Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Sustainability's Role in Defining 'Boutique,' 'Lifestyle'

Earlier this month, the Boutique & Lifestyle Lodging Association (BLLA) announced plans to develop a universal standard and criteria for defining boutique and lifestyle lodgings. I spoke with Frances Kiradjian, founder and chair of the organization, to learn whether or not a lodging's commitment to sustainability would be a criterion in determining whether or not it is considered a boutique or lifestyle lodging. Kiradjian told me that she was not yet ready to make a commitment that it would be required but she said, "My inclination is that yes, it will make it."

Kiradjian said BLLA's goal is to have its definition of boutique and lifestyle lodgings complete by the beginning of 2011. BLLA is surveying hoteliers, consumers and others in order to develop its criteria. The BLLA Advisory Board will make the final decision on the definition.

In the press release distributed about the new standard, BLLA did not mention that it is also developing a certification program for boutique and lifestyle properties. Within the certification program, Kiradjian said, there will be questions that address a property's green programs. Watch for more details at www.greenlodgingnews.com.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Kentucky, Arkansas Step Up Green Tourism Efforts

The list of states with green lodging certification programs and/or green-oriented travel sites just keeps getting longer. The Bed & Breakfast Association of Kentucky recently launched its Green Lodging Certification Program and the Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism just launched its www.greentravelarkansas.com website. According to my count, there are now 29 states, two cities and one region that have some form of green lodging program or green travel website. (Click here for list.)

The Arkansas site lists green properties but there is no certification program yet in that state. Hotels and inns, to be listed, must follow some of the guidelines described by the American Hotel & Lodging Association in its Green Resource Center. Participants in the Bed & Breakfast Association of Kentucky's program are required to have an on-site audit and must report on their progress annually. "A third-party audit gives a level of credibility that self-certification cannot achieve," said Todd Allen, the Bed & Breakfast Association of Kentucky's Green Lodging Certification Committee Chairperson.

While the Arkansas site certainly lacks teeth when it comes to criteria for lodging inclusion, it is good to see the state beginning to emphasize the importance of sustainable travel. It is even better to see Kentucky launch a program with strict guidelines for participation.

If your property is in a state that currently has no green lodging certification program or does not promote itself as a green destination, don't you think it is time to lobby for change? Contact the leaders of your state hotel and lodging association and tourism office and ask why your state is being left behind.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Hotel Plants Trees for a Job Well Done

When one or a group of your employees excel at something or reach a goal, how do you reward them? As part of the Hard Rock Hotel San Diego's Roots Rock initiative, staff who achieve high customer service survey scores have trees planted in their honor. This is according to an article posted on the San Diego News room website. Since the beginning of the program, 200 trees have been planted as part of the American Forests' Global ReLeaf program. It is not the first time the Hard Rock Hotel has joined up with Global ReLeaf. During Earth Day this spring, the hotel planted a tree for every guest.

According to the article, the tree planting program is just one of the Hard Rock Hotel San Diego's green initiatives. The property also recycles bottles and cans as well as kitchen grease and actively seeks out produce and fish from local vendors. The hotel also has a towel/linen reuse program, motion detectors to turn off lights, and the hotel's company car is a Toyota Prius.

I am sure your employees would first appreciate financial compensation for a job well done. In addition to that, however, having trees planted in their name is a great idea. The American Forests' Global ReLeaf program is just one program to consider. The Arbor Day Foundation is another great organization. They will even send you trees to plant. In what ways are you rewarding your employees and helping the environment at the same time? I would love to read your thoughts.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

First LEED Gold Hotel to Become Doubletree

According to two newspaper reports, The Gaia Napa Valley Hotel & Spa, the United States' first LEED Gold hotel, will become a Doubletree hotel by the end of the year. The current owner of the hotel in American Canyon, Calif., is Butterfly Effect Hotels LLC. The transition to a branded hotel is an interesting turn of events for the property that was the vision of Wen-I Chang, who also launched the Gaia at Anderson hotel in Anderson, Calif. I had an opportunity to speak with Wen a number of times several years ago and he always emphasized how happy he was not to have a connection to a brand. As the economy changes, so too can attitudes toward branding.

According to a report in the Napa Valley Register, the ownership group is expected to raise rates at the 132-room hotel by $15 to $20 a night. The hotel is currently running a 65 percent occupancy. The hotel, managed by Marin Management Inc. of Sausalito, Calif., will maintain its green features during the transition. The hotel has a solar photovoltaic system on its roof and includes touches such as chemical-free landscaping, 100 percent recycled tile, a guest van that uses alternative fuel, waterless urinals, and plates on guestroom doors that include the name of a wild animal, bird or flower. Inside the lobby is a real-time display of how much energy the hotel is using and saving.

Frank Huang, a partner in Butterfly Effect Hotels, expects the Doubletree branding to bring in 25 percent more business.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Faraway Inn's Recycling Helps Felines

I often hear from hoteliers and innkeepers about their recycling efforts. I recently wrote about the W San Francisco and its almost 80 percent waste diversion rate. I have reported about many other interesting projects, including composting and even holding an e-waste recycling day (the Proximity Hotel in Greensboro, N.C. did this). In the past week I heard from Doreen and Oliver Bauer at the Faraway Inn in Cedar Key, Fla., about their unique recycling initiative.

The Bauers are offering their inn as a collection point for spent inkjet cartridges, used cell phones and ipods, digital cameras and laptops. They mail the items to a company that properly recycles or disposes of them. In exchange for sending in the items, the inn receives a check made out to their favorite nonprofit organization. "To date, we have received $150 back for mailing in trash," the couple says.

The Humane Society of Inverness is the recipient of the money. The organization helps to neuter/spay feral cats. The Bauers kick in additional volunteer time to help the nonprofit. "Our island cats are spayed/neutered/vaccinated and given a clean bill of health before being released back into their environment to live out their lives kitten free," the Bauers said.

No matter the size of your property--the Faraway Inn has just five employees--you can still make a difference in your community and reduce the flow of waste to landfills. You can write to the Bauers at info@farawayinn.com to learn more about their efforts.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Electronic Publishing is Risky Business

When I started my career in trade publishing, things were much simpler. There was no Internet, no e-mail, and computers had a little more memory than a calculator (it at least seemed that way). While working for Hotel & Motel Management magazine, I was part of an effort to produce a print publication approximately twice a month. Things occasionally did go wrong but usually errors were minor. If you did not catch a mistake before the publication was printed, it was too late.

In today's world of electronic publishing, where everything is constantly "live" and can be updated or changed easily, it is easier to correct mistakes. However, the electronic world presents its own challenges as well and any travel-related business dipping its toes into electronic publishing needs to be careful.

As most of you know, I produce an electronic newsletter each week. I recently redesigned the newsletter along with the Green Lodging News website. As part of this transition, I began to work with a new company that distributes electronic newsletters. Everything went fine the first couple of weeks. Yesterday, however, I received an e-mail from the company claiming that someone on my list had been spammed with my newsletter. Turns out this person represents an organization called Spamhaus. I had never heard of Spamhaus and of course I do not intentionally spam anyone. In fact, anyone not wishing to receive my newsletter can opt out with one easy click.

Because of this one person making a spam claim, my account was shut down. I will certainly find another company to use but the lesson learned here is that no matter how clean your e-mail distribution list is, you are always vulnerable to spam claims--whether because of the efforts of a competitor, an unhappy customer or reader, or someone (a guest) who happened to forget that they signed up for your e-mail publication.

Electronic publishing is a risky world indeed. The lesson learned here? Always have a backup plan. Just one person clicking a spam button can stop you in your tracks.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Engineers--the Unsung Heroes

In gaining efficiencies in a hotel--especially a large hotel--it is often the director of engineering who has the most impact on whether or not an energy management, water or waste initiative is successful. Yet, engineers rarely get the credit they deserve. Why not? When was the last time you saw an industry association, at the national level, present an award to an engineer for reducing a property's carbon footprint?

I just had an opportunity to interview Brian Gorski, director of engineering at the Hyatt Regency in Boston. He has worked at the hotel since 1993. After 18 years at the property, Brian has a tremendous amount of knowledge about what makes the property efficient or inefficient. Thanks in part to Brian's work, the hotel was just awarded the EPA's prestigious Energy Star rating. Brian told me the hotel's electricity consumption has dropped by a whopping 42 percent since he started working there. At one time the hotel consumed 12.3 million kilowatts of electricity per year; now the property consumes just 7.1 million kilowatts annually.

