Home Energy Management Sheena Chin-Greene Keeps 20-Year-Old Florida Green Lodging Program Going Strong

Sheena Chin-Greene Keeps 20-Year-Old Florida Green Lodging Program Going Strong


TALLAHASSEE, FLA.—With its Florida Green Lodging Program, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection has one of the largest state-level hotel green designation programs in the United States. As of January 10, the Program had 319 designated Florida Green Lodging properties. The program is certainly one of the oldest as well, having launched in 2004.

In its assessment of lodging establishments, the points-based Florida Green Lodging Program looks at the following five categories:

1. Communication and education (customers, employees, public).
2. Waste reduction, reuse, and recycling.
3. Water conservation.
4. Energy efficiency.
5. Indoor air quality.

Properties can earn one of four designations: One Palm, Two Palm, Three Palm, Four Palm. Designation is valid for three years. To maintain designation, properties are required to submit environmental performance data (water, waste, energy) annually. Properties must also implement at least two new environmental practices from any of the five areas of sustainable operations. Failure to do so can result in dismissal from the program.

Business is generated for state meetings and conferences through HB 7135, which gives preference to designated Florida Green Lodging properties. Designated properties also receive marketing and technical assistance benefits through the Florida Green Lodging website, where each designated property is featured, and information is available to best management practices and technical assistance.

Green Lodging News just interviewed Sheena Chin-Greene, Program Coordinator, Florida Green Lodging Program, to learn more about the program. She has led the Program for more than nine years. The following are the questions and answers from that interview.

Sheena Chin-Greene

1. What do you consider to be your primary responsibilities? What is your typical day like? If there is such a thing?

I manage and run the day-to-day operations of the Program including promoting the Program to the public, increasing participation in the Program, creating and providing technical assistance for designated facilities through workshops and webinars, conducting on-site inspections to ensure Program compliance and/or provide requested on-site technical assistance at lodging facilities, as well as processing designation applications, renewal applications and annual environmental performance data. In addition, applying for and managing a federal U.S. EPA Pollution Prevention grant.

I would say there is no such thing as a typical day. A typical day would include me doing a little of bit everything except for the days in which I am out of the office in the field conducting on-site inspections and splitting that time between managing and running the Florida Green School Designation Program.

2. What do you consider to be your program’s most significant accomplishment so far?

I think the Program’s most significant accomplishment so far has been leveraging relationships with state colleges and universities that have a hospitality program as well as local hotel and lodging associations to increase our reach throughout the state in addition to getting assistance with updating Best Management Practices and conducting on-site inspections.

3. What do you consider to be your program’s most significant challenge moving forward?

I would say the most significant challenge moving forward would be staffing. Currently, the Program only has one-full time staff member and I think if the Program had a few more staff members, our reach could be wider to include more hotels across the state.

4. You have been with the program for quite some time. What are the most significant changes you have seen (or implemented) with the program over the last 9+ years? What industry trends have impacted those changes?

One of the most significant changes I have implemented over the last 9+ years is creating a system for renewals which provides notification to lodges at least 90 days prior to their designation expiring so they can renew and maintain designation. On the industry side, as more and more hotel chains and management companies embrace and identify the benefits of being more sustainable, I have seen a higher level of attention and willingness to participate and improve continuously from hotel management. I have also seen an increase in requests for on-site technical assistance to identify additional initiatives a property may put into place. Also, more and more properties want an on-site inspection so that they can highlight their initiatives.

5. Can you provide an example or two of how the membership criteria have changed in the last year or two? How often is the application updated?

Membership criteria has not changed too much over the last year or two, however, the application has been updated to reflect different weight of points based on what standards may have changed over time in addition to some wording changes. For example, removing incandescent and CFL bulbs since most lighting sources are now LED.

6. There are currently 319 designated Florida Green Lodging properties. Do you expect that number to grow in 2024? Do participants typically renew with the program? Do you happen to have the numbers broken down by number of palms?

