Name: Debbie Friedel
Title: Director of Sustainability
Organization: Delaware North Companies Parks & Resorts
Years with Delaware North Companies Parks & Resorts: Eight
Years in current position: Three
Primary responsibilities: Debbie Friedel is responsible for implementing and managing environmental, interpretive, facilities stewardship and sustainability programs for Delaware North Companies’ Parks & Resorts division.
Organization’s most significant environment-related accomplishment so far: “The most significant is voluntarily implementing GreenPath at our properties. It’s verified by a third party which adds credibility. We have to show continuous improvement. GreenPath is a process and we are never done.”
Organization’s most significant environment-related challenge: “Getting our guests and associates to understand our expectations regarding environmental programs—recycling, for example.”
BOZEMAN, MONT.—As director of sustainability for Delaware North Companies Parks & Resorts, Debbie Friedel oversees the environmental programs at 14 locations that the company manages and/or owns. The properties are as diverse as their locations—from Tenaya Lodge at Yosemite National Park in California to the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex & Astronaut Hall of Fame in Florida.
Not one day is close to being the same as another, says Friedel, who is based in Bozeman, Mont., far from Delaware North Companies Parks & Resorts’ headquarters in Buffalo, N.Y. In her position she is tasked with supporting her company’s overall environmental initiatives, conducting audits and conference calls, training managers, giving presentations, analyzing data, and focusing on guest education. Friedel also helps mentor the environmental coordinators located at each Delaware North property.
GreenPath is Delaware North’s formal, documented and comprehensive plan to preserve and protect natural resources. The environmental management system (EMS) is registered to the International Organization for Standardization (ISO 14001). Friedel says her company is audited each year as part of the ISO 14001 process. Every third year Delaware North has to re-register. Delaware North was the first hospitality company to have its EMS registered to the ISO 14001 standard.
“GreenPath impacts every part of what I do professionally and personally,” Friedel says.
Focus on Continuous Improvement
Having GreenPath linked to a formalized standard keeps Delaware North focused on continuous improvement. Since the ISO 14001 commitment, the company has made significant progress in reducing waste and saving energy and water. At Yosemite National Park, 53 percent of waste is now diverted and at Yellowstone National Park the diversion rate is 66 percent thanks to recycling and composting. When Yosemite’s Tenaya Lodge was renovated, 93 percent of construction waste was recycled. Also at Yosemite, 25 tons of kitchen grease is recycled annually. A growing relationship with Clean the World will result in partially used soap and shampoo being donated to those in need.
Through GreenPath Meetings, Delaware North works to reduce waste further. GreenPath Meetings focuses on disposable-free service, requires groups use refillable water pitchers instead of bottled water, china as opposed to disposable dishes, and reusable centerpieces.
To save energy at the properties it owns and manages, lighting has been upgraded. At Gideon Putnam Resort, 40-watt halogens were replaced with 5-watt cold cathode bulbs. A laundry water recycling system at Tenaya Lodge saves 4 million gallons annually. At Wuksachi Lodge in Sequoia National Park, 404,000 gallons of water was saved in 2007 thanks to a toilet and showerhead retrofit. Towel and linen reuse programs at each property further contribute to energy and water savings.
Friedel says that in order to monitor improvements made at each property, a formalized environmental data collection system has been put in place. Individual properties have their own goals and there are overall division goals. Delaware North accomplishments are published in the company’s annual Social Responsibility Report. The first version was published last year.
Another of Friedel’s responsibilities is helping to make sure green purchasing is practiced. At the local level in Montana, she is program advisor for the Yellowstone Business Partnership’s UnCommon Sense Program—which assists area businesses and organizations with environmental programs—and is the lead instructor for Responsible Purchasing.
Like many companies that manage or own lodging properties, Delaware North has made a commitment to the U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED program. Friedel says project managers at the corporate level of Delaware North are all LEED APs. Tenaya has submitted paperwork for LEED Silver certification for its expansion and Kennedy Space Center currently has two LEED Silver buildings. Friedel says her company has not yet made any commitments to any of the other many green lodging certification programs.
Friedel, who completed her Bachelor of Science in biology from the University of Wisconsin—Eau Claire in 1993 and a Master of Science in biology with an emphasis in ecology and environmental science from Minnesota State University, Mankato in 1998, says she has always had an interest in the environment, having grown up in rural Wisconsin. Years later, she is among the few in the lodging industry with the title of director of sustainability.
Glenn Hasek can be reached at email@example.com.