There are many things that have contributed to the plunge in power consumption: training, investments in new lighting, a guestroom energy management system, motion detectors for lighting, variable frequency drives, new heating and cooling systems, and much more. Brian has helped lead the effort to update heating, cooling and other equipment that has seen its better days. The hotel's owners have spent about $3 million on updates over the last 10 to 12 years.

Behind the scenes of our nation's largest hotels, engineers like Brian are having a huge positive impact on reducing our industry's environmental footprint. If someone like Brian works in your hotel, be sure to give that person the credit and recognition he or she deserves.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Smoking Ban Takes Effect July 1 in Kansas

Next week will be an important one for proponents of smoke-free bars, restaurants and other public places in Kansas. On July 1, a statewide smoking ban will go into effect covering those areas. Governor Mark Parkinson signed the ban in March earlier this year. The law was the work of a bipartisan coalition in the House and Senate, as well as numerous doctors, nurses and health professionals.

Hotels will still be allowed to permit smoking in 20 percent of their guestrooms. That is bad news for the housekeepers who will have to clean those rooms. Many studies have proven the danger of secondhand and thirdhand smoke. Health officials in Kansas estimate that 4,000 Kansans die from smoking-related disease every year, about 300 through secondhand smoke. The Kansas Health Policy Authority estimates the smoking ban could result in more than 2,000 fewer heart attacks and a $21 million reduction in hospital charges for heart attacks alone. Unfortunately, the state exempted state-owned casinos from the smoking ban.

As of April of this year, 38 states and the District of Columbia had local laws in effect that require 100 percent smoke-free workplaces and/or restaurants and/or bars.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Hyatt Commits to Green Key Eco-Rating Program

Those organizations competing with the Green Key Eco-Rating Program--a joint partnership between the Hotel Association of Canada (HAC) and LRA Worldwide--will certainly be interested in learning more about today's announcement involving Hyatt Hotels & Resorts. Hyatt just announced its commitment to the Green Key program for its hotels and resorts in the United States, Canada and the Caribbean. Green Key is one of the many green lodging certification programs available to hoteliers.

Why should those who run Green Seal, Green Globe, Audubon Green Leaf and the other programs be concerned? Green Key, which already dominates the Canada market, appears to be pulling ahead in the race for certification business here in the United States. Just launched in the United States last September, Green Key has already been adopted as the certification program for the State of Indiana, Fairmont Hotels & Resorts has committed its U.S. hotels to the program, Accor North America is piloting the program, Sofitel Luxury Hotels adopted the program for its U.S. hotels, and the American Hotel & Lodging Association just partnered with HAC and LRA Worldwide to offer a discount for its members interested in pursuing Green Key certification.

Yes, Green Seal has all of Kimpton's hotels and U.S. Great Wolf Resorts locked up, and Audubon Green Leaf is the accepted program in New York State, but Green Key appears to be pulling ahead in the race for acceptance. (Green Globe is not making much headway with U.S. hotels.)

Will Green Key continue its momentum? Time will tell. It will definitely be interesting to watch.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Do USGBC Standards Ignore Public Health?

A report recently released by Environment and Human Health, Inc. (EHHI) challenges the U.S. Green Building Council to strengthen their Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design standards when it comes to human health. EHHI is a nonprofit organization composed of doctors, public health professionals and policy experts who specialize in research that examines environmental threats to human health. In the report, "LEED Certification: Where Energy Efficiency Collides with Human Health," EHHI says even USGBC's Platinum level award does little to ensure that hazardous chemicals are kept out of certified buildings.

The lead author of the study, John Wargo, Ph.D., professor of Risk Analysis and Environmental Policy at Yale University, says the following: "Although the U.S. Green Building Council's LEED certification program has effectively encouraged energy efficiency in buildings, tighter buildings often concentrate chemicals released from building materials, cleaning supplies, fuel combustion, pesticides and other hazardous substances."

EHHI is especially concerned that the LEED program is now providing the false impression that the buildings it certifies protect human health. EHHI says USGBC's Platinum rating is attainable without earning any credits for indoor air quality protection. (Green Lodging News reported earlier this year that LEED certified hotels can include smoking rooms. See article.)

EHHI recommends that numerous changes be made to the LEED program so that it becomes more health protective. To learn more about EHHI's findings and recommendations, click here. The report is a very important document.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

The Story of Snow White the Goat

Blanche Neige (Snow White) is the name of the goat recently adopted by Fairmont The Queen Elizabeth in Montreal. Snow White will supply the milk that will be used to make cheese for the hotel's Beaver Club. (Do I detect an animal theme here?) A registered "show goat" with an impressive pedigree, Snow White was adopted from the local Fromagerie du Vieux St. Francois as part of the property's ongoing commitment to supporting local cuisine and small artisan producers. While living at the fromagerie, Snow White will produce cheese for the menu at The Beaver Club, as well as for sale at the Fairmont Store.

The Beaver Club's Chef Martin Paquet will be using the goat cheese in a variety of dishes to complement the restaurant's renowned cuisine, from entrees to desserts.

Snow White is a Saanen breed of goat, which originally comes from the Saanen Valley of Switzerland and is registered with the the Canadian Livestock Records Corporation. Snow White is, of course, a lady. She will not live at the hotel but at a local farm.

This a great idea and a great way to engage guests, especially children visiting the hotel. Now if the hotel would just adopt seven chickens. Then they would have...you guessed it I am sure...Snow White and the Seven Chickens.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

A Loo Loo and a Bathroom Brake

I never thought much about the unwrapping speed of a roll of toilet paper until two vendors came along to offer similar products that slow that speed. That's right, there are products available that can slow the speed at which your guests unravel the rolls of toilet paper they use. I heard from company No. 1 last year: Biway Products. That company sells what is called the Loo Loo. It is a product made from expanded polymers that fits over the paper roller. The roll of toilet paper is then placed over it. The Loo Loo, because of its shape, helps to slow the pace at which paper unrolls. According to the company, the Loo Loo will save 20 to 50 percent on each roll used.

The second company, Bathroom Brake, makes a similar product that helps put the brake on toilet paper rolling. It is even scented to...well, you know...help cover unpleasant odors that tend to linger in that general area. The company says its product will save 25 percent or more of wasted paper.

Be sure to check out these products and let me know what you think. Especially in a hotel, where toilet paper flies off the shelves, doing something to minimize paper waste makes sense. According to Biway Products, 45 billion rolls of toilet paper are used in North America each year. That equates to a lot of trees being felled and a lot of water and air pollution.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

The Wind Beneath Their Wings

Of the numerous renewable options for power generation, wind power is certainly one of the most expensive. Yet, there are some hotel, resort and even inn owners that have invested in wind--even though it will be many years before seeing a return on their investment. What is driving these folks to spend up to hundreds of thousands or even millions of dollars on wind turbines?

Having the ability to meet a portion of their electricity needs is certainly one of the reasons for their investments. But it seems that what many owners are trying to do is make some type of statement. What kind of statement? That they are committed to renewable energy and the protection of the environment in general. That they are willing to spend what is necessary to brand their property in a highly visible manner as one that is progressive and green. That they are willing to be groundbreakers--even when there is no ROI in sight.

I recently wrote about the Mountain View Grand Resort & Spa in Whitefield, N.H. The owners of that property spent $500,000 on their 100-kilowatt wind turbine. The marketing manager for the Mountain View Grand said the owners paid for the turbine out of their own pockets because "it was the right thing to do." The owners of the Jiminy Peak Mountain Resort in Hancock, Mass., paid about $4.2 million for their 1.5-megawatt wind turbine. The expected payback time on their investment? About eight to nine years. For most property owners, eight or nine years is too long to wait to see a return.

I frequently come across individuals who have deep pockets and who are willing to invest in technologies that require ROI patience. Some make good decisions to make their green statements; others do not. Without owners willing to set examples for others, however, new technologies such as wind turbines will never mature in our industry. I commend those investors for showing leadership--even when the business case is questionable.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Delta Chelsea Offsetting 109 Percent of Footprint

It is not easy for a large hotel building to be carbon neutral--especially one that has 1,590 rooms. There are just two ways to make it happen: be powered entirely by wind, solar or other renewable energy sources; or by purchasing carbon offsets in combination with energy-saving efforts. The Delta Chelsea, Canada's largest hotel and located in Toronto, has offset 109 percent of its annual carbon footprint through the LivClean Eco-Stay program. For 2009, 7,845 tons worth of carbon offsets were purchased. Through the LivClean Eco-Stay program, guests are asked to donate $1 upon check-out and all funds are sent to LivClean to purchase carbon offsets on the hotel's behalf.

