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AH&LA Aims to Reverse Industry’s ‘Lackluster’ Interest in Green Programs

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WASHINGTON, D.C.—The American Hotel & Lodging Assn. (AH&LA), the voice of the lodging industry, intends to increase the volume of conversation about the environment in the coming year, according to Brad Aldrich, vice president of business development for the Washington, D.C.-based organization.

Until recently, Aldrich says, the environment has not been a member priority and response to AH&LA initiatives has been what he calls “lackluster.” In fact, the AH&LA’s National Energy Procurement Program with Ernst & Young Energy Advisory Services was cancelled earlier this year due to a lack of interest. The program’s intent was to leverage AH&LA’s membership base to obtain competitive energy prices and discounted advisory fees.

“That program has faded away but we are moving forward with identifying a new provider,” Aldrich says.

To get 2007 started on a green note, AH&LA, with the support of American Express, will launch a webinar series that will focus on topics such as energy management. As part of another program, AH&LA is working with several hotels in the Washington, D.C. area that have launched environmental programs. It will track the hotels’ performance improvements over a year’s time and report on them in the association’s Lodging magazine.

Good Earthkeeping Continues

At the heart of AH&LA’s environmental program is Good Earthkeeping. In partnership with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Energy Star program, its aim is to provide tools and resources to help improve the energy and financial performance of hotels. The campaign enables hoteliers to create a comprehensive strategic approach to energy management that assesses current energy performance, sets goals and tracks savings.

According to the Good Earthkeeping section of AH&LA’s website, one must be a member of AH&LA to register for the program. Once registered, participants gain access to helpful resources, receive news and updates, and can use the Good Earthkeeping logo in marketing and publicity efforts. Resources are also on the website for those who are not members of AH&LA. In fact, Aldrich says it is AH&LA’s goal to soon make all energy-saving resources available to everyone.

Visitors to the Good Earthkeeping site can access a checklist for improved energy performance, an energy savings tips poster and link to Energy Star’s Building Performance page. There, hoteliers can rate performance of their buildings on a scale of one to 100 using EPA’s national energy performance rating system. Aldrich says hotelier interest in Energy Star has increased this year.

Each year, from a list of environmental award winners at the state level, a panel of AH&LA board members selects national Good Earthkeeping award winners. These winners, in small and large property categories, are recognized at the organization’s Summer Summit. (See article listing 2006 winners.)

Engineering & Environment Committee

In addition to Good Earthkeeping, the AH&LA’s involvement in environmental issues is through its Engineering & Environment committee. Approximately 40 to 45 companies are represented on the committee that meets twice a year—in the spring and fall. Hotel companies, industry vendors, consultants and academicians are represented. One must be an AH&LA member to participate.

Kevin Maher, vice president of governmental affairs for AH&LA, says the goal of the committee is to provide information sharing and networking opportunities. Past meetings have focused on environmental initiatives in India, water conservation, energy management, lighting and construction techniques.

For more information on this fall’s committee meeting, which will take place October 9 to 11 in Atlanta, contact Maher at kmaher@ahla.com.

Go to AH&LA Good Earthkeeping.

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

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