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Hilton San Francisco Gaining Notoriety for Green Leadership


SAN FRANCISCO—The Hilton San Francisco Union Square has quite a win streak going. On February 17, the 1,919-room hotel hosted the Hotel Council of San Francisco’s first Stay Green Forum. The event drew 275 attendees. “Lieutenant Governor Newsom was the keynote speaker,” says Jo Licata, Community Projects Manager at the hotel. It was a great success. We had almost every hotel in San Francisco represented.” Also in February, the hotel garnered a lot of publicity for being the first hotel to participate in the Better Buildings Challege SWAP, a U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) program that saw officials from Hilton Worldwide and Whole Foods Market swap energy teams in order to uncover new energy efficiency strategies. In December, Hilton Worldwide announced that it was the first hospitality company to achieve Superior Energy Performance certification from the DOE for leadership and improvement in energy management and productivity at three landmark hotels. One of those hotels was the Hilton San Francisco Union Square.

Key to the hotel’s success is the efforts of Licata, who has been Community Projects Manager for 21 years, the engineering team, and the approximately 1,100 employees who each contribute in their own way.

“Over the last four years, San Francisco as a city has hosted more and more conferences so the hotel has been quite busy,” Licata says. “Even with increased occupancy, we reduced waste and energy usage. The engineering team—I just laud them for the work they do.”

The hotel’s energy consumption fell by 6 percent from 2011 to 2015. In 2014 an energy management system that interfaces with the hotel’s property management system was installed. “We have seen significant steam savings as we found out that guests wanted their rooms in cooling more than we thought so we adjusted our heaters to meet the lower demand,” says Brian Mork, Director of Property Operations.

Early Adopter of Towel/Linen Reuse Program

A towel and linen reuse program has been in place since 1996. Electronic equipment is Energy Star rated. During upgrades, LEDs have been installed. New, ultra-efficient laundry equipment was purchased in 2009. In 2011 that equipment saved 1.37 million Therms of natural gas. A new fan wall for the Continental Ballroom lounges, more efficient lighting in the Imperial Ballroom, and motion sensors in the maid’s closets saved 500,000 kWh in 2011. Post-it notes remind employees to turn things off. The hotel has participated in Business Energy Coalition demand response programs for nearly 20 years. From 2001 to 2013 the hotel was recognized for outstanding achievement in energy efficiency and energy conservation by PG&E. “Every retrofit and remodel has had some component of water and energy conservation,” Licata says.

Using less water can save energy. Licata says banners in lobby areas highlight the hotel’s efforts in water conservation—important in a state hammered by years of drought. “We saved 10 percent on water last year,” Mork says. “That was a combination of installing ultra low flow toilets in one of the towers and educating our guests about the drought.”

To reduce plastic bottle waste, four hydration stations were installed in 2015 in Towers 1, 2 and 3. The hotel has been participating in composting since 2002. Composted material ultimately is used in vineyards and by farmers. Brown paper bags are placed in guestrooms for recyclables. E-waste is sent out for recycling. Carpeting, linens and electronics are donated. So too is banquet overages. During one meeting the hotel hosted in 2014, 1.3 tons of food was donated and 66,858 pounds of waste material was recycled. Kitchen grease is picked up and converted into biofuel and partially used soap and amenities are donated to Clean the World. “We have about a 70 percent diversion rate and we are trying to improve that,” Licata says.

Committed to Greening Meetings

When Hilton introduced its Meet With Purpose program a little more than a year ago, the Hilton San Francisco Union Square was mentioned in Hilton’s press release about it. Licata says the hotel helps meeting planners put items on the menu that are more “drought-friendly.” The hotel’s chef is committed to in-season ingredients. “Local sourcing is very easy for us,” Licata says. Herbs are grown on-site and the hotel is investigating the possibility of adding bee hives.

Community service is an important part of the hotel’s emphasis on corporate social responsibility. At the aforementioned Stay Green Forum, hygiene kits were assembled by attendees. The kits were given to San Francisco Project Homeless Connect.

The Hilton San Francisco Union Square participates in the California Green Lodging program, is a TripAdvisor GreenLeaders hotel, and is Energy Star rated. The property is currently working toward San Francisco Green Business certification.

Go to the Hilton San Francisco Union Square.

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