Scribbles from Day One of Ecotourism and Sustainable Conference North America

by Glenn Hasek February 01, 2016 06:07

I had an opportunity to attend the first day of the Ecotourism and Sustainable Conference North America last week. The event was held in Tampa, Fla. at the Patel Center for Global Solutions at the University of South Florida. It was the first North America conference for the International Ecotourism Society. Approximately 100 attended the first day of the event. About 30 or so could not make it because of weather-caused flight cancellations. The conference featured speakers who provided a global perspective on the environmental challenges we all face while also featuring case studies on specific properties or projects. Dr. David Randle, Program Director, Sustainable Tourism Concentration, USF Patel College of Global Sustainability, was one of the first presenters on day one. He addressed global environmental challenges as well as those local to Florida, a state that was expected to draw 100 million tourists in 2015. The fastest growing industry in the world is tourism, Randle said, and sustainable tourism is the fastest growing sector.

Randle added that world population is now at 7.2 billion, with 2.5 billion in India and China. Florida is now the third largest state by population. “This is resulting in wildlife destruction and wildlife impacts,” Randle said. “Seventy-five percent of earth’s surface is now managed by humans. Over 50 percent of the wetlands in Florida have been destroyed.” He added that 50 percent of coral reefs are now gone and extinction rates are 100 to 1,000 times more than nature intended. Just 10 percent of the world’s land area has been protected. By 2050, there will be more plastic than fish (by weight) in our oceans.

Randle highlighted the successes of the Walt Disney Co., a company that has a goal of producing net zero carbon and that self imposes a carbon tax. Disney’s climate program has resulted in a 50 percent reduction in carbon emissions in five years—all while revenues have increased. Thirty percent of Walt Disney World resorts’ water needs and 80 percent of Disney property in Florida’s water needs are met by reclaimed water.

Randle cited the Sheraton San Diego for its zero waste to landfill program, Anna Maria Island in Florida for its Historic Green Village, and Tiamo Resort in Bahamas for getting 100 percent of its energy through solar systems. Randle also mentioned Villages Nature Paris, a Disney development slated to open this year that, according to Disney, will apply the principles of sustainable development in both its concept and its operations. At Villages Nature Paris, cars will not be allowed and 90 percent of the land will be green, undeveloped space.

Chaa Creek in Belize was the focus of a case study presented by Dr. Carolin Lusby. Cited a couple of times in the past in Green Lodging News, Chaa Creek is Green Globe certified and incorporates numerous green practices and technologies into its operations. For example, there is an organic farm on property and guests are offered the option of participating in a Pack-a-Pound Program—an opportunity to donate a pound of clothes to those in need.

Day two of the conference featured local tour opportunities and day three offered additional educational sessions.


Focus of Two February Webinars: How to Use the Hotel Footprinting Tool

by Glenn Hasek January 20, 2016 04:57

Just a few months ago the International Tourism Partnership (ITP) and Greenview launched the Hotel Footprinting Tool. With the free tool one can access the carbon and energy footprint of thousands of hotels worldwide—ideal for those interested in benchmarking their own hotels’ performance. The Hotel Footprinting Tool uses data from the annual Cornell Hotel Sustainability Benchmarking Study. Using the tool one can create reports of the carbon footprint of an individual or businesses’ hotel stays and meetings. Travel planners and corporate responsibility managers can use it to report on or offset their business travel emissions. If you have not yet explored the tool and would like to learn how, join Fran Hughes, Director, ITP and Eric Ricaurte, Founder and CEO, Greenview for a free webinar revealing how you can use the tool in your own business. Register for a session now by clicking here and selecting your preferred date. Once registered you will receive an e-mail confirming your registration with information you need to join the webinar.

Upcoming webinar dates are Tuesday, February 2 and Friday, February 12.

