NATIONAL REPORT—As a marketing concept, EcoRooms have been around since 1995. It was then that Upland, Calif.-based Green Suites International developed the idea. For whatever reason—confusion in the marketplace caused by the introduction of other Green Room concepts, or a lack of eco-consciousness within the industry—EcoRooms never took hold.
Today, however, an increasing number of hotel owners and operators are discovering the value in promoting their environmentally friendly guest rooms as EcoRooms. What exactly is an EcoRoom? According to Dan Bornholdt, president of Green Suites International, an EcoRoom is a guestroom that includes at least a dozen products that are energy efficient, water efficient, waste reducing, non-toxic and/or biodegradable.
Some of the products found in Green Suites’ EcoRoom include the following: water-saving showerheads, toilet tank retrofits, sink aerators, compact fluorescent bulbs, motion sensor nightlights, linen/towel reuse cards, amenity dispensers and/or paper amenity bottles. Green cleaning products and recycling containers are also part of an EcoRoom package. A digital thermostat is an EcoRoom option.
According to Green Suites, hotels using its EcoRoom products save 20 percent to 70 percent on the cost of amenities, 20 percent to 40 percent on water, 30 percent to 70 percent on energy, 10 percent on waste and 10 percent on labor. Participating hotels typically pay nothing up front but then pay a flat fee at the end of the month based on EcoRoom occupancy.
“Hotels that participate in this type of program demonstrate that they care about the environment, their guests and their staff,” Bornholdt says.
The cost to supply an EcoRoom can run from 50 cents to $1.00 per occupied room per night. The savings, however, can range from $1.75 to $5.00 for the same time period.
“There is an instant savings,” Bornholdt says.
EcoRooms as Marketing Tool
Hotels with EcoRooms do not charge more for them but they can be used as a marketing tool to drive additional business. Tim Cordodor, assistant general manager at the Best Western Executive Inn in Seattle, where every room is an EcoRoom, says that hotel’s reservation agents have been trained to talk to prospective guests about the property’s green program. Guests staying at the 121-room property learn about the resource-efficient rooms from posters displayed in elevators and in the breakfast area.
Seattle-based Clise Properties, which owns and operates the Best Western Executive Inn, also has one other Seattle property with 100 percent EcoRooms—the 92-room Best Western Loyal Inn.
“We have guests staying at our hotel from all over the country and they rave about our EcoRooms program,” Cordodor says. “We have never had any negative feedback and the utility cost savings have been noticeable.”
“The Best Western Executive Inn and Best Western Loyal Inn are preventing more than 200,000 amenity packages annually from entering local landfills, and reducing water consumption by more than 2 million gallons,” Bornholdt says. “In addition, the energy-efficient products are eliminating more than 50 tons of air pollutants caused by coal-fired power plants.”
EcoRoom Idea Expanded
Lake Powell Resorts & Marinas, Page, Ariz., currently has two EcoRooms in operation, with the goal of having a total of 50 sometime this winter. Dean Crane, vice president of operations for ARAMARK Harrison Lodging, which runs the property, says he has seen a 20 to 25 percent reduction in energy consumption in those rooms. In addition to compact fluorescents and motion sensor nightlights, the rooms also have a guestroom energy management system.
“Our goal with these rooms is to provide our guests with something new and hopefully they will take some ideas home with them,” Crane says.
What is unique about the Lake Powell Resorts & Marinas rooms is that ARAMARK has gone way beyond what a typical EcoRoom includes. Here are just a few examples:
• The tile products on the bathroom floors and walls are made from 55 percent recycled glass content.
• Towel bars and tissue holders are made from recycled aluminum.
• Switch plates are made from old slate roofing materials.
• Soft goods are made from pesticide-free, organic cotton.
• Case goods are made from reclaimed wood from Oregon.
• The single-service coffee machine requires no filters.
• The patio door is Green Seal certified.
• Lamps and lampshades are made from recycled materials.
(For a complete list of products and vendors used by Lake Powell Resorts & Marinas, click here for the Excel file.)
Crane says the EcoRooms have been very well received by guests.
“These rooms were designed to accommodate guests with special health and allergy concerns as well as appeal to those who simply want to do their part in protecting the environment,” he says. “ARAMARK provides visitor services in several national park areas and conference centers, and it is the company’s continued desire to help reduce negative impacts on the environment while simultaneously improving the quality of guest services provided.”
Glenn Hasek can be reached at email@example.com.