There are some who say purchasing offsets is the easy way to get to carbon neutrality but the Delta Chelsea has done a lot on its own to reduce its environmental footprint. From 2005 to 2009, it reduced its carbon emissions by 64 percent. The hotel diverted 84 percent of its waste stream to recycling in 2009 and was selected as the winner of the 2008 Energy & Environment Award by the Hotel Association of Canada.

"As a business operating in a large community such as Toronto, the Delta Chelsea recognizes and respects its corporate responsibility to make it a stronger and better place to live," says Josef Ebner, regional vice-president and managing director, Delta Chelsea Hotel. "As a quality organization, this is a key focus for our hotel and for our company. To that end, we will always consider the environment in our decision-making, striving to take action that will positively impact the environment and that will go beyond existing regulations and legislation."

Congratulations to the Delta Chelsea Hotel for achieving "carbon neutrality."

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Sometimes It's Better Not to be Number One

A new study conducted by the University of Adelaide (Australia), Princeton University and the National University of Singapore ranks the world's countries based on their negative impact on the environment. The research involved 228 countries and took into account seven indicators of environmental degradation: natural forest loss, habitat conversion, marine life, fertilizer use, water pollution, carbon emissions and species threats.

The country having the worst environmental impact is Brazil, followed by the United States, China, Indonesia, Japan, Mexico, India, Russia, Australia, and Peru. The study found that the wealthier the country, based on gross national income, the greater the likelihood of being an environmental offender. It's a good thing the study was done prior to the recent oil leak in the Gulf of Mexico.

Something tells me we won't be seeing the results of this study in any collateral promoting the United States as a tourism destination.

Thanks to Robert Kravitz at AlturaSolutions Communications and Sustainability Dashboard Tools for sharing this news item with me.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Numerous Sites Providing Oil Spill Updates

Green Lodging News just reported on the Florida Keys Tourism Council and its efforts to keep visitors to that area updated on the impact of the oil spill on the Keys area. The Council's website has been getting a lot of traffic. Information from official authorities, including the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, is updated daily.

Living Green Magazine, an online publication, is providing live updates from the oil spill on its website. The site's Gulf-spill section includes the latest news from major media sources, blogs from the staff of the Natural Resources Defense Council, videos and photos from the oil spill zone, hotline phone numbers where people can report beach and wildlife endangerment, links to organizations asking for donations and volunteers, and ideas for how people can take action wherever they are.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has also established a website to inform the public about the oil spill's impact on the environment and the health of nearby residents. The site contain's data from the EPA's ongoing monitoring along with other information about the agency's activities in the region.

Additional information on the broader response from the U.S. Coast Guard and other responding agencies is available by clicking here.

Of course all of the major news agencies are providing updates as well.

Let's hope BP finds a way to stop the massive oil leak soon. It is already too late for some areas of the Gulf Coast.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Too Much Silence in Response to Oil Spill?

What should the proper response of the U.S. travel and tourism industry be to British Petroleum's oil leak disaster? (BP defines it as the "MC252 oil well incident.") Of course it should be furious and prepared to seek compensation for physical damage (if and when that happens) as well as business lost. On Monday of this week, BP announced grants to each of the states of Florida, Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana to help their governors promote tourism around the shores of the Gulf of Mexico over the coming months. BP will provide $25 million to Florida and $15 million each to Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana. That money will certainly help but if oil starts hitting the coastlines of the affected states in significant amounts, the states are going to need a heckuva lot more money to address the problem.

I checked the American Hotel & Lodging Association website and there still has not been an official response made to the oil spill. Why not? The U.S. Travel Association issued a statement early on that it was working with member organizations in the affected states to monitor the situation but it also still has not taken an official stance critical of the spill. Again, why not? We should all be furious!

The truth is that our industry, like every single one of us, is extremely addicted to what BP was drilling for in the Gulf of Mexico. Oil, at least for now, is our industry's oxygen. While yelling about corporate irresponsibility and the damage being done to the water and life of the Gulf of Mexico, we should all be thinking about how to transition to cleaner, renewable energy. In the meantime, however, we do have every right to be furious. I just wish our industry would collectively express that more forcefully.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Doubletree's 'Teaching Kids to Care' Going Strong

Whether helping Haiti recovery efforts or helping to protect endangered species, Doubletree's Teaching Kids to Care program has been very successful--one of the most successful chainwide community involvement programs in the lodging industry. I checked and I have posted almost 10 articles mentioning the program on the Green Lodging News website. The program even has its own Web page.

This spring, as part of its "Love Your Trees, Love Your Community, Love Your Earth" initiative, Doubletree is working with the Arbor Day Foundation to help educate kids about the importance of trees, environmental stewardship in the community, and their positive impact on the environment. Students are being encouraged to pledge and practice 10 easily doable tree conservation challenges.

This Thursday, May 20, Shannon Dunavent, general manager of the Doubletree Guest Suites Fort Shelby/Detroit Downtown, along with her hotel team, will host a Community Urban Garden planting in Detroit. Students and teachers from Gompers Elementary School will help transform a courtyard of concrete into a "Made in Michigan" educational garden. More than 350 tree seedlings will be planted.

The Detroit event is the culmination of more than 175 similar events that have been celebrated during the past month by 10,000 grade school students and hundreds of Doubletree employees as part of a global adopt-a-school initiative.

Teaching Kids to Care is now eight years old and still going strong. Congratulations to Doubletree for touching the lives of more than 150,000 students in 200 communities.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Improving Economy Good News for CityCenter

It has been a long time coming but I will get to visit CityCenter for the first time next week while attending HD Expo in Las Vegas. I am looking forward to it. The project has already earned six Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Gold ratings from the U.S. Green Building Council. CityCenter has also won numerous other environmental awards since opening at the end of 2009. Sustainable features range from an 8.5-megawatt natural gas cogeneration plant to a fleet of stretch limos powered by compressed natural gas.

It is pretty obvious that CityCenter did not open at the best time but it is what it is. According to an article in the Las Vegas Sun, the complex, which is owned by MGM Mirage and Dubai World, recorded an operating loss of $255 million in the first quarter of this year. That includes a $171 million write-down in the value of the project's condos. It has only been able to finalize sales of about 100 of its 2,400 luxury condominiums. The owners are also involved in a dispute with the project's chief contractor, Perini Building Co., over about $500 million in construction fees. Before accounting for the write-down and other charges, CityCenter incurred a loss of $32 million. When you think about it that way, things could have been a lot worse.

Company officials and industry experts do see better things on the horizon for CityCenter and Las Vegas as the economy improves and groups and individual travelers return to the city. The project, plagued by problems from its beginning, does deserve a chance to shine--especially since it is one of the best examples of green building design in the United States. I will report back here after my visit to CityCenter next week. Have you been to CityCenter? If so, what did you think? I will look forward to reading your comments.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Author Takes Look at Voluntourism Hot Spots

Voluntourism is one of the fastest growing segments of the travel industry, at a rate of nearly double that of general tourism. What are you doing to capture the business of the tens of millions of U.S. travelers who care about giving back when they travel? Have you connected with organizations in your area that offer volunteer opportunities? Do you have a list prepared for meeting planners and others who ask about local options? Have you or your staff volunteered in the local community?

In "Ecotourists Save the World," Pamela K. Brodowsky and the National Wildlife Federation detail 300 international voluntourism opportunities--from the Alaska Maritime National Wildlife Refuge in Homer, Alaska to the Hen and Chickens Islands Weeding Project in North Auckland Peninsula, New Zealand. With each location the author provides a project description, location, contact information, cost, dates and duration, and field notes (level of fitness required, age limitations, etc.)

According to the author, one in three amphibians, nearly half of all turtles and tortoises, one in four mammals, one in five sharks and rays, and one in eight bird species are now considered at risk of extinction. So, there is certainly a lot of work to do.

How are you using voluntourism to put more heads in beds? I would love to read your comments.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Green Choice Program Criticized by Staff

Last August I wrote about Starwood's Make a Green Choice program. (See article.) Through the program, guests at Sheraton and Westin properties have the option of opting out of housekeeping for a day. Guests can choose to participate up to three consecutive nights. To participate, a guest must hang a "Make a Green Choice" card outside the guestroom door before 2 a.m. Guests are not eligible for the program the night prior to checking out of a room. For each night they participate, guests are given a $5 gift card to use at any of the hotel's restaurants. Guests also have the option of receiving 500 Starpoints as part of Starwood's loyalty program.

The environmental benefits to Make a Green Choice are significant. Of course there are labor savings as well. I gave the program a lot of praise in my article and still believe the concept makes a lot of sense.

