Fairmont, Wyndham Reveal Earth Hour Plans

by Glenn Hasek March 25, 2015 05:50

At least two major hotel companies are lining up activities for this Saturday’s Earth Hour (8:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. local time)—Fairmont Hotels & Resorts and Wyndham Worldwide. Two separate press announcements were released having to do with Fairmont’s activities and one for Wyndham. In the first Fairmont announcement, the activities of Fairmont Hotels & Resorts of the Western U.S. and Hawaii were summarized. For example, in observance of the international environmental event, the all-suite and villa Fairmont Kea Lani, Maui will turn off non-essential lighting throughout the 22-acre property. More than 200 floating candles will be placed in the lobby fountain and outdoor paths will be lit with battery-operated candle luminaries. At the Fairmont Newport Beach, Chef Brian Doherty will be creating a local and sustainable prix-fixe menu that will be served via candlelight. With dinner, guests will have the option of a Spring Fling cocktail, lit by a glowing cube of ice. Colleagues will encourage guests as well as vendors to go “electricity free” and the hotel’s non-essential lighting will be dimmed.

Guests of The Fairmont Orchid, Hawaii may choose to celebrate Earth Hour by enjoying complimentary ocean-side stargazing, compliments of Stargaze Hawaii. The resort’s restaurants and bars will feature sustainable menus and drink specials. Clean burning soy-wax candles from New York-based perfumer Le Labo will be featured in 40 Fairmonts during Earth Hour. The candles will be sold in Fairmont stores and online at fairmontstore.com beginning this fall.

Wyndham is recognizing Earth Hour at its corporate headquarters in Parsippany, N.J., by switching off its lights during the hour and encouraging associates to turn off lights, monitors and other electronics before leaving the building. Additionally, Wyndham is encouraging its global portfolio of brands to participate by turning off or dimming non-essential lighting, with some properties also planning creative offerings for guests such as candlelight dinners. How will your company be marking Earth Hour? Write to me at editor@greenlodgingnews.com.


EPA Grant Funding Creation of Device to Monitor Hotel Guest Shower Impact

by Glenn Hasek March 18, 2015 04:51

The Washington Free Beacon is reporting that a $15,000 EPA grant is being used to fund the creation of a device that would monitor how long hotel guests spend in the shower. According to the article, EPA is spending $15,000 to create a wireless system that will track how much water a hotel guest uses in order to get them to “modify their behavior.” I went to the EPA website and yes it is all true. The grant, “Developing a Wireless Device for Monitoring Water Usage for Hotel Showers,” was awarded to the University of Tulsa and will run through August 14, 2015. According to the grant, “Hotels consume a significant amount of water in the U.S. and around the world. Most hotels do not monitor individual guest water usage and as a result, millions of gallons of potable water are wasted every year by hotel guests.

The proposed work aims to develop a novel low cost wireless device for monitoring water use from hotel guestroom showers. This device will be designed to fit most new and existing hotel shower fixtures and will wirelessly transmit hotel guest water usage data to a central hotel accounting system.

The grant adds, “The proposed wireless device will have three main components: a flow meter, an embedded system and software, and a resource accounting system. This technology will provide hotel guests with the ability to monitor their daily water online or using a smartphone app, and will assist hotel guests in modifying their behavior to help conserve water. The proposed wireless device will be marketed to the hotel industry to reduce costs by promoting water conservation among hotel guests. An interdisciplinary team of undergraduate students from chemical engineering, electrical engineering, computer science, and management and marketing will work in a collaborative effort to build and test a prototype device, and explore the market potential of the wireless device.

According to the grant, “It is anticipated that this project will provide a low cost, accurate, small size, low power, wireless device for monitoring water use from hotel showers. The primary goals of this Phase 1 project are to build and test a working prototype and to conduct a preliminary market analysis.”

I contacted and am waiting to hear back from Tyler W. Johannes, Ph.D., an associate professor in the University of Tulsa’s School of Chemical Engineering, who is working on the project.

EPA is not the first to fund research into a device that monitor’s shower length. Last fall I met Kevin Myers, founder of Green Starts Here. His company offers a device called the ShowerSaver, a monitoring device for use in the shower that provides the user with real-time information on shower duration and water consumption. Perhaps Kevin’s company and the University of Tulsa should team up?

Will guests voluntarily take shorter showers if made aware of the water impact they are having? The jury is still out but it will be fascinating to find out their reaction.


