A Hydroponic Farm on Your Property? Why Not?

by Glenn Hasek June 30, 2011 04:46

I stumbled across a new company this week that you should definitely check out. Its name is Gotham Greens and is located in New York City. Gotham Greens owns and operates a hydroponic greenhouse on the roof of an industrial building in Brooklyn, N.Y. The company recently had its first harvest--the first part of an annual 100 tons of premium quality, pesticide-free vegetables and herbs. A few examples of Gotham Greens' produce is pictured on the company's website--baby butterhead lettuce, basil, red leaf lettuce, and green leaf lettuce. It all looks great. Gotham Greens' customers include companies such as Whole Foods Market and Fresh Direct, as well as numerous well-known restaurants in New York City.

Gotham Greens' expertise in controlled environment agriculture (CEA) combined with its technologically sophisticated, renewable energy-powered greenhouse facility allows the company to produce crops year round. When compared to conventional agriculture, Gotham Greens' recirculating hydroponic methods use 10 times less land and 20 times less water. Pesticide use and fertilizer runoff--one of the leading causes of global water pollution--are eliminated. The company's sterile greenhouses and comprehensive food safety program minimizes the risk of food borne pathogens including E coli and Salmonella. Sophisticated computer control systems manage heating, cooling, irrigation and plant nutrition.

After reading about Gotham Greens, I was curious to know whether any hotels or resorts have tried hydroponic growing. Turns out the CuisinArt Resort & Spa in Anguilla has. Many different types of vegetables and herbs are grown in the resort's hydroponic "farm." The facility also includes fruit-bearing trees. The greenhouse is 18,000 square feet in size and was engineered to withstand winds of 110 mph. Tours of the farm are given three days a week. Unlike Gotham Greens' greenhouses, the resort's greenhouse is on the ground, not the rooftop.

If you have a restaurant or restaurants on your property and you have unused land or space, perhaps you should consider hydroponic farming. Your thoughts? 

 

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Association Pushes Upside to Bottled Water Consumption

by Glenn Hasek June 28, 2011 04:04

The International Bottled Water Assn. is working hard to justify the existance of bottled water, most recently with a video campaign that counters the belief that some bottled water is just water straight out of the tap. The association does a good job of making its case, even promoting bottle recycling at the same time. What the association fails to address in its greenwashing campaign, however, is the most important environmental challege related to bottled water: the dependence on petroleum for the production of plastic bottles. The majority of plastic bottles are made from petroleum and most are made from virgin plastic. Some companies are transitioning to bioplastics--plastics incorporating plant material--but these plastics require the use of large tracts of land and crops that require the use of large amounts of water, fuel and other resources.

And let's face it, most plastic bottles are never recycled--at least two-thirds according to many experts. Drive down the highway and you will see them everywhere. They clog landfills and pollute our oceans.

In my research for Green Lodging News, I frequently come across properties that are working hard to eliminate bottled water in guestrooms and meeting spaces. Some hotels have installed water filtration systems and provide filtered water in reusable glass bottles. One hotel executive I recently spoke with said his company was actually thinking about private labeling filtered water for use on-site. Many provide water in pitchers during meetings; bottled water certainly has no place in a "green" meeting.

How are you tackling the bottled water dilemma? Do you still provide it in your guestrooms in plastic containers? Last year I stayed at a "green" hotel that offered bottled water from Fiji. I was a bit shocked by it. What about in your beverage machines? Do you offer beverages in plastic containers? If so, do you make it easy for your guests to recycle the containers? Do you include signage with positive messages to promote recycling? Minimizing the presence of plastic bottles on your property is certainly the right thing to do. Why not make available reusable aluminum water containers? Bought in bulk, they are not that expensive.

The beverage companies, along with the International Bottled Water Assn., are going to do all they can to sell you on bottled water in plastic containers. Do all you can to avoid them. 

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Alarming Report on Ocean Health Should Concern All of Us

by Glenn Hasek June 23, 2011 04:15

A press release issued by the International Programme on the State of the Ocean should concern all of us. It concerns a report put together by an expert panel of 27 participants from 18 organizations in six countries. The report, yet to be released in its complete form, concludes that the world's oceans are at high risk of entering a phase of extinction of marine species "unprecedented in human history." The conclusion is based on research that examined the following: the combined effects of pollution, acidification, ocean warming, overfishing and hypoxia (deoxygenation). The panel concluded that the combination of stressors on the ocean is creating the conditions associated with every previous major extinction of species in Earth's history.

