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In an effort to promote real environmental and hospitality policy change, EcoRooms & EcoSuites (www.EcoRooms.com) — an online directory of environmentally oriented hotels, resorts, inns, motels and B&Bs — has brought together a group of the industry’s leading environmental advocates to serve on its Board of Advisors. Together, these eco-visionaries are helping define what it means to be truly green, by following — and when need be updating — the directory’s rigorous “Significant 7” Criteria.
“We do not believe a large number of properties will currently qualify for a listing on our directory. What we are attempting to do is “Raise the Bar” and establish some consistency of what is ‘Green’ in the hospitality industry,” says Ray Burger, President of Pineapple Hospitality, which operates the EcoRooms & EcoSuites website.
“The members of our Board of Advisors manage some of the greenest hotels on the planet. We are proud and excited that they have committed to serve on the Board, and together we will become the leading resource others in the hospitality industry turn to when developing or expanding their greener hotel programs,” Burger adds.
Who’s Who in Green Hospitality
“Serving on this board of advisors gives voice to the urgency of igniting in others the passion we have for conservation and change,” says Marquis, whose 96-room Habitat Suites is the host of the largest onsite solar PV system on a hotel in the U.S. The hotel also recently installed a solar hot water system that will decrease dependence on natural gas by 60 percent.
“Education is the key, and outreach is the messenger,” she continues. “If we can get in front of the people in charge of making the decisions, there is absolutely no doubt in my mind that we can turn things around dramatically and make a significant improvement in air quality, water quality, reducing emissions, and reducing factors which contribute to global warming.”
“If our board of advisors can educate the hospitality industry that 'green' means more green in their bank accounts, we have a triple win. We can leverage further greening, like not using pesticides and toxic cleaners, on the savings from these initial programs being implemented,” Marquis adds.
Green Hotel Trends
When guests were asked if the hotel had conservation programs in place, 63 percent of guests answered yes, while 8 percent said no, and 29 percent indicated that they didn't know. When they are aware of a hotel's environmentally friendly programs, 73 percent of hotel guests indicate they participate. In turn, raising awareness of environmentally friendly programs among customers may help properties further increase participation.
"Since conservation is such an important issue globally, it is vitally important that hotel properties actively market their eco-friendly offerings and make them easy to recognize and participate in," said Linda Hirneise, executive director of the travel practice at J.D. Power and Associates. "Offering green programs is a win-win situation for both hotel guests and hotel operators. Guests are increasingly looking for these types of offerings, and hotels are finding that going green actually saves money."
The success that the members of the EcoRooms & EcoSuites Board of Advisors is proof that going green is rife with opportunity.
“The response for our green program is just amazing,” says Muhle, describing the 86-room Orchard Garden Hotel, which opened in the heart of San Francisco in late winter 2006. “We don’t have to push our beliefs in our guests’ faces. Rather, we invite them to participate. We have beautiful trash cans that look like a piece of furniture, which tells the guests to take part in our recycling program. The maple furniture we use is sustainably grown and harvested; plus it will last us a very long time. The amenities and cleaning products we use are all natural products, so guests don’t have to worry about inhaling a lot of chemicals.”
“You can’t just take things away from guests to go green. You’d just look cheap. We’ve shown that you can have it both ways: good for the environment and still maintain that luxury our guests expect,” Muhle adds.
Chang talks about how the GAIA Napa Valley was designed using a holistic approach, balancing the environment, the cost and the function. For instance, Chang says the hotel spent an additional $800,000 on an earth-friendly ventilation system. However, this has paid itself back in both guest satisfaction from quieter operation, and in energy savings, as the energy used has been cut by 26 percent.
“Our guests take pride in staying at our hotel, knowing our commitment to the environment,” Chang says. “They want to participate. We have a kiosk touch screen system near the front desks that shows all the things we’re doing for the Earth, and they’re always using it and asking our staff questions about it.”
“I’m not satisfied to stop at being LEED Gold. I believe it is time to transform people’s consciousness into a union with nature. Being a part of the Board of Advisors gives us all a foundation to begin that transformation,” he says.
