A Long Night with a Long-Winded Solar Salesman

by Glenn Hasek September 30, 2015 05:28

It was a Wednesday night when my doorbell rang. It was immediately clear that the gentleman standing outside my front door was selling something. He introduced himself as a representative of American Solar Energy and he was in the neighborhood setting up appointments for estimates on solar systems. Living in Florida and of course having an interest in solar as editor of Green Lodging News, I was all ears. I agreed to setting up an appointment the next day. The salesman then put me on the phone with someone from his office who confirmed my contact details. Maybe at this point I should have been a bit suspicious. The salesman had already taken my contact information. Why would someone have to validate what he just did? Did his own company not trust what he was doing?

It was 6:30 p.m. the following evening when the company’s regional marketing manager arrived to chat with me and my wife. Keep in mind I have a 4-year-old so doing these types of appointments is not easy. The “marketing manager” made it clear that he was not a commissioned sales person. He took a look at the inside and outside of our home—our AC system, pool pump, attic, etc. After reviewing our monthly electricity bill, he determined that we were good candidates for a solar water heating system and solar attic fan. He said we qualified for a federal tax credit plus another program that he was only offering to us because we would be the first home in our zip code to buy the systems. American Solar Energy wanted to use our home as a showcase for selling to other homes in our neighborhood and zip code. (Yeah, right.)

Keep in mind that we are now at the 90-minute-plus point of the presentation. (He had a thick notebook of information that he seemed to be repeating over and over.) This is when things turned into one of those “Get me out of here, I am being sold a bill of goods by a bad car salesman” experiences. It was almost my son’s bath time so we were eager to know how much the systems were going to cost. Of course the salesman kept asking us if we would buy a system that would give us more savings than the actual payments. He wrote down a number in the $13,000 range (as if the systems really cost that much) and then began subtracting the federal tax credit and his own company’s incentive. By this point my eyes and those of my wife were already glazed over from the presentation that just did not seem to end. The “salesman” then threw in the solar attic fan for “free,” saying it was more than a $2,000 value. (I thought to myself: “How in the world could an attic fan cost that much?”)

Exhausted, I said to the guy that my wife and I needed some time to discuss the deal his company was offering. We had never even had a chance to price other systems and wanted to do that. He told us the installation would escalate the value of our home by $20,000 and that it would not be an issue with our community’s association. I wanted to check on all of those things. When he heard that from me he was not a happy camper. He told us that this was all a one-time offer and that he was only in our neighborhood for a limited time. Someone selling a home security system at my door had told me the same thing recently. My wife and I chose not to take the “take it or leave it” offer and the marketing manager walked out the door.

I could not understand why a company would have to take this approach. Don’t you think it would do better if it worked with potential customers on a sale? I can’t imagine dealing with one of my potential advertisers like this. It is obvious that this guy was in fact a commissioned sales person. It was disappointing for me to learn that there are solar companies out there that use what I consider to be unethical sales tactics like these. I felt like I had been run over by a train by the end of the evening.

I hope that you never have to experience anything similar to this at your lodging establishment.


Drive Electric Orlando Expands with 14 New Chevy Volts

by Glenn Hasek September 23, 2015 05:16

It was almost exactly two years ago that Drive Electric Orlando officially launched. For those of you not familiar with it, it is a partnership of Enterprise Rent-A-Car, top hotels and major attractions in the Orlando area. The goal is to encourage the renting of electric vehicles (EVs) to those visiting. At first, Enterprise announced that it would rent Nissan LEAF plug-in electric vehicles at its Orlando International Airport location. Last week, Enterprise, along with Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer and other top community and business leaders, announced the expansion of Orlando’s EV car rental fleet. Fourteen new Chevrolet Volt plug-in cars were added to Enterprise’s local rental offering. The announcement came during National Drive Electric Week, an annual celebration taking place in cities and communities across the country to raise awareness and support for electric vehicles.

In March of this year, the U.S. Department of Energy announced that Drive Electric Orlando, in partnership with the Florida Office of Energy, would a receive $400,000 grant to continue its work in the Orlando area to expand the impact of the program. The 14 new Chevy Volts are now available for rent in Enterprise’s Orlando fleet, and the company expects to add more in the future. The Volt runs on both electricity and gasoline, traveling about 40 miles on battery power alone before seamlessly switching to gas power for longer trips. With more than 300 places to “plug in” across the region, including more than 140 public EV charging stations, visitors can go to and from area hotels and attractions without using a drop of gasoline. For those more distant trips, the Volt has a total combined range of 380 miles.

Drive Electric Orlando works with the City of Orlando, Orange County, travel companies, the major theme parks and more than 35 hotels to provide charging infrastructure for EV renters, as well as benefits like free charging, parking, and other perks for business travelers and vacationers.

