Friday, January 30, 2009

What to Do if a CFL Should Break

Compact fluorescents (CFLs) have been a godsend for the lodging industry. They last longer than incandescents, use a small portion of the energy, and dramatically reduce costs. Unlike incandescents, however, they contain a small amount of mercury and should be safely disposed of at the end of their life. You shouldn't just throw them in the trash. Numerous companies sell prepaid mailers (boxes) to safely dispose of CFLs and larger fluorescents. Be sure to use them. As careful as one can be about safely disposing of fluorescents, accidents do happen. If a CFL (or other type of fluorescent) should break, here is what you need to remember to safely handle the waste (thanks to the EPA):

Open a window and leave the room (restrict access) for at least 15 minutes. Remove all materials you can without using a vacuum cleaner. Wear disposable rubber gloves, if available (do not use your bare hands). Carefully scoop up the fragments and powder with stiff paper or cardboard. Wipe the area clean with a damp paper towel or disposable wet wipe. Sticky tape (such as duct tape) can be used to pick up small pieces and powder. Place all cleanup materials in a plastic bag and seal it. Enclose that bag in another plastic bag. Wash your hands after cleaning the breakage area. The first time you vacuum the area where the bulb was broken, remove the vacuum bag and place it in two sealed plastic bags for safe disposal.

If you need the name of a reputable company that offers prepaid disposal packaging, contact me at

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

What ALIS Needed Was a Little More Laughter

Maybe it would have been better to just take an anti-depressant and stay home? Here at the Americas Lodging Investment Summit (ALIS) in San Diego, I had the opportunity to sit through two days of general sessions. One speaker after another marched out to the stage and gave their own take on just how bad things have gotten in the lodging industry. Some of the speakers used highly illustrative and detailed charts and graphs to emphasize the severity of the downturn. In a panel format repeated each day, leading hotel company executives went on and on about their inability to get financing, declining occupancies and falling rates. Did I feel sorry for them? Not a chance. Their companies just went through several record years of prosperity. Many of them are probably millionaires because of it. (Of course I empathize with those of you out there who are truly suffering from the recession.)

At last year's ALIS, a lot of time was spent highlighting the many advantages to building and operating green hotels—definitely more exciting and interesting! At this year's event, there were just two 35-minute sessions dedicated to the topic, and those sessions were held during lunch in a corner of the trade show area.

I believe there should have been much more attention given to the importance of going green to reduce costs, improve asset value, etc.—especially at this critical time. I guess that would have made too much sense. Thank goodness those speakers who participated in the green sessions all agreed that the green movement is as strong as ever and that greening operations makes all the sense in the world in a recessionary economy.

Maybe next year the organizers of ALIS will pay a little more attention to green lodging? If you attend, be sure to check the lunch schedule first...because you never know.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Travelocity Launches Green Hotel Directory

It is pretty much impossible to find from its home page but Travelocity has just launched a green directory of hotels on its website. The site features properties from all over the world, including ones such as the Hotel Terra in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, and the Inn by the Sea in Cape Elizabeth, Maine. How did Travelocity come up with its list? What criteria did it use?

According to the new website, "Each of the hotels in this directory have been endorsed by a leading green hotel certification provider, or are making significant strides in at least three of the four areas the U.N. Foundation's [Partnership for Global Sustainable Tourism Criteria]
recommends as the most critical aspects of sustainable tourism: maximizing tourism's social and economic benefits to local communities; reducing negative impacts on cultural heritage; reducing harm to local environments; and planning for sustainability.

Is Travelocity's list a complete list? Not by a longshot. In fact, the Gaia Napa Valley Hotel and Spa, the United States' first LEED Gold hotel, is missing from the list. Still, Travelocity's list is a great start and will help to further awareness of green hotel destinations. Now if they would only make it easy to find.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

A 'New' Property in South Lake Tahoe

Every now and then I come across what I think is a really cool "new" green hotel. What I mean by "new" is that it is not a totally new property but one that has been renovated. Taking something that has already been constructed and renovating it has far less environmental impact than building brand new from the ground up—for obvious reasons.