According to an article in "The Canadian Press" dated May 5, however, some hotel workers in Toronto are saying programs like Make a Green Choice are fake green programs. Workers at the Sheraton Centre Hotel in Toronto are saying that it takes three times longer to clean a room that has gone without cleaning for several days and requires more cleaning fluids. With so many guests participating in the program at that hotel, housekeepers have also lost work hours.

This is one of those instances where a very good idea--one that results in greater business and environmental efficiency--causes unexpected pain. I can certainly understand the housekeepers' concerns. How would you solve a dilemma like this while still running a socially responsible enterprise? I would love to hear from you with your comments.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Hand Dryers Versus Paper Towels

Kimberly-Clark, the U.S. paper towel and Kleenex maker, is causing a bit of a stir among restroom hand dryer proponents. A video on its website cites two studies that found that hand dryers actually increase the amount of bacteria on the hands. According to Kimberly-Clark, jet air dryers without warm air increase bacteria on the hands by 42 percent while air dryers with warm air increase bacteria on the hands by 254 percent. Kimberly-Clark says its hand towels made from AIRFLEX fabric actually reduce bacteria by up to 55 percent.

Assuming for a moment that what Kimberly-Clark is promoting is fact, are paper towels an environmentally preferable alternative to hand dryers? Here, Kimberly-Clark's case is shaky. While the company is obviously taking a poke at companies such as Excel Dryer and Dyson B2B, Inc., those hand dryer companies make a very strong case for reducing a hotel's environmental impact through the use of their products. According to Excel Dryer, their XLERATOR hand dryer reduces the carbon footprint of hand drying (when compared to paper towels) by 50 percent to 75 percent. For the same cost as one paper towel, Dyson's Airblade hand dryer will dry 22 pairs of hands.

Back to the hygiene argument. Dyson says its Airblade hand dryer uses a HEPA filter to filter the air before it is blown on a person's hands. Excel Dryer, on its website, cites studies that prove that how one dries one's hands matters little when it comes to bacteria on the hands.

What do I think? I have to side with the hand dryer folks. I just can't believe that cutting down trees, making paper and then transporting it is a more environmentally preferable option than hand dryers. What do you think?

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Victimized by the Reality of the Global Economy

When a client of mine e-mailed me yesterday and asked me to call her I knew there must be a problem. Turns out the company is having cash flow problems and is going to have to cut back on its advertising commitment for 2010. Given the long-term, friendly relationship I have had with the company, I am certainly not going to hold them to their contract; I understand today's economic reality.

What concerns me is one of the reasons the company is having cash flow issues. It is having a more difficult time selling its products to U.S. hotel companies because those firms are buying their products from companies in overseas countries such as China instead. Those companies are able to sell my client's particular type of product for about one-third less. I know what you are thinking: "Tell me something I don't know."

My client has one of the best green stories to tell in our industry. Its products are recyclable and made from sustainable materials. Yet, because my clients' products are made here in the United States--where labor and other costs are higher--my client is bleeding business. Meanwhile, companies in places like China benefit and badly needed dollars leave the United States.

In a traditional global economy, the companies that produce most efficiently at the lowest cost deserve to win. That said, in a global economy where sustainability and environmental responsibility are a priority, buying locally made goods is the most responsible thing to do, even if there is a cost premium. Those dollars invested trickle throughout the local economy and help everyone. Of course buying locally results in a much smaller carbon footprint as well.

It is easy for me to say because I do not own and operate a large hotel but wherever you live--in the United States or elsewhere--support local companies first. It will be one of the most sustainable things you can do.

Your thoughts?

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

April National Geographic a Worthwhile Read

Here in Ohio where I am based, water conservation is not something discussed very often. The state typically gets its fair share of rain and Lake Erie provides a seemingly endless supply of fresh water. Many parts of the world are not so lucky. Better than just about any publication I have read, the April issue of National Geographic unveils the sobering truth about our world's supply of fresh water. I strongly recommend reading the issue that is dedicated 100 percent to water.

Perhaps you have heard the statistics before: Though water covers our world, more than 97 percent is salty. Two percent is fresh water locked in snow and ice, leaving less than 1 percent for us. By 2025, 1.8 billion people will live where water is scarce.

The hospitality industry can do a lot to help conserve water and use it more wisely--without necessarily impacting the guest experience. The Green Lodging News website includes many water conservation tips but the "no brainers" include: towel and linen reuse programs; low-flow toilets, showerheads and aerators; pre-rinse spray valves in kitchens; serving water only upon request in restaurants; recycling water from laundry operations; and planting plants and trees native to your local area. Smart golf course management is also important as 2 billion gallons of water are needed every day just to irrigate U.S. golf courses.

What unique steps have you taken to conserve water at your property? Be sure to leave a comment at the end of this blog.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

An Earth Day Worth Celebrating

Happy Earth Day! For someone who edits and publishes a green publication--Green Lodging News--Earth Day is the best day of the year and certainly worthy of being a national holiday. Ideally, Earth Day should be a day when all of us volunteer to help clean up our planet and commit to being better stewards of the natural resources Mother Nature provides us.

I have been swamped with press releases the last few weeks from properties announcing Earth Day commitments and celebrations. Here are just a few examples:

  • Hyatt Regency Aruba is holding an Earth Week. The property already hosted a trade show for local businesses to showcase their environmentally friendly products. Today, the property will have a tree planting.
  • At Grand Velas All Suites & Spa Resort Riviera Maya, guests will tour the resort grounds and learn about the native flora and fauna and plant mangrove trees. Children will have an opportunity to create artwork using recycled newspapers and plastic bottles.
  • The Lodge at Geneva-on-the-Lake hosted a day of activities including a T-shirt design contest, aluminum can recycling drive, and group cleanup of Geneva State Park.
  • Accor North America is holding its annual Accor Earth Guest Day. Activities include the cleaning up of local parks, collecting items for recycling, planting hundreds of trees, donating clothes and toys, and collection of used linens for donation.
  • In recognition of Earth Day and Arbor Day (April 30), students at partner schools of Doubletree hotels are committing to complete a series of "Tree Task of the Day" activities--everything from creating a recycling bin at home to creatively repurposing paper bags.
  • Chefs and other culinary officials who work for Delaware North Companies are pledging to refrain from using 90 percent of the fish and seafood species that are listed on the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch "avoid" list.
  • Atmosphere Hospitality Management announced its new Adoba Eco Hotel & Suites brand. Each will be built to earn LEED Gold or Platinum certification.
  • Hilton New York team members and their families will participate in an Earth Day tree planting on Randall's Island.
  • Great Wolf Resorts is celebrating the one-year anniversary of earning Green Seal certification for all of its properties.
  • Pineapple Hospitality has launched a new website called GreenerHotels.com. Hotels will have to be certified by one or more of six certification programs to be listed on the site.

These are just some of the activities that have already taken place or will be taking place. This year's Earth Day is the 40th one. Be sure to take some time to think about what you can do to lighten your property's environmental footprint in the coming year. Once again, happy Earth Day!

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Shocking Energy Star Revelations

Makers of everything from refrigerators to computers have used the Energy Star label to tout the efficiency of their products for years. Turns out the label may not have actually meant much...until now. An audit of the program by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) found that it was easy to obtain Energy Star approval--even for fake products. How? For years the EPA and DOE relied on an automated approval process. Products were not tested to ensure that they were as efficient as the maker stated. Sometimes applications were not even reviewed by a human being. It is a good think Senator Susan Collins, Republican of Maine, requested the GAO study.

Thanks to the study, changes are in the works. Effective immediately, according to a recent EPA/DOE press release, manufacturers wishing to qualify their products as Energy Star must submit complete lab reports and results for review and approval prior to labeling. EPA will no longer rely on an automated approval process. All new qualification applications will be reviewed and approved individually by EPA. By the end of this year, all manufacturers must submit test results from an approved, accredited lab for any product seeking the Energy Star label. Testing in an accredited lab is currently only required for some products. The new process will extend the requirement to each of the more than 60 eligible product categories under the Energy Star program.

It is encouraging that the Energy Star program is being strengthened. What is disappointing and shocking is how much "teeth" the program lacked for so long. It is just one more reason to always question and challenge government-run programs. Your thoughts?

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Summit Brings Attention to Workplace Safety

In February, the American Journal of Industrial Medicine published a study with the title, "Occupational Injury Disparities in the U.S. hotel industry. A total of 2,865 injuries at 50 unionized hotels over a three-year span were analyzed. The injury rate was higher for female hotel employees because they work disproportionately as housekeepers, which is the most injury-prone hotel job. According to the study, housekeepers have a 7.9 percent injury rate each year, 50 percent higher than for all hotel workers. The study also found that Hispanic women are more likely to get injured than their white counterparts.

