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 editor@greenlodgingnews.com. 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 www.greenlodgingnews.com.

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 www.virginiabeachgreen.com to learn more.