Hotel Footprinting data is compliant with the Hotel Carbon Measurement Initiative (HCMI) methodology, developed by ITP, the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC) and a working group of 23 global hotel companies which created a universally recognized methodology for measuring and recording carbon outputs in hotels. Information on the water footprint of hotels will be available from 2017, following the launch of ITP’s Hotel Water Measurement Initiative in September 2016.

Fran Hughes, Director of ITP says, “The number one question from users of HCMI is, ‘How can I benchmark my carbon footprint?’ Now hoteliers around the world can easily access that information. We hope that the Hotel Footprinting Tool will accelerate learning and drive action on emissions reduction, and encourage more businesses to calculate and report on their business travel carbon footprint.”


Inaccurate Information on the Number of LEED Platinum Hotels

by Glenn Hasek January 13, 2016 05:20

A number of times now I have received press releases from folks with inaccurate information regarding the number of LEED Platinum hotels in North America. This week, for example, a PR agency sent me a release about the W San Francisco, stating that it is the fourth hotel in North America to reach LEED Platinum status. Somebody did not do their homework as the W San Francisco is really the fifth hotel in North America to earn LEED Platinum certification from the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC). I suggested retracting the original release and sending out a correct version. Will it happen? What will probably happen is false information getting relayed from one source to the next. A recent article written by an industry publication contributor also included inaccurate information regarding the number of LEED Platinum hotels. I wrote to the reporter to tell him the correct information. He had just republished information from another source without checking on it.

At one time, USGBC made it quite difficult to access the list of LEED certified hotels. Now it is quite easy to access the list. So why the inaccurate information? For the record, here are the five properties currently with LEED Platinum certification: Hotel Skyler, Proximity Hotel, Bardessono, College Park Marriott Hotel & Conference Center, and W San Francisco. There are others outside of North America with LEED Platinum certification.

Be sure to check the USGBC list frequently as it is often updated. For example, according to the list, the Thompson’s Point Hotel in Portland, Maine registered for certification just a few days ago.


Study Finds Strong Connection Between Healthy Indoor Air, Employee Sharpness & Productivity

by Glenn Hasek January 06, 2016 06:18

The results of a study from the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health’s Center for Health and the Global Environment, SUNY Upstate Medical University, and Syracuse University show the connection between well-ventilated buildings and improved worker decision-making. In fact, the study of 24 workers found that improved indoor environmental quality actually doubled occupants’ cognitive function test scores. In the study, the 24 professional employees—architects, designers, programmers, engineers, creative marketing professionals and managers—participated in a six-day study examining the impact of green buildings on cognitive performance and decision-making performance. For the two-week test period, they relocated to the Total Indoor Environmental Quality Laboratory at the Syracuse Center of Excellence in Environmental and Energy Systems in Syracuse, N.Y.

At the laboratory they conducted their normal work activities in conditions designed to simulate those found in conventional buildings, green buildings and green buildings with enhanced ventilation. At the end of each day, participants completed a 1.5-hour cognitive assessment. The Strategic Management Simulation tool was used to evaluate decision-making, giving participants the freedom to make decisions based on their own cognitive styles and reflecting their performance in the real-world. “The gains in performance output could be seen in areas such as the handling of day-to-day workplace challenges, which is due to the fact that in improved indoor environments, participants were better able to understand and use their resources with optimal task prioritization,” said Dr. Usha Satish, SUNY-Upstate Medical University. As part of the double-blind COGfx Study, participants completed a daily, 1.5-hour cognitive assessment of nine key cognitive domains using a validated, computer-based test, known as the Strategic Management Simulation. The test exposed the group to diverse situations based on real-world challenges, allowing flexibility in approach, as well as the freedom to strategize and take initiative in their own cognitive style.

Of note, participants’ cognitive performance scores averaged 101 percent higher in green buildings with enhanced ventilation compared to those in conventional buildings. The COGfx Study found the best performance with carbon dioxide (CO2) levels below 600 parts per million, ventilation rates at 40 cubic feet per minute per person, and total volatile organic compounds (VOCs) below 50 micrograms per cubic meter. In conventional buildings, carbon dioxide levels can be at 950 parts per million with ventilation rates at 20 cubic feet per minute of outdoor air per person. Indoor total VOCs can range from between 500 to 700 micrograms per cubic meter.

