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Touché! That’s what came to mind when reading Airbnb’s recent press release touting the reduced environmental footprint of the travelers booking places to stay through its website. According to the San Francisco-based company, which says more than 17 million travelers have used its website since its founding in 2008, in North America, Airbnb guests use 63 percent less energy than hotel guests. I was a bit taken aback that Airbnb, with its research partner, Cleantech Group, had actually thrown out a specific number like 63 percent. But hey, what do I know? Airbnb and Cleantech Group came to their conclusion after analyzing more than 8,000 survey responses from Airbnb hosts and guests worldwide and conducted research on residential and hotel sustainability levels and practices. Cleantech Group compared residences to the most sustainable and energy-efficient hotels.
For quite some time, hotel investors and others have been trying to determine whether or not spending money on smart “green” building and efficiency can lead to a higher average daily rate (ADR) and more revenue per available room (RevPAR). This discussion has particularly taken place when involving hotels that have been put through the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification process. Is it really worth the time and money to get a building LEED certified? From an efficiency standpoint there is no doubt that it is but what about from an ADR or RevPAR standpoint? Some researchers at Cornell University have finally taken the time to find out. A new study has found that hotels do gain a revenue benefit when they are certified under the LEED program—and a substantial one at that.
In doing research for a feature article on multiple chemical sensitivity (MCS) this past week, I spoke with two experts, each of whom expressed significant concerns about being quoted in Green Lodging News. Talking about products with chemicals that trigger health problems is apparently risky business. Chemical companies, eager to protect their own interests, have large legal teams and must watch the Internet closely. My goal in my research is to identify what hoteliers are doing wrong that causes issues for folks with MCS, and what they can do better to make their properties safer havens. Briefly, MCS involves severe sensitivity or allergy-like reaction to many different kinds of pollutants including solvents, Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs), perfumes, petrol, diesel, smoke, “chemicals” in general and often encompasses problems with regard to pollen, dust mites, and pet fur and pet dander.
The just released Orlando Destination Sustainability Report is proof that a destination’s green story—from the airport to the rental car to the hotel and beyond—can successfully be condensed into a document of great value to all travel stakeholders. The report should be considered a best practice to emulate by your city. The report was commissioned by Green Destination Orlando (GDO) and is a co-production of GDO, Greenview and the University of Central Florida’s Rosen College of Hospitality Management, along with 40 to 50 community volunteers. A lot of work was also put into the report by city and county officials. “This is an attempt to define what our baseline is,” said Dina Belon-Sayre, President, Green Destination Orlando. “It is a way to engage and excite the community around sustainability. A way to show other cities they can do this type of reporting.” Dina told me the idea for the report was hatched last fall.
It is hard to believe but it was eight years ago this week that Green Lodging News went “live.” As I celebrate eight years of reporting on the green side of lodging, I have to thank all of the many thousands of you who have faithfully followed my publication during that time—whether through the website, weekly e-newsletter, Facebook or Twitter. A big thank you also goes out to the many suppliers who have supported Green Lodging News. Those partnerships have been invaluable. Be sure to support those vendors with your business. The Green Lodging News site, during its first month of publication in July 2006, attracted fewer than 4,000 different visitors. Today, the site consistently has between 25,000 and 28,000 unique visitors each month. Green lodging has come a long way in the last eight years. Early on I remember ruffling feathers by simply suggesting that lodging establishments eliminate on-site smoking.
The survey was not hospitality-specific but the results apply to our industry. What I am referring to is Nielsen’s recent online “Doing Well by Doing Good” poll of 30,000 consumers that sought to learn how passionate consumers are about sustainable practices when it comes to purchase considerations, which consumer segments are most supportive of ecological or other socially responsible efforts, and the social issues/causes that are attracting the most concern. According to the survey, more than half (55 percent) of global respondents said they are willing to pay extra for products and services from companies that are committed to positive social and environmental impact—an increase from 50 percent in 2012 and 45 percent in 2011. Regionally, respondents in Asia-Pacific (64 percent), Latin America (63 percent) and Middle East/Africa (63 percent) exceed the global average.
I often get requests for the latest list of Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design (LEED) certified hotel projects. Thanks to the folks at the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC), I now have the latest list. If you would like to see that list, just let me know by e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org and I will send it to you. There are now 273 LEED certified hotel projects. Forty-four are marked in USGBC’s records as “private” so I can only slice and dice a list of 229. The majority of LEED certified hotels are in the United States—167, followed by 11 in China and nine in India. For those of you not familiar with the LEED rating system, there are four levels of certification: Certified, Silver, Gold, Platinum. Of the 229, just 20 have reached the Platinum level. Forty-six properties have earned the Certified designation, 84 have earned LEED Gold, and 78 have earned LEED Silver. One property is still listed as having earned Bronze certification in 2000.
Since first writing about the use of reclaimed wood in hospitality projects a couple of years ago, I have noticed a lot more suppliers offering this type of wood in furniture and flooring. At last month’s HD Expo, for example, I learned about a company from my hometown of Cleveland, Ohio (Rustbelt Reclamation) that makes furniture from wood harvested from old buildings prior to their demolition. A quick search of my database of companies revealed almost 20 companies offering reclaimed wood products. In the coming week I will be revisiting reclaimed wood, chatting with suppliers, and writing a new article highlighting hospitality activity in this area. Be sure to watch for the article soon and contact me to let me know how you are using reclaimed wood at your property, or specifying it for projects. Of course there are many environmental reasons for using reclaimed wood.
I recently blogged twice about a new online Electric Vehicle (EV) Travel Guide put together by the Arizona Office of Tourism. The guide provides multiple suggested itineraries that combine statewide destinations with available charging locations and includes an Arizona state map, emergency contact information, weather averages, and elevation charts to help EV drivers plan their Arizona road-trip adventures. The guide also includes a list of hotels that make charging available to overnight guests. I blogged first about the guide because I was impressed by the fact that such a marketing tool was published. I blogged again about it because I heard from Jennifer Miller, the author of the Arizona Office of Tourism’s EV materials. She informed me that she included the Travel Guide in a white paper she completed as part of her graduate studies at Arizona State University. I highly recommend reading her white paper.
To what degree does how a country is governed, and how its people are treated, permeate the process you go through to decide where to build and from where to buy? I thought about that, as I have many times, this past week on the 25th anniversary of China’s Tiananmen Square Massacre. On June 4, 1989, hundreds, possibly thousands died after gathering to voice their displeasure with corruption and their desire for freedoms that they lacked. Today the Chinese government is doing all it can to erase the memory of that event from its history—jailing those who talk about it and scrubbing the Internet of its traces. Has anything really changed in China? Since that historic day in 1989, China’s economy has boomed, the standard of living for most Chinese has improved (as the environment has suffered) and many in our industry have taken advantage of China’s growth—building hotels, resorts, and buying goods and services.
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