New York Resort Builds on ‘Make a Green Choice’ Idea

by Glenn Hasek July 30, 2014 06:07

I have written about Starwood’s Make a Green Choice program several times in the past. In case you are not familiar with it, it allows a guest to opt out of housekeeping entirely for up to three days in a row. Guests are rewarded for their participation with a $5 voucher to use at a Starwood restaurant or Starwood Preferred Guest points (500 points, or 250 if a select-service hotel). Between the program’s launch in 2009 and the end of 2012, it had resulted in the saving of 153 million gallons of water, 662,000 kilowatts of electricity, 871,000 therms of natural gas, and 190,000 gallons of cleaning supplies. Interestingly, at least one property has taken the Make a Green Choice idea and made it an opportunity to give back to the local community.

Like guests at participating Starwood properties, guests at the new Lake House at High Peaks Resort in Lake Placid, N.Y. can opt out of daily housekeeping services. In addition to significant reduction in the use of chemicals and their disposal, guests will earn a $5 daily credit which can be applied at the Bar at Lake House, or in Dancing Bears Restaurant at High Peaks Resort. Alternatively, the guest credit may be donated to the Mirror Lake Watershed Assn., which works to preserve the pristine beauty of Mirror Lake. While I have heard of savings from towel/linen reuse programs being linked to a worthy cause, this is the first example I have come across of an “opting out of housekeeping” decision being linked to helping a nonprofit. According to a resort spokesperson, only a few guests have opted to choose the donation option so far but the program is still in its first weeks.

In the press release about this action, Matthew Wheeler, General Manager of Lake House at High Peaks Resort, said, “It is important for all of us who live and work in Lake Placid to help protect and preserve our natural resources. So we have found a way for our guests to conserve too, and perhaps even contribute to the preservation of our local surroundings. All you need to do is dial the ‘service at its peak button’ from your in-room telephone, and you can request participation in our easy yet vitally important program.”

According to Bill Billerman, Chairman of the Mirror Lake Watershed Assn., the objective of the Mirror Lake Watershed Assn. is to “further the enhancement and protection of the ecology and beauty of Mirror Lake, its shores, and its watershed.” The Mirror Lake Watershed Assn. was formed in 1997 by the LP/NE Water Management Committee to focus on water quality in the Mirror Lake watershed.

Have you linked your “opting out of housekeeping” program to the assistance of a nonprofit? If so, I would love to learn more about it. I can be reached at editor@greenlodgingnews.com.

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Calendar Filling Up with Green Conference, Trade Show Events

by Glenn Hasek July 24, 2014 06:04

Those interested in green lodging educational and networking opportunities should pay attention to this summer and fall’s events calendar. Just this week the Dover Downs Hotel & Casino and its Dover Conference Working Group (DCWG) announced that it will host the Mid-Atlantic Green Hospitality Conference, a first-of-its-kind opportunity to unite foodservice and lodging facilities, tourism agencies, green product suppliers and consultants around the common cause of maintaining and promoting environmentally friendly lodging and foodservice practices. The late-summer conference will take place September 15 to 16. Details on the conference’s educational sessions have yet to be posted on the conference website.

ARIA Resort & Casino, LEED Gold and Green Key certified, as well as a TripAdvisor GreenLeader at the Platinum level, will be the site of this fall’s second annual Lodging Green & Sustainability Conference & Expo in Las Vegas. The LODGING Magazine event, with the support of EcoGreen Energy Solutions, will take place October 28 to 30. The three-day conference and expo will kick off on Tuesday, October 28 with a tour of ARIA, part of the CityCenter complex, the world’s largest environmentally sustainable, mixed-use new construction development to achieve LEED certification. The tour will be followed by a two-hour optional Master Class on “Waste Management Innovations.” Also on the schedule the first day of the event: a keynote address and welcome reception in the exhibit hall. The complete agenda is now available on the conference website.

