Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Green Hotels

A few years ago I stayed in an affordable all green hotel in the Tenderloin district in San Francisco. The room was comfortable, the location slightly dodgy, and utterly affordable. The small boutique group that owned it sold it a year later as it was not profitable nor did anyone care.

The Grand Hyatt here in Seattle was marketed as "green" with a rooftop garden, fully LEED accredited building and an eco spa. I don't think it is booked for that reason or if anyone actually cares, I still use the spa and green has nothing to do with it. (How people respond on surveys and what they do are not mutually inclusive. We are a nation of saying what we want others to to hear and believe)

But today I read the below article and thought this is a great idea and it should be encouraged if not applauded and not just high end. As the article demonstrates, costs are cut by the changes. The hotel in San Francisco was great I loved it. Simple and green is fine. If they can do that with a former motor inn then green up baby. Just don't do hourly rates and it will all be great.

Hotels Embrace Sustainability to Lure Guests and Cut Costs
The New York Times
APRIL 27, 2015

Dr. Stuart Gitlow, a psychiatrist, traveled this month to the Westin Peachtree Plaza in Atlanta for a presentation at a conference about treating drug addiction.

During his three-night stay, he dispensed with housekeeping.

“I don’t need my bed made every day and can certainly use the same towel three mornings in a row,” he wrote in an email.

Dr. Gitlow was rewarded for his green efforts with 500 Starwood Preferred Guest loyalty points for each night of his stay. Had he not chosen points, he also had the option of receiving a $5 voucher for food.

The program, called Make a Green Choice, allows all guests, not just frequent travelers, to opt out of housekeeping. According to Starwood Hotels and Resorts, approximately 6.4 million guests have participated since 2009.

As the drought in California and the Western states draws increased attention to conservation, hotels are turning to sustainability as a way of both attracting guests and cutting costs.

Hotels have three reasons to pay attention to conservation, according to Steve Jennings, lead consultant for hotels and resorts in the United States at Deloitte: corporate sustainability; better expense management; and consumer interest. A 2013 study by TripAdvisor found that 79 percent of travelers placed an importance on properties that use environmentally minded practices.

Another report released in March by the Cornell University School of Hotel Administration showed that while guests were willing to participate in hotel sustainability practices, a greater number of guests join in when hotels offer different types of incentives, which may be charitable or financial. Those who participate in green programs are generally more satisfied with their stay, according to Rohit Verma, a Cornell University professor who has studied hotel sustainability.

As a result, hotels here and abroad are introducing or augmenting farm-to-table cuisine in restaurants to lower their carbon footprint, providing charging stations for electric vehicles and using kitchen scraps for compost and even recycling cooking oil for experimental biodiesel fuel.

Behind the scenes, hotels are installing energy-efficient light bulbs and digital thermostats and are using recycled water for landscaping. They also are displaying discreet cards in guest rooms about the energy saved by not changing sheets and towels daily.

But they stop short of dictating to guests how to conserve. For example, hotels draw the line at advising guests to take shorter showers.

“Guests typically do whatever they do in their home environment,” said Denise Naguib, vice president for sustainability and supplier diversity at Marriott International.

For the most part, hotels’ green programs are similar across brands.

“The nature of hotel operations make it difficult to really have a significantly superior practice,” said Bjorn Hanson, a professor at the Preston Robert Tisch Center for Hospitality and Tourism at New York University.
Still, like the Starwood loyalty points, some hotel programs are intended to appeal directly to guests.

At Kimpton Hotels, which was recently acquired by the InterContinental Hotels Group, guests can help raise money for the Trust for Public Land and the Nature Conservancy. Guests receive a 15 percent discount for each night of their stay and $10 of the room rate is donated to the respective organization, chosen by the guest. If guests participate in the Nature Conservancy option, a tree is planted on their behalf.

Following the lead of the Fairmont Royal York in Toronto, the Fairmont Washington, D.C., in Georgetown is constructing a home for bees. A 13-foot structure with two large planter boxes and root balls is being built by Donny Parrella, assistant director of engineering at the hotel and a beekeeper. It will house 50 mason bees that will join 100,000 Italian honeybees already in residence since 2009. “It looks like nature,” Mr. Parrella said.

The hotel, concerned with the problem of disappearing bees, uses the insects as an educational tool for local students. And the hotel bakers make honey walnut bread that appears on the hotel menu. The bees’ honey is also a key ingredient in a house cocktail, the Beetini, made with lemon, honey, honey comb, vodka and tequila.

At the Westin Peachtree Plaza, where Dr. Gitlow stayed, groups are offered behind-the-scenes tours to learn about hotel sustainability. Sites include the kitchen, loading dock and laundry. The hotel has conducted seven tours since the beginning of the year.

It held an initial tour in 2013 during the annual conference of the American Society of Association Executives. Kristin Clarke, director of social responsibility for the trade association based in Washington, led the tour as well as a similar one a year earlier at the Omni Dallas Hotel.

She said that the tour made a vivid impression on attendees, who plan conferences for their own trade and nonprofit associations. “When they see 150,000 pounds of laundry, they understand the impact of linen reuse programs,” she said, referring to an average load.

During the tours she asks guests environmental trivia questions. One example: What are the three R’s of recycling? Answer: Reduce, reuse and recycle. She awards prizes, like an LED flashlight made from recycled plastic, for a correct answer.

Still, a hotel’s green intentions can sometimes backfire. Dr. Gitlow said he had stayed in rooms (not at the Westin Peachtree Plaza) with weak water pressure, insufficient lighting and heating systems that do not properly warm a room, making sleep difficult.

As hotels continue to experiment, at least one expert says hotels may extend the concept of their existing concierge floors to sustainability.

“As hotels find ways to be environmentally sensitive, we may see an energy consumption and waste floor,” Mr. Hanson said.

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