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 www.NationalSolarTour.org. 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 FreshStay.com.) 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 http://www.greenlodgingnews.com/.

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: editor@greenlodgingnews.com.

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?