Green Lodging News has put together five green panel discussions that will take place at this November’s International Hotel, Motel + Restaurant Show (IHMRS) in New York City (November 8 to 11). The following are the session titles: “Crafting a Career in Sustainability in Hospitality & Tourism—Sustainability Trends in Hospitality Education”; “Hotel Energy Management All Stars”; “Gone Platinum! A First-Time Ever Gathering of Leaders of Three LEED Platinum Hotels”; “The Power of Green Certification—Updates from Lodging’s Leading Certifiers”; and “Waste Management Champions Making a Difference”. More details on the sessions will appear soon on the IHMRS site. This year’s IHMRS will also feature a Hospitality Green Division on the trade show floor for the second year in a row, as well as other green educational opportunities.

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Going Under the Sea (or Lake) to Cool Your Hotel

by Glenn Hasek July 16, 2014 08:08

When The Brando opened on the French Polynesian Atoll Tetiaroa recently, it did so with a seawater air-conditioning system. The Brando is the second lodging establishment that I am aware of to employ such a system. The InterContinental Bora Bora Resort & Thalasso Spa was the first in the world to do so. The system at that property uses 7,874 feet of pipe that reaches a depth of more than 3,000 feet (the deepest ocean pipe in the world) off the reef of Bora Bora. The pipe feeds the cold seawater through a titanium heat exchanger, transferring the cold into the fresh water circuit that then air conditions the hotel, before returning the seawater back to the sea. According to the InterContinental Bora Bora Resort & Thalasso Spa, the system has zero impact on the environment and is quiet.

Also according to the InterContinental Bora Bora Resort & Thalasso Spa, the system requires virtually no energy to bring the deep seawater to the surface, produces no carbon dioxide or other greenhouse gasses, and saves 90 percent of the electricity consumed by a conventional cooling system of similar capacity. This translates to a reduction of CO2 emissions that is the equivalent of approximately 2.5 million liters of fuel oil imports per year to French Polynesia.

Interestingly, Honolulu Seawater Air Conditioning, LLC is currently developing a 25,000-ton seawater air-conditioning district cooling system for commercial and residential properties in downtown Honolulu. A page on the Honolulu Seawater Air Conditioning website explains how that system will work.

While all of the above are seawater-based systems, there is at least one hotel that I am aware of that has implemented a fresh water-based based cooling system—the Ritz-Carlton Toronto. I wrote about the project several years ago. In that hotel’s case, it participated in a program offered to downtown Toronto buildings by the City of Toronto and Enwave Energy Corp. Water from 200 feet below the surface of Lake Ontario is utilized in a system to cool downtown Toronto buildings.

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Is Your Green Property Tour-Worthy?

by Glenn Hasek July 09, 2014 06:03

Is your property tour-worthy? Interestingly, an increasing number of green properties are becoming tourist attractions because of their investments in sustainability. Here are some examples: The Hilton Fort Lauderdale Beach Resort has launched a Sustainability Property Tour series to provide the public with a behind-the-scenes look at the resort’s progressive environmental sustainability practices and initiatives. The complimentary program series is hosted weekly and made available to hotel guests, area schools, community groups and local businesses in an effort to educate and raise awareness about the innovations and initiatives that the property has implemented to address waste reduction, resource conservation and energy efficiency. The Alexander, a LEED Silver certified hotel in Indianapolis, offers building tours with detailed explanations on how certain green initiatives (waterless urinals, storm water collection system, etc.) came to fruition.

At Grande Lakes Orlando, guests have the opportunity to learn about the resort’s natural surroundings with from six certified Florida Master Naturalists who are experts in the areas of the local wildlife, ecosystems, and environmental stewardship. These naturalists conduct educational eco-tours at Grande Lakes providing guests with a unique glimpse into the pure surroundings of the resort including bird habitats, fishing experiences and nature trails.

