Caller Brings Attention to Questionable Mattress Claims

by Glenn Hasek February 18, 2015 04:47

I received a call yesterday from a mattress supplier in regard to my recent article on mattresses. (See “Greener Mattress Options Can Reduce Waste, Provide a More Healthy Sleep Experience.”) The purpose of her call was to make me aware of a couple of “errors” in my article. First of all, I listed the Carolina Mattress Guild as a supplier of mattresses. Turns out the company is out of business. It filed for bankruptcy last month. It had been open for 23 years. The caller also brought to attention some issues with Essentia, maker of what it calls “the world’s healthiest mattress” and maker of what it says is the only “natural memory foam.” The caller said Essentia is making claims it cannot support. I did some checking and Essentia has indeed been in trouble before for its claims. In July 2013, according to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), Essentia agreed to stop making unsupported claims that the mattresses they sell are free of harmful volatile organic compounds (VOCs).

The FTC alleged that Essentia made unsubstantiated claims that its mattresses do not contain VOCs, are chemical-free, have no chemical off-gassing or odor, and are made from 100 percent natural materials. Moreover, the complaint alleged that Essentia claimed that tests show that its memory foam is free of VOCs and formaldehyde when, in fact, tests do not support these claims. The FTC barred Essentia from making chemical-free claims, prohibited any misrepresentations about whether the company has testing to prove the claims about its mattresses, and barred the company from making non-toxic claims without scientific support. The FTC also barred the company from making certain types of odor claims unless they are true, not misleading, and supported by scientific evidence. Essentia was also barred from making natural claims without scientific support.

As an editor, I am skeptical when someone says they are the first to do something, the best at something, or the only one doing something. When a company does make such a claim, I try to put it in the right context, saying that it is the company making a claim. What the caller brought to light is the importance of asking suppliers good questions—whether when asking about claims about a mattress, soap or any other product. If you are skeptical about a company’s claim, run the company name through the FTC’s search engine. You may find some interesting information. Put on your detective hat. As with any type of shopping, with mattress shopping, let the buyer beware.

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Green Events Schedule Still Coming Together for 2015

by Glenn Hasek February 11, 2015 06:06

While some of the green lodging conference dates and agendas have been firmed up for 2015, others have not. Here is what I know at this point. First of all, Lodging Magazine has decided to postpone its Lodging Green & Sustainability Conference until May 2016. The exact dates and venue will be announced in the next few weeks. The Conference had successful runs in 2013 (Dallas) and last year in Las Vegas. Last September, the first Mid-Atlantic Green Hospitality Conference was held at Dover Downs Hotel & Casino in Delaware. I have been told that the conference will be repeated this year and most likely will be in the fall. At this spring’s HD Expo, May 13 to 15 at Mandalay Bay, four NEWH Green Voice Conversations already have been scheduled, as well as a session entitled, “Community Builders: Expanding the Meaning of Sustainable Design.” On the first day of the Expo, the NEWH Student Green Scholarship Awards will be presented.

Not long after HD Expo, from May 16 to 19, the NRA Show will be held in Chicago. At first glance, the educational schedule appears to be light on sustainability this year. There is one session entitled, “Do Good To Do Well: How Charitable Causes Better Bottom Lines.” The Green Meeting Industry Council (GMIC) will be holding its annual Sustainable Meetings Conference June 17 to 19 in Atlanta. GMIC is still firming up part of its schedule but they did announce that Laura Turner Seydel, Chair, Captain Planet Foundation, will be a featured speaker.

At HITEC, a session on local, sustainable F&B will be held. Peter D’Andrea, corporate executive chef at Wind Creek Hospitality, will lead the session. The sessions for NeoCon, held June 15 to 17 in Chicago, will not be revealed until March 10. The International Hotel, Motel + Restaurant Show, held November 7 to 10 in New York, has yet to announce its educational sessions schedule and the folks behind the Greenbuild International Conference and Expo, held this November 18 to 19 at the Washington Convention Center in Washington, D.C., are still putting together the educational program for that event.

Got news about a green event in 2015? Be sure to send it to editor@greenlodgingnews.com.

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Focus on Plastics Reduction as You Green Your Hotel

by Glenn Hasek February 04, 2015 05:32

Where in your property is plastics waste generated? Many hotels still offer plastic water bottles in guestrooms and during meetings. Gift shops and vending machines are also a source of the bottles. Amenity bottles are also a source of plastics waste. Plastics waste may also come from packaging entering a property. Plastics should certainly be on your watch list as you try to green your hotel. According to the Worldwatch Institute, global production of plastics has continued to rise. Some 299 million tons of plastics were produced in 2013, representing a 4 percent increase over 2012. According to the United Nations Environmental Programme, an estimated 22 to 43 percent of the plastics used worldwide is disposed of in landfills, where its resources are wasted, the material takes up valuable space, and it blights communities. In the United States, only 9 percent of post-consumer plastics (2.8 million tons) was recycled in 2012. The remaining 32 million tons was discarded.

