At Hyatt Regency McCormick Place, ‘Little’ Steps Add Up to ‘One Big Green Initiative’

1/27/2011 By Glenn Hasek

CHICAGO—The Hyatt Regency McCormick Place’s approach to sustainability is not to make one big splash with one giant investment. Instead, says Roger Martin, director of engineering at the 800-room hotel, “Our focus is to do a lot of the little things that add up to one big green initiative.” That approach is definitely working. The hotel, which is part of the giant McCormick Place complex that attracts close to 3 million visitors annually, reduced its electricity consumption by 12.7 percent from 2009 to 2010 and its water consumption by 24.4 percent. Part of those reductions was a result of the outsourcing of its laundry operations (the hotel had been laundering its own terry prior to 2010), but most of the savings have come from lighting upgrades and programs such as “When Not in Use, Turn Off the Juice.”

Perhaps even more impressive than its energy and water savings is the hotel’s recycling and composting accomplishments. In 2008 the hotel recycled 85 tons of materials; in 2009 that number grew to 137 tons. Last year 116 tons was recycled. In late June of last year, a food waste decomposition machine was installed in the loading dock area. The leased machine uses heat, and bacteria treated wood chips to accelerate the decomposition process. Over the remainder of 2010, 110 tons of food waste was composted. “We need to generate at least a few hundred pounds a day to make it [financially] worthwhile,” Martin says of the machine.

The Hyatt Regency McCormick Place recycles the following: office paper, newspaper, glass, metal cans, plastic containers, glass, construction waste, cardboard (four to six tons per month), used bulbs, batteries and ballasts, electronics and pallets. Recycling containers are placed throughout the hotel in public areas and guestrooms include a plastic bag for guests to insert recyclables.

Cooking Oil Recycled

Seven months ago, a cooking oil recycling system was installed in the hotel’s kitchen. It includes two tanks: one for new oil and one for old. Three different fryers connect to the system. At the end of the day, old oil is run through a filtering system and prepared for reuse. Each 60 to 65 days, a company will remove the old oil for eventual processing into biodiesel fuel. All of the above efforts, in addition to a consumable food donation program, have substantially reduced the amount of waste sent to landfill.

In regard to the aforementioned “When Not in Use, Turn Off the Juice” program, it primarily involves housekeepers. After working in a guestroom, they are asked to close drapes, set the thermostat to an energy saving temperature, and turn lights and televisions off. To encourage participation in programs such as “When Not in Use, Turn Off the Juice,” employee awareness days are held. Compact fluorescent light bulbs are given to employees to help them save energy at home.

“If you can get employees to buy in to the green movement [at home], they are going to do it at work,” Martin says.

The hotel’s green team meets quarterly to keep the property’s sustainability initiatives moving forward. Martin is the chairman of the team that also includes department heads, managers and employee volunteers. “It is very grassroots here,” Martin emphasizes.

Last July, Hyatt Hotels & Resorts launched Meet and Be Green, a new program that encourages guests and meeting planners to make green choices for their meetings. The Hyatt Regency McCormick Place participates in this program (see related article). Groups that opt for green meetings at Hyatt hotels are eligible for a discount.

Respire by Hyatt—Hypo-Allergenic Rooms

Late in 2010, the hotel added its first group of Respire by Hyatt—Hypo-Allergenic Rooms. The rooms are 98 percent allergen free and are geared toward travelers with asthma, allergies, and other respiratory sensitivities (see article). Martin says the 100 percent nonsmoking hotel has had nothing but positive feedback in response to the Respire by Hyatt—Hypo-Allergenic Rooms.

Other sustainability initiatives in place at the hotel include:

• Use of 1.0 gallons per minute (gpm) sensor faucets in all public area restrooms.
• Guestroom toilets have been replaced with low flow 1.6 gpm toilets.
• Guestrooms have 1.0 gpm aerators on faucets and 2.5 gpm showerheads.
• Guestroom linens are replaced every third day as opposed to every day.
• Commercial dishwashing machines are high-efficiency units.
• Water is not preset for restaurants, except as requested.
• Indigenous outdoor landscaping used to reduce irrigation.
• High-efficiency electrical motors are used throughout the hotel.
• Major air-handling systems are controlled by variable-speed drives for optimal
Efficiency.
• All elevators are equipped with solid-state controls and variable speed drives for both
service and energy efficiency.
• Mechanical systems and air-handlers are controlled using a state-of-the-art energy management system, providing efficient temperature control, time-of-day programming
and aggressive energy management strategies.
• Compact fluorescent lighting is used extensively in all guestrooms and public space. All fluorescent lighting is T-8, electronic ballast technology.
• Motion sensor controlled lighting is used in storage areas and normally unoccupied areas.
• Kitchen appliances have been replaced with more efficient equipment.
• Food and other goods is purchased in bulk when possible, thereby reducing packaging.
• Use of electronic reporting to reduce paper use.
• Newspapers are no longer delivered to every guestroom, saving 18 tons of waste paper per year.
• A new electronic folio policy reduces paper produced at front desk.
• Consolidation of rooms on low occupancy days to reduce energy consumption.
• Preference given to locally grown produce.
• The restaurant uses a water filtration system with glass bottles and therefore doesn’t need to sell bottled water, thereby saving energy and keeping plastic bottles out of the waste stream.

Martin says the hotel is due for a renovation in the near future. When that happens, a guestroom energy management system will be installed. A green roof is also planned for a new hotel tower that could be under construction as early as 2012.

All of the green team’s efforts have paid off with some well deserved recognition. The hotel is Green Key certified as part of the Green Key Eco-Rating Program and won the 2010 Good Earthkeeping award for the State of Illinois from the Illinois Hotel and Lodging Association. The hotel also earned recognition last summer from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency when Martin was asked to participate in a meeting of the Chicago Stadium Recycling Task Force.

Go to the Hyatt Regency McCormick Place.

Glenn Hasek can be reached at editor@greenlodgingnews.com.


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