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 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 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."