BUFFALO, N.Y.—The Buffalo Green Hospitality Initiative, formed in August 2007 to develop and maintain environmentally responsible practices and promote a green experience for travelers and conventioneers visiting the Buffalo Niagara region, is expanding with the launch of “Green & Mean (It).” Led by the Buffalo Niagara Convention & Visitors Bureau, the purpose of the program is to help make Buffalo Niagara a more environmentally responsible meeting destination. As part of Green & Mean (It), a comprehensive lodging certification program has been introduced. It is now available to lodging establishments in the Buffalo Niagara area. A corresponding website, www.greenandmeanit.com, will be rolled out in the next several weeks.
According to Cheryl Zanghi, national sales manager for the Buffalo Niagara Convention & Visitors Bureau, almost 50 people on five sub-committees were involved in putting together the certification program and corresponding workbook. Five area hotels are ready to be certified and Zanghi expects 40 total to be certified in the coming year. The self-certification workbook is 15 pages long and covers areas including energy conservation, waste management, transportation, education, housekeeping, purchasing, pool and spa, kitchen and others. A total of 360 points can be earned. To be certified, lodging establishments must earn 70 percent of the 360 points (252 points). Participating properties must submit quarterly progress reports and reapply for participation annually. College interns will help review workbook submissions.
“We are trying to get a feel for what we need to be focusing on,” Zanghi says. “That is why there is quarterly reporting. If we find out just once a year, it is too late.”
Putting together the certification program has been a “labor of love,” Zanghi says, adding that 21 hotels were involved in the program’s planning process. The program has been put together primarily by volunteers but a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency grant program implemented by the Buffalo State College School of Hospitality is supporting the effort. The self-certification program will be run by the Erie County Department of Environment and Planning and the Buffalo Niagara Convention & Visitors Bureau.
Survey Sent to Gauge Interest
To prepare for the certification program, a Buffalo Green Hospitality Survey was sent to more than 100 hotels and various event venues in April 2008. All of the survey respondents said they had an interest in improving sustainable practices.
“The survey was the tool we used to determine where the help was needed,” Zanghi says.
The cost for hotels to participate in the certification program is just $50, which mostly covers the cost of the plaque given to participants.
“Meeting planners have been asking what hotels are doing,” Zanghi says. “This enables us to show them exactly what each hotel is doing.”
The entire Buffalo Niagara hospitality community is expected to benefit from Green and Mean (IT). As a result of Buffalo having a sustainable hospitality program, the following conferences have scheduled or held meetings in Buffalo: American Solar Energy Conference 2009 (4,000 attendees), North American Association of Environmental Educations 2009 (1,200 attendees), U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (500 attendees), National Brownfield Association 2008 (200 attendees) and Building Materials Reuse Association (170 attendees).
“My administration is strongly focused on bringing more tourists to Erie County and I’m happy to see our local hospitality industry adjusting to changing trends in the tourism industry,” said Erie County executive Chris Collins in a press release last month. “The cooperation of numerous public and private stakeholders demonstrates communitywide support for the Buffalo Niagara Green Hospitality Initiative. I’d like to thank the Convention and Visitors Bureau for leading this important effort. I’d also like to thank Buffalo State College for partnering with our County Department of Environment and Planning to help organize this program.”
Hyatt Regency Buffalo Participates
A prime example of the Buffalo Green Hospitality Initiative in action is the herb garden on the rooftop of the Hyatt Regency in downtown Buffalo. From there, food scraps are taken to Good Earth, which then donates the compost soil back to the Hyatt. The Hyatt then uses that soil in their rooftop herb garden. The garden is watered by rain barrels provided by Buffalo Niagara Riverkeepers. The herbs are then harvested and used in the hotels’ food and beverage operations.
“At Hyatt Hotels and Resorts, we have a passionate commitment to genuine and strategic stewardship of the environment,” said Michael Marsch, general manager, Hyatt Regency Buffalo. “Our efforts include a variety of initiatives in each of the following areas: awareness, education and communication; waste and harmful emissions reduction; energy and water conservation; responsible purchasing and supply chain management; and building design and construction. At the Hyatt Regency Buffalo, we have taken a leadership role in sustainability.”
According to Marsch, the Hyatt Regency Buffalo will be among the first area hotels to pursue certification.
“Green and Mean (It) is a tool to grow our industry locally,” he says. “There is a huge opportunity. Being ‘green’ is an important aspect of choosing a site. It is better from a business perspective to be out front [when practicing sustainability].”
Click here for more information on the Buffalo area’s Green Hospitality Initiative.
Glenn Hasek can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.