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Some hotel companies make you dig through their website a bit to find the section dedicated to their environmental practices. Others make it easy to find. To get to Marriott’s environment page, for example, you need to first click on “Investors.” Would most folks know to do that? If you go to the home page for Wyndham Worldwide, right there in the middle of the top of the page is a “Corporate Responsibility” link that quickly gets you to the page you need. Choice Hotels International has a link to its Corporate Responsibility information at the bottom of its home page. You have to squint a bit to see it but it is definitely there. I am not trying to pick on companies or hold any up for an award for making it easy or not easy to access information on their environment-related practices.
I had a conversation by e-mail this past week with Lynn Mueller, president of International Wastewater Systems. Lynn’s company is doing some things that I suspect none of you are doing. If I am wrong, please correct me. What International Wastewater Systems is doing is recovering heat from the wastewater that leaves buildings—not just the greywater from laundry, showers, etc., but also the blackwater. Yes, believe it or not, energy can be pulled from the wastewater that is flushed down the toilet. I will be posting an article about what Lynn’s company is doing this coming week. Be sure to watch for it. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, roughly $40 billion worth of energy goes down the drain in the United States each year. Much of that is released from hotels.
I would have liked to have gotten into more depth with my article on state green lodging certification/recognition programs—I posted the article this past week—but things can get a little unwieldy when trying to chat with 27 people. Twenty-seven is the number of states with certification/recognition programs, down from 28 last year. For my article I asked for an update on the number of lodging participants in each state’s program, what changes were made to the program in 2013, and what changes are in store in 2014. Within the state programs I counted 2,605 properties that have earned official certification or recognition for their green efforts. I learned that some state programs are practically dormant or in a “set it and forget it” mode.
Less than 10 months after officially launching GreenLeaders, TripAdvisor can now call its green accommodations recognition program the largest one in the United States. GreenLeaders got a big boost this past week with the addition of 1,375 U.S. Marriott International properties in one fell swoop. That happened thanks to a partnership with Green Hotels Global, a system operated by The Carbon Accounting Co. Marriott uses Green Hotels Global, a system that provides metrics-based information on the environmental footprint of hotels, to track the footprint of its more than 3,000 global properties. Ian Lipton, President and COO of The Carbon Accounting Co., and Jenny Rushmore, Director of Responsible Travel at TripAdvisor, began a discussion last fall that resulted in the global partnership.
The next time you are in Fort Lauderdale, try looking up. You just might be within range of seeing the Hilton Fort Lauderdale Beach Resort’s six 52-foot, 4 kilowatt wind turbines that rise above the hotel’s rooftop. The brand new turbines were officially unveiled on Wednesday, January 29 during a ceremony that included two mayors and the following: Jose Luis Zapata, representing Conrad Fort Lauderdale Beach Residences; Diane Jaskulske, V.P. of Owner Relations for Hilton Worldwide; Randy Gaines, V.P. of Engineering for Hilton Worldwide; and Andreas Ioannou, General Manager for the Hilton Fort Lauderdale Beach Resort. Congratulations go out to everyone involved in this historic project. I spoke with General Manager Andreas Ioannou this past week and he was very excited about the project.
What is tolerated in our oceans would not be tolerated on land. I am convinced of that. Can you imagine going deer hunting for a buck and then killing every doe, rabbit, squirrel, hawk, chipmunk and eagle in the area just to get that one deer? In our oceans, the equivalent of that happens every day in the hunt for fish that is most marketable. According to a recent report issued by the Natural Resources Defense Council, in order to put wild-caught seafood on dinner tables, more than 650,000 marine mammals are killed or seriously injured every year in foreign fisheries after being hooked, entangled or trapped in fishing gear. This marine mammal “bycatch” is just a very small part of the total bycatch that is wasted by fisheries each year. Why is it important to know this? If you buy fish in the U.S., it most likely has been imported.
Every now and then, since launching Green Lodging News in the summer of 2006, I would hear from the PGA National Resort & Spa’s Kathy McGuire. She would write with a question or comment. I always appreciated her feedback. I knew she played a significant role in helping to green the resort that is well known for its five championship golf courses and for hosting the PGA Tour’s Honda Classic (February 27 to March 2 this year). I finally had an opportunity to interview Kathy this past week and was pleased to learn that she recently had been promoted to Manager, Sustainable Development at the resort. It is still quite rare in our industry to have someone at a property level with full-time sustainability responsibilities. Every property should have someone like Kathy. She is the type of person who is not afraid to initiate.
I had a conversation this past week with the CEO of a company that sells food waste decomposition machines. During our conversation he touted the reliability of his company’s machines from a maintenance perspective. It was a differentiator, he said, when compared to his competitors. I suspect every company in every product niche would tell you that but what stood out in our conversation was his emphasis on TCO—the notion of “total cost of ownership.” How often do you consider TCO when purchasing a green product or technology? What I mean is not only the actual upfront cost but also the utility costs involved over the life of the item, the maintenance-related costs, the disposal costs, the human costs (ergonomically, for example) and the overall environmental impact.
It was almost a year ago that I first learned about WHOLE WORLD Water, an effort to raise funds to support clean and safe water programs around the world. The campaign officially launched on World Water Day last year, March 22. For those of you not familiar with how the program works, spas, hotels, resorts and restaurants commit to filter, bottle and sell their own water, and contribute 10 percent of the proceeds to the WHOLE WORLD Water Fund. Royal Bank of Canada will manage the Fund. I spoke with Karena Albers, co-founder, WHOLE WORLD Water, this past week, to see how the program is faring. (Other co-founders: Jen Willig and Sonu Shivdasani.) “We have 49 hotels signed on and many more promised in the New Year,” she told me. “2014 will be our turnaround year.”
For my last column of 2013 I took a look back at the more than 400 feature articles posted on the Green Lodging News website in 2013 in order to determine what I consider to be the top 10 news stories or developments. Coming up with a top 10 was not easy. So much happened in 2013, a very active year for green hospitality. The number one news story? It is TripAdvisor’s April launch of its GreenLeaders program. More than 2,000 lodging establishments are now participating. Expect that number to grow dramatically, especially once TripAdvisor expands GreenLeaders outside of the United States. The second most significant news announcement was MGM Resorts International and NRG Energy, Inc.’s announcement of the development of a 6.2-megawatt solar photovoltaic installation at the Mandalay Bay Resort Convention Center.
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