Name: Michael Luehrs
Title: Director of Operations
Hotel: Doubletree Hotel & Executive Meeting Center
Number of years with property: Three
Work experience prior to current position: Michael worked in management positions for companies including Red Lion Hotels and Aramark Corp.
Primary responsibilities: “Supporting the variety of other department managers in their efforts to support their teams and their guests. Giving them the tools they need to be successful.”
What he likes most about his work: “I love the network of people with whom I work. I enjoy being in the position of always discovering new ways to help our business and our community.”
PORTLAND, ORE.—When Michael Luehrs accepted the position of director of operations at this city’s Doubletree Hotel & Executive Meeting Center in 2004, he knew the hotel’s environmental performance would be a priority for him. What he did not realize at that time was the extent to which the 476-room property’s green programs would snowball.
In the last three years, Luehrs has led the development of environmental initiatives that have resulted in numerous awards. Earlier this year, the Doubletree Hotel was recognized with the BEST Award by the City of Portland’s Office of Sustainable Development for its commitment to sustainability. The property also has been honored by the U.S. EPA and by the national Doubletree organization for its green programs. A year ago, the hotel earned Green Seal GS-33 Lodging Sustainability Certification. It was the first hotel in Oregon and the largest hotel west of the Mississippi to earn that designation.
As director of operations, Luehrs has truly taken on the role of environmental steward—someone whose tasks include establishing a vision for the property’s green team, adding integrity to the green program implementation process, and challenging everyone at the hotel to continuously improve.
“My role has been to push the envelope in regard to what we can accomplish as a property,” Luehrs says. “I have been fortunate to benefit from the engaged, enthusiastic support of our staff.”
Green Seal Achievement Significant
Luehrs views the property’s Green Seal certification as one of its most important accomplishments.
“In the process of working to achieve that goal, we were able to build our sense of ‘team,’” Luehrs says. “With that stamp of approval from a third party, we have been able to attract business away from our competitors.”
Luehrs says the Doubletree’s green programs have resulted in just shy of $2 million in new business.
“We have gotten a lot of valuable attention for making this effort,” he says.
Highlights of the Doubletree’s green accomplishments include:
• Sixty-five percent of food waste is diverted from landfills thanks to a food composting program. About 14 to 15 tons of food waste a month is composted and eventually converted to a sellable soil mix.
• About two-thirds of employees take public transportation. The Doubletree pays for half of the cost. The hotel held a “Green Day” on which more than 70 percent of staff participated and traveled 700 miles using sustainable transportation.
• The hotel has invested $245,000 in electricity mitigation. It has resulted in $375,000 in savings. The hotel has invested in energy-efficient lighting, is an Energy Star partner and has purchased 770,000 kWh of Pacific Power Blue Sky clean wind energy to date (the equivalent of planting 3,850 trees).
• Food items for the restaurant, meetings and for retail sale are purchased from local vendors when possible. In 2006, $334,579 was invested in the local economy, representing a year on year increase of 23 percent. Unused food is donated to Portland’s Blanchet House. Of all the programs Luehrs has participated in, he says the Doubletree’s carbon offset program with The Climate Trust has been especially rewarding. The program examines the hotel’s own carbon footprint from fuel usage and carbon dioxide-producing resources. Group meetings and individual guests can also use the program’s tools to offset their own impact on the environment.
The Doubletree has established a designated website, www.doubletreeportlandgreen.com, to educate their guests about this program. The site contains information about the carbon offset program, green meeting packages, and the Doubletree’s other sustainability programs. It also hosts a Carbon Calculator, which guests and groups can use to determine the global warming impact of their stay and events. The guests or groups can then make a contribution to The Climate Trust to offset their stay’s carbon footprint.
The donations from the Doubletree groups and individual guests will go towards several Portland-based projects that The Climate Trust has helped fund. These projects reduce the overall carbon dioxide emissions released into the atmosphere through improved transportation and increased energy efficiency in both commercial and residential buildings.
Luehrs’ advice to other hoteliers interested in launching similar green programs is not to wait.
“Any hotel would be well advised to be less concerned about risk,” he says. “Businesses and communities are eager to see operations like ours.”
Go to the Doubletree Hotel & Executive Meeting Center.
Glenn Hasek can be reached at email@example.com.