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Operating around the clock, whether there are only two guests or 200, hotels consume tremendous amounts of energy. For a full service hotel in the United States energy costs are usually between 4 and 6 percent of revenue. International properties, historic hotels and luxury resorts can see energy costs hit 10 percent or more—so it’s not surprising that sustainability efforts in the hospitality industry are usually focused on energy efficiency measures first. Leading hospitality brands and smaller boutique hotels are both pioneering the charge to go green, incorporating conservation and efficiency measures into all operations. Nearly all hotel brands, from Hyatt to Wyndham to Hilton to local boutique hotels, are incorporating sustainability objectives. Guests are now accustomed to seeing those reminders about reusing towels—and they’re listening to them. Hotels will always require energy to provide great service and amenities.
Advanced controls. Remote monitoring. Automatic warning e-mails and maintenance reminders. Innovations including spray rinse and over-dry prevention. Welcome to the future of on-premises laundries (OPLs) in the digital age. The advancements in technology, and the way in which on-premises laundry facilities operate, have changed significantly during the last 20 years, even the past year. With these technology innovations and advancements, the laundry industry has responded to a more sophisticated OPL and tech-savvy laundry manager. In return, managers are experiencing reduced costs, increased efficiencies and throughput and extended linen life. Today’s OPL manager is looking for unprecedented control of his or her entire laundry facility, increased throughput and maximum efficiency. Laundry equipment with an advanced control system allows managers to gather machine performance data.
The spa culture is based upon a paradigm of luxury. Traditional spas often reference the Roman baths, for instance, where excess and decadence were the standard. A more modern approach references Asian practice, including Shirodara and Ayurvedic treatments, but in these settings as well, luxury is expressed in an abundance plush and thirsty robes and towels, heat and steam features and other amenities which require substantial energy/fuel, water and labor to sustain. “Greening” a hotel spa therefore requires redefining the client’s sense of luxury. The key to creating a client experience which is unmistakably deluxe, yet ecologically conscious, is to replace every conventional element which is removed with something equally delightful. Because after all, these days, the client is after a full-immersion experience (unless your hotel is in the minimalist category of a rugged boot camp or ashram).
Going green through reduction or elimination of thousands of pounds of everyday waste created throughout the lodging industry has become a hot topic over the last couple of years. One of the largest waste producers for a hotel are the millions of amenity bottles and bar soaps that are used once and thrown away. Imagine the sheer amount of waste with three bottles and two soaps from every room being thrown away. A 180 room hotel will throw away about 9,700 pounds every year—less than 40 percent used. It has been estimated that in the United States half a million plastic bottles—still with 60 percent liquid in them, end up in our landfills every day. They will eventually dissolve, but only in 500 to 1,000 years. Are dispensers the answer and are they eco-friendly, sanitary and accepted by hotel guests? In Europe, dispenser use in hotels is nothing new. Fifteen years ago the first hotels in Europe started using dispensers.
In our 60+ year history, we have never encountered a client that was not interested in energy cost savings. As architects, we believe in directing our energies toward an environmental architecture, born of human needs and responding to vital physical, social and economic circumstances. While sustainability has become an industry buzzword, we have always embraced it as a responsibility. A healthy environment is intrinsically valuable and essential to a healthy society. Through the design of the built environment, we have the opportunity to positively impact the natural environment and enhance the quality of human life. Furthermore, because our firm’s founder, John Portman, is a developer as well as an architect, our designs have always been informed by an owner’s sensitivity to operating costs. We take a forward-thinking approach as we strive to create buildings that are state-of-the-art for their time.
What is the first thought some decision-makers have when approached about a green initiative or product for their hotel or restaurant? Higher costs of course. Every so often though, green initiatives or products turn out to be great for the bottom line because they are replacing older or more inefficient products or services. Phasing out traditional bottled water in favor of a greener alternative happens to be one of those instances when a restaurant or hotel can become more sustainable and increase their profits at the same time. Traditional bottled water is costly for exactly the same reasons it is environmentally destructive. Here’s why: Every liter of bottled water that lands on your customer’s table requires energy and fuel to manufacture the bottle, bottle the water, package the bottle, and ship the bottle.
Any new endeavor requires an element of change. And as we all know, change is hard. Even positive change is hard. But change is also a vital part of development, productivity, and—let’s face it—survival. As Andrew Carnegie once said, “Anything in life worth having is worth working for.” Businesses that lack the ability to adapt and grow will stagnate and decline. On an optimistic note, the changes we make do get easier (i.e. more natural) the more we practice doing them. It may not be easy, at first, to be green, but that fact in itself adds substance to your journey. Consider the disciplines of hotel management: Is revenue management easy? Is managing online reputation easy? Is expense control easy? I think most hotel managers will agree, these disciplines take work, but with experience they all do get easier. Managers will also agree that success in these areas requires continued attention and willingness to adapt.
I am a college student who worked for Xanterra Parks & Resorts at Yellowstone National Park in the summer of 2013. I was a room attendant for their housekeeping department—you know, the person who you ask for more towels or an extra roll of toilet paper? My fellow employees and I were all trained with a lecture by Dylan Hoffman, Director of Sustainability, on Xanterra’s green practices. In spite of this, during my day-to-day work I didn’t think too much about whether or not the procedures I followed were green—and if they were, why? Then, in January 2014, I came to the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (CT DEEP) as an intern. I discovered that Connecticut has a program which allows hotels and inns to become certified “CT Green Lodgings.”
The legendary rock band, Van Halen, famously refused to perform if the bowl of M&M’s in their dressing room had not had the brown M&M’s hand-picked out of the bowl. What many don’t know is that this wasn’t the pinnacle of selfishness by star performers, but instead a clever way to make use of a small indicator as a reflection of a much larger and more significant goal. The band’s manager was responsible for hundreds of specifications and technical aspects for each intricate performance—from the weight capacity of the loading dock to the tuning of the instruments and proper setup of the microphones. Quite frankly, checking everything was too much for one person to attend to before every show. As a result, the manager wisely devised the brown M&M’s as a test.
Employee volunteering has come a long way. What used to be a generally philanthropic, one-off activity is now increasingly being perceived as an opportunity for skills development. The most frequently quoted skills include communication, influencing and negotiating skills and project management. A report from YOUGOV states that, “Ninety-six percent of managers believe that workplace skills can be gained from volunteering. Fifty-seven percent of managers feel that skills gained from volunteering can help fill gaps in the workplace.” By taking part in the Youth Career Initiative (YCI) hotel staff take time to mentor vulnerable young people on a voluntary basis for 24 weeks. One hotel property where employees are very engaged in the program is the Grand Hyatt Sao Paulo.
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