August 31, 2010 04:53
I first wrote about Starwood's optional housekeeping program called "Make a Green Choice" a little more than a year ago. (See article.) It first started at the Sheraton Seattle and the Sheraton Kauai Resort and then was rolled out to all Sheraton and Westin properties. Guests who participate in "Make a Green Choice" can opt out of not only towel and linen replacement but also all housekeeping for a day. Guests can participate for one night or up to three nights during their stay. To participate, guests must hang a "Make a Green Choice" card outside their door before 2 a.m.
For each night guests participate, they are given a $5 gift card to use at any of the hotel's restaurants or 500 Starpoints as part of Starwood's loyalty program. I lauded the program as a great idea in my column about it. I still believe it is a great idea.
Denver-based Sage Hospitality just announced its own variation of "Make a Green Choice." It is calling it "Green Choice." Sage's portfolio includes some Starwood properties, including two Sheratons, so it is no surprise that Sage was already familiar with and using "Make a Green Choice." Sage, however, is extending "Green Choice" to 18 of its hotels, including non-Starwood properties. At The Renaissance Blackstone Chicago Hotel, for example, guests are encouraged to opt in with a $5.00 food and beverage credit or 500 Marriott points. Management reports an average of 100 guestrooms participating weekly, reducing the hotel's water use by four to five gallons per room and overall linen load by 200 pounds per week.
From an environmental and business standpoint, "Make a Green Choice" and "Green Choice" certainly make a lot of sense. From a corporate social responsibility standpoint, however, things start getting a little fuzzy. If a hotel gets to the point where it is laying off housekeepers because of the success of a green initiative, is that necessarily a good thing? I recently read an article that mentioned housekeeper resistance to "Make a Green Choice." Apparently, in addition to worrying about losing their jobs and reduced hours, housekeepers are not too happy about having to clean a room that has gone uncleaned for several days. It is a lot more work.
What are your thoughts on "Make a Green Choice" or "Green Choice"?
August 24, 2010 04:46
Earlier this week, August 21 to be exact, was the day when human demand on nature surpassed what nature could renewably supply for the year. This is according to the U.S.-based Global Footprint Network, which marks Earth Overshoot Day each year. As of August 21, humanity had demanded an amount of ecological services equivalent to what it takes the planet 12 months to produce. The Global Footprint Network calculates nature's supply in the form of biocapacity, the amount of resources the planet regenerates each year, and compares that to human demand: the amount it takes to produce all the living resources we consume and absorb our carbon dioxide emissions.
From now until the end of the year, we will meet our ecological demand by depleting resource stocks and accumulating greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.
According to the Global Footprint Network, for most of human history, humanity has been able to live off of nature's interest--consuming resources and producing carbon dioxide at a rate lower than what the planet was able to regenerate and reabsorb each year. Approximately 30 years ago, however, we crossed a critical threshold and the rate of human demand for ecological services began to outpace the rate at which nature could provide them. This gap between demand and supply--known as ecological overshoot--has grown steadily each year. It now takes one year and six months to regenerate the resources that humanity requires in one year.
Last year, Earth Overshoot Day was observed on September 25, 2009. This year, overshoot day is estimated to come more than a month earlier. This is not due to a sudden change in human demand, but rather to improvements in the calculation methodology that is used by the Global Footprint Network.
Our industry is certainly one of the largest CO2 contributors and consumers of our planet's resources. Will it be able to reduce its impact to the point where its needs are in balance with what the Earth can provide? For the moment, I don't think so given our industry's focus on growth. Some of the major chains are setting achievable long-term CO2 reduction and resource use reduction goals and that is a good thing. Unfortunately, however, we all still have a long way to go.
August 19, 2010 04:58
A hotel powered by water? Well, kind of. At the proposed H2Otel for Amsterdam, The Netherlands, water will be the main carrier of energy. By using oxy-hydrogen generators, water can be used for heating, cooling, cooking, and the generation of electricity. Not knowing what an oxy-hydrogen generator is, I did a bit of online research. In an oxy-hydrogen generator, water is the fuel source. An oxy-hydrogen gas is created from the water. Only 1 cc of water can produce 1700 cc of mixed oxygen-hydrogen gas. The gas is burned to create energy. The only by-product of burning oxy-hydrogen fuel is water vapor.
