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A towel cabinet with a discreetly placed sensor that lets your housekeepers know whether or not towels were touched by a guest—saving you from washing unused towels. Shower curtains and liners made from recycled polyethylene terephthalate. Amenity dispensers that can be imprinted with any photo or image you wish. Architectural hardware made with antimicrobial bronze. Bed frames made from recycled railroad t-rail. Automatic sensor-based faucets with the look of luxury. A mattress company with its own mattress and foundation recycling program. These are just some of the unique innovations I came across last week while walking the floor of the Hospitality Design Expo in Las Vegas. As with other HD Expos I have attended, this year’s show was filled with FF&E with green features.
Let’s be honest: If you have a bar or multiple bars at your place of business, do you automatically give straws to patrons, knowing that they will drink more—and ultimately buy more—because they drink through a straw (instead of sipping away without one)? What about elsewhere in your foodservice establishment? Do you also automatically give straws to guests? What ultimately happens to those straws that are most likely made of plastic? I suspect the local landfill is their ultimate destination. I had not thought about straw waste until I learned about the efforts of Milo Cress, an 11-year-old from Boulder, Colo. I spoke with Milo recently and was very impressed by his passion, knowledge and energy. If I turn on the news one day and he is shaking hands with the president, I would not be surprised at all.
In coming years, will folks look back on 2013 as the year that interest in sustainability exploded in our industry? I have to wonder. What signs lead me to speculate? I see it with my own publication website which from January to April jumped from a little more than 19,000 different visitors to almost 29,000. There has been a noticeable jump in the volume of press releases that hit my in-box in recent months. It is a challenge to sift through it all. There appears to be no letup in interest in green certification with Green Key Global recently announcing that it had signed up its 3,000th property. TripAdvisor officially rolled out its GreenLeaders recognition program two weeks ago with more than 1,000 U.S. lodging establishments already participating. Don’t be surprised if TripAdvisor quickly passes Green Key.
A number of companies made big announcements this past week—appropriate given that April 22 was Earth Day. You can read about the announcements on the Green Lodging News website in the News & Features section. The biggest announcement, however, was the official launch of TripAdvisor’s GreenLeaders program. It was just a little less than two months ago that TripAdvisor advised our industry that it would soon launch its green accommodation recognition program. “We were really pleased to launch on Earth Day,” said Jenny Rushmore, director of responsible travel at TripAdvisor. “We have had a great response from hotels.” Already, more than 1,000 lodging establishments have received recognition in the program that enables them to reach one of four levels on the TripAdvisor website.
Almost every week I receive a press release from someone in our industry touting the recent installation of an electric vehicle charging station or multiple stations. While electric vehicles are still too expensive to purchase for most people, they can be very cost-effective to lease or rent. One hotelier I know dropped her monthly gasoline costs from $500 to $60 by driving a leased Chevy Volt. (The Volt is a plug-in hybrid.) Fortunately, the infrastructure to support electric vehicles is growing. Charging stations are becoming more common not only at hotels and resorts but also at auto dealerships and other businesses. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, there are now 5,734 electric stations in the United States (excluding private stations). In Orlando, there is an effort under way called Drive Electric Orlando.
There was big news announced at this past week’s Green Meeting Industry Council Sustainable Meetings Conference in Chicago. After years in development, the final standard of the nine APEX/ASTM Environmentally Sustainable Meetings Standards—the one focusing on accommodations—has been published and is available for purchase. The long name for the standard is, “E2772-13 Standard Specification for Evaluation and Selection of Accommodations for Environmentally Sustainable Meetings, Events, Trade Shows, and Conferences.” If your property hosts meetings, you definitely need to become familiar with the standard. As mentioned previously on Green Lodging News, a lodging or other meeting destination can now be certified to an ASTM standard.
I will be attending the Green Meeting Industry Council (GMIC) Sustainable Meetings Conference from April 7-10 in Chicago at McCormick Place. Be sure to watch for coverage of the annual event on the Green Lodging News website. I have enjoyed attending GMIC conferences in the past and this year’s event, like the others I have attended, is filled with educational and networking opportunities. Interest in the greening of meetings continues to grow for several reasons: government, nonprofit and corporate mandates to seek out and stay at properties offering green meeting options; increasing interest in and certification to the nine APEX/ASTM Environmentally Sustainable Meetings standards that define what a green meeting is; and a general increase in concern about climate change and travel’s impact on the environment.
When I was in graduate school, I took a course that was entitled something like, “The Cognitive Processes of Writing.” At one point during the class I had to sit and try to write an article while saying everything related to that article that came to my mind. Meanwhile, what I said and did was videotaped for later review. It is probably the only time in my life that I ever felt like a lab rat. Why mention this experiment? Just as my professors were trying to understand what I really thought while writing, I would really like to understand what travelers think when staying at a green hotel—one that has visible indicators that it is indeed an eco-friendly establishment. I don’t believe enough academic research has been done in this area—whether to the extreme that I went through in school or in a more informal way.
Would you paint yourself green and walk around dressed up like “Buzz” the energy bee to convey an environmental message to your employees? That is exactly what Bob Holesko, vice president of facilities for HEI Hotels & Resorts did as part of his company’s CARE program (“C” stands for Community, “E” stands for Environment, “A” stands for Associates, and “R” stands for Relationships). I interviewed Bob this past week for an article I posted on Green Lodging News. I had been reading a lot of good things HEI Hotels & Resorts over the years and now I know why. The Norwalk, Conn.-based company, with the 34 hotels that it owns and manages and the nine properties that it just manages, is one of the most dedicated companies in the United States when it comes to energy conservation.
As published in Green Lodging News in October, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) issued revised “Green Guides” that are designed to help marketers ensure that the claims they make about the environmental attributes of their products are truthful and non-deceptive. The guides apply not only to products such as amenities but also to companies that own and/or operate green lodging establishments. I strongly encourage you to make yourselves aware of the content of the Green Guides and continue to follow their progress and enforcement. This past week I learned that the FTC approved a final order settling charges that The Sherwin-Williams Co. and PPG Architectural Finishes, LLC made false claims that some of their paints contained zero VOCs after tinting.
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