Hotels, Companies, Suppliers Lining Up Earth Day Activities

by Glenn Hasek April 15, 2015 06:21

Earth Day (April 22) is just one week away. While many hotel companies, individual lodging establishments and suppliers will be unveiling their Earth Day plans in the coming week, some have already released their plans. Initiatives range from community events to special promotions for guests. Shangri-La Hotels and Resorts is celebrating Earth Day all month long in April with the global rollout of its culinary sustainability initiative, Rooted in Nature. Special Rooted in Nature events and promotions taking place at all Shangri-La and Kerry hotels will highlight sustainable sources of produce, fish, and meat that can be found on the hotels’ menus year-round and celebrate the purveyors who responsibly steward the land and sea to provide Shangri-La chefs with the best possible ingredients. Dishes on offer will include produce and herbs grown on hotel grounds, locally-sourced organic vegetables and fruits, line-caught fish, free range poultry and beef, honey from a hotel’s own beehive, and more. The Portola Hotel & Spa will be partnering with the Monterey Regional Airport to celebrate Earth Day.

On April 22, from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., Portola Hotel & Spa staff will be stationed at the Monterey Regional Airport Baggage Claim area to give away reusable bags made of 100 percent recycled materials. The phrase “I used to be a plastic bottle” will be printed across the reusable bags as a friendly reminder of the utility that comes with recycling.

Portola Hotel & Spa will also be giving out reusable bags to guests checking into the property on Earth Day while supplies last.

The Hilton Chicago/Oak Brook Hills Resort & Conference Center plans to officially kick off its Horticultural Gallery on Earth Day. Unlike a typical art gallery, the Horticultural Gallery at Oak Brook Hills, an IACC Green Star/Gold Status property, will present a cutting-edge array of eco-friendly initiatives happening outdoors in real time, headlined by the resort’s groundbreaking beekeeping program. Included will be a Foodscaping Garden, Chefs Garden and Drink/Cocktail Garden.

L’Auberge Del Mar, A Destination Hotel, is celebrating Earth Day with a Southern California-style paddle out, as well as eco-friendly dining, cocktail and spa specials. The event in honor of ocean preservation will take place on April 22 from 4:30 to 6 p.m. at Powerhouse Park and will include the sunset and snacks on the beach afterward. Guests, locals and employees are invited to participate in the event and can bring their own boards or have the hotel concierge arrange for a board rental.

At Chicago’s Hotel Felix on Earth Day, Divvy will give hotel guests free 24-Hour passes to take advantage of their bike-sharing service. Plus, they will offer a discounted rate on the 24-hour pass throughout the month to all Hotel Felix guests.

Environmental nonprofit Audubon International will hold the first global Golf Course BioBlitz, a free program for golf courses, which will run the week of Earth Day, April 19 to 25. BioBlitz is a species counting competition designed to create awareness among golfers and the community about the environmental value of the habitats supported by golf courses. The program, sponsored by the United States Golf Assn., is open to any golf course worldwide including those unaffiliated with Audubon International.

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NRA Releases Second Annual Sustainability Report

by Glenn Hasek April 06, 2015 06:04

The National Restaurant Assn. (NRA) just released its second annual sustainability report. The relative brief report—it is just eight pages in length—highlight’s recent NRA research findings and summarizes last year’s progress under the NRA Conserve program. According to the NRA’s 2015 Restaurant Industry Forecast, 46 percent of all consumers said they would dine at a restaurant offering sustainable or organic food. More than half of respondents ages 18 to 24 said they look to frequent restaurants that practice sustainability. In addition to ranking sustainability as a top menu trend for 2015, more than four in 10 professional chefs surveyed for the NRA’s “What’s Hot” report predicted environmental sustainability would be the hottest menu trend 10 years from now. Last year NRA introduced a new website—restaurant.org/conserve—which offers information about environmentally friendly business practices that save money and protect the environment. A new newsletter called “Bright Ideas” was also launched to help operators not just embrace sustainability, but better understand the financial and environmental impacts it has on their businesses and communities.

In September, NRA unveiled a new research report, “Gauging the Restaurant Industry’s Interest in Sustainability.” About three quarters of 1,000 full-service and quick-service operators surveyed for the report said they recycled used fryer oil, fats and grease. More than six in 10 recycled their cardboard and paper, used compact florescent lighting or bought products made of recycled materials. About three in 10 installed faucet aerators to conserve water.

Also in 2014, NRA worked on helping restaurateurs reduce food waste through its efforts with the Food Waste Reduction Alliance (FWRA). Laura Abshire, the NRA’s Director of Sustainability Policy and Government Affairs, co-chairs the Food Waste Reduction Alliance. NRA is also working with the Foodservice Packaging Institute and U.S. Composting Council to provide toolkits for restaurateurs about recycling and how to compost packaging.

Click here to access the report.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Green Events Schedule Still Coming Together for 2015

by Glenn Hasek February 11, 2015 06:06

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

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

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

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

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Focus on Plastics Reduction as You Green Your Hotel

by Glenn Hasek February 04, 2015 05:32

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

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

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

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

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

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Article Prompts Mattress Recycling Suggestions

by Glenn Hasek January 28, 2015 05:06

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

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

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

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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.