Feeling good about recycling the plastic your property does produce? Well, most plastic scraps from countries that have established collection systems for the material flow to China, which receives 56 percent (by weight) of waste plastic imports worldwide. “Indirect evidence suggests that most of this imported plastic is reprocessed at low-tech, family-run facilities with no environmental protection controls, such as proper disposal of contaminants or waste water,” says the Worldwatch Institute. “There are also concerns that low-quality plastics are not reused but are disposed of or incinerated for energy in plants that lack air pollution control systems.”

If you have been paying attention to the news, you know that tens of millions of tons of plastics end up in the oceans each year. A recent study conservatively estimated that 5.25 trillion plastic particles weighing a total of 268,940 tons are currently floating in the world’s oceans. This debris results in an estimated $13 billion a year in losses from damage to marine ecosystems, including financial losses to fisheries and tourism as well as time spent cleaning beaches. Animals such as seabirds, whales, and dolphins can become entangled in plastic matter, and floating plastic items—such as discarded nets, docks, and boats—can transport microbes, algae, invertebrates, and fish into non-native regions, affecting local ecosystems.

Eliminating plastics waste from your property not only reduces waste flow, it also helps to reduce the overall carbon footprint of your hotel. About 4 percent of the petroleum consumed worldwide each year is used to make plastic, and another 4 percent is used to power plastic manufacturing processes.

What have you done to reduce the use of plastics at your property? I would love to know. I can be reached at editor@greenlodgingnews.com.

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Article Prompts Mattress Recycling Suggestions

by Glenn Hasek January 28, 2015 05:06

I posted an article this past week on mattress options that are more sustainable than those historically purchased by lodging establishments. I had several people respond with notes about places to take mattresses for recycling. Jeff Hanulec, Director of Engineering at the Sheraton Boston Hotel, suggested UTEC Mattress Recycling in the Boston area. UTEC Mattress Recycling is a nonprofit social enterprise within the Workforce Development Program at United Teen Equality Center (UTEC). I also heard from Kathy Baldwin, Executive Director, The Mustard Seed of Central Florida, about that organization’s mattress recycling program. It received The Sustainable Florida—2014 Best Practice Award for its achievements. John Austin wrote about Spring Back Charlotte Recycling, a nonprofit in the Charlotte, N.C. area that collects mattresses for recycling. If you do not happen to be in any of the above areas mentioned, Global Sustainability Solutions (GSS) is an outstanding company to work with in regard to mattress recycling.

GSS has partnerships with Simmons Bedding Co. and also with Hilton Worldwide for Serta mattresses and box springs. Not sure where to look for other mattress recyclers in your area? Sleep On Latex has an excellent map on its website. Sleep On Latex also provides some information on why mattress recycling is important and where the recycled material can be used.

Got more to share on mattress recycling? Write to editor@greenlodgingnews.com.

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AH&LA Once Again Looking for 'Green' Stars of the Industry

by Glenn Hasek January 21, 2015 05:18

About nine months ago, Green Lodging News published the winners of the American Hotel & Lodging Assn. (AH&LA) Achievement Awards, part of the annual Stars of the Industry Awards. As in previous years, AH&LA presented awards in a Good Earthkeeping category. Last year’s winners included: The Huntington Hotel, San Francisco, small property category; Brown Palace Hotel & Spa, medium property category; and Grand Hyatt Atlanta, large property category. AH&LA just announced that it is accepting nominations for its 2015 Stars of the Industry Awards program. Once again, there will be a Good Earthkeeping category this year but AH&LA has trimmed the number of winners to just two. There will be a small property category (250 rooms or less) and a large property category (250 rooms or more). If you are fortunate enough to have exactly 250 rooms in your property, you will have to decide which category to be considered for.

In addition to Good Earthkeeping, awards will be presented for Community Service in small and large property categories. According to AH&LA, nominations will be accepted through Monday, February 16, 2015. Following the judging process, AH&LA will notify the nominators of winners in March. The 2015 AH&LA Stars of the Industry winners will be recognized at the annual awards ceremony held in conjunction with the AH&LA Legislative Action Summit, April 14 to 15, 2015 in Washington, D.C. All AH&LA student members, member properties, and employee members are eligible to submit an entry. Nonmembers will not be considered. For inquiries about your AH&LA membership status or login information, contact Member Services at membership@ahla.com or (202) 289-3100. You may also click here for additional details.

Winners of this year’s competition will be recognized on the Green Lodging News website and in our weekly e-newsletter.

