them away? Donate them? Donating soap is not as easy as it sounds. There are certainly sanitary issues to consider. Would you want to use soap that a stranger has used? A new nonprofit organization, Orlando, Fla.-based Clean the World, Inc., has formed to deal with the soap and amenity bottle issue. I strongly recommend that you check them out.

Clean the World is currently working in the central Florida area but it hopes to expand its program throughout the United States. The organization collects used soap, heats it to 240 degrees for an hour, grinds it down into a powder, and then molds it for reuse. The soap and shampoo is being donated to homeless shelters in Florida. Clean the World also intends to donate the items to areas of the world where acute respiratory infection and diarrheal disease are a problem. Every year more than 5 million lives are lost to these diseases, with the majority of deaths being children under five years old. Studies have shown that simple hand washing can greatly reduce the spread of these diseases.

While I have run across numerous examples of individual properties donating partially used amenity bottles, Clean the World is the first organization I have heard of that is focused on collecting soap and bottles on a large scale. What they are doing is not only great for the less fortunate, but great for the environment as well. Be sure to support their efforts. Watch for additional details soon at

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

The World's Greenest Building?

Even though Independence Station will not include a hotel component per se (although it will have units for daily and weekly rental) when it is completed in 2010, the mixed-use structure is most definitely a project worth checking out. Located in Independence, Ore., Independence Station is on track to become the world's greenest building, according to Aldeia, LLC, the building's developer. The 40 percent complete, 57,000-square-foot structure will house offices, retail space, a restaurant, research facilities, classroom space and 15 residential units. Aldeia is pursuing the world's highest (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) LEED rating ever awarded for new construction.

What makes Independence Station unique? The building will boast a 120-kilowatt installation of photovoltaic panels. During sunny months, the panels will produce more than enough energy to run the building, store extra energy in a large battery bank for nighttime use as well as feed power back into the grid. In cooler, cloudier months, the building will rely more on a biodiesel-fueled cogeneration and thermal storage system, including a retired tug-boat engine affectionately named Mabel, which will serve as a backup and run on waste vegetable oil from local restaurants.

Radiant floor heating and cooling, displacement ventilation, solar water heating, day lighting design, an ice-based cooling storage system, water-based ground source heat pump, and extensive use of light-emitting diodes (LEDs) are some of the systems that will minimize Independence Station’s “off the grid” energy consumption.

Independence Station is expected to exceed the strict Oregon Energy Code by 74 percent. In fact, Independence Station is expected to operate in a carbon negative manner. Because enough rainwater is stored in the winter to supply 100 percent of the building’s needs for laundry, toilet flushing and irrigation of the both the green roof and planned 40-foot interior vertical “urban garden,” water consumption records are expected to fall as well.

The current LEED record holder, a Canadian project, has a score of 63 out of a possible 69 points. At its completion next year, Independence Station will likely earn between 64 and 66 points, bringing the top score back to the United States.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

How to Expand Your Online Social Network

Let's assume you have mastered the world of social networking and you routinely blog, tweet (on Twitter) and spend a fair amount of time on Facebook and LinkedIn. If you are doing all of these things, you can be sure that your friends and a portion of your target audience will stumble upon your entries and begin to link up with you and follow you. Is that good enough? Absolutely not. What can you do to increase the number of people who follow you on the various social networking sites? There are many things. Here are just a few ideas:

*When making an entry on a social networking site, be sure to link to your website and possibly even one of your other social networking sites (e.g., from your blog to your Twitter page).

*Add the Web addresses for your social networking sites to your e-mail signature and to all correspondence mailed to prospective partners or customers.

*Provide links on your own website to your social networking sites.

*If exhibiting at a trade show or other event, make sure your signage, brochures, etc. mention where to find you at the various sites.

*Create a giveaway promotion or contest that requires the winner to find clues at your social networking sites.

*Include your site addresses in every online or print ad that you purchase.

*Add your networking site addresses to the back of your business card.

*Convince your business contacts to link back to your sites from their sites. Of course you should do the same for those who help you.

These are just a few ideas. Please feel free to add to this list. Be sure to find me not only here but also at and