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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.
In this, my last column of 2014, I have many to thank for another successful year. First, I must thank every one of our sponsors. Be sure to send business their way and when you do contact them, tell them that you found them here. Second, I have to thank every reader for faithfully following Green Lodging News throughout the year. Each month my website attracts about 25,000 different folks and 135,000 total visits. It is gratifying to know that Green Lodging News has so many repeat visitors. The circulation of the weekly Green Lodging News e-newsletter and Green Supplier Spotlight currently stands at 5,082. Third, I have to thank all of the many editorial contributors to Green Lodging News—those submitting guest columns and educational articles. Finally, I also owe a big thanks to the many public relations professionals who coordinate article and press release contributions.
Many of you are hosting holiday events this month. There is a good chance you are using chafing dish fuel gel to keep food hot. There is a good chance a fair portion of that gel will go unused. There is also a good chance the gel containers will be improperly thrown away. I spoke with several suppliers of what are considered to be eco-friendlier versions of chafing dish fuel gel recently and was a bit shocked when I learned the truth about what hoteliers have been using for years to heat food. One supplier told me 40 percent of fuel gel is typically wasted. It is considered hazardous waste and should be considered as such at the point of disposal. “The hazardous waste is supposed to be disposed of by opening the can, and then removing the content into a hazmat container,” one supplier told me. “The container must be shipped to a hazmat site for disposal.”
Anyone looking for concrete evidence that our industry is going green need look no further than the just released report entitled, “The 2014 Lodging Study Hotel Trends: An Inside Look at Popular Amenities and Guest Services.” The report summarizes the results of a survey of more than 9,600 hoteliers. The American Hotel & Lodging Assn., along with STR, produced the survey that was funded by the American Hotel & Lodging Educational Foundation. Green Lodging News has reported in the past on this same survey that is generated every two years. If you are an AH&LA member you can get a complete copy of the survey results at no cost. Otherwise, the cost is $1,500 for all of the results or $300 for each individual data point. See the article I posted this past week for details. Among the survey questions were many that have something to do with environmental initiatives.
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