Yesterday I had the opportunity to chat with the general manager of the 968 Park Spa Resort in South Lake Tahoe, Calif. The resort celebrated its grand opening on January 17. Its soft opening was on December 19. The general manager, Christopher Minnes, had some great stories to tell about the property—its history as a Days Inn and all of the changes that have taken place to the building in the last year. Wood from the existing building and other reclaimed wood was used for the "new" building's interior and exterior. Sheet metal was used on the exterior and allowed to rust, helping the resort to blend in with its rustic surroundings. Insulation in the walls is made from recycled blue jeans and guestrooms feature dual flush toilets, 800-count organic cotton linens, and much more.

Minnes says South Lake Tahoe has a number of older properties in need of renovation. It is nice to see the community has one less to worry about. Be sure to look for a complete story on the 968 Park Spa Resort at soon.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

A Step Forward in Our Evolution?

Evolution is something I think about every now and then—especially today. I am not referring to whether or not humans decscended from lower forms of beings. What I am referring to is evolution of thought—the ability for an entire society to take one giant leap forward in thinking, to leave behind prejudices, even for just one moment in history.

No matter how you voted in November, Inauguration Day, this incredible day today, is a moment to celebrate our ability to see every man, woman and child as having equal value and potential. For so many African Americans and others, it will feel as if all barriers have been broken—even if for just one moment. It is a day worth celebrating—everywhere in the world, not just here in the United States.

The selection of Barack Obama as our 44th president is a giant step forward in our history—a sign of maturity. It is as if a younger generation, a multicultural mix of millions of positive thinkers, has rejected and thrown out an old way of thinking—one that sees the world in black and white, without hope and possibility. Time will tell if this new president is able to help to bring the kind of change we all long for. One thing is certain: It will never happen if we don't help him.

Friday, January 16, 2009

A Buckeye Ponders State Green Lodging Efforts

One of the dangers in being so immersed in green lodging is that it is easy to become hypercritical of individuals or organizations that have just not gone far enough with their green commitment or investment. I have to keep reminding myself that even a little green is better than no green at all. This holds especially true when talking about the various state green lodging programs around the United States.

I just wrote an article that summarizes the progress of the 16 state programs of which I am most aware. One of the programs is barely breathing and only about half of the programs require any kind of on-site inspection to confirm what a property says it is doing. It would be easy to scream about this and the fact that 34 out of our 50 states still don't have any kind of organized green program for their lodging establishments. Even my own home state of Ohio does not have a program—kind of embarrassing for this Buckeye!

As tempting as it is to go on and on about apathy, lack of leadership, etc. at the state level, I would like to congratulate and commend those individuals and organizations that are doing a great job running their state programs. Those in California, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Maine, Michigan, Missouri, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, and Wisconsin have reason to be proud of their efforts to reduce their environmental footprint. It is a safe bet that properties in these states are doing a better job at attracting those travelers who care about social responsibility—especially meeting planners.

In this new year, let's all work together to build upon those 16 programs. If nobody in your state cares enough to get a program going, why not you? It is not as difficult as one would expect. Really, all you have to do is copy what some of the leading states like Maine and Florida are doing. I suspect that they won't mind at all. In fact, they will be flattered. Click here for a list of the 16 state programs.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

A Different Way to Look at Travel

In the last few years I have definitely changed my decision making process when it comes to business travel. No longer is it just the value of the trip that comes into play when deciding whether to go or not. How my travel will ultimately impact the environment is now part of my decision making process. Has this also happened to you?

When I do need to travel, I can at least offset the impact of my trip through the purchase of renewable energy credits. After making reservations for a trip on Continental Airlines recently, I was given the option of offsetting my trip through the airline's eco-skies program. I chose not to at the time because I was a little caught off guard by the offer, but it was good to know I at least had the option. (I have participated in offsetting programs in the past and donate a percentage of ad revenue from Green Lodging News to the Arbor Day Foundation to help offset the carbon footprint of the publication.)

Given what we know about the impact of travel on the environment (the air pollution, greenhouse gases, etc.), it seems to me that offset purchasing should be a requirement for all carbon-intensive travel. Don't make it an option. Build it into the cost of the gasoline, the airplane ticket, etc. I know that suggestion won't sit well with some travel experts but most of the time we are all just too busy, lazy or apathetic to initiate an offset transaction. With the price of energy at the lowest point in several years, there is no better time to do it. It would be a great way to support the development of renewable energy, which is badly needed given the United States' dependence on other countries for energy. What are your thoughts?

