Recession Kick-started Green Efforts at Facebook-Favored Super 8 Ukiah

12/13/2012 By Glenn Hasek

UKIAH, CALIF.—In the midst of the recent recession, hotel owner Raakesh Patel was struggling to keep his hotel open. With fewer travelers visiting his part of California—wine country in Mendocino County—and competition from numerous chain branded hotels, he said he had to do something, and fast. What he did was begin to convert his family’s 54-room Super 8 Ukiah to a green lodging establishment, a long path that has resulted in numerous accolades, lots of free publicity, a much stronger bottom line, and an incredible number of more than 41,000 Facebook “likes”—far more than any LEED Platinum hotel in the United States.

For Patel, the transition has included a lot of do-it-yourself types of steps, housekeeper education, taking advantage of utility rebates, and wise purchasing. To conserve energy he has switched to more efficient lighting where possible. Compact fluorescents are used throughout the two-story property. Exterior, 175-watt metal halide fixtures were removed and replaced with 40-watt induction bulbs. Patel’s local utility paid for 60 percent of the cost and he expects a payback of about 1.5 years on the investment.

“The lighting change is saving us about one month of electricity usage per year,” he says.  
Patel implemented an optional towel and linen laundering program, added weather stripping where needed, and invested in double-paned Low E windows and ENERGY STAR-compliant ice machines. A utility rebate helped pay for the new windows.

Occupancy sensors turn lights off in utility areas when nobody is present. Housekeepers have been trained to turn off lights, PTACs, bathroom fans, TVs and also unplug the microwaves after guests check out. A sign posted inside each guestroom by the exit reminds guests to turn lights, TV and PTAC off before leaving the room.

Newer PTACs Help Save Energy

The outdoor heated spa is high efficiency and is programmed to go on and off at certain hours to save energy. Most PTACs have replaced in the last two years and Patel frequently cleans PTAC filters. In the back office area, all computer monitors go to stand-by mode when not in use.

To conserve water, low-flow toilets and aerators have been installed. Showerheads are also highly efficient. Patel has switched to drip irrigation for outside landscaping, a move he says has saved him significantly. Native plants help minimize the need for watering.

To reduce waste going to landfill, about 70 percent of “garbage” is recycled. Recycling bins are placed in each guestroom and in public areas and housekeepers have separate bags on their carts for recyclables. Housekeepers take most of the recyclables on their own time for recycling and keep the money for themselves.

In the breakfast area, biodegradable tableware is used. Organic food items such as coffee and tea are used where possible. All trash bags and can liners are biodegradable. Toilet paper and facial tissue are made from 100 percent recycled material.

Highly Successful EV Charging Station

One of the most successful green programs for the hotel has been its charging station for electric vehicles. It has brought in new business for the hotel and each charge costs Patel less than $2.

“Our hotel was one of the first within Wyndham to put one in,” says Patel, who drives an electric Nissan Leaf. “It brought me so much publicity. A lot of people use the station.”

Other green initiatives at the hotel include a saltwater pool, green cleaning and pest management programs, designated parking for low emission and hybrid vehicles, paperless checkout when possible, bulk and local purchasing, and battery and light bulb recycling.

The Super 8 Ukiah is an Energy Star rated hotel. Patel says his property is in the top 22 percent among Energy Star rated lodging establishments. The hotel is also certified as part of the California Green Lodging Program and by the Green Business Bureau. This year the hotel was honored by Wyndham Worldwide at its annual convention with the Wyndham Green award. The Super 8 Ukiah also earned a Spirit of Super 8 award this year.

Go to the Super 8 Ukiah.


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