This week, according to a press release issued by UNITE HERE, the union organization that represents hospitality workers, nearly 50 housekeepers traveled to Houston to participate in OSHA's National Action Summit for Latino Worker Health and Safety. The conference is sponsored by OSHA and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health. The housekeepers are participating in the Summit to bring attention to the high rates of injury for hotel housekeepers--in particular Latino housekeepers.

Just prior to the start of the OSHA Summit, housekeepers revealed their Hope Quilt, a 150-foot quilt made by housekeepers from across North America. Each patch on the quilt represents a story of pain or injury caused by working in hotels.

The housekeepers certainly have a right to be concerned. According to John Wilhelm, the president of UNITE HERE, "Hotels are the only place we know that Latina workers face higher injury rates...."

As mentioned in one of my previous columns, it is imperative that those who employ housekeepers do what is necessary to provide the proper training, tools and cleaning products to ensure an ergonomically and chemically safe working environment. There is no excuse for workplace injuries--ever.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Bees are the Buzz at Six Fairmont Hotels

Spring is here which means the bees are back at six Fairmont hotels in the United States, Canada and Africa. Hotels in Vancouver, B.C.; Toronto; Washington, D.C.; Kenya; Quebec; and St. Andrews by-the-Sea have bee hives on rooftops or in on-site gardens. The bees help pollinate area gardens and parks while also supplying hotel chefs with honey.

At the Fairmont Waterfront in Vancouver, more than 390,000 honey bees are expected to produce 500 pounds of honey. At the Fairmont Royal York in Toronto, nearly 800 pounds of honey has been harvested since June 2008, much of it going into the hotel's cocktails and cuisine. At the Fairmont Washington, D.C. (see related article), three hives each have their own names: Casa Bella, Casa Blanca, and Casa Bianca. At the Fairmont Mount Kenya Safari Club, eight hives will be in place by June. Each hive will host about 4,000 honey-making bees. The first honey harvest is expected by September. The resort will offer lectures for guests so they can learn about bees and honey production.

At the Fairmont Le Chateau Frontenac in Quebec, honey is harvested three times each year from four hives. Each hive contains about 70,000 bees. The hives produce more than enough honey for the hotel; the excess is sold to guests. At the Fairmont Algonquin in St. Andrews by-the-Sea, honey is showcased in Chef Ryan Dunne's cooking at the hotel's three restaurants.

Beekeeping requires expertise and is certainly not something one can start alone. In launching its hives, Fairmont partnered with area experts. To become aware of beekeeping basics, there is plenty of information online. Whatever you do, don't get stung in the process.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Travelzoo, Travelocity Offer Earth Day Specials

Travelzoo, the global Internet media company with more than 18 million subscribers, and Travelocity, one of the largest travel companies in the world, are both offering promotions this year in honor of the 40th anniversary of Earth Day.

Travelzoo's Earth Day hotel deals page features offers from only LEED-certified hotels. All deals are researched and test-booked by Travelzoo staff. A few examples of deals offered: The Orchard Hotel is offering a $99 rate--a $100 discount; the CityFlats Hotel in Holland, Mich., is offering a rate of $109--an $80 discount; and the Courtyard Portland City Center (Ore.) is offering a $94 rate--a $75 discount.

Travelocity is highlighting the top 40 green hotel deals on its site. Savings of up to 40 percent are available. The company will flag the more than 75 global eco-friendly hotels participating in the sale with an "Earth Day" sale tag, and only hotels that are included in Travelocity's Green Hotel Directory are eligible to participate. Travelocity's Green Hotel Directory currently includes more than 1,500 global eco-friendly hotels.

I have received many press releases from individual hotel properties that are offering Earth Day packages. What will you be doing this year to put more heads in beds on the greenest day of the year?

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Hotels Prepare for Electric Vehicles

This August, Nissan will begin taking orders for its LEAF electric car. In November, General Motors will begin selling its long-awaited Volt vehicle that can be driven 40 miles on an electric charge and an additional 360 miles thanks to its gasoline engine. Other companies are also getting closer to rolling out electric vehicles. Whether or not hotels purchase these for their own use remains to be seen. They are expensive. At least some hotels, however, are installing charging stations for guests who drive electric vehicles.

I just received a press release from the Seaport Hotel in Boston. The hotel will soon offer guests a charging station in the Seaport Garage. It is located directly below the hotel. There will be no "charge" for guests to use the charging station and guests driving electric vehicles will also receive a free night of valet parking. What the Seaport Hotel is doing is a great idea and a demonstration of leadership--not waiting until charging stations are an expected amenity.

The Seaport is not the first hotel to offer a charging station. Starwood's Element property in Lexington, Mass. has one and Starwood plans to install charging stations at its other Element properties. According to The New York Times, Hyatt installed several at its hotels in California as far back as 2007.

Have you considered installing a charging station at your property? How long will you wait to do so? (Click here for information on charging stations.) I will look forward to reading your comments.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Element's Message in a Bottle

Starwood Hotels and Resorts Worldwide's Element hotels throughout the United States will be celebrating Earth Day weekend in a unique way this year. Guests who bring in 10 single-use plastic bottles April 22 to 25 will get a free night during that weekend. The "I Am Not a Plastic Package" promotion is limited to the first 100 guests who book through the brand's toll-free number and mention the word "GOGREEN."

Element Hotels, Starwood's 100 percent LEED certified brand, currently has hotels open in the following cities: Lexington, Mass.; Las Vegas; Baltimore; Denver; Dallas; Houston; and Ewing, N.J. Additonal Elements will open later this year in New York City and Omaha, Neb.

Starwood's promotion is a great way to bring attention to the waste problem associated with water sold in plastic bottles. As written about in one of my previous columns, about 60 million water bottles are discarded daily. Only about 12 percent of them are recycled. Producing those bottles burns 1.5 million barrels of crude oil annually. Bottled water is 500 to 1,000 times more expensive than tap water and not necessarily safer to drink.

"We thought this would be a fun, timely way to engage guests on recycling, which has been in practice at Element from day one," said Brian McGuinness, senior vice president, Specialty-Select Brands, Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide, Inc. "Element guests keep telling us they want to take an active role in our efforts around environmental responsibility, and this is a very rewarding way for them to do it."

As part of the "I Am Not a Plastic Package," Element will also offer a complimentary reusable water bottle at check-in as part of the package.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Amble Resorts Monkeys Around on Facebook

A little more than two weeks ago I wrote about several properties that use costumed characters to help educate guests and their children about environmental issues. The Trump International Beach Resort in Sunny Isles Beach, Fla., has a mascot called Globie. Rosen Hotels & Resorts has a Nesor the Eco-Hero mascot, and The Ritz-Carlton, Charlotte will soon have its own unique version of Mother Nature. (See article.)

After writing that article I heard from the marketing director at Amble Resorts. Amble Resorts is a resort development company specializing in ecologically and culturally sensitive resorts. Their first resort project is The Resort at Isla Palenque. Ground will be broken this year on the project located on an island off the coast of Panama. Turns out the resort also has a mascot but not one that walks around in a costume. The mascot's name is Thurston Howler III. Anyone familiar with the old Gilligan's Island TV show knows the name is a play on the Thurston Howell III character.

Thurston Howler III is a real howler monkey who lives on the resort island. The marketing folks at Amble Resorts created a Facebook page for the monkey. (Click here to check it out.) Believe it or not, the monkey already has 88 friends (almost as many as me--yikes!). Thurston is in an open relationship (is a real swinger I am sure), spends a lot of time howling with 20 of his closest friends, and loves music by The Monkees and The Beatles. No surprise there.

What Amble Resorts has done with Thurston's Facebook page is a great idea--an excellent way to create a little buzz about an upcoming green project. If you could select a mascot for your property, what animal or character would you choose? I would love to know.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Six Senses Creates 'Voluntourism' Packages

Bangkok, Thailand-based Six Senses Resorts & Spas, whose environmental mission is "To create innovative and enlightening experiences that rejuvenate our guests' love of SLOW LIFE," has two properties that have come up with a unique way for guests to give back while having a great time as well. For the next six months, guests at Soneva Fushi and Soneva Gili can stay for five nights free as long as their 10-day stay includes five paid nights. The catch? Guests must agree to spend five hours each day working on local community projects. The projects include marine conservation, teaching children, planting trees and learning how to turn waste into wealth.