The panel also concluded that the speed and rate of degeneration in the ocean is far faster than anyone has predicted, that many of the negative impacts previously identified are greater than the worst predictions, and although difficult to assess because of the unprecedented speed of change, the first steps to globally significant extinction may have begun with a rise in the extinction threat to marine species such as reef-forming corals.

The preliminary report does not include much good news. Another cheery finding: The rate at which carbon is being absorbed by the ocean is already far greater now than at the time of the last globally significant extinction of marine species, some 55 million years ago, when up to 50 percent of some groups of deep-sea animals were wiped out. One more for you: Overfishing has reduced some commercial fish stocks and populations of by-catch species by more than 90 percent.

"The challenges for the future of the ocean are vast, but unlike previous generations we know what now needs to happen," said Dan Laffoley, Marine Chair of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) World Commission on Protected Areas and Senior Advisor on Marine Science and Conservation for IUCN.

How can the lodging industry make a positive difference? Two things come to mind: buying only fish certified to be sustainable, and doing all it can to reduce its carbon impact on our planet. Your thoughts?

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New Code Aims to Help Consumers Reduce Impact of Travel

by Glenn Hasek June 21, 2011 04:21

Let's assume you are already using your website to tell your customers what you are doing to reduce your property's environmental impact. Are you posting anything on your site to help travelers minimize their impact while they travel? The Center for Sustainable Tourism and Miles Media just came up with what they call a U.S. Visitor Care Code--10 guidelines to help travelers be greener while they travel. I strongly recommend that you either link to the Visitor Care Code from your site or post the 10 guidelines. In abbreviated form, here are the 10 guidelines: Learn about your destination. Don't leave your good habits at home. Be a fuel-efficient traveler. Make informed decisions. Be a good guest. Support locals. Dispose of your waste properly. Protect your natural surroundings. Make your travel zero emissions. Bring your experiences home.

(Be sure to read the copyright guidelines before posting the U.S. Visitor Care Code.)

For those of you not familiar with the Center for Sustainable Tourism, it is located at East Carolina University in Greenville, N.C. I have written about the university before. (See article.) The Center promotes sustainable tourism throughout the United States through innovation in graduate education, leadership development, community consultation, and collaborative research. The Center is devoted to implementing sustainable practices in tourism business operations, public policies, and personal travel behaviors. Miles Media, with offices in Sarasota, Fla., and Denver, partners with state divisions of tourism, convention & visitor bureaus and other organizations in the tourism industry to create custom online, mobile, e-mail and print marketing solutions. Miles also offers services for hotels and resorts through its Miles360 division.

What are you doing to help your customers travel lightly on our planet? Be sure to share your comments here.

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Formaldehyde Dangers Hammered Home in New Report

by Glenn Hasek June 16, 2011 12:51

Anyone building a new hotel or renovating one should pay attention to the latest Report on Carcinogens, a congressionally mandated, science-based, public health report that identifies agents, substances, mixtures, or exposures in the environment that may potentially put people in the United States at increased risk of cancer. The report, prepared by the National Toxicology Program, classifies formaldehyde as a known human carcinogen for the first time. According to an article in Environmental Building News, "formaldehyde is a volatile organic compound (VOC) used in the binders of many common building products, including plywood, particleboard, and fiberglass insulation. The substance offgases from these building materials into the indoor environment and can cause other health problems in addition to cancer, such as headaches, asthma, and depression."

The Environmental Building News article adds, "The decision to reclassify formaldehyde follows decades of delays caused by industry resistance, and comes five years after the World Health Organization’s similar reclassification in 2006. Many fiberglass insulation and manufactured wood products are now made with binders that do not contain added formaldehyde; consumers and specifiers wishing to avoid this VOC should seek third-party verification of such product claims."

Search on "formaldehyde" on Green Lodging News and you will find many references. The National Cancer Institute also provides good information. The EPA also provides information. Click here for it. Formaldehyde is found in cigarette smoke and is used in embalming. It is not exactly perfume.

