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When I first heard about Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide earning the highest level of LEED achievement—LEED Platinum—for its headquarters building in Stamford, Conn., I scanned the information I received for some mention of solar, wind or geothermal. My search came up empty. Turns out Starwood achieved LEED Platinum without any renewable energy technologies. “We were able to do it without the big flash items,” says Ken Siegel, Chief Administrative Officer, General Counsel and head of Global Citizenship at Starwood. “Thought was the critical piece of this. We proved that you can do this without going overboard with things that may or may not make economic sense. Our headquarters is a lab.” Beginning in 2009, the team behind the design of the headquarters began working tenaciously toward the LEED goal—examining every LEED point opportunity.
In less than a month—March 28 from 8:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. local time—Earth Hour will take place around the world. The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) is the parent organization of Earth Hour. This year, the Earth Hour website is offering a guide for hotels interested in participating in the annual event. Be sure to check it out. At the core of any Earth Hour celebration is switching off or turning down the lights—without compromising guest or associate safety of course. Also key is creating an event or events around the act of switching off or dimming down the lights. Green Lodging News has reported on Earth Hour activities in the past—everything from “Cocktails by Candlelight” to entirely turning off exterior signage. Some companies have used Earth Hour as the kickoff for an entire week or month of Earth-inspired activities that include the celebration of Earth Day on April 22.
MGM Resorts International has certainly made a name for itself inside and outside of our industry when it comes to green building. Its Las Vegas CityCenter complex, the largest privately funded construction project in U.S. history, includes six LEED Gold certified properties. Undoubtedly, the company likes to think big when it comes to sustainability. It should come as no surprise then that MGM Resorts is moving forward with the largest commitment to solar energy in our industry’s history. In case you missed it, in my article posted this past week, I wrote about the company’s 6.4 MW dc array atop the Mandalay Bay Convention Center in Las Vegas. The approximately 20-acre installation, now operational and producing electricity, is the first phase of a two-part installation on the roof of the Center. The second phase will include another 2 MW dc and will sit on the roof of the Center’s expansion.
Guests staying at the 250-room Virgin Hotels Chicago in need of a ride to a nearby destination now have the option of being driven in the hotel’s house car—a top-of-the-line red Tesla Model S. The premium electric vehicle is the quickest-accelerating four door vehicle ever built. Would you expect anything less from entrepreneur Richard Branson, Virgin Group founder? Virgin Hotels Chicago, which opened last month, is the first of Branson’s series of hotels to open. Virgin Hotels has plans to open a second location in Nashville in the summer of 2016 and a third property in New York City in the fall of 2017. The team will announce two additional locations by the end of 2016, as well, with the brand hoping to have 20 locations by 2025. Leading up to the opening of Virgin Hotels Chicago, I did not hear much about what would be exceptionally green about the property.
In case you missed it, Hilton Worldwide recently announced Meet with Purpose, a concept designed to make it easier for meeting professionals to reduce waste and incorporate health and wellness into meetings and events. Inspired by Hilton’s corporate responsibility strategy, Travel with Purpose, Hilton gathered feedback from customers and Sales Team members to identify the most pressing sustainability issues for meetings and events. To meet these needs, Hilton created Meet with Purpose, supported by two focus areas: Mindful Eating, which encourages meeting professionals to reexamine event dining to minimize food waste and encourage healthy choices; and Mindful Meeting, which encourages meeting professionals to consider meeting practices that are less resource-intensive. I interviewed a Hilton V.P. to learn more about Meet with Purpose.
This past week Marriott International officially launched “Heart of the House,” an online social platform featuring real stories about guest service, community service, innovation, culture and recognition. I strongly encourage you to check out the site. Anyone can submit a story for consideration, including Marriott employees, the employees of franchisees, customers and guests. Submissions can include photos and videos. Stories must be from 50 to 100 words in length. The lead story on the site is a video of Gregory Scott, Engineer at the Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center in National Harbor, Md. Gregory overcame drug addiction and 18 years of homelessness prior to working at the Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center. Also on the site are photos of teams performing community service.
“In a world of disposable beds, it is remarkable how difficult it has been to get folks to buy sustainable beds.” So said Tony Hochschild, President of Sterling Sleep Systems, during my interview with him for my article on greener mattress systems. While I am certainly no expert on mattresses, Tony’s statement does not surprise me. It has got to be a challenge to compete against Serta, Simmons and Sealy. Not to put down those three companies—they are doing some good things in operations, materials and recycling—but it is certainly a David against Goliath world out there. My challenge to you is to consider all available options out there. My article mentions almost 20 companies and I know there are many I did not mention. There are some very sustainable mattress systems from which to choose. Some are very cost competitive.
I am in the early stages of conducting some interviews for an article on mattresses and would love to get some of your input on the topic. Has sustainability ever come into play when making the purchase of your mattresses? Sustainability is such a broad topic so allow me to hone in a little bit on the issues at play here. Aside from cost, which is certainly high on everyone’s list of priorities, the durability and expected lifespan of a mattress has also got to be important. How many years do you expect a mattress to last? What about a mattress will make it last? Quality of materials certainly matters but what I have learned is there are component-type mattresses available that allow you to replace worn components instead of sending the entire mattress for recycling or to the landfill. In your thinking about mattress purchasing, have you ever explored this type of mattress system?
Looking back in the archives of Green Lodging News, I found just two examples of lodging establishments constructed using sea shipping containers—the Out by the Sea Bed and Breakfast in Crystal Beach, Texas, and the Deer Lake Lodge & Spa, a 40-minute drive from Houston. That is why I chose to write this past week about the recently opened Days Inn-Sioux Lookout in Sioux Lookout, Ontario. The 60-room, two-story property is truly unique because it is comprised of 120 sea shipping containers. According to Joe Kiss, President of Ladacor Ltd., the company that prefabricated the modular units at its facilities in Calgary, Alberta, the Days Inn is the largest sea shipping container lodging establishment in North America. I spoke with Joe about the property and he explained why it made sense to use shipping containers in the hotel’s construction. The Days Inn is located in an area that has a very long winter.
“It is smart business. It tells a great story and is the right thing to do moving forward. To be able to do this shows a commitment on the ownership and development side.” So said Loren Nalewanski, Vice President of Global Brand Management TownePlace Suites in describing the just launched 706kW solar photovoltaic installation located on four acres adjacent to the TownePlace Suites Clinton at Joint Base Andrews in Clinton, Md. Loren told me the $1.5 million investment has a 7.5-year ROI and is currently supplying most of the electricity needed by the 115-suite hotel—even though the solar panels will not be fully operational for a couple of months. During the day the hotel sells electricity to Pepco, the local power provider. Eventually, once additional investments are made in energy efficiency, the hotel will be 100 percent solar powered.
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