Divers and snorkelers will be taught how to boost coral reef recovery, those interested in waste management will learn how to create home-made compost, arborist wannabes can plant trees five hours a day, guests can give a 30-minute talk at local schools or work with locals to produce cadjan roofing material, which is later sold to bring money into the community.

Six Senses Resorts & Spas is just one of many companies attempting to tap into the demand for "voluntourism" opportunities. It is a great way to attract new business and a great way to help the local community and environment as well. What types of voluntourism packages has your property created? I would love to learn about them. Write to editor@greenlodgingnews.com.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Gallup: We're Less Concerned About Environment

The results of a poll recently released by Gallup* indicate that Americans are less worried about eight specific environmental problems than they were a year ago. The problems asked about include: pollution of drinking water; pollution of rivers, lakes and reservoirs; maintenance of the nation's supply of fresh water for household needs; contamination of soil and water by toxic waste; air pollution; the loss of tropical rain forests; extinction of plant and animal species; and global warming. For six of the categories in the survey, concern is the lowest Gallup has ever measured. Gallup has been conducting its poll since 1989.

Why the decrease in concern about the environment? Gallup speculates that one reason Americans may be less worried about environmental problems is that they perceive environmental conditions in the United States to be improving. Gallup adds that the decrease in concern may also be a reflection of greater public attention on economic issues.

Does the level of Americans' concern reflect reality? Gallup does not address this but in at least one instance--the drop in concern about the loss of tropical rain forests--some Americans are ill informed. According to experts, the planet is still losing 1.5 acres of rain forest every second and 137 plant, animal and insect species every single day due to rain forest deforestation.

Have I detected a comparable drop in environmental concern in the lodging industry? Not at all. In fact, the opposite is occurring. What are your thoughts?

*Gallup surveyed a random sample of 1,014 adults from March 4 to 7, 2010.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Rezidor Releases Responsible Business Report

The Rezidor Hotel Group just released its 2009 Responsible Business Report. The report's release marks the 20th anniversary of the company's first environmental policy. The report shows a marked drop in energy and water consumption as well as waste when compared to 2007 and 2008. For example, the water used per guest night at the company's Park Inn hotels in Europe, Middle East and Africa dropped from 403 liters per night in 2007 to 358 liters per night in 2009.

The report is in line with the Global Reporting Initiative's (GRI) G3 guidelines. The GRI guidelines are the most widely accepted and used standards for sustainability reporting. Monthly environmental reporting, and the annual Status Report, compiled by the management team at each hotel, form the foundation for Rezidor's Responsible Business reporting.

Highlights of the report include Rezidor's Responsible Business history, detailed economic and environmental results of the company's actions, social results, and a summary of progress in chart format. Rezidor readily admits that its overall carbon impact increased in 2009 because of the additional hotels it opened. However, emissions per room night or per guest night decreased by 8 percent in 2009.

The Rezidor Hotel Group is one of just a handful of companies in the lodging industry that generate a sustainability or responsible business report. Isn't it time for more to do the same?

To access the Rezidor 2009 Responsible Business Report, click here. Look for a guest column focusing on sustainability reports soon at the Green Lodging News website.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Sustainability Guide a Worthwhile Read

Jan Peter "JP" Bergkvist, one-time vice president sustainable business at Scandic and former director of environmental sustainability for Hilton International, recently released a self-published book called "Sustainability in Practice, A Fast Guide for Business Leaders." I highly recommend reading the book. Using The Natural Step framework, Bergkvist presents examples of practical measures hotels or hotel companies can implement in order to create more sustainable organizations.

"My honest recommendation is that without the buy-in and fully engaged commitment of the CEO of the company (or the chair of an organization) it is not meaningful to start a sustainability program," Bergkvist says in his book.

Why do leaders ignore sustainability? Bergkvist says it is often because they do not understand the business case for it, or they don't understand the concept at all. To help upper level managers move their organizations toward sustainability, Bergkvist offers suggestions in areas such as energy management, chemicals, waste and recycling, traveling and transportation, water, procurement, diversity, food, and sustainable construction.

Bergkvist concludes his book by addressing topics such as eco-labeling, sustainable meetings, and governance and ethics. To purchase a copy of his book, e-mail him at janpeter.bergkvist@sleepwell.nu.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

In Hot Water Over Showerhead Certification

So, you've gone out and purchased low-flow showerheads for your guestrooms. Are you sure they are delivering the savings they promise? The next time you have a chance, get a bucket that holds at least several gallons of water. Make sure it is marked for measurement. Turn on the shower and let it run for exactly one minute. A 2.5 gallons per minute showerhead should deliver exactly that: 2.5 gallons of water.

Why the skepticism? The Office of General Counsel of the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has issued Notices of Proposed Civil Penalty to four manufacturers for failing to certify that their showerheads meet the applicable water conservation standard as required by the Energy Policy Conservation Act and DOE regulations. The Notices collectively propose penalties of more than $3 million. Unless the manufacturers settle the claims within 30 days, the DOE can file actions in District Court or with an Administrative Law Judge to demand payment for the failure to certify these products.

Notices of Proposed Civil Penalty were issued to Zoe Industries, Altmans Products LLC, EZ-FLO International, and Watermark Designs, Ltd. after complaints were received about non-conserving products being sold by these companies. Conservation professionals have been concerned about the prevalence of high-flow showerheads on the market for several years and submitted information to the DOE on the suspected scofflaws.

Are the showerheads you purchased properly certified to be water efficient? If they are not, you can report potential violations. Forward your request, along with the manufacturer name, address, and model number to energyefficiencyenforcement@hq.doe.gov.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Rezidor to Release 2009 Sustainability Report

I just attended Carlson Hotels' Global Business Conference in Orlando. Carlson unveiled some aggressive expansion goals. As part of Ambition 2015, the company will aim to expand its portfolio by at least 50 percent to more than 1,500 hotels by 2015. With its highly successful Country Inns & Suites, Park Inn and Radisson brands, Carlson just might reach its goals--assuming the global economy continues to strengthen in the coming years.

At the conference I had an opportunity to chat with Kurt Ritter, president and CEO of The Rezidor Hotel Group, of which Carlson Companies is the main shareholder. Brussels, Belgium-based Rezidor has long had a reputation for being a leader throughout Europe, the Middle East and Africa in the area of corporate social responsibility (CSR). In fact, Carlson's new executive vice president, human resources and responsible business, Beathe-Jeanette Lunde, recently joined Carlson here in the United States after working for Rezidor.

In my chat with Kurt Ritter I learned that Rezidor will release its 2009 Sustainability Report in the next two weeks. (Click here to access previous versions of that report.) Ritter said the report is something the company is required to generate because it is a listed company. I also learned that each Rezidor hotel has its own responsible business coordinator who is responsible for reporting monthly to the head office, and that Rezidor has 120 properties with some type of eco-label. Rezidor gives its guests the option of offsetting their travel and provides its hoteliers with an online environmental best practices database for the sharing of ideas. All employees and managers are required to undergo training in responsible business. Rezidor will hold a Responsible Business Action Month this September.

My impression is that from an environmental perspective, The Rezidor Hotel Group is ahead of Carlson here in North America. Perhaps with the appointment of Beathe-Jeanette Lunde, that will begin to change. To stay abreast of The Rezidor Hotel Group's investments in the area of CSR, visit their website.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Green Mill Village Close to Breaking Ground

According to a recent article in the The News-Gazette in Champaign-Urbana, Ill., ground may soon be broken for Green Mill Village, which I first wrote about in Green Lodging News more than two years ago. Green Mill Village is expected to include a hotel, conference center, spa, restaurants, retail center and education center. Developer Bob McElwee said in The News-Gazette article that he will pursue Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Platinum certification for the project.

Green Mill Village is expected to incorporate wind and solar technologies to generate power. Most building materials will come from within a few miles of the hotel. Furniture for the hotel will be made by local craftsmen. The retail center will include items made by local Amish.

The education center will provide guests and others with a snapshot of the region and village, as well as offer interactive videos focused on agriculture, alternative energy and responsible tourism. Green Mill Village will work with local schools to offer on-the-job training in hospitality management.