A follow-up study by The COGfx Study team found that doubling the ventilation rate in typical office buildings can be reached at an energy cost of between $14 and $40 per person per year, resulting in a $6,500 equivalent in improved productivity per person per year.

The study confirms the results of other studies that have linked worker productivity and attitude with environmental conditions. Interestingly, this study suggests that workers are even actually smarter under green building conditions. That is good news for the many hotel developers who are building to LEED requirements and investing wisely in ventilation and low-VOC materials. Click here to access the study results.


The Use of Drone Video to Tell Your Green Story

by Glenn Hasek December 30, 2015 06:55

For better or worse, drones have been in operation for decades now. It is only in recent years, however, that they have become available for commercial and consumer use. In 2010 a smartphone-controlled quadcopter was introduced at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. In 2013 Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos introduced the concept of delivery drones. Of course we are still all waiting for that first Amazon delivery to be made by drone. Interestingly, drones have been used very successfully for aerial photography. I am sure you have seen examples of this. I recently received a press release from a representative of Cree, an LED lighting company. Turns out Cree is using a drone to video before and after shots of its lighting installations. In one example, Cree partnered with Twin Creeks Village shopping center in Plano, Texas.

Cree replaced its outdated high pressure sodium lighting with Cree Edge High Output LED luminaires throughout the parking lots and loading docks. The drone video clearly shows the dramatic before and after difference. Don’t be surprised if you soon see similar success story types of photography from lodging lighting installations. Such photography can help tell energy savings stories.

In addition to lighting, drone cameras can also be used to tell other sustainability stories—how a landscape was preserved during construction of a new property, for example. It could also be used to highlight the natural beauty of a golf course, a solar or wind system, or possibly even the installation of window film. Aerial photography by drone could also capture the interior and exterior intricacies of green building design or complement other video footage of your property’s green story.

Have you seen drone footage relevant to our readers that you would like to share? Send the link to


Sustainability No. 10 on Horwath HTL Tourism Megatrends List

by Glenn Hasek December 16, 2015 05:14

Horwath HTL (Hotel, Tourism and Leisure) just released its Tourism Megatrends report. The subtitle of the report: 10 things you need to know about the future of Tourism. Horwath HTL addresses environmental sustainability in the final part of its report (item #10). Economic and socio-cultural sustainability are also addressed. For those familiar with sustainability principles and issues, the report does not offer much new information but it does highlight points worth repeating. For example, Horwath HTL says, “Economic, social and environmental pillars have to be balanced in order to ensure the long term sustainable development of tourism….Sustainable tourism needs to ensure feasible, long-term economic operations. It has to provide socio-economic benefits to all stakeholders involved, implying fair distribution of income, stable employment and earning opportunities. Sustainable tourism serves as a social service to host communities, and contributes to poverty alleviation.”

Tourism mindful of socio-cultural sustainability “puts an economic value on traditional arts, crafts and cultural practices and encourages preservation of historical sites and heritage buildings,” the report adds. The report goes on to say that tourism mindful of socio-cultural sustainability “respects the socio-cultural authenticity of host communities, conserves their established and living cultural heritage, and traditional values, and contributes to inter-cultural understanding and tolerance.” Sustainable tourism should maintain a high level of tourist satisfaction and ensure a meaningful experience to the tourists, raising their awareness about sustainability issues and promoting sustainable tourism practices among them, the report says.

Interestingly, Horwath HTL singles out cruising as one of the most polluting vacation models, saying that cruise ships produce at least 17 percent of the total emissions of nitrogen oxides. Some of the waste streams generated by cruise ships include bilge water, sewage, greywater, ballast water, and solid waste. The report writers do not mention the lodging industry and its negative environmental impact. Horwath HTL says sustainability, as a trend in tourism, is positive and its importance will further grow in the future. In conclusion, the report says it is clear that sustainable tourism development requires the informed participation of all relevant stakeholders, as well as strong political leadership to ensure wide participation and consensus building.

