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At one point, people living in 13th century England noticed something unusual when the bread they were buying from the local bakery simply did not taste the same. Oh, the price was right. In fact, in many cases the bread was even less expensive than it had been a few years earlier. But the taste and even the texture of the bread were different. Bakers, looking for a way to cut costs and compete with other bakers, were mixing “fillers” in with the flour dough. These fillers were typically ground beans and peas. They were safe, but they did change the taste of the bread. A bit of an uproar ensued but the King of England at the time decided not to regulate what could and could not be used to make bread. Instead, he believed consumers had a right to know exactly what was in the bread.
Every year I spend a bit of time at our local AIA trade show. More often than not I’m just renewing friendships and saying hello to architects I’ve worked with over my 30 plus years as an interiorscaper. However, a couple of years ago we featured three large photos, one of a green roof, one of a greenwall and one of green plants—and did we have action at our booth. The photo was of a project we installed some 17 years ago. So while greenwalls aren’t exactly new, they are an idea whose time has come. You also know that’s true when you see them appearing in McDonald’s advertising and frequently in Whole Food Markets. So based upon that trade show experience and a bit of prodding by a good friend to help her with the design of a major greenwall installation, I entered the greenwall product market.
If I have learned anything after 20 years of managing engineering departments it is this: the most successful engineers thrive in an environment where their leadership has a thorough understanding and appreciation for what the hotel’s maintenance team does, and how its efforts contribute to the overall success of the property. Sounds obvious, right? But how often is this dynamic a reality? Perhaps more often, general managers’ priorities lay elsewhere, and when it comes to their engineering departments, their paradigm follows the mantra “If it’s not broke, don’t fix it.” So while their engineers likely welcome the sovereignty, it still begs the question…do general managers really understand what their engineers do?
When many people think of hotels, they think of the big bed that will keep them comfortable while they’re on the road. But what happens when that bed wears out? The eco-minded consumer wants to know that their bed was disposed of in the most responsible manner possible. The good news for hoteliers is that mattress recycling locations are popping up all over the country. These companies take away old mattresses and box-springs and process them for safe, responsible recycling. Mattress recycling companies create jobs, help your company achieve green certification, and address a growing problem in the industry—bedbugs. At an average of 23 cubic feet and 55 pounds, beds are among the largest items a hotel has to throw away.
Unless incredibly eco minded, the majority of guests don’t want to hear about a hotel’s greening efforts around reductions in water, waste, energy and chemicals. Happily, the same is not true when it comes to food—a good story around food that’s local creates a unique and memorable dining experience. Letting the guest in on a story about the fungi forager who brings locally foraged mushrooms or fiddleheads to your menu, or details on the Nubian goats at a neighboring farm that produce the chevre for your velvety cheese cake, just makes food taste better. Celebrating food that is local, and exposing a sense of your hotel’s community, with support for local vendors and growers, is an important part of sustainability.
Featuring a distinctive color palette and the natural warmth of wood, exotic hardwoods can add style to lodging facilities. Their rich hues can contribute to nearly any interior ambience, while characteristics like dimensional stability and durability make exotic hardwoods well suited for flooring, furniture, cabinets, millwork and other decorative applications. Illegal-logging concerns can certainly supersede the design advantages of exotic hardwoods. While such apprehensions are valid, it is important to note there are prominent exceptions. Exotic hardwoods can be—and are—grown and harvested to sustainable standards, and offer other environmental attributes.
Let’s face it—the nature of the hotel industry as a whole is inherently wasteful. Hotel guests have expectations when traveling that, when met by the hotels, result in excessive waste. From energy and water use, to waste generation, hotel guests as a whole consume more resources when traveling than they do at home. Without conscious attention and focused efforts to reducing waste and over-consumption of natural resources, the hotel industry will continue to have a large and damaging environmental impact on the world. In evaluating this scenario, we find both good and bad news: the good news is that green lodging standards make it possible for hotels to significantly reduce the impacts of their operations.
Congratulations. You’ve been LEED certified. Now what? That is the question facing the owners and operators of more than one billion square feet of commercial space that have obtained LEED status under the U.S. Green Building Council’s (USGBC) Green Building Rating System. What they (and you) decide will make a big impact—it will mean the difference between one billion square feet of truly sustainable real estate, and one billion square feet of potentially sustainable real estate. The gap between real and potential sustainability lies in the way LEED is perceived. If you think attaining LEED is attaining sustainability, your answer to the “now what?” question might well be “nothing.”
Hotels and resorts are facing increased costs for garbage collection as fuel for collection vehicles increases and landfills increase their dumping fees. Landfills also create environmental problems by polluting the ground water underneath and the air above them. These environmental problems are caused by organic waste. The organic waste component of landfill is broken down by micro-organisms to form a liquid ‘leachate’ which contains bacteria, rotting matter and often chemical contaminants. This leachate can present a serious hazard if it reaches open water or enters the water table. Organic matter in landfills also generates methane.
Many of us would assume that if a cleaning chemical has already been labeled green by a leading certification organization it must be pretty safe, assuming it is used correctly as instructed. This is true, at least in comparison to many conventional cleaning products used for the same or similar purposes. However, these days I think we need to take this a step further. We need to know more specifically what is in the cleaning chemicals we are using, green or not. This “ingredient disclosure” appears to be one of the next big developments in the professional cleaning industry. There are many reasons for ingredient disclosure.
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