Green Mill Village will be located near Arcola, Ill., a little more than two hours from Chicago, Indianapolis, and St. Louis. According to The News-Gazette, the $30 million to $40 million resort will be funded by a combination of private equity and traditional bank financing. Click here for more information on Green Mill Village.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Travelzoo to Highlight LEED Hotels

I recently wrote an article about the top online travel agencies and how they are currently segregating green lodgings on their websites (see article). Turns out Travelzoo will soon launch a new section on its site that pairs travelers with the best deals at LEED-certified hotels. Travelzoo is adding the section after surveying consumers about their green travel preferences. The site will go "live" on April 1 in honor of Earth Day which is April 22. See a preview of the site section here. The URL for the site will be www.travelzoo.com/green when the site launches. It is great to see yet another travel site feature green hotels.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

A Helpful Resource for Those Considering Solar

If you are trying to figure out whether or not it makes economic sense to invest in solar energy at your hotel or inn, I recommend checking out several sources available at the American Solar Energy Society website. The first source, an article entitled, "What Does PV Cost?", explains that determining the cost of an electricity-generating photovoltaic system is not a simple process. There are many factors that come into play: worldwide price of silicon, competitive scene in module distribution, local costs for labor and materials, availability of incentives and rebates, etc. The article includes links to an online calculator to help one determine cost.

A second article tackles the issue of determining the financial value of a solar or wind energy system. For example, in areas where electricity costs are higher, solar and wind systems have more value. Of course being able to sell electricity one generates back to the utility is also important. This can be done in 42 states in the United States thanks to net-metering laws. Incentives and tax benefits also should be considered when determining system value.

The website also includes an article that includes a link to a spreadsheet that allows one to calculate the payback time and internal-rate-of-return for a proposed photovoltaic project. A significant amount of preparation is required prior to using the spreadsheet. For example, it asks for the annual energy output of the solar system as well as initial system cost.

Shopping for a solar system can be an intimidating process. Make use of the tools found at the American Solar Energy Society website. And, be sure to pick the brains of knowledgeable vendors. They should be able to answer any questions you may have, especially those in regard to available rebates in your area.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Vancouver Convention Centre's Platinum Feat

The timing could not have been better for the Vancouver Convention Centre--the international broadcast center and the main press center of the 2010 Olympic Winter Games. Timing for what? The Centre just announced that its West building, which opened in April 2009, has received Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Platinum certification. From a publicity/marketing standpoint, those running the Centre must be ecstatic. It is not every day that you participate in hosting the Olympics while earning LEED Platinum. In fact, no other convention center in the world has earned LEED Platinum--the highest LEED level.

Green Lodging News first featured the Centre in June 2007 (see article). What is so unique about the Centre? It includes a six-acre living roof, the largest living roof in Canada and the largest non-industrial living roof in North America. A restored marine habitat is built into the foundation of the building. A seawater heating and cooling system takes advantage of the adjacent seawater to produce cooling for the building during the warmer months and heating in cooler months. (See related release.)

The Vancouver Convention Centre is the second property to earn LEED Platinum in recent weeks. The Bardessono in Yountville, Calif., also has earned LEED Platinum (see article). They join Greensboro, North Carolina's Proximity Hotel as the only travel-related properties to earn Platinum. Congratulations to those three properties.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

HAC Survey: No Letup in Interest in Environment

The Hotel Association of Canada (HAC) just released data from its 2010 Canadian Travel Intentions Survey. Despite the current economic challenges, environmental initiatives are important to 40 percent of both leisure (44 percent) and business (42 percent) travelers, up more than 6 percent over 2009 figures. Forty-one percent, similar to 2009 HAC survey results, of leisure travelers say they are willing to pay between $1 and $5 per night to participate in a carbon offset program.

Most firms do not have a "green travel policy" yet, but travelers said more than twice as many businesses had a green travel policy in 2009 (11 percent) when compared to 2008 (4 percent).

The survey of Canadian travelers is the sixth annual Canadian Travel Intention study undertaken by the Hotel Association of Canada. The survey was conducted by TSN Canadian Facts and defines a traveler as someone who will stay at least one night in a hotel, motel, or resort. The online survey was conducted in December 2009 among 1,524 "likely travelers."

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Participants Sought for Sustainability Survey

A group of undergraduate students completing their fourth year in the Ted Rogers School of Management at Ryerson University in Toronto are seeking the assistance of general managers, owners and asset managers for a sustainability survey. The survey will help determine what social and environmental practices are currently being used in hotels, and also help determine what tools and resources are still needed to improve sustainability in the lodging industry. The survey will also attempt to determine the motivation behind sustainability initiatives.

The survey is being conducted with the assistance of the Sustainable Hospitality Council and will take 20 to 25 minutes to complete. The deadline for completing the survey is February 17, 2010. Click here to access the survey. All information collected will remain confidential. If you have any questions about the survey, write to admin@sustainablehospitalitycouncil.com. Thank you in advance for your assistance with this study. It is great to see students getting involved in sustainability research.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Conde Nast Traveler World Savers Awards

Conde Nast Traveler is now accepting applications for the 2010 World Savers Awards--a travel industry awards program geared toward companies with responsible environmental policies and community programs. The categories include: 1) hotels chains, large and small; 2) city hotels; 3) resorts and lodges, large and small; 4) tour operators; 5) cruise lines; and 6) airlines.

Finalists will be selected by Conde Nast Traveler editors, and winners will be chosen by an independent panel of judges. The winners will appear in the September 2010 issue of Conde Nast Traveler. The deadline for entries is February 16, 2010.

Click here to download an application.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Smoking and Green Certification Programs

I have always kind of wondered how a hotel could be considered "green" and even be certified as such, but still allow smoking in some guestrooms and, in some cases, public areas. There is an incredible amount of evidence that links first-, second-, and third-hand smoke to cancer. In an attempt to get a handle on just exactly where the various green certification organizations stand in regard to smoking, I have begun to survey them. Whether by e-mail or through phone interviews, I am attempting to contact representatives of the most prominent national, state and city level green lodging certification programs. Look for an article and column soon on Green Lodging News that details the results of my survey.

What do you think? Should the fact that a property allows smoking be a deal breaker when it comes to certification? Or, should it be just one other factor that is considered by a certifying organization--at the same level as, say, a low-flow toilet?

Preliminary results of my survey show that certification programs are very inconsistent when it comes to smoking. One president of a certification program indicated that until I brought up the topic, he had never even thought about including a smoking-related question in his certification application. A representative of the most prominent green building certification program in the country told me that yes, one's hotel can be certified even if it allows smoking in guestrooms. Wow.

If your property is green certified but still allows smoking, I would like to know why you believe there is nothing ironic about that. My e-mail: editor@greenlodgingnews.com.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Architect Proposes Combination Hotel/Ski Slope

According to HotelChatter, architect/artist Michael Jantzen has designed a new hotel that is part ski slope, part hotel. Yes, that's right, the ski slope and hotel are part of one structure. The hotel/slope would be 400 feet high and be powered by a combination of wind turbines and solar cells. The hotel would incorporate passive solar heating and include a system that would collect rain water and melting snow for reuse in and around the hotel. The project is a long way from fruition. It certainly ranks up there as one of the most creative proposals for a "mixed-use" development.

Jantzen is well known for his designs that work with nature. His website includes designs for a sky-cloud pavilion, eco-tower and sun tower, elements theme park and much more. Will a hotel/slope be built any time soon? I doubt it, but it is refreshing to see that architects like Jantzen are at least thinking about a more sustainable approach to hotel building. While buildings built to LEED standards are great, they are just one step toward what are considered "living buildings" or "net zero" buildings--buildings that either produce more power than they consume, or the same amount that they consume.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Gaia Anderson One Point Shy of LEED Gold

According to an article in the Anderson Valley Post, the Gaia Anderson Hotel, Restaurant & Spa recently learned that it fell one point short of achieving Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Gold from the U.S. Green Building Council. The property will have to "settle" for LEED Silver. Gaia Anderson's sister property, the Gaia Napa Valley Hotel & Spa, was the first hotel in the United States to earn LEED Gold status.

Wen-I Chang, the developer of the Gaia Anderson property and someone I have had the privilege of meeting several times, said he was shooting for LEED Gold. Why did the developer fall short of the Gold designation? According to the article, Chang's primary investor, the Far East Bank, pulled $1.5 million intended for an array of solar panels atop the Gaia Anderson property. Far East Bank also withdrew its financing for a third Gaia hotel planned for Merced, Calif.

Chang certainly has nothing to be ashamed of. LEED Silver is a great achievement. And, there still may be LEED Gold on the horizon, according to the article. Wen may add the solar panels later and then shoot for LEED Gold for Existing Buildings.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

DLA Piper Survey's Two 'Green' Questions

DLA Piper just released its 2010 Hospitality Outlook Survey. Results were based on responses from 109 top executives in the hospitality industry. Two green questions were included in the survey. In response to the first question, "Do you think that investment activity in 'green' certified hotels/sustainability will continue as a long-term trend?", 89 respondents said "yes," with 19 saying "no." (I would like to have a conversation with those 19. They actually believe that green hotel building is a fad?)

