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.