Are you familiar with a similar program in another community? I would love to learn about it. I can be reached at editor@greenlodgingnews.com.


CitiesAlive Event to Feature 1 Hotel Central Park, Javits Center Tours

by Glenn Hasek September 16, 2015 05:27

CitiesAlive, the 13th annual green roof and wall conference, will take place October 5 to 8 at the New York Marriott at the Brooklyn Bridge. The event will have hospitality industry connections. On Wednesday, October 7 from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m., a tour of the newly opened 1 Hotel Central Park will be given. Green Lodging News has reported on this hotel on its website. Tour participants will have an opportunity to explore the inner workings of the efficiency irrigation and fertilization system that supports a three-story exterior living wall. For those of you not familiar with the hotel, it features 229 guestrooms, including 22 suites and one Greenhouse Suite. Each room is equipped with Triple Clear Water filters in all taps, sinks and showers; state-of-the-art, energy-efficient heating and cooling systems; natural Keetsa hemp-blend mattresses; and natural cotton towels, robes, socks, and linens.

In addition, there are yoga mats for use with in-room programming; custom 1 Hotels products featuring naturally-derived ingredients with crisp, fresh scents of nature; and eco-friendly cleaning solvents. Natural materials are used throughout the hotel. A total of 16,000 fallen twigs artfully embedded into two large steel doors welcome guests to the hotel.

On the same day and at the same time as the 1 Hotel Central Park tour, a tour will be given of the green roof atop the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center, home to this fall’s HX: The Hotel Experience. I recently spoke with Rebecca Marshall, Energy and Sustainability Manager at the Center, about the green roof. The 292,000 square foot rooftop has been transformed into an energy-saving green haven using sedum grown on a farm in Upstate New York. A recent study found that the roof has attracted nearly a dozen different species of birds who are using the green roof for nesting and breeding.

A green roof atop a high school and other school-related projects will be part of other tours offered during CitiesAlive.

In addition to the tours, the October conference will feature more than 60 speakers with topics ranging from “Green Walls 101” to “What's Out There? Awesome Green Roof & Wall Projects of the World.”


A Quick Dive Into MGM Resorts’ New CSR Report

by Glenn Hasek September 09, 2015 06:29

A search on “MGM Resorts” on Green Lodging News produces almost 90 articles. It is clear that the company, MGM Resorts International, has a lot going on in the area of Corporate Social Responsibility. (The company also does one of the best jobs in our industry conveying its CSR news to the media.) The company just released its 68-page 2014 Annual Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) Report. I took a look at the report to see if there are any CSR highlights that I missed over the last year or so. I did miss quite a few. First, in the area of community service, MGM Resorts’ 7,652 employees put in 172,316 volunteer hours in 2014. Also last year, the company consolidated its Diversity and Philanthropy Councils and Green Teams into one Corporate Social Responsibility Council at each property. The company reaffirmed its support of same-sex marriage in 2014 and for the second year hosted the conference of the Southern Nevada Human Trafficking Task Force.

Nineteen Diversity Champion workshops were held last year and the MGM Resorts Foundation presented its Eighth Annual Women’s Leadership Conference. The company recycled 56,000 tons of material in 2014, converted 1.3 million lights to LEDs, hosted 3,200 electric vehicle charging sessions, and, as part of the Better Buildings Challenge committed to a 20 percent reduction in energy consumption by 2020. From 2009 to 2014 the company reduced water consumption by 794 million gallons and reduced electricity consumption by 194 million kWh. To read the entire CSR report, click here.


National Drive Electric Week Set for September 12 to 20

by Glenn Hasek September 02, 2015 06:41

National Drive Electric Week will be held throughout the United States in more than 160 cities from September 12 to 20. The event is presented by Plug In America, Sierra Club, and the Electric Auto Assn. Be sure to check out the event website to locate activities near you. The event is an opportunity to learn about electric and plug-in hybrid-electric vehicles to use for your guests and those electric vehicles that your customers drive. In many places auto dealers will be offering test drives and veteran electric vehicle drivers will be on hand to talk about their experiences. The National Drive Electric Week website includes a map with event locations. Here in the Tampa, Fla. area, where I live, an event will be held in St. Petersburg from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Spa Beach Park. Local electric vehicle dealers will be on hand to offer displays and test drives. Food trucks will provide lunch and many exhibitors will be there.

A local event could be a great opportunity to exhibit and share your property’s sustainability success stories. According to the most recent AH&LA Lodging Survey, prepared by STR and funded by AHLEF, 11 percent of surveyed properties offer electric vehicle charging stations for their guests.