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NYC Takes Tough Stance on Expanded Polystyrene Foam

by Glenn Hasek January 14, 2015 09:04

Restaurateurs in New York City, and those companies that sell expanded polystyrene (EPS) foam products (commonly known as Styrofoam) may not like the change but the just announced ban on EPS foam products in the Big Apple is good news for the environment—and human and marine health. In case you missed it, the de Blasio Administration announced that as of July 1, 2015, food service establishments, stores and manufacturers may not possess, sell, or offer for use single service expanded polystyrene (EPS) foam articles or polystyrene loose fill packaging, such as “packing peanuts” in New York City. Styrofoam is most commonly seen in cups, containers, trays, plates, clamshell cases and egg cartons. The City’s Department of Sanitation collected approximately 28,500 tons of expanded polystyrene in Fiscal Year 2014 and estimates that approximately 90 percent of that is from single-use food service products. EPS is a major source of neighborhood litter and hazardous to marine life.

EPS foam is a lightweight material that can clog storm drains and can also end up on beaches and in New York Harbor. EPS containers can break down into smaller pieces, which marine animals may mistake for food. According to Cleanwater Action California, EPS is made using the monomer, Styrene, a lab animal carcinogen and a possible human carcinogen and neurotoxin. Styrene can migrate from polystyrene containers into food and beverages when heated, or when in contact with fatty or acidic foods. Styrene residues have been found in 100 percent of all samples of human fat tissue. While recyclable, EPS food packaging is typically not clean enough to be recycled.

Alternatives to Styrofoam cups, plates, etc. that are more readily biodegradable and safe are now common in the food service industry. Recycled paper fibers, sugarcane, bamboo, grass and reed plasma are some of the ingredients used in products that replace Styrofoam. New York City, now the largest city in the country to ban EPS foam, joins more than 70 cities in the anti-pollution effort.

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New Report Addresses Potential of Wellness Tourism

by Glenn Hasek January 07, 2015 05:51

Sustainability is not only about saving energy and water or reducing waste, or supporting and strengthening the local community. It is also about promoting health and wellness. The lodging industry certainly has been paying attention to this trend in recent years. One example: According to the 2014 Lodging Survey, a production of the American Hotel & Lodging Assn. and STR that had more than 9,000 respondents, 84 percent of lodging establishments represented in the survey offer on-site fitness facilities. That is up from 63 percent in 2004. Wellness tourism, which encompasses everything from yoga to spa treatments to healthy menu options, is of interest to about 40 percent of hotel guests, according to InterContinental Hotels Group. If you are still trying to get a handle on wellness tourism and how to take advantage of the trend, you may want to check out a new report from Wellness Tourism Worldwide called, “Wellness Travel: Shaping America’s Health & Economy.”

The report offers 50 key findings addressing wellness in leisure and business travel in the United States and focuses on what wellness travel means to U.S. consumers, businesses and the travel industry. Wellness Travel in America: Shaping Health, Businesses & Economy examines a broad spectrum of stakeholders and confluences between sectors affecting both population and economic health. A culmination of U.S. consumer survey data and extensive research across multiple industries, the report can be used to understand how wellness travel can play a significant role in disease prevention, workplace wellness, vacation policy development, tourism development and destination marketing. More than 40 tables and figures are in this 100-page report.

Click here for more information.

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Sometimes Survey Results Just Don't Seem to Add Up

by Glenn Hasek December 17, 2014 05:55

As reported in Green Lodging News last week, the American Hotel & Lodging Assn. (AH&LA) and the American Hotel and Lodging Educational Foundation (AH&LEF) just released the results of its survey entitled, “The 2014 Lodging Study Hotel Trends: An Inside Look at Popular Amenities and Guest Services.” The study was conducted by STR and is easily the most comprehensive trends survey in the lodging industry. Conducted every two years, this year’s study had more than 9,600 participants. I commented on some of the survey results in my weekly column. Many of the questions in the study pertained to green operations. The AH&LA/AH&LEF surveys conducted by STR are always chockfull of valuable data. That said, there are always some findings that don’t quite seem to be add up. In this year’s study, for example, folks were asked whether or not allergy-free rooms are available to guests.

A total of 45 percent indicated that they do make these types of rooms available. In fact, 72 percent of respondents representing luxury hotels said they offer allergy-friendly rooms. Twenty-one percent of those representing economy properties indicated they offer allergy-friendly rooms. I just find it hard to believe that there are thousands of properties offering these types of rooms. The only company successfully selling this concept to hotels is PURE Solutions and the total of hotels they have as customers is in the hundreds. How do you define “allergy-friendly” room? In my book the hotel has got to be 100 percent nonsmoking. The room has to have an air purifier, have no items that off gas, be cleaned with non-toxic cleaning products, have pillows and mattresses encased, preferably no carpet, along with other features.

