Publisher's Point of View

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A Few Thoughts, News Tidbits from Cornell’s Sustainability Roundtable


I attended my third Sustainability Roundtable a little more than a week ago at the School of Hotel Administration at Cornell University. For those of you not familiar with the event, it is a mostly annual gathering of industry representatives focused on sustainability. Folks attending tend to be corporate level sustainability leaders but there are also suppliers, students and those in academia who participate as well. The Roundtable is a forum at which research is often presented and where folks update their industry peers on their efforts to reduce waste, energy and water consumption. The event is also a setting where recent initiatives in other areas of corporate social responsibility are discussed. At this year’s Roundtable there was some news of note.

South Beach Welcomes Starwood Capital Group’s First 1 Hotel


South Beach in Miami Beach was the site last week of the opening of the first 1 Hotel. The opening was a long time coming; the eco-conscious “1” concept was first introduced by Starwood Capital Group in 2006. The recession put a temporary stop to development. Today, in addition to the South Beach hotel, which was designed by Meyer Davis Studio, there are 1 Hotels in development in Central Park (to open in late spring) and Brooklyn Bridge Park (opening end of 2015). Each of the hotels will be LEED certified. Starwood Capital Group is the parent of SH Group, a lifestyle hotel brand management company that will manage the hotels. The 426-room 1 Hotel & Homes South Beach (includes 163 private residences) is the result of the renovation of an existing 1970s building.

No Bones About It, Dog Adoption Program a Success for McKibbon Hotel Group


People, Planet, Profit…Pups? In case you missed it on Green Lodging News, McKibbon Hotel Group, located in Tampa, Fla., has come up with one of the coolest community service projects I have heard about. McKibbon, which owns and manages the Aloft Asheville Downtown in Asheville, N.C., paired up with a local animal shelter last August, Charlie’s Angels Animal Rescue (CAAR), in an effort to increase the dog adoption numbers in the community. When guests arrive at the Aloft hotel, they are met by a dog (located behind the registration desk) in an “Adopt Me” vest. Guests can interact with the dog during check-in as well as at the hotel lounge and additional designated areas. And, if they so choose, can move forward in a process of adopting the dog. Since last August, more than 20 dogs have found permanent and loving homes.

Recycling, Donating Top of Mind for ESA During Renovation Process


Extended Stay America (ESA) has completed the renovation of more than half of its 682 properties in the United States and Canada. It is a program that began in 2012 that should wrap up sometime next year. What is impressive about the program is ESA’s commitment not to throw away recyclable or donatable items. So far, 25 million cubic feet of materials has been diverted from the landfill. ESA is not a company that typically comes to mind when it comes to sustainability. Aside from a mention of supporting the American Cancer Society’s Hope Lodge program, there is no mention of anything having to do with the environment or corporate responsibility on the company’s website. In its most recent annual report (2013), the word “sustainability” is not mentioned. Just because it is not vocal about sustainability does not mean it is not serious about it.

Starwood Headquarters a Platinum Reflection of Company’s 2020 Goals


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.

Earth Hour, Earth Day Present Opportunities to Educate, Inspire


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’s Grand Plans for Solar with a Business Model That Works


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.

Green Expectations are High for Current, Future Virgin Hotels


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.

Hilton Vice President Shares Details on Company’s New ‘Meet with Purpose’ Program


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.

Storytelling Made Easy in Marriott’s ‘Heart of the House’ Social Platform


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.

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