GreenHotelWorld Off to Impressive Start After ITB Berlin Launch

by Glenn Hasek March 11, 2015 05:29

ITB Berlin, the travel trade show which wrapped up this past Sunday, was the site of the unveiling of a brand new online booking platform directed toward the eco-conscious traveler. The new site, GreenHotelWorld, has access to more than 5,200 hotels in 107 countries. Included in those 5,200+ hotels are ones certified by about 50 different organizations. GreenHotelWorld lists the eco-labels it works with. Those in the United States will recognize Green Seal. Also included are Green Key certified hotels that are part of the Hotel Association of Canada’s Green Key Eco-Rating Program. Properties rated through the Foundation for Environmental Education’s Green Key program are also included. (Yes, there are two Green Key programs in the green hotel world.) LEED certified hotels also did not make the list apparently. GreenHotelWorld says it has the first hotel booking platform that sorts hotels by certified green practices. Its green rating algorithm recommends the greenest hotels first.

GreenHotelWorld has systemized the standards introduced by the Global Sustainable Tourism Council (GSTC) to determine its green practices categorization. To test the system I tried booking a room in Paris. GreenHotelWorld produced a list of 11 green certified hotels. Once I had that list in front of me, I was given the option of further sorting the list based on five green practices: Environmental protection, Social responsibility, Local resources, Cultural heritage, and Verified by auditor. I also had the option of sorting by Certification Labels: EU Ecolabel, Green Globe, Green Key. Also produced in my search was a list of non-green certified properties. According to Willem Blom, co-founder and head of Business Development and Partnerships for GreenHotelWorld, if you cannot find a green hotel in your preferred destination, GreenHotelWorld will provide additional options through its partnership with Expedia.

Very unique to GreenHotelWorld is its promise to compensate all carbon emissions of its customers’ overnight stays at no additional cost. GreenHotelWorld has partnered with myclimate, one of the world’s leading providers of voluntary carbon offsetting measures, to calculate and compensate the CO2 emissions of its users’ bookings.

While I would like to see more of the green rated North American properties represented on GreenHotelWorld, the site is off to a great start. Building in the carbon offsetting measure makes the site one of a kind.


Air Quality Researcher: ‘Green’ Does Not Always Mean Safe for Use

by Glenn Hasek March 04, 2015 05:39

One of the world’s leading researchers on air quality and what impacts it has just released the results of her latest study on volatile organic compounds (VOCs) emitted from 37 different products, such as air fresheners, cleaning products, laundry supplies, and personal care products, including those with certifications and claims of “green” and “organic”. Dr. Anne Steinemann, Professor of Civil Engineering, and the Chair of Sustainable Cities, from the Department of Infrastructure Engineering, Melbourne School of Engineering, found that common consumer products, including those marketed as “green”, “all-natural”, “non-toxic”, and “organic”, emit a range of compounds that could harm human health and air quality. The study, published in the journal Air Quality, Atmosphere & Health found 156 different VOCs emitted from the 37 products, with an average of 15 VOCs per product. Of these 156 VOCs, 42 are classified as toxic or hazardous under U.S. federal laws, and each product emitted at least one of these chemicals.

Findings revealed that emissions of carcinogenic hazardous air pollutants from “green” fragranced products were not significantly different from regular fragranced products. In total, more than 550 volatile ingredients were emitted from these products, but fewer than 3 percent were disclosed on any product label or material safety data sheet (MSDS).

“The paradox is that most of our exposure to air pollutants occurs indoors and a primary source is consumer products,” Professor Steinemann said. “But the public lacks full and accurate information on the ingredients in these products. Our indoor air environments are essentially unregulated and unmonitored.”

The most common chemicals in fragranced products were terpenes, which were not in fragrance-free versions. Terpenes readily react with ozone in the air to generate a range of additional pollutants, such as formaldehyde and ultrafine particles.

At this time, consumer products sold in Australia, the United States and around the world are not required to list all ingredients, or any ingredients in a chemical mixture called “fragrance.”

Professor Steinemann, who was interviewed previously in Green Lodging News for an article on Multiple Chemical Sensitivity, went on to say that, “Given the lack of information, consumers may choose products with claims such as ‘green’, ‘natural’, or ‘organic’, but those claims are largely untested.”

The full article is available, free of charge, on Professor Steinemann’s website (under Recent Publications, “Volatile Emissions from Common Consumer Products”): http://people.eng.unimelb.edu.au/asteinemann/.


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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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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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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.