I expect the numbers of the Program to fluctuate with the addition of new properties into the Program as well as the unfortunate circumstance of removing properties from the Program that do not comply with renewing their designation. Since taking over the Program in September 2014 and creating a program database that enables us to track each property from their initial designation date and each renewal, as well as sending renewal reminders 90 days, 60 days, and 30 days prior to expiration, renewal compliance has increased by 90 percent. To ensure a level playing field, monthly, properties can be removed for lack of submitting their renewal documentation. There are currently 114 properties with One Palm, 132 with Two Palm, 67 with Three Palm, and six with Four Palm.

7. Do designated properties get more business thanks to HB 7135?

We do not have a set way of tracking this, however, I have noticed an increase in requests from state agencies regarding hotels they would like to use but they may or may not have the Florida Green Lodging designation.

8. Have you found that the map with the properties has been utilized often? 


9. How do you determine if an on-site inspection is needed? Any idea what percentage of designated properties are inspected annually?

All properties will receive an on-site inspection at a minimum at least once every three years to ensure they follow Program requirements as well as verifying initiatives are in place that the property has stated on their Designation Application and/or their Renewal Application. Annually, the target may shift depending on how many inspections the Program plans to conduct based on a variety of factors including EPA Pollution Prevention grant requirements. Additionally, on-site inspections are provided if a property was once removed from the Program and are coming back, there have been staff changes and if the property has requested an on-site inspection to ensure they are complying in addition to looking for potential additional opportunities for improvement.

10. Do you get many guest comments?

Not too many.

11. Briefly explain your work with the Florida Green School Designation Program.

I created the Florida Green School Designation Program which recognizes and designates Florida K-12 schools for their efforts in five areas of sustainable operations. The five areas of sustainable operations are: (1) Communication and Education; (2) Waste Reduction, Reuse and Recycling; (3) Water Conservation; (4) Energy Efficiency; and (5) Air Quality. The Program was mirrored after the Florida Green Lodging Program. Schools can earn different Apple ratings. All schools start at the Green Apple level, then can work their way to either Bronze, Silver, or Gold Apple. I manage the day-to-day operations of the Program as well as conducting on-site technical assistance visits, processing designation and renewal applications, providing technical assistance training to school and district staff. Promoting the Program.

All schools that achieve at least a Green Apple designation will receive an invitation to apply for the national Green Ribbon School Award administered by the U.S. Department of Education from the Florida Department of Education. The Program currently has 60 designated schools. Fifty-four have earned a Green Apple rating, two have earned the Bronze Apple, and four the Gold Apple.

12. What do you like most about your work?

I like the opportunity of getting out into the lodging facilities and speaking with the front-line hotel staff regarding their properties’ efforts on being sustainable. I thoroughly enjoy the educational component of the Program. Seeing the progress many of the hotels have made over the years, including those that I remember visiting back in 2009/2010 when they first joined the Program can sometimes leave you speechless. I enjoy how excited they are to show off their efforts, their eagerness to know what more they can do, the unique and creative ways they have incorporated and shared their efforts with hotel guests and the community at-large, and seeing how they highlight the hidden talents of housekeeping and maintenance staff members who eventually move up the ranks into management positions. It is a warm feeling when I remember someone who was just a housekeeper back in 2011 and took an active role in the property starting their Green Lodging journey and then meeting them again many years later at a different property, but this time around, they are the General Manager.

13. Have you always had an interest in the environment and its protection? Was there something or someone that inspired you to go this direction?

I have always had an interest in the environment and its protection since childhood. I would have to give credit to my fourth-grade teacher Ms. Damone who introduced our class to conservationism. It was during that school year in which she stressed the need for us to live in harmony with the environment as well as protect it for future generations to come. It was the mid-1990s and she got our class heavily involved in the Save the Rainforest movement and as a class, we purchased a parcel of the Amazon Rainforest to protect from deforestation. I would also have to credit the City of New York in 1997, when all 59 districts of the five boroughs started recycling the same materials. It was my responsibility to handle all recycling activities at home which included ensuring items were in the appropriate colored bag, blue or green, and ensuring newspapers were bound with cord and knowing the pickup schedule. In addition, the City enabled the Sanitation Department to give homeowners a ticket for not recycling correctly and my mom made it quite clear, she was not paying a ticket for “trash”. I can say this instilled my recycling habits from early on and made me more aware when I was in areas that did not recycle.

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