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Pest Management Practices to Achieve Environmental Sustainability

Glen Ramsey, BCE

With the environment constantly at the forefront of the news as we continue to strive for a healthy planet, companies are thinking toward the future, adjusting their business models and making plans for the growing need for sustainable and “green” designs and buildings. A green outlook is critical, and with easily-implemented programs and strategies, environmental responsibility can be executed.

One such way that hoteliers and designers can achieve this is to create a building that earns a Leadership in Energy Environmental Design (LEED) certification from the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC). The council has set criteria to earn certification through hotel design, construction or renovation and operational practices.

A lesser-known way (though a beneficial one in the long-term) hoteliers can earn LEED credits is by implementing an Integrated Pest Management (IPM) program. Many hoteliers overlook this area of sustainable opportunity because they’re unaware that an IPM program can reduce the environmental impact of an operational footprint.

That said, an IPM program may be even more successful than other approaches, as it is a proactive and environmentally responsible approach using multiple control methods to reduce the underlying conditions that attract pests. It’s effective and sustainable by focusing on exclusion, sanitation and eliminating other conditions conducive to pest populations, even by using the least-hazardous options available for pest problems and limiting chemical treatments to last-resort scenarios.

An IPM program also helps get staff involved in the greener solution for pest control. By choosing a more sustainable pest management program, hoteliers and designers can earn credits toward a LEED “Existing Building Operations and Maintenance” certification for the hotel or lodging. As a holistic approach, the following ideas can help hoteliers achieve additional LEED credits while making sure pests can’t check in.

Inspect, Inspect, Inspect

An IPM program starts with an appointment with an IPM provider, a local Pest Management Professional (PMP). A PMP will assess the pest pressures your property faces due to its location, climate, architecture and more. “Hot spots” (areas that are likely to attract pests) will be identified in and around your building. The pest management provider will look for sanitation issues, pest entry points, unmanaged food and water sources and “harborage zones,” or places pests are currently or could inhabit. Having a property regularly inspected allows a pest management program to consistently adapt to a hotel’s changing needs.

Prevention is Key

The next step in IPM is a defensive strategy, and this is where staff involvement is particularly important. Inside the hotel, there’s often a need for a stricter sanitation regimen around food handling, such as keeping food buffets covered, cleaning spills immediately or using bio enzymatic cleaners. Outside the hotel, there are often issues related to landscaping. Keeping vegetation trimmed away from the structure and lawns mowed can prevent pest activity. Meanwhile, garbage cans should always have tight-fitting lids and be cleaned routinely.

Entry points can be another weakness. Sealing holes and cracks with weather resistant sealant and installing weather stripping on windows and doors is highlight recommended. If any doors or windows have screens, make sure the maintenance team checks them often for tears. Consider installing an air curtain at the front doors of the hotel because with strong air flowing outward, flying pests such as mosquitoes and flies are less likely to gain entrance to the building. Consider switching to LED light bulbs as they may attract fewer pests than fluorescent lights, and LEDs are more sustainable.

Pest Patrol

Hotel staff are on the front line of defense for identifying pest problems and stopping an introduction from becoming an infestation. It’s important to train them to report pest sightings as soon as possible. To streamline this process, have your pest management provider train housekeeping and maintenance staff to identify the signs of common hotel pests such as bed bugs, rodents and cockroaches.

  • Bed Bugs. The cleanliness of your hotel means nothing to bed bugs. Their incredible ability to hitchhike allows them to attach themselves to clothing, luggage and other personal belongings. Adult bed bugs are about the size of an apple seed and are typically reddish brown in color. Their small size and ability to hide makes them difficult to detect during the day, so it’s important to look for the ink-like stains their fecal matter leaves behind. The stains may be located on the bed frame, headboard, mattress, mattress pad or nearby upholstered furniture. Have housekeeping monitor these areas, as well as alarm clocks, bedside tables and even hanging wall art for signs of live bugs or their shed skins.
  • Rodents. Rodents are attracted to the readily available food and water supply a hotel offers, and they can be quite sneaky. Mice can enter (or chew their way into) buildings through holes as small as a dime, and rats as small as a quarter. Staff should look for gnaw marks on wood, cinder blocks and walls. Other tell-tale signs include: grease stains on walls or other routine travel routes such as piping or conduit and the presence of droppings.
  • These pests enjoy damp, warm places with ample food and water. They’re incredibly resilient and once they’ve found a safe harborage place in your hotel, a cockroach problem can worsen quickly. It’s important to seal cracks in kitchens and bathrooms, as these are their favorite places to inhabit. Train any staff member to look for small black fecal matter left behind, as well as roaches themselves.

Develop a Solution

If pest activity is found by a pest management professional or hotel staff, a plan consisting of the most effective and least-impactful treatments will be created. Thanks to scientific developments, there are numerous non-chemical and low-impact pest solutions available. Discuss the importance of using the lowest environmental impact treatments with the highest success rate to maintain your environmentally responsible plan.

Adopting sustainable practices in the hotel industry is at the forefront of many minds, and likely will continue to increase in importance to guests, employees, designers and all those involved in the construction and maintenance of hotels as the years continue. Introducing an environmentally responsible IPM program will help not only in earning LEED certification credits but also will make your property stronger in the long term both for green business practices and reputation.

Glen Ramsey is Technical Services Manager for Orkin. He is a board-certified entomologist and provides technical support and guidance across all Rollins brands in the areas of training and education, operations, and marketing. For more information, email gramsey1@rollins.com or visit www.orkincommercial.com.