During its Summer Honey Festival last year, The Ritz-Carlton, Charlotte offered registered guests guided Saturday morning tours of the hotel’s rooftop herb garden and beehive. The tours allowed guests to see the green, vegetated roof’s 18,000 sedum plants in their full summer bloom, the hotel’s two beehives and 100,000 resident honeybees that have called the rooftop home since early 2010.

These are just a few examples of guest tour opportunities I have come across in the last couple of years. It would be interesting to learn what value the hotels are finding in giving such tours. Are the tours actually putting more heads in beds? I suspect they are not in any significant way but the tours can help sway the booking decision of a group or individual. Tours certainly can be a great way to connect with the community and can be an essential part of an overall corporate citizenship strategy. Guests can take lessons learned home with them and visiting hoteliers can implement similar green initiatives at their own properties. Tours offer the opportunity to showcase F&B offerings, potentially building that area of a business. Tours can also be excellent PR tools. Media can be invited.

Are you offering tours of your property? I would love to learn about them. I can be reached at editor@greenlodgingnews.com.

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NRDC Releases Annual Guide to Water Quality at U.S. Beaches

by Glenn Hasek June 26, 2014 05:32

As it has done for 24 years running, the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) has released its beach report that lists the United States’ “Superstar” beaches and “Repeat Offenders” when it comes to water pollution. NRDC lists 35 Superstar beaches that can be found in 14 states including Alabama, Florida and North Carolina. Seventeen Repeat Offenders can be found in eight states with Ohio alone having seven (Lake Erie shoreline). Be sure to check out the report to see how close your property is to a problem area. According to NRDC, nearly 3,500 beach locations were tested nationwide. Ten percent of all water quality samples collected last year contained bacteria levels that failed to meet the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s most protective benchmark for swimmer safety. Notorious for causing water quality issues along beaches is storm water runoff and sewage overflows.

The new report includes not only the Superstar and Repeat Offenders lists but also a searchable map (by zip code). I typed in my zip code here in Tampa, Fla. and was able to see the results from many of the beaches I have visited with my family.

This year’s report includes measurements based on the EPA’s newly created “Beach Action Value” (BAV). The results in this year’s report show an uptick in failure rates for beach water quality safety due to BAV, which is a more protective health benchmark used in lieu of a now defunct and less-protective beach water quality standard.

While aging and problematic drainage and sewage systems may not be your fault, you can help reduce the volume of water that enters storm drains by investing in porous pavement, green roofs, rain barrels and cisterns.

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EPA WaterSense H2Otel Challenge Webinars Rich with Water-Saving Tips

by Glenn Hasek June 18, 2014 06:23

In February, the EPA launched its WaterSense H2Otel Challenge as a way for agency partners and other organizations to encourage hotels to use best management practices that will save water and money, while reducing greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to climate change. As part of its H2Otel Challenge, the EPA has held a series of webinars, each of which has been recorded and posted on the WaterSense website. Already, five webinars have been held and there are two more planned. I strongly encourage taking a look at the webinars that have been held and participating in those coming soon. Those webinars that have been held are viewable via a recorded webinar link or by transcript. The EPA has done a great job lining up informative speakers—experts in water conservation who are able to share valuable tips that can help you save money, energy and water.

The first webinar introduced the H2Otel Challenge. In the second webinar, Rob Morris, Corporate Manager, Utilities & Engineering, Caesars Entertainment Corp., discussed seven steps to water management planning: making a commitment; assessing facility water use; setting goals; creating and implementing an action plan; evaluating progress; and recognizing achievements. In the third webinar, Brandon Leister, Conservation Planner, San Antonio Water System, discussed plumbing and laundry projects completed at three local hotels as part of his organization’s WaterSaver Hotel program.

