Alarmed by Living Planet Report

by Glenn Hasek December 28, 2010 04:46

A report recently released by the World Wildlife Federation in collaboration with the Global Footprint Network and the Zoological Society of London relates the Living Planet Index, a measure of the health of the world's biodiversity, to the Ecological Footprint, a measure of human demand on the Earth's natural resources. What is revealed in the new report--the Living Planet Report--is not pretty. Humanity is now using resources and producing carbon dioxide at a rate 50 percent faster than the Earth can sustain. The report details alarming biodiversity declines along with a rapid escalation of human demand that is far outstripping nature's regenerative capacity. The Ecological Footprint tracks human demand on ecological services against nature's regenerative capacity (biocapacity).

The most recent figures show that in 2007, the most recent year for which data is available, humanity used the equivalent of 1.5 planets to support its activities. Even with modest United Nations projections for population growth, consumption and climate change, by 2030 humanity will need the capacity of two Earths to absorb carbon dioxide waste and keep up with natural resource consumption. Carbon is a major culprit in driving the planet to ecological overdraft. An alarming 11-fold increase in our carbon footprint over the last 50 years means carbon now accounts for more than half the global Ecological Footprint.

How should the lodging industry respond? There are no easy answers but recognizing that a problem exists would be a good start--at the top of our industry's leading associations and companies. Too many inefficient buildings are still being built. Shouldn't all new construction be required to at least meet LEED standards? There are also far too many inefficient buildings in our industry's portfolio--properties that should have been retired long ago. Let's face it, nobody is going to say it's time we stop traveling so much. So, our best solution is to build super-efficient structures, and retrofit or condemn those buildings that are not efficient. We have the talent. We have the technology. Do we have the will? Your thoughts?

Click here to access the Living Planet Report. 

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Time for a Real Green Hospitality Association?

by Glenn Hasek December 22, 2010 04:55

Since launching Green Lodging News in the summer of 2006, I have been hoping that someone would come along and launch a green hospitality association that would act as a true association--one that not only asks for membership dues but also represents its members at the national and international level at industry events and that assists in the development of green product and lodging standards. The Green Hotels Association has been around for about 15 years but it is mostly a website/publishing company that aims to educate and bring business to green properties. There is certainly nothing wrong with that but I have never seen the organization represented at a single national or international event.

I have also seen no evidence that the association intends to begin interacting with the American Hotel & Lodging Association or guiding the industry in one way or another when it comes to governmental policies, green building, green lodging certification, etc. In fact, according to the Green Hotels Association website, the organization does not recommend certification--especially if it costs money.

There is now an American Green Lodging & Hospitality Association. I just contacted the founders to learn more about their intentions. Stay tuned. Based on their website, it looks like the organization's goal will be to educate and help the industry become more sustainable. Certainly a worthy goal. The site says membership information will be available in the coming months. The site already has some helpful links on it. I applaud the efforts of the founders to start an association but I will remain skeptical about its success until there are more people involved and there are hotel companies supporting it. (See the association's Facebook page.)

The American Hotel & Lodging Association does have a Green Task Force which has been doing some excellent work. But is what they are doing enough? My take is that there needs to be something much bigger than a committee representing the interests of green hoteliers and innkeepers. Your thoughts? 

 

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No Green Seen in Marketing for New Vegas Hotel Towers

by Glenn Hasek December 16, 2010 11:36

Last night Las Vegas saw the opening of its newest mega-hotel--The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas. The luxury resort has 2,995 guestrooms, a 100,000-square-foot casino, spa, nightclub, a diverse restaurant collection, nine retail boutiques, and 150,000 square feet of convention and meeting space. The hotel is located between Bellagio and CityCenter along the Strip on 8.7 acres and features two 50-story East and West Towers. In contrast to CityCenter, which opened almost exactly a year ago, there was no green buzz leading up to the opening of The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas. A scan of the new hotel’s website provided not one bit of information on what the hotel’s owners intend to do to minimize the skyscrapers’ environmental impact.

Perhaps the owners of The Cosmopolitan believe luxury and green don’t mix?

I reviewed all of the press releases on The Cosmopolitan website. Again, no mention of green building or operations. Why not? The environmental impact of a hotel the size of The Cosmopolitan is immense. What is the hotel doing to save water? Energy? Reduce waste? For now they are keeping it a secret but I will try to find out. A mention in a press release about The Cosmopolitan’s oversized bathrooms with “rain showers” is not reassuring.

I have written about the environmental excesses of Las Vegas before; it certainly earns its “Sin City” title. Its water appetite alone is scary. According to an article in The Arizona Republic, Lake Mead, the source of water for Las Vegas, sank to an almost 75-year low in October. The lake is now just 8 feet above the level that would trigger the first drought restrictions.

What is the tipping point for Las Vegas when it comes to water? Other environmental impacts? How many mega-hotels are too many? It looks like we may soon find out. Your thoughts?

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NRA Survey Shows 'What's Hot' is Sustainability, Local Food Sourcing

by Glenn Hasek December 14, 2010 05:02

The National Restaurant Association recently released the results of its "What's Hot" survey of more than 1,500 professional chefs. As other surveys have shown this year, sustainability and local and hyper-local sourcing remain among the hottest trends. The top 10 menu trends for next year will be locally sourced meats and seafood, locally grown produce, sustainability as a culinary theme, nutritious kids’ dishes, hyper-local items, children’s nutrition as a culinary theme, sustainable seafood, gluten-free/food allergy-conscious items, back-to-basics cuisine and farm-branded ingredients. “Sustainability and nutrition are becoming key themes in our nation’s nearly one million restaurants,” said Hudson Riehle, senior vice president of Research and Knowledge Group for the National Restaurant Association.