To access the report and to learn about the 10 other megatrends, click here.


Industry Mostly Media-Silent As Climate Talks Wind Down

by Glenn Hasek December 09, 2015 05:38

The 21st Conference of the Parties (COP21) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCC) is set to conclude in a couple of days (December 11) in Paris. The participants hope to produce a legally binding plan to keep global temperatures from rising more than 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 Fahrenheit) from pre-industrial levels. Without this minimum step, the planet will face worsening droughts, storms and floods, according to a consensus among climate scientists. Of course our industry is a significant contributor to the accumulation of greenhouse gases and stands to suffer as the climate worsens, sea levels rise, etc. Few would argue that the conference is one of the most important climate-focused conferences there has ever been. As a journalist and occasional public relations consultant, I was curious to know how many of our industry’s leading companies and associations had issued any press statements in support of the climate talks.

According to the American Hotel & Lodging Assn.’s 2015 Policy Statement, the environment is not mentioned and AH&LA did not issue any press releases supporting the climate talks. The Hotel Association of Canada, according to its website, did not issue any statements. Hilton Worldwide did not. Neither did Marriott, Wyndham, IHG, Choice, Starwood (soon to be part of Marriott), Best Western, Hyatt, etc. I have to wonder if there were any hotel companies that came out officially in support of the conference. The Caribbean Hotel & Tourism Assn. did issue a press release announcing its support of the CARICOM (Caribbean Community Secretariat) position advocating for a cap on the world’s temperature rise at 1.5 degrees Celsius as part of their deliberations during the conference.

I don’t want to belittle the excellent work the associations and hotel companies have done in the area of sustainability. It just seemed to me that the conference warranted statements in support of the talks and their goals. A missed opportunity by many. Your thoughts? I can be reached at


BookGreener Founder, Skeptical of Own Site, Prepares to Launch Another

by Glenn Hasek December 02, 2015 05:52

I had an interesting conversation recently with Alex Tsuk. Alex is the founder of BookGreener, a hotel booking site that was launched 2.5 years ago. If you visit his site, you will recognize some of the green certification logos—organizations that are strategic partners with BookGreener. The website features green properties from all over the world. Ironically, Alex is skeptical about the greenness of some of the properties on his own website. “I don’t believe in the labels much,” he told me. “A lot of properties recognized as green are greenwashing travelers.” Alex said he visited some of the properties in person and was disappointed. He told me he spoke with someone from a company that green certifies and asked that person if his organization had ever disqualified a property because it did not have enough green initiatives in place. The answer was “no.”

Oftentimes, Tsuk says, hotels are green certified even though they may be strong in one area but weak in others. “You can always compensate some factors with others,” he says. One of the common weaknesses of “green” hotels, Tsuk says, is that they keep “green” at the very superficial level and do not create enough of a sustainability experience for their guests. “Travelers do not care about the carbon footprint of the room,” Tsuk says.

Alex has no plans to shut BookGreener down, even though he believes many of the hotel profiles on his site are “boring.” (I found some of the green profiles to be quite comprehensive and interesting.) In January Alex intends to launch a new site at The site is not yet up and running. That new booking site with a commission rate between 5 and 10 percent will feature properties that he and his team of experts (140 around the world) have actually visited. The first group of hotels will be in Bali, Indonesia. “I have identified 400 hotels worldwide that we will roll out over the course of the first year,” Tsuk says. They will be upscale properties ($300/night +). Hotels will have to pay an annual fee to be included on the site. Benefits will include not only website exposure but also consulting services and blog exposure.

Alex says part of his business model is to get site members to support environmental causes. One Facebook page created by Alex and his team, “Borneo is burning,” highlights the plight of orangutans in Borneo.

Be sure to watch for details on Alex’s new site early in 2016.