Monday, January 12, 2009

A Glimpse at Gen X and Y's Green Habits

Nearly 75 percent of 18 to 34 year olds say they are more likely to visit an attraction that is pursuing environmentally friendly practices, according to a national survey released by PGAV Destination Consulting, a planning and design firm and the Missouri Botanical Garden. The survey results were reported in Environmental Leader. According to the report, a commitment to sustainable practices will be supported with spending behavior. Almost 60 percent of people under age 35 expect to pay more for green attractions, and they will pay more than 10 percent more. Most of these consumers (nearly 65 percent) expect their spending on green products to increase over the next 12 months.

Visitors look for specific signs of environmental commitment: recycle bins, energy efficient lighting, solar panels, selling food/beverages in biodegradable containers, reusable shopping bags, and offering water in biodegradable cups rather than plastic. Recycling is a nearly universal expectation for green attractions with more than 80 percent across all consumer segments saying that recycling is very representative of an environmental commitment.

LEED Certification, the standard system of sustainability measurement, ranked last as an outward sign of environmental commitment valued by attractions visitors. It is likely that the LEED rating is less known and less understood by the general public. Gen X and Y are also taking personal responsibility for environmental actions: More than 75 percent reduced water consumption, more than 61 percent reduced energy consumption and nearly 39 percent have already purchased green products.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

A Reason to Explore Pool Chlorine Alternatives

An article appearing at recently caught my eye. It is relevant for any lodging establishment that has a swimming pool. Researchers in Belgium studied the effects of swimming in outdoor pools regularly from a young age and found a strong link to asthma. Previously the same researchers found that indoor pools may also increase the risk of asthma in children. It is thought the chlorine fumes floating around the surface of the pool may help to trigger the condition by irritating the upper airways.

Researchers at Catholic University in Louvain, Brussels, Belgium examined 847 secondary school pupils with an average age of 15. Children who swam for the equivalent of one hour a week for 10 years, more than 500 hours in total, were five times more likely to have the wheezing condition than children who never swam in outdoor pools. Those with a predisposition to allergies, as shown by measurements taken from their blood, were up to 10 times more likely to have asthma if they swam for more than 500 hours in an outdoor pool.

The research team also found that children having regularly attended an outdoor pool before the age of seven were more likely to be allergic to cats or dust mites than those who had never attended an outdoor pool so young.

Granted, your lodging establishment probably is not seeing the same children over and over for years at a time. Still, it does make one pause and wonder how our industry is contributing to the health problems of our children.

Have you tried alternatives to chlorine in your pool? There are a number of less harmful solutions out there. I would love to hear from you regarding your experiences with chlorine alternatives.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Scandic's New Bottled Water Program is a Smash

When Scandic realized what an impact transporting bottles of water around had on the environment, the hotel chain started developing its own smart design for a water bottle in recycled glass. Now, Scandic no longer sells bottled water in its bars and restaurants. Instead, it serves chilled and filtered water in an attractive bottle made from recycled glass.

"We used to have 3.6 million bottles of water a year transported to our hotels, which generated 160 tonnes of carbon dioxide," says Helena Nilsson, senior vice president corporate communications and head of sustainability issues at Scandic. "It's fantastic to be able to stop that now and instead focus on a modern alternative that is much more considerate to the environment."

With every bottle sold, a contribution goes to the Scandic Sustainability Fund. The fund will reward organizations or individuals who make an outstanding contribution to a better and more sustainable world.

"The response from guests has been overwhelming," says Thomas Fankl, food & beverage manager at Scandic. "The bottle attracts attention and when people get to know what it means in terms of less environmental impact, a simple and everyday decision like drinking water suddenly takes on a positive glow."

The water is now available at all of Scandic's hotels and is the latest example of the chain's long-term commitment to the environment. Read more about Scandic's environmental work.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Update on Previous Post on Electronics Recycling

In my most previous post, I described a home electronics recycling drive at the Proximity Hotel. I heard from a representative of the hotel after the event and here is what he said: "It was a HUGE success. We were hoping for 500 cars and there was more than 1,500! The line of cars stretched for blocks." Click here for some photos. Click here to view a news report video.