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The calendar this year dictates the writing of this column in the midst of the holidays. I would like to take a moment to wish all of you a very happy and safe holiday season this year. Thank you to everyone for supporting Green Lodging News in 2012. It has been much appreciated! Looking back at 2012, it has once again been a very fascinating year in green lodging with new properties opening, a steady flow of hotels being green certified, an increasing number of companies measuring and reporting on their sustainability progress, a wide array of new green products being introduced, more owners investing in renewable energy technologies, and our industry finally coming together in agreement on a methodology to calculate and communicate the carbon footprint of hotel stays and meetings in a consistent and transparent way.
The Super 8 Ukiah in Ukiah, Calif., is strong proof that you don’t need a wind turbine, solar panels or some other expensive investment in sustainability to create a lot—and I mean a lot—of green buzz about your property. (How many of you have properties with Facebook pages that come anywhere near 41,273 “Likes?”) Over the past several years I have frequently seen mentions about the two-story, 54-room hotel. This past week I had a chance to chat with its owner, Raakesh Patel, to gain an understanding of what sets his hotel apart from others. What it really comes down to is a lot of hard work and a strong desire to not only stay in business but run a profitable one as well. In the depths of the recent recession, Patel and his family were struggling to keep their Super 8 open. He began tackling "low hanging fruit."
Since launching Green Lodging News more than six years ago, I have closely followed the activities of the American Hotel & Lodging Association (AH&LA) as they relate to green lodging. While the AH&LA and I have not always agreed on everything, I have had a true, professional respect for the sustainability-related work of the organization. Through Pat Maher, the AH&LA’s “Green Guru,” AH&LA has worked hard to have a seat at the table of every important sustainability-related discussion. Ideally, AH&LA should have a full-time person dedicated to sustainability. That not currently being the case, it relies heavily on Pat as a consultant for his expertise. He is certainly qualified, having worked for Marriott International for 23 years, including as senior vice president, engineering.
It is certainly one of the most unique and impactful ways I have heard of to convey a company’s diversity and inclusion, sustainability, community and engagement, and philanthropic message. What I am referring to is “Inspiring Our World,” a musical performance that will be put on by 70 MGM Resorts International employees from December 16 to 18 at the Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas. A total of 45,278 MGM Resorts International employees will see one of the nine scheduled 90-minute performances. Perhaps something like this could only happen in Las Vegas? I spoke with Patty Coaley, the originator of the Inspiring Our World concept, and she told me 127 MGM Resorts International employees auditioned to be in the musical. Performers will include employees representing just about every job title.
When the history of green lodging is written, a chapter should be set aside for the Ramada Vineland in Vineland, N.J. Last month the hotel did what few lodging establishments have done—generate more electricity than needed. It may be the first time a property the size of the Ramada has done this. The hotel’s electricity bill for the month? Zero dollars. Congratulations to John Scipione, owner of the hotel with his family, for reaching the “net zero” goal he set two years ago. I first wrote about the Ramada Vineland in July 2011. What is unique about it is its $2.6 million, 2,500-solar panel installation. The panels sit on three acres of land owned by NGL Property Management (the name of John and his family’s company). Not every hotel owner has the luxury of an additional three acres of land.
I attended the International Hotel, Motel + Restaurant Show (IHMRS), Boutique Design New York (BDNY), and Hospitality Leadership Forum last weekend in New York City. New York City was a bit more of a challenge to navigate this year. The gas station located near my hotel kept running out of gas and it seemed like taxis were more difficult to find. Many exhibitors’ booth exhibits were damaged prior to the show because of flooding in the warehouse where booth materials were stored. Thank Hurricane Sandy for that. Because of the storm and other factors, the number of exhibitors at IHMRS was down this year. As in the past few years, it was clear that IHMRS is becoming less of a restaurant show than it once was. BDNY sold out its exhibit space this year and IHMRS has some lessons to learn from BDNY.
It has got to be the most significant commitment to mattress and box springs recycling that our industry has ever seen. I am referring to Hilton Worldwide’s recent commitment and goal to recycle 85 percent of the mattresses and box springs that exit its owned, managed and franchised properties. I spoke with Randy Gaines, vice president, engineering operations for the Americas at Hilton Worldwide, to get more details about the program. Randy told me that as new Serta mattresses and box springs are installed as part of a hotel renovation or scheduled replacement, the old mattresses and box springs will be taken away by DH Hospitality, a company that provides recycling, installation, liquidation, transportation and warehousing services. Why the partnership with Serta?
Green Lodging News has added Puerto Rico, a Commonwealth of the United States, to its list of state, city and region types of green lodging certification programs. In addition to Puerto Rico, that list now includes 27 states, five cities and two regions. The Puerto Rico Tourism Co. actually launched its Green Lodging Program a year ago but it is just now beginning to make headway in getting properties on board. After quite a stretch of not adding a new program, it is good to see our certifications list grow again. Puerto Rico Tourism Co. (PRTC) now has three properties certified and about 15 more in the pipeline. Lodging establishments can get certified at one of three levels. The goal of the voluntary certification program is to improve energy efficiency and promote the use of renewable energy sources.
Because I will be attending the upcoming International Hotel, Motel + Restaurant Show (IHMRS) in New York City, November 10 to 13, I have already begun to receive invitations from vendors to stop by their exhibit booths. It is exciting to hear from so many new and returning “green” exhibitors. Will you be attending this year’s event? I highly recommend it as a way to learn about the latest eco-friendly products and services that can help you reduce energy and water consumption, clean green, and more responsibly handle “waste.” I have been attending the IHMRS since 1989 and have missed just a few shows since then. Early on, there was rarely even a recycling wastebasket to be seen but today concern about sustainability can be seen throughout the show in every product category.
When chatting with someone for an article on PTAC (packaged terminal air conditioner) cleaning and maintenance this past week, I was a bit taken aback by a comment he made. “When staying in a hotel, stay above the third floor,” he said. Was he serious? What he meant is that the closer PTACs and other types of heating and cooling systems are to the ground, the dirtier they will get—from lawn mowing, wind-blown debris, and even small critters looking for a home. If those PTACs are not cleaned as often as recommended, your guests on the lower floors are more likely to be exposed to a guestroom with mold and indoor air quality problems, in addition to a PTAC that is less efficient and more likely to fail. Should travelers have to worry about the quality of the air coming out of a PTAC? Certainly not.
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