To further save energy at the H20tel, a sensor-based climate system will monitor and control the indoor climate in real time and for each room individually. The climate control system is expected to reduce energy consumption by 40 percent. The facade of the hotel will be designed to help minimize the impact of the sun's heat during the warmer months. Wooden lamellas on the south-facing facade will block the sun and reduce the amount of noise from a nearby train station. The north side of the building will be mostly exposed to take advantage of the sun in the winter. A large atrium in the entrance area of the hotel will help illuminate the interior space, reducing the need for artificial light.
The luxury H2Otel is being proposed by Netherlands-based architecture firms RAU and Powerhouse Company. The carbon neutral, net-zero hotel would be situated along the Amstel River. Click here for additional information.
August 17, 2010 04:24
San Francisco-based CMIGreen is collaborating with leading tourism, hospitality and green/sustainable organizations to conduct its Green Traveler Study. Your participation is needed. Those who complete the survey by August 31 will be eligible to win a $50 Amazon credit. The survey will take just 10 to 12 minutes to complete. To access the survey, click here. Last year's CMIGreen Green Traveler Survey Report, which was based on a survey of 4,109 adults in the United States, produced some fascinating findings. The survey revealed that hotel chains are not doing a good job branding their green programs and those that run green lodging certification programs are doing a poor job as well.
In last year's report, respondents voted Kimpton and Southwest Airlines as the environmentally friendliest brands in their categories with a 4 percent response and 97 percent of respondents could not name a green lodging certification program.
What types of questions are being asked in this year's survey? Participants are asked about their purchasing practices and to what degree decisions are based on a company's green policies and practices. Participants are also asked to state what their understanding of green travel is and how much extra they paid to decrease their ecological footprint on their most recent trip. Survey participants are also asked how their environmental concerns have impacted their discretionary travel in the past 12 months. Many other questions are also included in the survey.
Those participating in last year's survey indicated that recycling is the most important environmental initiative they look for when traveling. Second is energy efficiency, then water efficiency and then non-toxic cleaning chemicals. In regard to the importance of a hotel's green efforts, 38 percent they are more important than brand and 30 percent said they are more important than star rating.
The CMIGreen survey is one of the best in our industry. I am looking forward to seeing the results from this year's survey. Be sure to participate in this year's survey.
August 12, 2010 12:22
Whether intentional or unintentional, greenwashing--fudging the truth about things that are green--occurs too frequently in our industry. Oftentimes, stretching of the truth or blatant lying occurs in press releases sent out by vendors or hotels. Sometimes greenwashing can take the form of an exaggeration about the importance of a step a hotel has taken to green its operations--a press release about a property introducing a towel and linen reuse program, for example. Last year, I remember one company issuing a press release stating that it had introduced the lodging industry's "only reliable" green product directory.
Of course my publication's Product & Service Directory had already been up and running for three years. Ouch! Was the company really trying to suggest that my Directory was unreliable? Or, was the writer of the release just ignorant of the fact that my publication existed?
Earlier this week, a press release was issued about the Sheraton Seattle and its earning of four Green Leafs through the Audubon Green Leaf Eco-Rating Program. In the headline and in the first paragraph, it was stated that the Sheraton Seattle is the first eco-rated lodging facility in the state of Washington. Is the Sheraton really the first eco-rated hotel in Washington? Absolutely not. Other hotels have earned LEED or other green designations (Green Key, for example). But why would the author of the release confuse us by making a false statement? Was the press release author really trying to say that the Sheraton is the first Audubon eco-rated hotel in Washington? I suspect that is what was meant but now it is too late; everyone reading the release now believes the hotel is the first hotel in Washington to receive any kind of eco-rating. Arghhh.
