Use One Guestroom as a Test Lab for Green Products

by Glenn Hasek September 29, 2011 04:40

I frequently write about new products and technologies that can be used in hotels to reduce waste and conserve energy and water. I am currently working on an article on hands free faucets--a faucet type commonly found in public restrooms but not hotel guestroom bathrooms. I recently wrote an article about water dispensing/filtration systems. These are being used in hotel restaurants but the water from these has rarely found its way into hotel guestrooms. I have often wondered what the process is by which most hotel owners decide whether or not to implement a new product or technology such as those mentioned. Is there a testing phase? A point at which the new product or technology is tested in just one hotel guestroom and then guests (or employees) who stay in that room are queried about their experience?

I have rarely come across instances where hotel companies have set up "green rooms" or even "green floors" for product testing. It certainly seems like a good idea to me. Implementing a hands free faucet in a hotel guestroom bathroom, for example, is kind of a radical step and you would not just all of a sudden retrofit your entire hotel with them.

I am curious to know how you approach a new green product. Do you ask a vendor for a sample and then test it? What is the process by which you make a bulk purchasing decision? If you did set up a "green room" for testing, you could offer a guest an incentive, maybe even a free or discounted room for a night, assuming the guest agrees to participate in an interview or survey upon departure. A couple of years ago, the Best Western Philadelphia Airport South at Widener University set up an Eco-Pro Room to test a wide range of products--shower gel dispenser, water-saving showerhead and toilet, night-light wall plates, carpet with recycled content, compact fluorescent light bulbs, low-VOC paint, bed spreads made of fabric derived from recycled material, natural latex mattress and natural hemp mattress, and wallpaper that includes recycled content. The hotel included a survey in the room to gauge guest feedback. Students in the School of Hospitality Management at Widener University helped with the Eco-Pro Room. It was a great idea.

I would love to learn more about your purchasing decision process. Have you tried a green test room? Would you consider doing so? Be sure to leave your comments here.


Celebrate World Tourism Day

by Glenn Hasek September 27, 2011 04:27

Today is World Tourism Day. How will you celebrate it? Myself, like all of you reading this, are economically dependent in one way or another on the movement of travelers from one location to the next. It is as simple as that. Established in 1980, the purpose of World Tourism Day is to foster awareness among the international community of the importance of tourism and its social, cultural, political and economic value. The event seeks to address global challenges outlined in the United Nations Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and to highlight the contribution the tourism sector can make in reaching these goals. The timing of World Tourism Day is particularly appropriate, as it is celebrated at the end of the high season in the northern hemisphere and the beginning of the season in the southern hemisphere, when tourism is on the minds of millions of people worldwide.

Believe it or not, according to the World Travel & Tourism Council, our industry accounts for 9 percent of the world's gross domestic product and 260 million jobs. Travel and tourism is larger than the automotive sector and just behind the banking industry. "Today, on World Tourism Day, we call on governments around the world to recognise the central role that our industry plays in their economies today, as well as its leading role as a driver of global sustainable economic recovery," said David Scowsill, president & CEO, World Travel & Tourism Council. According to the United Nations World Tourism Organization, the total number of tourists will surpass 1.6 billion by the year 2020. In 2009 international tourist arrivals were estimated at 880 million.

As you ponder the economic importance of tourism around the world, think also about what our industry can do on a large scale to reduce its environmental impact. Having almost twice as many people traveling by 2020 is alarming if we don't figure out a way to travel more efficiently. We have the airline and automotive industries to count on to help us there but we can pressure them to move toward sustainability with our purchasing decisions. What we in the lodging industry can really help control is the environmental impact travelers have once they reach our destinations. I write about steps we can take to reduce energy consumption, water consumption and waste every day. Today, on World Tourism Day, pledge to do even more to reduce your property's environmental impact. Be sure to share your success stories with me.


Looking Forward to Greenbuild 2011

by Glenn Hasek September 22, 2011 05:13

In less than two weeks I will be traveling to Greenbuild in Toronto. For those of you not familiar with Greenbuild, it is an annual trade show and conference organized by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) and packed with exhibits and educational opportunities. This year's event is being held outside of the United States for the first time. There will be more than 900 exhibitors--comparable in size to the combined International Hotel, Motel + Restaurant Show/Boutique Design New York in November. If you are planning to attend Greenbuild this year, be sure to add your comments to this blog entry to let me know what you are anticipating most at the event. For me I expect the highlight to be the trade show floor. In the past, Greenbuild has been a great place to learn about new, sustainable building materials as well as products that can help save energy and water. I expect it will be the same this year.

