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This past week Best Western International rolled out a new cleaning program aimed to give it a competitive edge and meet guest demand in the midscale hotel market. Called “I Care Clean,” it equips housekeepers with ultra violet (UV) sterilization wands and UV inspection lights. Housekeepers will use the wands to sterilize “high touch” points in the hotel such as telephones, clocks, light switches, door handles, bathroom fixtures and common areas. The black lights will be used as part of the housekeeper inspection process to detect any biological matter, food particles, and more, that the human eye cannot see. Also as part of I Care Clean, Best Western will be offering TV remotes that are easier to clean and disinfect, wraps for remotes, and pillow and blanket wraps. I would love to know what you think about Best Western’s new cleaning initiatives.
Could what is happening in Massachusetts be coming to your state anytime soon? What I am referring to are proposed regulations that would ban commercial establishments—hotels included—from throwing away food waste. I recently spoke with Greg Cooper, director of consumer programs for the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and he told me the DEP expects the regulations to be implemented by the middle of 2014. “My feeling is that it is highly unlikely it will not happen,” Cooper said. The DEP is currently in the process of holding a series of stakeholder meetings in order to develop a framework of what the ban will look like. Those discussions are taking place monthly. The framework for the regulations will done by fall, followed by some time for public comment.
Developers with an interest in green mixed-use development should follow the $155 million, 14-acre CityWay project in downtown Indianapolis. The project spans eight blocks of former Eli Lilly parking lots and includes the 209-room Alexander Hotel, apartments, office space and restaurants. A YMCA fitness facility also is planned. The boutique hotel, which will qualify for LEED certification, is being developed by Buckingham Companies in partnership with the City of Indianapolis, State of Indiana, Eli Lilly and Co., and the YMCA of Greater Indianapolis. The Alexander, an art hotel, will be managed by Dolce Hotels and Resorts. Unique to this project is its “green neighborhood” approach to development, unlike many hotel projects that are green islands in “brown” developments.
I attended the Hospitality Design Exposition & Conference in Las Vegas this past week. My focus is always on trying to identify new green products to write about or pick up on new green trends. If you have never attended this event, I recommend it. It is a great opportunity to pick the brains of those in our industry who walk the talk of sustainability and who are leading innovation in product development, design, manufacturing, and end-of-life consideration. When you talk about the sustainability of a product, you need to consider its entire lifecycle. That is becoming increasingly more important to those who specify products—designers, architects, owners and other stakeholders. While I had many conversations on the trade show floor, there were a few that really stuck with me.
This is a busy time for trade shows. This past week I attended the National Restaurant Association Restaurant, Hotel-Motel Show in Chicago. Reflecting the improving economy, the event posted strong growth in both attendee and exhibitor numbers. The Show attracted 61,000 people from all 50 states and more than 100 countries—a 6 percent increase over 2011. From May 14 to 16 I will be in Las Vegas at Hospitality Design Expo & Conference. More than 900 exhibitors and 7,000 attendees are expected. I will be leading one of the four “green conversations” on the trade show floor during HD Expo (Tuesday, May 15, 10:30 a.m., Booth 3836.) The focus: “What are We Teaching Our Students and What Can They Teach Us?” In Chicago there were more than 1,900 exhibitors in attendance.
In their recently released report, “Hotel Energy & Carbon Efficiency,” did sustainability technology company Brighter Planet go too far in ranking the top 25 largest hotel chains in three service segments based on their modeled impact per room per night? Perhaps. On their ranking of 75 brands, Vagabond Inns ranked first and JW Marriott Hotels & Resorts ranked last. I wrote about the report this past week. Be sure to read the article. Whenever I see a ranking I cringe a little bit because not everyone always reads the fine print to understand the methodology. If you dig down a little into Brighter Planet’s methodology, you will discover that they looked at data on 46,000 U.S. hotels but did not consider any efforts at the individual property level to improve energy or carbon efficiency.
How ready is your community for something like the Seattle 2030 District? For those of you not familiar with the District, it encompasses a large chunk of downtown Seattle buildings—all with owners determined to reduce building energy use, water consumption and CO2 emissions by 50 percent by 2030. Three hotels are currently participating in the public/private partnership that is managed by the nonprofit Seattle 2030 District—the Fairmont Olympic Hotel, Pan Pacific Hotel Seattle, and the Westin Seattle. There are 73 total properties involved, comprising 23.6 million square feet of real estate. Discussions surrounding the District began in 2010. Startup funding was provided last year by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and local businesses.
Ever get a tune stuck in your head that you just cannot get out? Since reading a press release about the Hilton New York’s green initiatives this past week, “Up on the Roof” keeps bouncing around in my noggin. Those of you old enough will know the song; it’s a classic. Those of you too young…well, find it on YouTube. There is a lot going on up on the fifth-floor roof of the 48-story Hilton New York, New York City’s largest hotel with 1,981 rooms. Five years ago it became the home for a fuel cell system that meets about 6 percent of the hotel’s electricity needs. That system also provides heat that is captured to help heat the hotel’s hot water. I spoke with Mike Smith, director of property operations for the Hilton New York this past week and he told me the fuel cell system generates 200 kilowatts of electricity each hour.
There was a study done in recent years that showed that travelers are less apt to be eco-sensitive while traveling. They are more apt to let the water run or crank up the air-conditioning or heat than if they were in their own homes. The results of the study did not surprise me. For the most part though, our industry has done a good job keeping those guest desires in check thanks to low-flow fixtures and energy management systems. In regard to the bathroom, what I am wondering is if our industry is ready to take water conservation to another level. What I mean is, are we ready to reuse greywater—the water used to brush one’s teeth, shave, etc.—for a purpose such as flushing the toilet? I will deal with shower/bath water at another time but for now let us consider the sink water that goes down the drain.
The vice president of sustainability at a leading hospitality management company recently sent me a note to say he was leaving the company in order to lead a nonprofit environmental organization. He sent me a job description and asked me to be on the lookout for any candidates who might be qualified to fill his position. The job description was very well thought out and could easily serve as a template for any company or property looking to hire a sustainability officer. In the past few years I have definitely seen an uptick in the number of hospitality companies who employ people with “sustainability” in their title. The companies tend to be large hotel ownership or franchise companies but they also include management companies and at least one hotel REIT.
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