What would make someone say they offer an allergy-friendly room when they really do not? It is a good question and one best left to survey psychologists but my guess is that it is a result of a question not being properly asked combined with folks answering how they believe they should answer rather than what is the truth.

Another question in the survey pertained to air purifiers in the room. In how many hotel rooms have you seen an air purifier? Twenty-one percent of respondents (67 percent of those representing luxury hotels) said they offer an air purifier. Again, perhaps folks really need to be asked if they offer air purifiers as stand-alone units. Maybe they think in terms of the larger HVAC system as having air purifiers?

Hoteliers were also asked this year if they offer electric vehicle charging stations to guests. A total of 11 percent (33 percent of those representing luxury hotels) said they do. I believe those numbers are too high.

I am, of course, extra picky when it comes to green surveys. For the most part, AH&LA/AH&LEF and STR did a great job putting together this year’s survey. See the article I posted this past week for information on getting part or all of the survey results.

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No Matter the Weather, Sun Will be Shining on Marriott Today

by Glenn Hasek December 10, 2014 05:05

Today will be a big day in Clinton, Md. Marianne Balfe, Marriott’s Director of Energy and Environment Sustainability, and Loren Nalewanski, Vice President of Global Brand Management TownePlace Suites, will join green energy leaders in congratulating Towne Place Suites at Joint Base Andrews on its 706kW photovoltaic (PV) electric generating project which will provide 90 to 100 percent of the hotel’s power. The solar array generating the electricity—the largest in Maryland—is located on four acres adjacent to the hotel. With additional conservation measures being put in place soon, the hotel will likely be 100 percent solar powered in the near future. The hotel prides itself on providing a “home away from home” for military troops and their families. This initiative will serve not only the hotel but the military community as well by participating in the military’s mission in expanding the use of renewable energy.

The Towne Place Suites Joint Base Andrews joins a long list of hotels featured in the Solar Powered section of the Renewable Energy All Stars part of the Green Lodging News website.

While I have not been keeping track of the total kilowatts of each property’s solar installation, I am quite confident the Towne Place Suites at Joint Base Andrews installation is one of the top 10, perhaps even one of the top five, largest solar PV lodging installations in North America. The largest solar array in the planning in our industry, an 8.1MW system atop the Convention Center at Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas, will eventually generate enough electricity to power the equivalent of 1,300 homes. The cost of solar panels for electricity generation and water heating has come down significantly in recent years. Solar panels now generate 1 percent of the electricity in the United States.

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The Politics of Greening Your Property

by Glenn Hasek December 04, 2014 05:40

One of the subjects I try to stay away from in Green Lodging News is politics. Like religion, it is one of those topics that often tears people apart instead of bringing them together. But like it or not, politics has a lot to do with how much you will pay in taxes, how much you will spend to insure your associates, and what incentives you may qualify for when it comes time to make energy, water and other improvements to your property that will ultimately reduce your environmental impact. At the local, state and national level it is important to be aware of legislation that either makes it easier or more difficult for you to green your property. In addition, I believe it is all of our responsibility to monitor what our politicians are doing behind closed doors that has an impact on the environment we all share. A native Ohioan, I was embarrassed to learn earlier this year that my home state became the first state in the United States to actually roll back its energy standards.

Ohio’s 2008 SB 221 required investor-owned utilities to purchase a percentage of their electricity each year from renewable energy sources and to carry out programs to assist Ohio consumers to reduce their energy use. In 2012, Ohio reaffirmed and expanded its commitment to renewables, energy efficiency, and advanced energy in SB 315. In June of this year, however, Ohio’s General Assembly passed SB 310 to “pause” the standards for two years while a committee evaluates costs and benefits. At the same time, the legislature substantially weakened the standards.

In Florida, the state where I currently reside, state regulators last month voted to roll back 90 percent of Florida’s energy efficiency goals and allow its solar rebate program to expire. Florida is of course (duh!) a prime candidate for solar development. The kind of backward-thinking shown in Ohio and Florida sets us all back—the lodging industry included. The cost of renewable energy has dropped significantly in recent years. It does not make sense at all to not invest in it. We should not be surprised when utility companies and others that have a stake in dirty energy do all they can and spend all they can to resist change. Politicians and special interest groups can have a significant impact on the progress we all make to reduce our carbon footprint. No matter your political leanings, be aware of the steps your politicians are taking to either block or smooth your path toward sustainability. Make your voice heard. It is your right and responsibility.

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About Me

Glenn Hasek is the publisher and editor of Green Lodging News. He has more than 20 years of experience writing about the lodging industry. He can be reached at editor@greenlodgingnews.com or by phone at (813) 510-3868.