If you are thinking about using any kind of wood building product that is not solid wood, be sure to check on its formaldehyde content. Good indoor air quality is essential in any building but especially so in those buildings considered "green."

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Fairmont Hotels & Resorts a Master at Eco-Marketing

by Glenn Hasek June 14, 2011 04:49

If your property is within reasonable distance of a natural attraction, why not take advantage of it and put together an eco inspired package to help put heads in beds? Especially during those times when rooms are more likely to be empty, eco packages can be a great business booster. Fairmont Hotels & Resorts is becoming an expert at packaging together eco-activities with stays at its hotels. I recently received press releases detailing eco packages at two hotels--the Fairmont Chateau Whistler in Whistler, British Columbia, and the Fairmont Royal York in Toronto. At the Fairmont Chateau Whistler, the Tree Top Eco Walk package includes accommodations, a hearty lunch-to-go, and an opportunity to travel over a series of boardwalks, suspension bridges and platforms on a fully guided ecology based tour offered in partnership with ZipTrek Ecotours of Canada.

As part of Tree Top Eco Walk, guests will discover the secrets of the ancient rainforest from a bird's eye view and get their pulse racing by walking across swaying suspension bridges 200 feet above Fitzsimmons Creek. During this two hour eco tour, knowledgeable guides will share important insights on the fragile and intricate ecosystem and how Whistler is striving to be one of the most sustainable communities in North America.

At the Fairmont Royal York, an Urban Forest Getaway package is available. In tribute to UNESCO’S 2011 International Year of Forests designation, the hotel now offers an overnight stay paired with a walking tour of neighboring urban trees with expert arborist, Kent Nielsen. According to the press release about the package, it "stems" from Fairmont Hotels & Resorts’ decades-long commitment to combining responsible tourism and environmental stewardship. (I did get the "stems" pun.) At 12 p.m. every Saturday and Sunday, arborist Kent Neilsen departs from the hotel lobby and takes guests of the Urban Forest package to see a sampling of urban trees. The tour winds along streets of The Financial District and into neighboring parks to discover roots, bark and stems of the city’s green canopy. Upon return to the hotel, guests are offered a 2 p.m. garden tour and a bird’s eye view of the trees below from the vantage point of the hotel’s rooftop garden and apiary. As part of the Urban Forest Getaway package, a $10 donation is made to Tree Canada, a nonprofit organization established to encourage Canadians to plant and care for trees in urban and rural environments.

What Fairmont is doing is smart. They are proving that no matter where a property is located--urban or wilderness location--one can take advantage of nature to boost business. Have you tried something similar? How has it worked for you? I would love to know. Leave your comments here.

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Choice's Room to Be Green Could Use a Little More Teeth

by Glenn Hasek June 09, 2011 04:18

Yesterday I posted an article on Green Lodging News that details the progress of Choice Hotels International's Room to Be Green Program. (Click here for article.) I commend Choice for the progress it has made in incentivizing its licensees to participate. Those franchisees who do partcipate in at least the three minimum programs--towel and/or linen re-use, use of compact fluorescents, and recycling--earn a green leaf icon on their property profiles on the Choice website. Also for those who participate in the minimum three programs, the programs become part of their quality assurance scoring process. In other words, they get scored not only for meeting the minimum franchise requirements but also for their extra green efforts as well. For those licensees interested in going beyond the minimum three programs, Choice provides a long list of ideas from which to choose.

So far, about 1,400 of Choice's approximately 6,100 properties are participating in Room to Be Green. A great start given the program's official launch a little more than two years ago.

What I am wondering, however, is if Choice is making it too easy to earn the green leaf icon. According to the American Hotel & Lodging Association's 2010 Lodging Survey, about 90 percent of hotels in the United States already offer towel and linen re-use programs. They are now expected at hotels and are nothing out of the ordinary. Still important, yes, but very little investment is required. The second requirement--the use of compact fluorescents in all guestroom lamps and light fixtures--is important and I give Choice credit for making it a requirement, but it is a "low hanging fruit" type of investment that is very easy to accomplish. The third mandatory step--recycling--is especially too easy. Licensees are required to place at least one recycling receptacle in plain view for guest usage in the hotel common area. In other words, you can get buy with just one in the lobby but no others are required in back-of-house areas or guestrooms. This requirement is especially weak.