In the fourth webinar, Richard Restuccia from ValleyCrest Companies, Inc. presented a case study on landscape and irrigation improvements at the Resort at Pelican Hill in Newport Beach, Calif., to illustrate how making changes outdoors can result in significant hotel water savings. In the fifth webinar, participants were able to learn how to use WaterSense’s Water Use and Savings Evaluation (WaterUSE) Tool and associated Water Assessment Worksheets, which were designed to help hotel operators and facility managers identify and prioritize cost-effective water efficiency projects and best management practices to reduce water and energy use and save money.

To access previous webinars and to see a schedule of future ones, click here.

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White Paper a Must Read for Hotels/Resorts with EV Stations

by Glenn Hasek June 11, 2014 05:12

I recently blogged about a new online Electric Vehicle (EV) Travel Guide put together by the Arizona Office of Tourism. Since that post I heard from Jennifer Miller, the author of the Arizona Office of Tourism’s EV materials. She informed me that she included the Travel Guide in a white paper she completed as part of her graduate studies at Arizona State University. I highly recommend reading her white paper—not only for the information on the Travel Guide but also for some very valuable advice on how to get the most “mileage” out of the EV charging stations installed at your property. (If you have not yet installed them, I highly recommend it. According to the Electric Drive Transportation Assn., there are now 90,000 EVs on the road in the United States.)

In her paper, Miller suggests educating staff about EVs, such as charging needs, and hotel policies regarding these vehicles.Valet staff should be particularly knowledgeable about EVs and policies. Charging stations should be listed online with sites such as PlugShare so that potential guests are able to find your property. Charging station information should also be on your own website and in any other collateral that you publish. Review sites should know that you have a charging station. Make sure it is clear where charging stations are located in parking areas, charging types, and associated fees, if applicable. Also clarify time limits in case there is more demand than availability. And, as has been done in Arizona, think about ways you can join up with other EV station sites to help promote your region as EV friendly. Thank you again to Jennifer for sharing her paper.

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Some Highlights from Starwood's New Global Citizenship Report

by Glenn Hasek June 05, 2014 05:17

As reported on Green Lodging News last week, Starwood Hotels & Resorts recently released its inaugural Global Citizenship report. The report summarizes progress in areas including social responsibility, sustainability, supply chain, associates, and governance and ethics. The report has many highlights, including updates on the company’s progress toward reducing energy consumption by built hotel room by 30 percent by 2020, water consumption per built hotel room by 20 percent by 2020, and greenhouse gas emissions by 30 percent by 2020. (The baseline year for energy and water improvements: 2008. For greenhouse gas emissions: 2013.) A couple of different programs cited in the sustainability section of the report really stood out for me. First, you may be familiar with Starwood’s Make a Green Choice program.

It is a program that allows a guest to opt out of housekeeping entirely for up to three days in a row. Guests are rewarded for their participation with a $5 voucher to use at a Starwood restaurant or Starwood Preferred Guest points (500 points, or 250 if a select-service hotel). Between the program’s launch in 2009 and the end of 2012, it had resulted in the saving of 153 million gallons of water, 662,000 kilowatts of electricity, 871,000 therms of natural gas, and 190,000 gallons of cleaning supplies. Pretty amazing.

The second program is a pilot project at the Westin Singapore hotel and Westin Beijing. Beginning last November, the Westin Singapore began offering 28 designated Green Rooms that feature an interactive television dashboard that displays guest energy consumption compared to that of an average room. As guests save energy, they are rewarded with Starwood Preferred Guest points. The rollout of the Westin Singapore Green Rooms followed the introduction of 47 Green Rooms at the Westin Beijing. There, the Green Rooms also include energy monitoring systems and guests are challenged to keep their energy consumption below 8 kWh during their stay. Nearly 40 percent of guests beat the challenge.

Beyond energy monitoring, Green Rooms are outfitted with efficient lighting and bathroom fixtures, and low-temperature laundry is used for bedding and towels. The rooms also make use of a gray-water recycling system, and dual recycling bins are provided to encourage guests to recycle. Starwood says the pilot programs will help them decide whether or not to adopt energy monitoring and visualization in all Starwood hotels.