Greenbuild has an excellent lineup of speakers with Thomas Friedman, Cokie Roberts, and New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg. Entertainment will be provided by "Moves Like Jagger" Maroon 5. Green building tours will be offered and the Greenbuild International Film Festival will be held as it has in past years.

I often wonder if our industry would support a Greenbuild type of trade show and conference. I have yet to see anyone make a strong attempt to do it. Yes, there have been small conferences with a trade show component but these events have typically been planned in just a few months with little money behind them. There have been few name speakers to draw people. Who knows, maybe a well-funded company will come along--one with significant event planning experience--and plan an event that those with a stake in green lodging will be excited to attend? I would love to be part of it. If you had the freedom to create a Greenbuild type of event for our industry, how would you structure it? Where would you hold it? Whom would you invite to speak? What "can't miss" sessions would you create? I would love to hear from you with your comments.


Solar PV System Prices Continue Downward Spiral

by Glenn Hasek September 20, 2011 06:21

Solar may have gotten some bad buzz recently with the scandal surrounding Solyndra and its $527 million in loan guarantees (see article) but there has been much more good news than bad regarding solar's potential. According to a report released this month from the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, the average cost of going solar in the United States fell significantly in 2010 and the first half of 2011. The report, entitled, "Tracking the Sun IV," says pre-incentive solar photovoltaic (PV) costs decreased 17 percent in 2010, the most significant annual reduction since Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory began tracking the data in 1998. In the first half of 2011, costs declined another 11 percent. If you have been postponing solar for electricity production, you may want to re-visit the idea.

Installed costs are lowest for thin-film systems and highest for crystalline systems with tracking. Costs do vary by state and of course incentives impact final cost. Average costs, for example, range from a low of $6.3/W in New Hampshire to a high of $8.4/W in Utah.

Also according to the report, third party ownership of customer-sited PV systems through power purchase agreements and leases has become increasingly common for PV systems of all sizes and market sectors. "Under such arrangements, the transaction between the host customer and the system owner consists of a series of payments over time, rather than a single up-front payment for the purchase of the PV system," the report says.

The report concludes that further cost reductions will be necessary if the U.S. PV industry is to continue its expansion, given the expectation that PV incentive programs will also continue to ratchet down financial support.

For its report, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory examined more than 115,000 PV systems installed between 1998 and 2010 across 42 states.


Site Tour Offers Behind-the-Scenes Glimpse at Conservation Design

by Glenn Hasek September 15, 2011 04:37

I had an opportunity yesterday to take a tour of Moen's headquarters facility in North Olmsted, Ohio. Most of you are probably familiar with Moen. They manufacture items for the kitchen and bathroom such as faucets, sinks and shower heads. A 2010 EPA WaterSense Partner of the Year, the company is helping its customers save millions of gallons of water every year. After my half-day at Moen, I don't believe I will ever look at a faucet or shower head the same way again. While I did not get a chance to see products manufactured (production plants are outside of Ohio), I did have an opportunity to learn what takes place leading up to the point of manufacture. I was amazed at how much time is spent doing market research, brainstorming new product ideas, designing new products, creating test models, and then actually testing the products.

In the basement of the headquarters building there is actually a shower where, you guessed it, employees test new shower heads. During my visit, an engineer was photographing the water flow from a shower head. Yes, Moen is even concerned about the visual appearance of the water that flows from its products. Moen uses a lot of water in its testing process but I was told about 70 percent of that water is recycled. I was shown new prototypes that I will keep a secret here but let's just say the shower experience of the future will have much more technology behind it.

Moen is constantly working on new ways to advance its sensor technology--good news for those interested in saving water using sensor-activated faucets, toilets and urinals. The good news for designers is that Moen, like its competitors, is making water conservation look good. Fixtures are available in many styles and finishes. Interestingly, Moen has copied nature to produce water flow spiral-shaped patterns in its shower heads. In the design world, this is called biomimicry.

I was joined yesterday on my tour with two other journalists. Moen is not an advertiser of mine; I am not trying to plug Moen. If you ever have the opportunity to visit Moen headquarters, or the research and development facility of any other vendor with whom you do business, I highly recommend it. You will walk away with a much greater appreciation of the product that is going to help you save money while minimizing your environmental impact.


Good Food for Thought--Literally

by Glenn Hasek September 13, 2011 04:21

Green Lodging News yesterday posted an article about the National Conference Center (NCC) in Leesburg, Va., and its commitment to working with local farmers. It is an impressive program that involves not only purchasing from local farmers but also sending one farm used cooking oil which is then used to power its tractors and run its greenhouses. NCC's farm to table program is just one of its many green initiatives. Given NCC’s expertise on on local food, as well as conference training, meetings and special events, NCC recently released a white paper on how food impacts meeting performance. The paper, entitled, "The Science of Food for Thought: Enhancing Meetings Through Food," emphasizes the importance of eating “brain food” versus junk food and how various foods measure up.