Anyone writing a press release and distributing it over the Internet needs to be clear about what is the truth and what is not the truth. In an electronic age, fudged facts can be spread the world over in a heart beat.
August 10, 2010 04:12
Indianapolis government leaders, according to IndyStar.com, are making it easier to build green buildings. A new program provides incentives for property owners and developers to renovate or construct new buildings in a sustainable manner. What are the incentives? The program allows for projects built after August 1 to receive up to a 50 percent rebate on building permit fees associated with the green project. The incentives encourage building owners and developers to integrate sustainable design techniques and practices into their projects.
According to the Indianapolis Green Building Incentive Program website, buildings participating in the project must meet criteria principally based on the U.S. Green Building Council's Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) program. The Indianapolis program, however, does not require a building to be LEED registered or LEED certified.
Indianapolis joins a long list of other cities that either offer incentives to build green or require green building for all new projects. Only a few weeks ago, the City Council in Vancouver, British Columbia, approved a policy that requires all new building rezonings to meet the LEED Gold standard. The change will take effect January 31, 2011.
"By bringing in a LEED Gold standard, we'll reduce our greenhouse gasses, create new job opportunities for our local green building sector, and continue to take a leadership role on urban planning in North America," said Mayor Gregor Robertson.
Vancouver's new policy supports the Greenest City 2020 goals of leading the world in green building design and construction, as well as creating 20,000 green jobs in Vancouver by 2020.
August 05, 2010 04:32
The McAllen, Texas Chamber of Commerce has launched a new Green Hotel Program. It encourages hotels to support environmentally friendly practices that reduce the amount of waste, water and energy generated by hotel staff and guests. The program is voluntary and participants benefit not only from reduced costs but also from a presence in the Green Hotels section of the McAllen Convention and Visitors Bureau website. Hotels participating in the program are required to implement a minimum of eight practices from a long list provided by the Chamber.
Among the options: switching to native plants in garden areas, providing recycling containers in guestrooms, switching to low-flow toilets or toilet-tank fill diverters, and creating a green team to carry out green activities.
Ten hotels are currently participating in the Green Hotel Program, five of which are Marriotts. The others represent Hilton, Choice Hotels International, Accor and the InterContinental Hotels Group. According to the Chamber, it will promote participating hotels when soliciting nature-related tourism and meetings and convention business.
McAllen joins cities such as Buffalo, New York and Los Angeles in having green hotel programs. To view a complete list of states, cities and regions that have green lodging programs, click here.
August 03, 2010 04:23
Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide just announced that its Element Hotels brand has achieved LEED Volume Pre-certification from the U.S. Green Building Council. Starwood's Element Hotels brand joins Marriott International's Courtyard brand in offering LEED Volume Pre-certification. Marriott just announced last week that the Courtyard Charleston/Summerville in South Carolina will be the first hotel built using its green hotel prototype. Do I detect a trend developing here? Marriott had already announced that it has plans to create similar green hotel prototypes for Residence Inn by Marriott, TownePlace Suites by Marriott, SpringHill Suites by Marriott and Fairfield Inn by Marriott.
Why is LEED Volume Pre-certification important? Some developers have been turned away by some of the added costs to building to LEED standards. By offering LEED-ready prototypes, many of the costs associated with LEED can be reduced or eliminated.
In a press release announcing the LEED Volume Pre-certification for Element Hotels, Paul Sacco, senior vice president of development for Starwood Hotels & Resorts, said, "Building from a prototype that's already LEED pre-approved means that Starwood helps our partners substantially reduce consulting fees, spend less on applications and certifications, and minimize documentation requirements wherever possible. This presents a real incentive for partners and developers to join us in the pursuit of more sustainable buildings and greener operations."
What Starwood and Marriott are doing is smart and gives them a competitive advantage. They are making it easier for developers to save before shovels hit the ground and once hotels are up and running. The Element Hotel in Lexington, Mass., is 20 percent more energy efficient and 32 percent more water efficient than a comparable hotel. Hotels that efficient are easier to operate, provide a faster return on investment, and hold their value longer. What company will be next to offer LEED Volume Pre-certification?