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Being comfortable in a hotel is one of the top guest priorities, which can mean a chilled, air-conditioned room, steaming hot shower, or keeping the television on all night. However, guest comfort and satisfaction can sometimes come at a cost, equating to big energy footprints and hefty utility bills. On average, America’s 47,000 hotels spend $2,196 per available room each year on energy. It’s no surprise that energy represents the single fastest-growing operating cost in the lodging industry (according to the EPA). To track and manage that growing energy use number, hotels can benchmark their buildings, which can result in energy savings, lower utility bills, and an all-around more efficient building that guests will want to return to, again and again. The old mantra still holds true: you can’t manage what you don’t measure.
At the management team meeting for a major hotel in a Northeastern city, the consensus is that the priority for the 2016 capital budget is to update the lobby. Earlier in the meeting, the facilities team presented a report on the state of the hotel’s core systems, including HVAC, lights and water infrastructure. The management team decides to do the lobby upgrade in 2016 and the HVAC/lighting and water conservation projects in 2017 and 2018. This is a very logical and thoughtful plan, with one hidden problem: The team just cost the hotel money. Funding the energy system upgrades now with third party funding and paying for the project out of energy savings would provide a higher net present value to the hotel ownership group than waiting and doing the project out of the capital budget over the next couple of years and keeping all the savings.
This article challenges some common myths about green retrofits and makes the case for taking the first step or additional steps, beyond towel reuse programs and lighting and toilet retrofits, to reduce your property’s carbon footprint. The First Myth: Going green or greener means depriving my guests and decreasing their comfort level. Converting to more efficient plumbing and lighting fixtures can occur without any compromises to guest experience, if designed correctly. Some retrofit measures such as new controls on space heating, air-conditioning and ventilation systems can even improve the guest experience, while cutting utility costs.
“How much water does an outdoor waterpark use?” I am frequently asked that question, but the answer isn’t as simple as it seems. Calculations for outdoor waterparks are heavily dependent on factors that simply don’t apply to their indoor counterparts, namely those related to climate and the environment. There is no way around it—outdoor waterparks require large amounts of water. Public perception often assumes that the outdoor waterpark is constantly being refilled with a giant spigot that is tapping the community’s water supply, which may be at a premium. Water use, however, is not water consumption. Facilities that practice proactive water conservation can save water.
Over the years I’ve learned that everyone in this world deserves to use healthier and environmentally sound products. But more important than just products, I have learned that sustainability as a whole deserves to be mainstreamed. Every consumer should be able to make the sustainable choice. The recent ban on foam in New York is a great step towards achieving that goal. Earlier in the millennium we saw a greater scope of businesses using foam. Companies ranging from corporate foodservice providers to high end restaurants utilized expanded polystyrene. Today, we see that cities across America are joining the ban on foam. Recent findings about foam’s toxicity and environmental concerns have finally spurred action.
Many people see a doctor at least once a year, but how good are we about tracking the health of our buildings? If your hotel or resort hasn’t had an energy audit or retrocommissioning in the past two to three years, you’ve likely accumulated tens to hundreds of thousands of dollars in added utility costs per year. An energy audit is a detailed analysis of energy and water usage, resulting in a list of no-, low-, and high-cost energy conservation measures (ECMs) appropriate for your site. The goal of an audit is to reduce a building’s energy and water usage by evaluating building inefficiencies. In addition, a thorough audit is likely to address guest comfort issues, and will include benchmarking and energy procurement recommendations.
Maybe your hotel is in an area impacted by drought and under water restrictions. Or it’s not, but drought is a concern for your guests, and you want to demonstrate your commitment to conservation. Or maybe you just want to save energy and money, but you’ve already addressed the low-hanging fruit. In any case, better managing water use is a viable strategy that saves resources while enhancing the guest experience. Linen and towel reuse programs have long been a way for hotels to save water and energy. A recent study by the Center for Hospitality Research at Cornell University found that 79 to 88 percent of resort guests surveyed participate in these programs.
According to a recent National Sleep Foundation survey, 91 percent of all people identified the pillow as being most important to a good night’s sleep (second only to the mattress at 93 percent). Yet very few hotels actively manage their pillow inventory. Currently, most properties leave it up to the subjective opinion of their housekeeping staff to pull pillows out of service when they no longer meet the hotel’s standards. This works for pillows that are obviously stained, or are flat, or lumpy. However, this practice does not allow a housekeeper to know what might be on the inside of the pillow. We all know that dust mites accumulate in hotel guestroom pillows over time, despite the use of pillow protectors.
Hospitality is not just about offering a place to sleep. It comprises the entire experience of travel, from transportation to lodging, dining, shopping and entertainment. Leaders in hospitality recognize a guest’s experience begins when planning their trip, before a single reservation is booked. This is the ideal time to start making an impact on their traveling decisions, and sustainability can and should be a core part of the message to guests. At Paladino, we approach our work in sustainability through an abundance lens. We first evaluate the abundance of resources and opportunities within an environment or situation to determine the prospect for change and then center a sustainability strategy around these opportunities.
Ecotourism began in the 1980s as people developed an awareness of the cultural impact of globalization, tourism, and political conflict in places such as El Salvador and Colombia. Over time, this trend began permeating the way people think and their responsibilities in everyday life. Now is a great time to reevaluate our values as property owners—especially as the manager of a large lodging property such as a hotel or resort. The immediate need for water conservation is starkly apparent, these days, in many areas around the country. In Boise, Idaho, for example, the snowpack from the foothills and nearby mountain ranges is the lowest it’s been in years.
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