Home Publisher's Point of View Many Takeaways from Second Annual Lodging Green & Sustainability Event

Many Takeaways from Second Annual Lodging Green & Sustainability Event

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The second annual Lodging Green & Sustainability Conference + Expo wrapped up in Las Vegas this past week. The event was held at the LEED Gold certified ARIA Resort & Casino. About 230 attended the event that was organized primarily by Lodging Magazine with assistance from EcoGreen Energy Solutions, Green Lodging News and NEWH. I attended last year’s event in Dallas. This year’s conference and expo attracted about 50 to 60 more people. The growth was noticeable and was exciting to see. The three-day event was packed with educational sessions, a master class on “Waste Management Innovation,” a tour of the ARIA Resort & Casino (see my blog post), networking opportunities with exhibitors, and the event’s first award presentation and dinner.

Covering the conference as a reporter was challenging as each session was packed with highly relevant, newsworthy content and on several occasions there were three educational sessions held simultaneously. The speakers all did a great job and most of the sustainability leaders from the major brands were represented.

While there were no major news announcements made, there was new information shared that most definitely was of interest. For example, Jenny Rushmore, Director of Responsible Travel, TripAdvisor, revealed that there are now about 8,000 properties that are GreenLeaders. In addition to North America, the hotel program is now available in Europe, Australia and New Zealand. The last time I reported on GreenLeaders—not that long ago—there were about 4,000 properties. Jenny said that 40,000 comments related to GreenLeaders’ green practices have been submitted on TripAdvisor so far.

Steve Ball, Director, Business Development, Green Key Global, said a new version of Green Key’s Eco-Rating Program for hotels will be released in the second quarter of 2015.

Kind Traveler Launch Coming Soon

Jessica Blotter, co-founder of Kind Traveler, introduced that organization and said it will officially launch this winter. Kind Traveler is a program that rewards travelers with travel discounts for making donations to certain charities. There are currently 30 charities and more than 100 destinations participating.

During a general session, Tammi Runzler, Vice President CSR & Business Development for Clean the World, said that nonprofit will send 50,000 hygiene kits to Africa to assist those who are dealing with Ebola. She added that Clean the World has diverted 3,000 tons of soap since the organization’s launch. A total of 20 million bars of soap has been distributed in more than 96 countries globally. Sam Stephens, Executive Director, Global Soap Project, said that organization had reduced soap waste by 1 million pounds this year. Global Soap will send 160,000 bars of soap to Liberia to assist those suffering from Ebola.

Denise Naguib, Vice President Supplier Diversity & Sustainability for Marriott International, said Marriott is planning to launch a website called “Heart of the House” that will enable associates to share inspirational stories. Marriott considers those who work in housekeeping, maintenance, etc. to be working in the “Heart of the House.”

Harmon Towers Not All ‘a Waste’

During a tour of ARIA Resort & Casino, I learned that once Harmon Towers is deconstructed, at least 75 percent of waste will be diverted from landfill. Harmon Towers is the one part of CityCenter that never was completed because of construction defects.

At the aforementioned awards dinner, the following awards were presented: Dan Ruben, Executive Director, Boston Green Tourism, Individual Award; Xanterra Parks & Resorts, Special Entity; Pineapple Hospitality, Supplier of the Year; Wyndham Vacation Ownership, Brand of the Year; and Peppermill Resort Spa Casino.

Here are some additional highlights gleaned from the many educational sessions:

During a master class on “Waste Management Innovations,” Eric Ricaurte, Founder & CEO, Greenview, said food waste offers the biggest opportunity for waste reduction in full-service hotels. Recycled paper, he said, requires 73 percent less resources to produce than paper from virgin pulp. Evadne Giannini, Principal, Hospitality Green, said that in the purchasing process one should determine if an item is recyclable, if it can be returned, and whether or not the supplier has a take-back program. Walker Lunn, CEO, Grid Waste, suggested ways to reduce waste removal costs. Forming a buying group and reverse auction bidding were two suggestions.

In the session entitled, “What Green Means Today,” Jean Hand, Senior Advisor, Operations & Sustainability, The Blackstone Group, said one of the frequently overlooked areas when weeding out energy inefficiencies is control of outside air. She suggested walking your property at night to see what is really going on in regard to HVAC, lighting, etc. In that same session, Kirke Teske, Principal/CSO, HKS Architects, was asked how the hotel industry stacks up against other industries when it comes to green building and operations. “By and large, I am surprised at how hard it is to convince those developing hotels to go green,” he said.

Hilton Frowns on Bulk Dispensers

Also in “What Green Means Today,” Randy Gaines, V.P. Engineering, Hilton Worldwide, was asked what direction he sees amenities such as soap, shampoo, etc. going. “We have looked at bulk,” he said. “People use more. We have a lot of issues with bulk amenities. I don’t think amenities are going to bulk anytime soon.” I suspect a number of dispenser suppliers would love to have a chance to debate Gaines over the effectiveness of dispensers.

A session on “Corporate Responsibility” prompted a number of interesting discussions, including one on the decision by numerous brands to eliminate shark fin from menus. Denise Naguib, V.P. Supplier Diversity & Sustainability, Marriott International, explained the challenges some Marriott properties in Asia faced—having to replace an item traditionally served at weddings, for example. In regard to shark fin and other ethical concerns, Naguib said, “If it is really important for consumers, eventually we will not be doing it.”

Faith Taylor, Senior Vice President Sustainability & Innovation, Wyndham Worldwide, in a session entitled “Sustainability Success Stories,” said, “I don’t believe green needs to cost more money. It needs to be more cost-neutral.”

In a session on “Marketing Sustainability,” Jenny Rushmore, Director of Responsible Travel, TripAdvisor, said TripAdvisor recently discovered that travelers who are impressed by a property’s commitment to sustainable food rate a property .4 points higher on TripAdvisor’s five-point scale. No other green attribute of a property has that great of an impact on a rating. “If you don’t have sustainable food options, it is something you should consider,” Rushmore said. She added that TripAdvisor also recently learned that 70 percent of the approximately 8,000 properties that are TripAdvisor GreenLeaders do not have another green hotel rating.

In “A Vision of the Future,” the general session that wrapped up the conference, the topic of electric vehicle charging stations was addressed. Scott Parisi, President, EcoGreen Energy Solutions, who moderated the session, said he sees hotels as the “gas stations of the future” for electric vehicles.

Be sure to follow Green Lodging News in the coming months for an announcement regarding the location and dates for next year’s conference.

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