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Using Plants as the 'Lungs' of Your Green Building

by Glenn Hasek May 28, 2014 05:43

Earlier this month at HD Expo in Las Vegas, two finalist teams presented concepts for the 8th annual Radical Innovation Award. Green Air and Hotel 2020 were selected by a jury—out of nearly 100 entrants from 28 countries. The creator of the Green Air project received the grand prize of $10,000 following a live vote by attendees of the conference. What is Green Air all about? Submitted by Lip Chiong, Studio Twist, it proposes a hotel with interior green “lungs” where greenhouse gardens act as air filters to remove harmful toxins in the air. The plants’ purpose would also be to supply oxygen. Plants, of course, have always been used in hotels for aesthetic purposes but not necessarily as intentional air cleaning devices. Is that beginning to change.

Interestingly, researchers from the School of Architecture at Rensselear Polytechnic Institute at the Institute’s Centre of Architecture Science and Ecology (CASE) in New York City recently created a public-scale prototype of a mobile green wall designed to use plants to clean the air inside a building. The wall is made up of two panels of plants, each measuring six feet long and seven feet tall. It contains approximately 30 plants. The prototype has been designed to be mobile. It can be connected to plumbing for maintenance but the system is also designed with a water tank so it can operate independently.

If you do a search on “living wall” or “green wall” on Green Lodging News, you will find some examples of properties incorporating substantial plant structures in interior spaces. About a year ago, for example, I posted an article about the installation of a 106-square-foot green wall at the Hampton Inn & Suites and Homewood Suites by Hilton Denver Downtown-Convention Center. This type of wall, of course, would not have the air cleaning impact of the larger green walls proposed as part of the Green Air project or the plant wall systems being tested by the School of Architecture at Rensselear Polytechnic Institute at the Institute’s Centre of Architecture Science and Ecology.

We all know the quality of air in interior spaces can be worse than that of the outdoor air. Oftentimes the materials we choose or the chemicals we use have a negative impact on indoor air quality. Of course if you still allow smoking inside or close to your building your problems are enhanced. Is it time to design in living walls on a large scale in the new hotels we design? Even in the cleanest building built to LEED specifications? I am curious to know the maintenance issues that go along with large-scale green walls. Your thoughts? I can be reached at editor@greenlodgingnews.com.

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Arizona Guide ‘Plugs’ Hotels That Have EV Charging Stations

by Glenn Hasek May 21, 2014 05:52

Let’s assume you have an electric vehicle (EV) charging station at your hotel. How do travelers know it is there? In Arizona, a new online Electric Vehicle Travel Guide that includes a list of hotels with EV charging stations is making it easier for travelers in the state to charge their electric vehicles. Released by the Arizona Office of Tourism (AOT), the guide suggests itineraries across the state and then, with the help of PlugShare, shows specific locations where charging stations are available. Each of the suggested itineraries—California to Arizona is one example—is available as a downloadable PDF. The PDF detailing a California to Arizona route includes a mileage map and chart, elevation chart, weather chart, list of hotels with charging stations (The Ritz-Carlton in Phoenix, Copper City Inn in Bisbee, etc.), and suggestions of places to stop and visit.

About the guide, Sherry Henry, AOT director, said, “We are thrilled to be offering such a valuable resource to this growing market. We want to take the guess work out of traveling Arizona with an electric vehicle and show EV drivers how they can enjoy our great state.”

AOT plans to continue adding itineraries as more charging stations become available. The itineraries are designed to accommodate the needs of today’s all-electric vehicles including the Tesla Model S and Nissan LEAF. The guide is expected to help boost Arizona’s tourism industry which currently employs more than 161,300 Arizona residents. In 2012, more than 38 million visitors spent $19.3 billion throughout the state, contributing nearly $53 million each day into Arizona’s economy.

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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.