BOULDER, COLO.—If you would like to learn about the Boulder Outlook Hotel & Suites’ zero waste program, I suggest checking with the property’s Ambassador of Cool (owner Dan King)—or maybe its Green Goddess (environmental champion Diane Schevene). Believe it or not, those are the titles the two have given themselves. Both have worked hard to push the property toward zero waste.
Is zero waste possible in a hotel that has a full-service restaurant, 3,800 square feet of meeting space and 162 guestrooms? It is if one considers only the waste generated by staff. Because the hotel cannot control what guests bring onto the property, a goal of 100 percent zero waste will always be difficult to reach. With the help of guests who participate in recycling programs, however, the Boulder Outlook Hotel & Suites is getting very close.
More than 80 percent of the waste generated at the hotel is either recycled or composted. King is optimistic they can reach 90 percent or more. The hotel has had success for numerous reasons. First is the property’s relationship with EcoCycle-Boulder, a local nonprofit waste management company. EcoCycle takes the hotel’s food waste for composting, and also takes its recyclables. A different company takes used kitchen grease for recycling into biodiesel fuel.
Recycling Made Convenient
In every guestroom, bags are available for guests to insert their compost-friendly items—food scraps or tissues, for example. Like the food and other items tossed in them, the bags themselves will compost once they reach the commercial composting facility. In each guestroom, boxes are available for each type of recyclable item. The boxes were purchased from a local company and then painted by staff and their children. Recycled house paint was used.
“About 60 to 65 percent of guests will sort the product in their rooms,” King says. “We do some hand sorting ourselves.”
Signage on guestroom mirrors reminds guests to recycle. The signage directs guests to the guestroom directory for additional information on the property’s environmental initiatives. When guests check in, they are asked to sign a recycling pledge—a promise to recycle. To encourage participation, signed pledges are entered into a drawing to win a monthly chocolate prize.
The Boulder Outlook Hotel & Suites officially started its zero waste program in March 2006, even though staff had been recycling since the hotel was purchased by an investment team led by King and Gregory Hartmann in 2002. The property was once a Holiday Inn originally built in 1963. Since it was purchased in 2002, it has gone through $1.5 million in renovations.
It All Begins with Purchasing
Waste management truly begins at the point of purchasing. Condiments are bought in bulk instead of in single serving packets. Paper products purchased include 100 percent recycled post-consumer content. Styrofoam and plastic cups have been eliminated and ones made from corn starch and plant cellulose are used instead. These can be thrown into the compost bin.
King says the success of his hotel’s waste management program can be attributed to the leadership of Diane Schevene and the participation of every person on staff. Even though it takes extra time to sort recyclables, King says the effort has been well worth it. He can attribute $10,000 in additional revenue every month to business generated just because of the hotel’s green programs.
“Businesses with like minds have booked all of their business here,” King says.
Additional green efforts at the hotel include:
• Eleven of the guestrooms at the hotel are PURE rooms, ones using technology developed by Cheektowaga, N.Y.-based Pure Solutions NA. They include electronic air purifiers, allergy-reducing mattress and pillow encasements, chlorine-eliminating showerheads and other features. King says one guestroom at the hotel will soon be chemical free—without carpet or curtains but with tile floors and blinds.
• Chlorine is not used in the swimming pool. An ozone system and bromine keep the pool clean instead.
• Cleaning personnel use green cleaning products.
• The hotel’s intent is to become 100 percent carbon neutral and will soon purchase 100 percent wind power from its local utility.
• The hotel is a member of the Community Foundation and donates 2 percent of its profits annually to charity.
The Boulder Outlook Hotel & Suites won a 2007 Sustainable Business Medal of Honor as part of the Colorado CleanTech Initiative. The program recognizes companies providing products or services that are sustainable, and efforts that provide environmental, social and economic benefits.
Click here to go to a page that links to a video of Dan King talking about his property’s waste management efforts.
Glenn Hasek can be reached at email@example.com.