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.