“There’s not a lot of green hotels out there, but that will significantly change in the next 3 to 5 years,” Wallace says. “Even hotels that are being marketing as green will develop even more green practices.”
“The problem is that we’re also seeing a lot of ‘greenwashing’ — some hotels who just don’t wash the sheets everyday calling themselves green. Or they hang up signs asking guests to cut down on water. These are the most obvious, most easily seen, but they don’t take the time on the back end to look at their practices. And educated consumers are becoming frustrated. There’s so much more that goes into really being sustainable, to being green,” she says.
“This is why what we’re doing at EcoRooms & EcoSuites is important. There needs to be a standard for which consumers and individuals can look at to determine what green is. And as part of the Board, I’m excited to have my say about what the standards need to be.”
In the latest news on this front, Florida Governor Charlie Crist recently signed an executive order initiating new state energy-use policies, including one that requires state agencies and departments to hold meetings and conferences only at hotels with Green Lodging certification starting Jan. 1, 2008.
Hotels that do not want to miss out on the opportunity to host these conferences will have to attain Green Lodging Certification from Florida’s Department of Environmental Protection. And with the move, Florida joins at least eight other states (California, Maine, Michigan, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, Vermont, Virginia and Wisconsin) that have some form of green-hotel certification.
Florida’s certification involves environmental practices in areas of communication, water conservation, energy efficiency, waste reduction and clean air. Some basic standards include offering towel and linen reuse, using low-flow showerheads and toilets, using Energy Star-rated appliances and lighting, offering staff and guest recycling, purchasing bulk items, recycling ink and toner cartridges and using environmentally friendly cleaners.
“I think the potential to help save our natural resources is huge,” said Karen Moore, who coordinates Florida’s Green Lodging program. “This has a direct impact on Florida’s tourism industry, which is our biggest industry and has a tremendous environmental impact.”
As the green movement takes off, we can expect more states, and more hotels, to follow.
“The green policies that we have put in place will be a standard soon, probably within 5 to 10 years,” says Muhle. “What we consider cutting edge now, everyone will be doing. We’ve already seen this in Europe. We’re still just a little behind.”
“There’s a lot of claims out there about what is green. With what we’re doing at EcoRooms & EcoSuites, there will be standards in place that consumers can trust, that they’ll know where they can turn to differentiate true green from greenwashing,” he adds.
Eco-Criteria - Criteria to be an EcoRoom or EcoSuite:
I. The Product as used shall not be toxic to aquatic life
N. Training – The Product Manufacturer, its distributor, or a third party shall offer training or training materials in the proper use of the product. These shall include step-by-step instructions for the proper dilution, use, disposal, and the use of the equipment. A statement containing this information shall be provided to Each Supplier of cleaning products. They will sign the statement verifying that each of the products supplied complies with these standards.
2. Paper Products – Consumable Paper Products shall be made from recycled fibers, with the following minimum postconsumer content: Bathroom Tissue: 20%, Facial Tissue: 10%, Napkins and Paper Towels: 40%
3. Amenity Products – Property shall use refillable amenity dispensers or individual containers for shampoo, conditioner, soap, lotion, etc. Individual products shall be the smallest practical size for the length of stay and minimally packaged in recycled and/or recyclable materials. Used amenities are collected for donation to charity or for recycling where practical.
4. Linen and Towel Reuse Program – Property shall implement and execute a well designed Linen and Towel Re-use program for all Guest Rooms.
5. Recycling Program – Property shall establish and maintain recycling programs for the common areas, administrative areas, and Guest rooms. The Guest Room Receptacle must be clearly identified for Glass, Paper, Aluminum, & Plastic.
6. Lighting – All Guest Room Lighting shall be Energy Efficient. No incandescent lighting is acceptable in Floor, Desk, Table or Nightstand lamps. Bathroom lighting shall be either Linear Fluorescent, Compact Fluorescent or a combination of each type.
7. High Efficiency Plumbing Fixtures – Property shall use the following: 2.2 GPM Faucets with 1.5 GPM or less aerators, the showerheads shall be 2.5 GPM or less and the toilet shall be 1.6 GPF or less.
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