In response to the second question, "Do you think 'green' certified hotels are driving consumer choice?", just 25 respondents said "yes" and 84 said "no." In this case, the viewpoint of respondents is closer to that reflected in other surveys that have been taken over the last couple of years.

DLA Piper concludes its paper by stating: "Rather than looking at the bottom line, these responses seem to suggest that the U.S. hospitality industry has largely approached sustainability on its merits alone, discounting the financial performance of green hotels in the near term." How the authors of the survey paper came to this conclusion is beyond me. The questions were not posed to draw this type of conclusion.

To read the paper yourself, click here.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

More Companies Lend a Hand to Haiti

In my last blog entry I listed some of the travel companies that are doing their part to help Haiti recover from the recent earthquakes there. I have since learned of other efforts. The following are some examples:

1. Orlando hotelier Harris Rosen, president and COO of Rosen Hotels & Resorts, is coordinating a Haitian outreach program with a goal of raising $1 million. All of the contributions received by the Harris Rosen Foundation will go toward relief efforts.

2. InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG) is encouraging the 47 million members of its guest loyalty program, Priority Club Rewards, to donate their points to the American Red Cross. Rewards members can donate their points in 10,000-point denominations. Points will be converted into cash by IHG.

3. Members of Choice Hotels International's Choice Privileges program are being asked to donate points. For every 1,000 points redeemed, Choice will donate $5 to the American Red Cross.

4. Marriott International announced that it had donated $500,000 to the Red Cross Haiti Relief and Development Fund. Marriott is giving 18,000 loyalty points to those loyalty program customers who donate $50.

5. Hilton Hotels Corp. said it will match total member donations dollar for dollar--up to $250,000--through its guest loyalty program.

6. Loews Corp. donated $25,000 to the Red Cross.

7. Starwood Hotels & Resorts said it will match donations to the Starwood Associate Relief Fund and UNICEF up to $100,000.

8. Hyatt Hotels Corp. is allowing Gold Passport members to donate 5,000 points for a $40 donation to relief efforts.

9. Delaware North Companies donated more than 17,000 bottles of water the day after the earthquake.

10. Carlson will donate $50,000 and will match employee contributions up to an additional $60,000.

Once again, it is great to see the travel industry respond so quickly to help the people of Haiti.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Travel Companies Pitch In to Help Haiti

Travel-related companies are beginning to do their part to help the victims of the January 12 earthquake in Haiti. Sandals Foundation, the philanthropic arm of Sandals Resorts International, announced the establishment of a Haiti Relief Fund to support disaster relief efforts. Guests staying at any of the Sandals Resorts, Beaches Resorts, Royal Plantation Resorts and Grande Pineapple Beach Resorts have been invited to make a financial donation on-property. Funds raised for relief will go to purchase emergency relief kits, food, tents, bottled water, clothing, medical items, and satellite telephones. Sandals Resorts International will also be providing linens, towels and non-perishable food items to earthquake victims.

Best Western International announced that Best Western Rewards members can contribute rewards points to the relief effort. Frequency program members can go to www.bestwestern.com/haitirelief to make a donation of points that ultimately will translate to funds being donated to World Vision, Best Western's official charity partner.

Through March 31, the Sheraton Atlanta will donate $10 per night for every guest who stays at the hotel using one of two newly created "Haiti Relief Care" packages. The packages include free parking and one free appetizer at the hotel's fine dining restaurant.

Royal Caribbean Cruises just pledged $1 million in humanitarian relief in response to the earthquake. The company is also delivering goods and supplies via their cruise ships.

One lodging industry vendor, RJT Products, LLC, announced that it would donate $5 to the American Red Cross each time it sells one of its Travel Laundry Bags.

It is encouraging to see the travel industry step up during Haiti's time of need. It is going to take a gargantuan effort to put Haiti back together.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

HEI Uses Contest to Encourage Energy Savings

To get a team of employees, including managers, to work toward a common "green" goal, I have often wondered to what degree financial incentives would push the process. Would employees and managers be more driven or even work extra hours to implement the steps necessary to save energy and water and reduce waste? I have seen little evidence of owners linking environmental performance to compensation but I don't think it is such a bad idea.

During a conference I attended last year I suggested the idea of incentives and met resistance from some owners. Their thinking: We are already paying our managers and employees enough, especially in a recessionary economy...why should they need incentives to work hard?

Yesterday I posted an article about HEI Hotels & Resorts receiving a corporate Energy Manager of the Year award from the Association of Energy Engineers. Within that article there was mention of an incentive program launched at the beginning of 2009 by HEI. The company started a competition among its hotels. Prizes ranged from gift cards to flat-screen TVs. Associates were rewarded for reductions made in energy consumption. The program appears to be working as the company, through October 2009, had observed a reduction in energy consumption of approximately 8 percent when compared to 2008.

I believe incentives linked directly to savings, even if they take the form of a contest, are a great idea. They are obviously working for HEI. What do you think?

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

High Cost to Participate in S.C. State Program

In the last few years, many states--and some cities--have launched their own green lodging certification programs (click here for list). Some locations have been more successful than others. Florida, for example, just announced that it has added its 600th designated green lodging property. Kudos to Florida. Business models vary by location; in most cases the cost to participate is nothing or a small amount that is very reasonable. In at least one state, however, South Carolina, a business owner must be a member of the state hospitality association to get certified as a green property as part of the South Carolina Green Hospitality Alliance. Is that fair?

I recently received an e-mail from a gentleman whose company owns and operates 1,400 rooms. To become a member of the South Carolina Hospitality Association, his company would have to pay $7.50 per room. The total: $10,500. So, in other words, in a roundabout way, it would cost him $10,500 to have his properties certifed as green. Not exactly an incentive to participate in the South Carolina Green Hospitality Alliance, is it? The gentleman I corresponded with intended to check out national certification programs instead.

If you were in his position, what would you do? I will look forward to your comments.

Friday, January 8, 2010

An Eco-Resort for Point Roberts, Washington?

In 1949, according to Wikipedia, there was talk of Point Roberts, Wash., seceding from the United States and joining Canada. It never happened. Point Roberts is kind of a geographic oddity as it can only be reached from the rest of the United States by traveling through Canada or crossing Boundary Bay. What is the big deal with Point Roberts? According to The Bellingham (Wash.) Herald, a local chef, Steve O'Neill, plans to renovate an old industrial building into an eco-resort called the Blackfish Resort. The resort would have approximately 24 rooms and may incorporate solar panels for heating water, and wind turbines to generate electricity. The resort may even have exercise equipment that generates electricity. The owners would grow their own food on site and contract with other locals to produce additional organic items to serve in the resort's restaurant.

Also according to The Bellingham Herald, the resort owner is talking about putting video cameras on the roof of the building and under water to capture the antics of orcas and other sea life. Their activities would be broadcast on TVs in the resort building. Local officials are excited about the prospect of a new resort in their community given the area's slow economy. The developer said he hopes to start construction in 2010 and have the resort open by spring 2012.

If I have some pounds to shed in 2012 and feel like generating some electrons while exercising, I will certainly know where to go.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Some Thoughts on Airport 'Security'

As a frequent traveler I am not a fan of airport security but it is something I have gotten used to, just like everyone else, over the last decade. The x-ray machines, bag searches, taking the shoes off, the occasional German Shepherd sniffing around--they all add up to an increased sense of security. On Christmas Day, as we all know, a man tried to ignite a bomb while on board a flight from Amsterdam to Detroit, proving that all of the billions of dollars invested in technology and security personnel over these last years is just not enough.

We should not be surprised that someone was able to get through airport security with a bomb. Humans are bound to make mistakes. Here are a couple of examples from my own family. My father-in-law was visiting from Argentina this fall. My wife and I took him to the airport so that he could get on his plane back to Argentina. Out of ignorance he walked right by the first security checkpoint without being noticed. The security guard was occupied with another person. Of course we called him back so he could go through the checkpoint but the incident proved how easily mistakes can be made. On a recent trip my niece's bottle of water was taken from her while going through security but they missed the two pairs of scissors in her purse. You get the idea. These types of things must happen every day.

As our government and the airline industry increase security procedures in the coming months and years--including adding x-ray machines that show our private parts in detail--let's hope they use a little common sense. Yes, we all need to be secure, but the travel industry is suffering enough as it is; people certainly don't need yet another reason not to travel. What do you think?