Increasingly, hotels and resorts are also using electric vehicles to transport guests. At the Six Senses Qing Cheng Mountain in China, for example, the property just purchased a Tesla Model S electric vehicle for airport transfers. The vehicle, which accommodates three to four passengers and offers generous luggage capacity, travels up to 310 miles on a single charge from a standard power outlet. Using the Tesla Supercharge system, the vehicle can be fully charged in less than one hour. Virgin Hotels is now offering guests car service seven days a week to select areas in Chicago in a red Tesla Model S. Last fall, Fairmont Beijing partnered with BMW in a showcase of the luxury carmaker’s new electric, environment-friendly i Series. Guests booking airport transfers and the Fairmont Beijing’s “Passion Package” were transported around the city in an electric vehicle.

Has your property purchased an electric vehicle for guest or staff transportation? I would love to learn about it. Write to editor@greenlodgingnews.com.


Pollution Incidents Show How Vulnerable Beaches Are

by Glenn Hasek August 26, 2015 05:52

I have never seen a value placed on America’s beaches but it is certainly in the many billions of dollars. An incredible amount of hotel development is linked to beaches. So too are many other businesses. That said, you don’t just need beaches to keep the tourists coming. You need clean beaches. Incidents in recent weeks demonstrate how vulnerable beaches—and the businesses dependent on them—can be to forces out of their control. The first example is the beaches of Northern Ohio. In recent weeks a monster bloom of algae has closed beaches and sickened some. The algae, as in past years, is fed by nitrogen and phosphorus-rich runoff from the farmlands in Ohio and Indiana. Scientists say the algae this year ranks with some of the worst Lake Erie has seen. You can bet it is helping to keep tourists away—not only from the beaches but from hotels as well.

Is it the role of the travel industry in Ohio to weigh in on the use of fertilizer on farmland? It certainly seems like a good idea.

The second example is in Hawaii. There, tourists stayed away from beaches in Waikiki after heavy rains Monday morning triggered a half-million-gallon sewage spill near Hawaii’s tourist district. Ugly sewage is certainly not good for business. Perhaps Hawaii’s tourism industry should chime in on the importance of upgrading sewage system infrastructure? Algae, sewage, oil and other man-linked pollutants have the potential to do serious damage to tourism.

As our beaches become more vulnerable to manmade pollutants, representatives of the tourism industry in those areas are going to have to figure out ways to keep tourists coming while also making their voices heard about issues that historically have been out of their control.


Niagara Casinos' Bet on Green Initiatives Pays Off in Big Way

by Glenn Hasek August 19, 2015 10:59

I don’t receive many press releases that bury the fact that a property or group of properties has generated more than $600,000 in annual savings thanks to environmental initiatives. But that was the case with a press release I recently received about Niagara Casinos and its Fallsview Casino Resort and Casino Niagara—both located in Niagara Falls, Ont. Niagara Casinos has operated a successful cross-property green initiatives program since 2010 but it was what the company accomplished from its 2014 to 2015 fiscal year that caught my eye. First, the replacement of all 1,425 incandescent bulbs and 47 pole heads in the 10 story parking garage at Fallsview Casino with energy-efficient LED bulbs resulted in an approximate annual savings of $216,000. Also at Fallsview Casino, the installation of variable speed drives (VSDs) on the cooling towers and soft-start motors for the hotel’s hot water boosters resulted in an approximate annual savings of over $40,000.

The addition of 28 VSDs to the 14 air handling units at Casino Niagara, enabling efficiency during the operation of air exchange, resulted in an approximate annual savings of over $300,000. LED lighting retrofitted into the gaming areas on the third floor and in the front-of-house washroom facilities at Casino Niagara resulted in an approximate annual savings of $108,000.

These were just some of the initiatives highlighted in the release. Other initiatives are also producing savings. For example, the installation of a 7,000 pound bio-digester unit, utilizing an industrial shredder to intake organics, and process the resulting matter into grey water, has resulted in a reduction of haulage fees for organic waste previously trucked off-property for composting. That is not all. Be sure to read the entire press release to learn about additional initiatives.


USGBC Provides Easy Access to List of LEED Projects

by Glenn Hasek August 12, 2015 05:50

During a week in which I posted articles about two LEED Platinum projects, I learned that the U.S. Green Building Council has made it much easier to access a list of LEED certified and registered hotels. First the two LEED Platinum projects. In case you missed it, the College Park Marriott Hotel & Conference Center announced that it has achieved Platinum certification. It is only the fourth hotel in the United States to do that. The others include: Hotel Skyler (Syracuse, N.Y.), Proximity Hotel (Greensboro, N.C.), and Bardessono Hotel & Spa (Yountville, Calif.). Also, a new employee residence in Old Faithful Village in Yellowstone National Park has received a Platinum rating. The residence was built by concessioner Yellowstone National Park Lodges and is operated by Xanterra Parks & Resorts. LEED Platinum projects are rare, especially in lodging. It was great to see the news about the Marriott and Yellowstone projects this past week.

I know there is at least one more LEED Platinum pursuing hotel in the pipeline—in Oberlin, Ohio and being built by Oberlin College.