I read the paper and strongly encourage you to do the same. It available for free on the NCC website. Did you know, for example, that what food you serve meeting attendees and when you serve it has a lot to do with how well they will be able to "swallow" the information that is presented to them at their meetings? According to NCC executive chef Craig Mason, it is best not to serve items that take long to digest--red meat for example. Local foods are better, as they are more nutritious. Cooking time and how a product is cared for also impacts nutrition. Snack stations should not be packed with "sugar rush" items but fresh fruits, nuts, yogurt and energy bars. The white paper includes a list of the top "Brain Meeting Snacks." Be sure to check it out.

As NCC is proving, a green meeting is about much more than reducing waste and saving energy; it also has a lot to do with what edible fuel you provide.


Once Upon a Mattress--Do You Really Know What is in It?

by Glenn Hasek September 07, 2011 04:08

Do you really know what is in the mattresses your guests are sleeping on? In "Sleep Safe in a Toxic World," which was released this year as a second edition, author Walter Bader says, "Each night, we approach our mattress with minimal clothing and lay down for a seemingly restful and restorative night's sleep. But in reality, while resting on a conventional mattress we are breathing in and absorbing through our skin a slew of chemicals from the synthetic fibers in paddings, pillows, fillings, bed linens, and chemical treatments--chemicals that can disrupt our sleep patterns and negatively affect our health." In his book, which yes, may just keep you up at night, Bader details the dangers hidden in ordinary mattresses--from the polyurethane foam used in the padding to the fire retardants and antimicrobial additives.

The last time you shopped for mattresses, did you ask the salesperson for a disclosure sheet that itemizes the ingredients and lists the potential health hazards of the product? Bader says you should. The author also talks about the hazards from some sheets and blankets. "While wrinkle-free bedding may sound good on a package label, the price we pay is exposure to unnecessary and increasing levels of dangerous chemicals, such as the widely recognized carcinogen formaldehyde." In his book, Bader "takes apart" a mattress and explains what is really in the materials. Did you know, for example, that a mattress's covering fabric is subjected to a number of chemical applications such as toxic dyes, stain and water repellants, wrinkle-resistant treatments, antifungicides, pesticides, fire retardants, and antimicrobial coatings? These are not things you will see mentioned on the mattress law label attached to the mattresses you purchase.

Bader also discusses the potential health hazards of memory foam mattresses. You will not want to miss the results of his laboratory study. Sleep Safe in a Toxic World is available from Freedom Press. And yes, the author does explain how to shop for organic mattresses--critical after reading his book.


E-waste Law to Affect New York Hoteliers January 1, 2012

by Glenn Hasek September 01, 2011 04:42

If you own or operate a lodging establishment in New York, you need to pay attention to the Electronic Equipment Recycling and Reuse Act. Signed into law last year, it will go into effect on January 1, 2012. In January all facilities in New York will be required to recycle their electronic waste. The law includes manufacturer take-back provisions that qualify small businesses with less than 50 full-time employees, or nonprofits with less than 75 full-time employees, to recycle their e-waste for free. Some of the electronic devices covered under the new law include: computers, televisions (as well as cathode ray tubes), small scale servers, computer peripherals, monitors, electronic keyboards, electronic mice or similar pointing devices, facsimile machines, document scanners, and printers.

New York's Department of Environmental Conservation includes information about the new law on its website. According to the law, manufacturers must provide free and convenient collection to New York State consumers. Manufacturers may use a variety of collection methods, which means there might not be a physical collection location in your community. Any of the following collection methods may be used: mail or ship back return programs; fixed acceptance locations such as retail stores, sales outlets, not-for-profit organizations, or municipalities which have agreed to provide facilities for the collection of electronic waste; community collection events; and any combination of these or other acceptance methods which effectively provide for the acceptance of electronic waste for recycling or reuse through means that are available and reasonably convenient to consumers in the state.

As mentioned earlier, those businesses with fewer than 50 employees may be able to recycle electronic waste at no cost but those with more than 50 employees may be assessed a charge by manufacturers for recycling.

One important thing to keep in mind when recycling computers: erase all personal and confidential data before sending them for recycling or reuse. Reformatting your hard drive or deleting files does not destroy your data. Manufacturers must provide information on their public education websites on how consumers can destroy the data contained in their electronic waste. 



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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 or by phone at (813) 510-3868.