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When I was a child, I could not watch enough cartoons. I am dating myself here but Bugs Bunny, The Road Runner, The Flintstones and Popeye were some of my favorites. My childhood obsession with The Three Stooges? That’s fodder for another column (woo woo woo). Animated characters, whether on screen or in “real life,” fascinate children and sometimes adults, too (Avatar comes to mind). In the last year I have come across three examples of properties using themed, costumed characters to teach kids about environmental issues. I think what they are doing is fantastic.
For a long time I have wondered how the various green lodging certification programs address the smoking/nonsmoking issue. After a bit of research over the past few weeks, I found out. What I really wanted to know was whether or not any programs require that a facility be 100 percent nonsmoking in order to be certified (there are two programs, maybe three). I also wanted to know what programs ask about the makeup of a property’s room mix when it comes to smoking/nonsmoking rooms (not many ask at all).
Lodging establishments around the world will participate in two global events in the next two months: Earth Hour and the 40th Earth Day. Earth Hour is a World Wildlife Fund initiative and will take place on March 27 from 8:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. Individuals, businesses, governments and communities are invited to turn out their lights for one hour to show their support for action on climate change. The event began in Sydney in 2007, when 2 million people switched off their lights. In 2008, more than 50 million people, including many hoteliers, participated.
I highly recommend reviewing the recently released 147-page CMIGreen First Green Traveler Survey Report. (See link to report at end of column.) It was produced by San Francisco-based Community Marketing, Inc. and is based on a 2009 survey of 4,109 adults throughout the United States. The study focuses exclusively on the 1,736 respondents who consider themselves to be “extremely” or “very” eco-conscious and who took at least one overnight vacation in the past year. What separates this survey from the many others that I have seen over the last couple of years is the quality of the questions asked and the volume of participants included.
I just returned from the Sustainable Meetings Conference in Denver. It is an annual event organized by the Green Meeting Industry Council (GMIC). I had attended the conference two previous years. This year’s event was the most exciting of the three for several reasons. First of all, the turnout for this year’s event was strong for a GMIC event—approximately 250—and up significantly from last year when the event was held in Pittsburgh during the worst of the recession. Second, it is clear that GMIC has found a business plan that works—developing chapters to build membership.
In the current green hotel building world, the equivalent of an Academy Award (an Oscar) would have to be LEED Platinum. It is the top level of Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification. LEED is offered by the U.S. Green Building Council for new and existing buildings. Until now, only one hotel in the United States had earned LEED Platinum—the Proximity Hotel in Greensboro, N.C. The Proximity was awarded its honor in October 2008.
I have always kind of wondered about the seriousness of the commitment of the leading online travel agencies (OTAs) in regard to promoting green lodging establishments. In the past when I have gone to their websites in an attempt to try to find the properties, I have been unsuccessful or at least had a difficult time in locating a link for more information. (Perhaps that is why the OTAs call their green sites “microsites”—so small nobody can find them.) To some degree the green hotel sections are still difficult to find, as I describe in the article written this week about the top online travel agencies and their treatment of green lodging.
In late November I wrote a column asking readers whether or not their properties’ AAA Diamond ratings had ever been affected negatively by their green initiatives. I received a number of responses—some said their green initiatives had not been impacted while others said their ratings had been affected. I was prompted to ask readers this question because I had heard a number of times from hoteliers, innkeepers and vendors that AAA inspectors sometimes had issues with what would be considered green products or programs.
Dryers are evil. Well, not quite, but they account for nearly 70 percent of all energy consumption in the laundry. You should do all you can to minimize the amount of time your towels and linens spend in them. The reasons: not only to reduce energy consumption but to also prolong towel and linen life (and the life of duvets, robes, etc). Makers of washer-extractors agree. In conducting research for an article on washer-extractors I learned just how much suppliers have done to reduce required drying time. This has occurred primarily through advanced controls technology and stronger mechanical spin power (G-force).
Is your hotel an island in its own community? Disconnected from all other life forms except for your guests and fellow employees? If so, you are ignoring one of the most important principles of sustainability: actively engaging with the local community to not only provide jobs but to also create awareness of social and environmental issues, to support local businesses, and to enhance the community’s overall cultural and physical health and wealth. I thought about this issue this week while writing an article about La Cusinga Lodge in Uvita, Costa Rica.
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