The Merger of Marriott & Starwood: A Good Green Marriage?

by Glenn Hasek November 18, 2015 05:39

The announcement this week that Marriott International will acquire Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide will not only expand Marriott’s global property footprint, it will also dramatically increase its environmental footprint. I asked a Marriott representative to chat about the integration of Marriott and Starwood’s environmental programs but she declined, saying that it was much too early. My projection is that from a green standpoint, the marriage of the two companies will be a good one for the most part, as both companies have a lot in common. Both Marriott and Starwood have very successful environmental initiatives. For example, Marriott has a strong commitment to LEED with at least 106 LEED registered hotels and 31 LEED certified hotels. Starwood, with its Element brand alone, has at least 52 LEED hotels open or under development. When Starwood launched Element, it committed the brand to LEED certification for all properties.

Both companies are goal oriented and collect environmental performance data, often announcing targets for reductions in carbon emissions, energy consumption, water consumption and waste. Starwood has a goal of reducing energy consumption per built hotel room by 30 percent by 2020 (baseline 2008). Marriott’s goal is to reduce energy consumption 20 percent by 2020 (per kWh/conditioned m2, baseline year 2007).

Both companies have strong procurement initiatives. In April 2014, Starwood announced it would ban shark fin at its properties around the world. That same month, Marriott announced its ban. Both Marriott and Starwood were part of the working group that developed the Hotel Carbon Measurement Initiative, a methodology to calculate and communicate the carbon footprint of hotel stays and meetings in a consistent and transparent way.

Starwood is known for its Make a Green Choice program which gives guests the option of foregoing full housekeeping for up to three days in a row in exchange for Starpoints or a food and beverage voucher. It will be interesting to see if service-focused Marriott will continue this program. Finally, both Marriott and Starwood have full-time folks dedicated to carrying out the companies’ sustainability initiatives. Will there be personnel changes? Continue to follow Green Lodging News for information on the green impact of Marriott’s acquisition.


Sustainable Travel Proponent Eyes Guinness World Record

by Glenn Hasek November 12, 2015 06:17

Cassandra De Pecol, a self-taught sustainability consultant who at one time worked to green up luxury boutique hotels, is on a quest as part of Expedition 196 to visit all 193 nations on the planet in less than three years and three months. If she does it in that time frame, she will set a Guinness World Record. To get the record she must take scheduled public transport. “I can’t drive a car or ride a camel across the desert,” she told me. Cassie says her goal during her travels is to “promote peace through tourism, promote friendship, learn about cultures, to travel sustainably, and to share the beauty of what I experienced in each country.” Cassie’s plan is to visit each country as a peace ambassador of the International Institute for Peace Through Tourism. She will be meeting with Skal International presidents and ministers of tourism. Skal International and Expedition 196 are partnering together with the Skal chapters around the world to plant trees in order to offset Cassie’s carbon footprint.

In addition to advocating sustainable tourism by staying in eco establishments and embarking on eco tours, Cassie is now contributing by physically planting the national tree of the country she visits, with the help from Skal International. When I spoke with Cassie recently she had already met with six Skal presidents.

Cassie began her journey in July. During her travels she has been taking samples of water and sending them to Adventurers and Scientists for Conservation for testing for microplastics. Cassie currently has 12 sponsors. Among current supporters are Paul Lieberstein, actor and TV producer of “The Office,” and Adam Kaufman, actor and star of NBC’s “State of Affairs.”

Cassie told me her visit to Vanuatu, a South Pacific Ocean nation, was especially inspirational. A cyclone earlier this year had destroyed a lot there. “The people were so kind there,” she said. Vanuatu’s president said earlier this year that the cyclone seasons his nation had experienced are directly linked to climate change.

Cassie has a long way to go to break the Guinness World Record. “I am finishing up Europe before Christmas,” she said. Cassie is just 26.

It was an honor to chat with someone so excited about sustainability and who understands the power of peaceful travel. Be sure to follow Cassie’s adventures at


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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 or by phone at (813) 510-3868.