While I admire Choice's effort in creating Room to Be Green, I believe the company should make it more difficult to earn the little green leaf. Why not make the following also mandatory for the green leaf: some type of guestroom energy management system, high-efficiency toilets, the use of green cleaning products, and at least one set of recycling containers on every floor and in back-of-house/breakfast areas. Also make it a requirement that a property be 100 percent nonsmoking in order to be considered "green." Too often, indoor air quality is forgotten in "green" programs.

What Choice is doing is admirable but in the spectrum of "greenness," it is very "light green." Your thoughts? 

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Secrets to Growth of Green Meetings Organization

by Glenn Hasek June 07, 2011 04:04

The Green Meeting Industry Council (GMIC), now up to 15 chapters established or in development stages, is seeing success in one chapter in particular: the Northern California Chapter. As of May 31, the chapter's membership count stood at 103. Having led a professional organization chapter in the past, I know that it can be a challenge to maintain growth over the long term. You have got to find ways to keep people interested, whether through fascinating, helpful content or impactful networking opportunities. Linda Mansouria, CMP, CMM, and director of membership for the Northern California Chapter, recently shared the reasons for her chapter's growth. Establishing a target membership goal at the beginning of the year was a priority. This was followed by a list of action steps:

  • Held monthly membership committee meetings at an agreed to time and day each month.
  • Monthly calls always had an agenda and started on time.
  • Lists were divided equally so that each team member had calls to make. Each team member was assigned a group of people to call on: New Member List, Members Up for Renewal, and Lapsed Members.
  • Not only were members called but there was also a set of standard e-mail texts developed that could be sent out to the members depending on their membership status.
  • A March Membership Drive was held. If a person were to sign up in the month of March, they were entitled to one complimentary educational program of their choice.
  • A Membership Recruitment Card (business card size) was produced to hand out to potential members at various events. The Membership Recruitment Cards were distributed to all board members, committee chairs, and the membership committee to pass out to everyone they know within the hospitality industry or encounter at other events.
  • The membership committee had a presence at every GMIC NCC hosted event. A membership announcement was made and a table was manned by members of the membership committee to respond to any questions. 
  • At events where non-members attended, the committee called each individual non-member to encourage them to join the chapter.

All of these efforts have resulted in GMIC Northern California Chapter membership topping 100. What is the secret to success of the growth of your green organization? What are its biggest obstacles to growth? Be sure to share your comments here.

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June 2 Event to Highlight Housekeeper Working Conditions

by Glenn Hasek June 01, 2011 06:08

The arrest of International Monetary Fund's Dominique Strauss-Kahn for allegedly trying to rape a housekeeper in a New York City luxury hotel, along with the arrest of an Egyptian executive for also allegedly assaulting a housekeeper in a New York hotel, has energized the housekeeping community to take a public stand against sexual affronts and other abuses at work. On June 2, housekeepers across America plan to hold public events to share their stories and launch a campaign to help break the silence about routine sexual misconduct. Events involving both union (UNITE HERE) and non-union housekeepers will be held in New York, Toronto, Chicago, Los Angeles, Sacramento, Phoenix, Boston, San Antonio, and Indianapolis. According to UNITE HERE, because of the aforementioned arrests, other housekeepers now are coming forward with their own stories, which reveal a pervasive pattern of harassment.

Certainly, no worker should have to put up with sexual harrassment--housekeeper or not. But housekeepers are especially vulnerable given how they work--mostly by themselves in enclosed areas. Housekeepers' jobs are difficult enough given repetitive motion injury risks. They don't need to be worrying about sexual attacks during their work hours, whether from employees or guests.

What are you doing to help keep your housekeepers safe? Have you given them any formal training on how to protect themselves? What communication tools do you allow them to carry (phone, two-way radio)? Have you explained what they can do to reduce the likelihood of attack? Certainly keeping a cart in front of a guestroom door is a start. Not entering a room where there is a guest is a no-brainer. Working on a floor with an associate close by is also important, when possible. Have we gotten to the point where housekeepers should carry a whistle?

In an lodging establishment, green or not, housekeeper safety is critical. What are you doing to keep your housekeepers safe? Please be sure to leave your comments.

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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.