“Locally sourced food and a focus on sustainability is not just popular among certain segments of consumers anymore; it has become more mainstream,” said Michael Ty, CEC, AAC, American Culinary Federation national president.  Diners are requesting to know where their food comes from, and are concerned with how their choices affect the world around us.” The survey showed that sustainability impacted four of the top five culinary trends. Even locally produced liquor, beer and wine has become a hot trend

Children's nutrition is another hot trend. Michelle Obama's work as an advocate for healthy school menus has apparently trickled down to the restaurant industry. The chefs were also asked how chefs and restaurateurs can best promote health and nutrition. Twenty-one percent said create diet-conscious menu selections (including lower-sodium, -calorie and -fat items); 19 percent said increase fresh produce options on menus; and 17 percent said get involved in school nutrition/children’s education efforts.

Fifty-five percent of the chefs said they are currently using social media for professional purposes, and another 16 percent said they plan to start using such channels.

These and many other restaurant industry trends will be showcased at the 2011 National Restaurant Association Restaurant, Hotel-Motel Show, to be held May 21 to 24 at Chicago’s McCormick Place.  

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Ten Ways to Promote Your Property's Green Certification

by Glenn Hasek December 09, 2010 04:34

In my most recent blog entry I highlighted a finding in the recent CMIGreen 2nd Annual Green Traveler Survey Report regarding consumer awareness of green lodging certification programs. The survey found that consumers are pretty much clueless when it comes to knowing anything about the programs. While that is certainly the fault of those organizations that run certification programs, could it also be the fault of the owners and operators of hotels that earn green lodging certification? Could it be that they are just not doing a good job publicizing their achievements? The answer is most certainly "yes." Pineapple Hospitality recently issued a press release that lists some ways to promote a green certification. I would like to share those with you:

1. Have a website page dedicated to outlining all of your property's green efforts, with the certification there to back up your claims.
2. Use lobby signs. From the moment guests check in, they’ll be able to see you’re making an effort to promote sustainable travel.
3. Post signs in elevators. Signs here will give your captive audiences something to read, and something to think about.
4. Use "green" key cards. Many hotels are switching to green key cards, which can include a certification logo.
5. Take advantage of social media. Blogs, Twitter, Facebook and YouTube are all great ways to reach out to a younger, technologically savvy audience and let them know you care about the future of the planet.
6. Along with EcoRooms & EcoSuites, there are a number of other reputable certification programs for hotels, including Green Key, LEED, Green Seal and Energy Star for hotels. Many states also have green lodging programs you can belong to. Being members or receiving certification from these groups builds your credibility further, and offers more opportunities to get your name out there.
7. Customer communications. Make sure to note you’re green certified in any kind of client communication. This can be on stationery, brochures, reservation confirmations, or even in your e-mail signature.
8. Press releases. While it should certainly warrant a news release to announce that you’ve earned certification, beyond that you should note your green certifications in any news article you do--at least in your “About Us” boilerplate.
9. Local news. Local newspapers, TV and other outlets should know all about your certifications so they will know to come to you as one of their local green experts.
10. Events. More and more, companies are reaching out into their communities. Being green is one way that you can show you’re being a good neighbor. Share your certification achievement with those you interact with at local events.

If you do the above, you can be assured that your guests will at least begin to become aware of your property's green certification. They may even ask for more information. Thanks again to Pineapple Hospitality for sharing their tips.

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More Tidbits from New CMIGreen Survey

by Glenn Hasek December 07, 2010 04:07

If you are interested in learning about consumer attitudes toward green hotels and green travel, I highly recommend checking out the new CMIGreen 2nd Annual Green Traveler Survey Report from Community Marketing, Inc. The 145-page document includes some fascinating findings--too many to mention all of them here. (See related article.) There are a couple of areas in the report that caught my eye for the second year in a row. The first is the conclusion that hotel companies are not doing a very good job marketing their environmental commitment. When asked which hotel brand has done the best job presenting itself as environmentally friendly, of the 564 who answered the question, only three hotel companies received more than 10 votes.

Seems to me that hotel companies are missing a huge opportunity to connect with eco-conscious consumers. What are they doing wrong? In the report it is stated travelers primarily rely on travel publications, guidebooks and websites to gather information about green vacation options. In those areas, perhaps hotel companies are doing a poor job telling their green stories? I have found that hotel companies often bury their green information on their websites. Why not link to green information from a prominent spot on the home page?

The second interesting finding that caught my eye: consumers are still very clueless when it comes to knowing what green certification means. In fact, when asked to name a green travel or hospitality certification program, of 678 responses, only two certification programs received more than 10 votes and it was not much more than 10. It is obvious that while green certification remains a hot topic within the lodging industry, it is still of little consequence to the typical traveler. Perhaps those properties that have certifications are not doing a good enough job mentioning them or explaining them?

When asked to rank the green initiatives of companies in the hotel sector, only 5 percent rated them as excellent. About 65 percent ranked them as either fair or needing work. Five percent considered them as terrible. (Yikes!)

Be sure to check out the CMIGreen 2nd Annual Green Traveler Survey Report. Then, let me know what you think by leaving your comments here.

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About Me

Glenn Hasek is the publisher and editor of Green Lodging News. He has more than 20 years of experience writing about the lodging industry. He can be reached at editor@greenlodgingnews.com or by phone at (813) 510-3868.