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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Let's Wait Before Labeling Millennials the Eco-Generation

by Glenn Hasek November 26, 2014 06:12

Let’s await a little longer before labeling millennials (those 18 to 34) the eco-generation. I say that based on the results of a recent survey conducted by Harris Poll on behalf of the Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries. The survey, conducted this month of more than 2,000 U.S. adults, found that millennials are significantly less likely to say they recycle (33 percent) than those 35 and over (48 percent). The survey also found that a majority (68 percent) of Americans believe recycling is the right thing to do, but the percentage decreases as age goes down, with only 62 percent of adults 18 to 34 holding the belief compared to 78 percent of adults ages 65 and over. More than half of Americans say recycling is the socially responsible thing to do (55 percent), but older adults ages 65 and over are more likely than those ages 18 to 34 to believe this (61 percent versus 53 percent, respectively).

Forty percent of Americans believe recycling is critical to reduce energy consumption, but older adults ages 65 and over are more likely than those ages 18 to 34 to say this (46 percent versus 36 percent, respectively). Younger Americans ages 18 to 34 (33 percent) are more likely than those ages 35 to 64 (22 percent) to say they are not always certain if an item is recyclable. Younger adults ages 18 to 34 are also more likely to say they wish they recycled more than any other age group (37 percent versus 22 percent of those age 35 and over).

In other words, millennials are more often recycler wannabes and often less educated and wise about recycling than older generations. How do you get millennials staying at your property to participate in recycling? Perhaps you have to hit them over the head a bit with messaging they understand—communication from peers they look up to and can relate to. Make recycling a fun process and educational at the same time. Your thoughts? I can be reached at editor@greenlodgingnews.com.

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Study Shows Best Way to Engage Employees in Energy Conservation

by Glenn Hasek November 19, 2014 05:19

A recent Carnegie Mellon University study of PNC Financial Services Group employees provides some fascinating insight into how best to engage employees in energy efficiency measures. In December 2013, PNC installed Plugwise meters, which measure plug load, or the energy drawn by devices from an electrical outlet, at 80 Pittsburgh employees’ workstations. These 80 employees were divided into four groups, each of which received a different amount of information and control. The first group knew they were being monitored but received no information about their energy consumption. The second group received information through an energy dashboard that collected and displayed plug-load data in real time. The third group also had access to the dashboard and could manually turn on and off specific devices through the use of a switchboard. The fourth group had access to the dashboard and could automate when specific devices turned on and off.

After monitoring the data from the 80 employees for six months, PNC found that group one reduced overall energy consumption by 7 percent, group two reduced overall energy consumption by 13 percent group three reduced overall energy consumption by 25 percent, and group four reduced overall energy consumption by 38 percent. Further, energy consumption among group four increased by only four percent after the dashboards and automated controls were removed. These results demonstrate that knowledge and control have a long-term influence on energy use.

Where might this approach apply in a hotel environment? An office area certainly would work but perhaps an area such as a kitchen as well? A kitchen, especially a busy one, has many devices drawing power at any given time. If employees know exactly how much power, and are empowered and reminded to turn items on and off at appropriate times, or empowered to automate the process, it could have a huge impact on energy efficiency. Incentives could even further inspire employees to participate in conservation.

Do you go so far as to show guests how much energy they are using? I am not so sure but I could be convinced otherwise. Perhaps a guest could receive some type of rebate or discount if he keeps his energy consumption under a certain level? That would take a lot of metering to figure out.

Back to PNC: They plan to roll out plug-load meters and provide employees with access to dashboards and automated control across all of its U.S. branches and office buildings in 2015.

Your thoughts? I can be reached at editor@greenlodgingnews.com.

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Wall Gardens Prominent at IHMRS, BDNY

by Glenn Hasek November 12, 2014 05:35

For more times than I can remember, I have been a judge in the International Hotel, Motel + Restaurant Show’s (IHMRS) Editors’ Choice Awards competition. A number of years ago the managers of the show added a green category to the competition—a great idea, of course. While sifting through the entries I get to learn about a lot of new green products and technologies. Some are borderline green while others have the potential to have a significant positive environmental impact on our industry. This year the award winner in the green category was EcoWalls’ Chef’s EcoWall Garden. The garden allows chefs to grow herbs and fresh greens on the walls of their kitchen. The garden can also be placed in other spaces—in a prominent spot in a restaurant, for example. The growing system utilizes hydroponics technology; plants are not grown in soil but in another inorganic growth medium that maintains the optimum balance of water to oxygen. The garden’s innovative design incorporates lighting, irrigation and planting trays into one neat and compact package.

EcoWalls incorporates post-consumer recycled materials into its product and its wall panels are 100 percent recyclable. For those not interested in a fixed wall installation, EcoWalls also offers a Chef’s Mobile Wall Garden—a garden on wheels.

What EcoWalls is doing is quite unique because it offers the opportunity to marry F&B and design while significantly reducing the carbon footprint (food miles) of a portion of the purchased herbs and vegetables.

Interestingly, at Boutique Design New York (BDNY), located right next to IHMRS, a company called Garden on the Wall introduced its preserved wall garden concept. Natural plants, preserved by the use of an eco-friendly process, are creatively positioned on vertical walls. The plants require no watering or misting, no light, no soil, and no trimming or pruning.

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Will New IAQ Monitoring Device Be a Game Changer?

by Glenn Hasek November 05, 2014 06:08

One of the speakers at last week’s Lodging Green & Sustainability Conference + Expo mentioned a new product in development that will enable a hotel guest, or anyone for that matter, to test many attributes of the air quality of a particular space. I highly recommend taking a look at the product called “alima.” Click here to check it out. (The company is not a Green Lodging News advertiser.) Will it be a game changer? Time will tell. What alima consists of is a device with a group of sensors that check for the following: volatile organic compounds, carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide levels, particulate matter, temperature and humidity. An alima app will enable one to monitor indoor air quality (IAQ) for a space remotely. Alerts can be sent by e-mail and software can even help one predict and address IAQ issues. Indoor spaces are up to eight times more polluted than outdoor spaces so having a monitoring device available is important—especially for those travelers with respiratory issues or chemical sensitivities.

For a hotel operator, alima can prompt alerts about items that are offgassing or alert one about other issues impacting guest or employee health: dust or other particulates in the air, HVAC irregularities, etc.

A product like alima can present many challenges for a hotel operator. First off, you will need to become quite familiar with IAQ standards in order to have an intelligent conversation with someone packing an alima. Also, you will need to be able to respond to a guest who can prove to you that your IAQ in Room 309 is terrible. What will you do? And, expect remarks about your property’s IAQ to begin showing up on TripAdvisor and other travel sites.

Assuming alima is highly accurate and works well, it could become yet another tool to take along while traveling. And perhaps it is a type of guestroom or meeting space amenity to provide in an upscale property. My opinion is that anything that can be done to improve IAQ is a great idea. For far too long the bulk of our industry has paid too little attention to it. According to the alima website, one alima device can be bought for about $210. Jacques Touillon, CEO of alima, informed me that his company is shooting for a December 2014 launch.

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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.