Now to the LEED project list. I am often asked to supply the list of LEED hotel projects. Here is how to access it. Click here. On that page you will see a breakdown of LEED certification activity. There are currently 408 certifications in the lodging space. Scroll down the page a bit and you will see an “Activity” area. Click on “See all”. You will then be taken to the long list of certified and registered projects. You can search the list using key words. I tried a search on “Ohio” and it generated one result. You can also do an advanced search by clicking here. The searchable lodging list has been a long time coming. It is great to see USGBC add it to its site.


Portion Size & the Growing K-Cup Dilemma

by Glenn Hasek August 05, 2015 05:56

Portion size is a huge contributor to why we send so much waste to the landfill. I have written and posted about the plastic amenity bottles and partially used bars of soap many times. Until my research this past week on the plastic K-Cups that are used in Keurig Green Mountain brewers, I was not aware of the environmental impact of the cups. Do you include these types of brewers in guestrooms or breakfast areas? What do you do with the leftover cups? For the most part, they are not recyclable or compostable. In my research about K-Cups, I have learned that there are at least two companies that have come up with eco-friendlier versions of the cups—Intelligent Blends and G-Kup. I will be posting an article about my research on K-Cups and their greener counterparts soon on the Green Lodging News website. Be sure to watch for that article.

According to G-Kup, which is developing a compostable version of the K-Cup called the G-Kup, 60 billion K-Cups have already been consumed worldwide—enough, if put end-to-end, to make three round trips between the Earth and the moon.

Amenity bottles, partially used bars of soap and K-Cups are just the beginning to the portion problem in our world today. Have you noticed packages getting smaller in the grocery store while their prices remain the same? According to a TreeHugger article, the coffee in K-Cups works out to cost around $40 per pound—an astronomical price to pay for coffee. Yes, getting smaller is all about the money.

Interestingly, John Sylvan, who invented K-Cups and later sold his company to Keurig Green Mountain brewing company for $50,000 in 1997, now has regrets about his invention. “I feel bad sometimes that I ever did it,” he told an Atlantic reporter.

It will be interesting to watch to what extent the eco-friendlier versions of the K-Cups get traction. In the meantime, try to pay extra attention to portion size. It probably is not only costing you but the environment as well.


Addendum to Article on Energy Storage Systems

by Glenn Hasek July 29, 2015 08:33

During the research for my article on energy storage systems (article posted last week on the Green Lodging News website) it was my intent to chat with Nick Bozych, Vice President and General Manager of the Lafayette Park Hotel and Spa in Lafayette, Calif. The Lafayette Park Hotel & Spa is a French Chateau-style property centrally located in Lafayette near the business centers of Walnut Creek, Concord, San Ramon and Oakland, and a 30-minute drive from San Francisco. The Lafayette Park Hotel has 138 guest rooms, European style day spa, restaurant, bar and over 10,000 square feet of indoor/outdoor meeting space. The property installed an energy storage system earlier this year to help reduce demand charges. Unfortunately, I did not receive the answers to the questions posed to Nick until after the article was posted. Here then are the questions followed by the answers.

1.    How long have you been working with Stem, Inc.? When was Stem’s energy storage system installed? If you happen to know, what size of a system was installed?
The Stem system was installed earlier this spring and is a 36 kW/60 kWh system.

2.    To what degree were peak demand charges an issue at your hotel?
Demand charges represent about 40 to 50 percent of our electricity bill during the year. Prior to Stem the only way to address demand charges was to change how we operated the building, for example like limiting air conditioner use during the summer months.

3.    Were you doing other things to reduce electricity consumption?
We converted our lighting throughout the property to LED. Upgraded our chillers, boilers and cooling tower to high efficiency units.

4.    How is the system working for you? Do you know how much money it is saving you on a monthly basis? Even an approximation is fine.
Last month the Stem system saved 20 percent of the demand charge portion of my electric bill, which came out to about 9 percent savings off my total bill. The demand charges are the hardest part to address, since energy efficiency investments typically don’t have any effect on it. Stem runs in the background and allows us to tackle demand charges without changing the way we run the building. Stem’s software also helps in addressing these charges. It provides both predicted and real time—by the second—visibility so I can now see when a peak is coming up for the day, and precisely when it’s happening.

5.    Were you/Stem able to take advantage of any utility incentives as part of the installation?
The Stem system is part of California’s Self-Generation Incentive Program that covers a portion of the system cost. Stem handles all of the paperwork, from application to filing, and included this incentive in the cost of the system.

6.    Any advice you might offer to anyone thinking about getting this type of system?
The Stem system was a simple way to decrease my demand costs and lower operational costs for the hotel. The system runs in the background and doesn’t require me to change anything about my operations. Stem was great and took care of the entire installation process.


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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.