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This past week, Earth Week, was a busy week for news. Much of it has already been posted on Green Lodging News but some of it has not. First of all, I heard from Ryan Dillon, Responsible Travel Specialist with TripAdvisor, and he informed me that TripAdvisor has just extended its successful TripAdvisor GreenLeaders program into Australia and New Zealand. The program’s expansion comes exactly two years after the launch of GreenLeaders. Ryan told me TripAdvisor GreenLeaders is now “live” in Latin America and the Caribbean as well, although TripAdvisor has not yet officially released that news. More than 8,000 properties in 67 countries, including 170 in Australia and New Zealand, have been awarded the TripAdvisor GreenLeader status, making it easily the largest green hotels program.
As mentioned in a previous column, I recently participated in a Sustainability Roundtable at Cornell University. At that event there was some discussion about the progress, or lack thereof, of the APEX/ASTM Environmentally Sustainable Meetings Standards. For those of you not familiar with the standards, they are the result of years of collaborative efforts and delineate procedural requirements and environmental sustainability criteria for meetings, events, trade shows, or conferences. There are nine standards and different levels of achievement within each standard. One can obtain certification to a standard through an organization called iCompli. Within the meetings community the standards are a big deal.
It was just a matter of when. That is my take on this past week’s announcement that Clean the World and Global Soap have combined their operations and charitable efforts. It did not make a lot of sense for two organizations to be competing for donor dollars and basically doing the same thing: collecting, processing and distributing soap and other amenities. While separately the two organizations were making a huge difference, together the two will have an even larger impact on improving hygiene and reducing the number of children dying daily from diarrheal disease. Going forward, Global Soap will be a division—a brand—of Clean the World. (Clean the World considers its ONE Project another brand.) Clean the World will manage all soap and bottle collection and recycling.
I attended my third Sustainability Roundtable a little more than a week ago at the School of Hotel Administration at Cornell University. For those of you not familiar with the event, it is a mostly annual gathering of industry representatives focused on sustainability. Folks attending tend to be corporate level sustainability leaders but there are also suppliers, students and those in academia who participate as well. The Roundtable is a forum at which research is often presented and where folks update their industry peers on their efforts to reduce waste, energy and water consumption. The event is also a setting where recent initiatives in other areas of corporate social responsibility are discussed. At this year’s Roundtable there was some news of note.
South Beach in Miami Beach was the site last week of the opening of the first 1 Hotel. The opening was a long time coming; the eco-conscious “1” concept was first introduced by Starwood Capital Group in 2006. The recession put a temporary stop to development. Today, in addition to the South Beach hotel, which was designed by Meyer Davis Studio, there are 1 Hotels in development in Central Park (to open in late spring) and Brooklyn Bridge Park (opening end of 2015). Each of the hotels will be LEED certified. Starwood Capital Group is the parent of SH Group, a lifestyle hotel brand management company that will manage the hotels. The 426-room 1 Hotel & Homes South Beach (includes 163 private residences) is the result of the renovation of an existing 1970s building.
People, Planet, Profit…Pups? In case you missed it on Green Lodging News, McKibbon Hotel Group, located in Tampa, Fla., has come up with one of the coolest community service projects I have heard about. McKibbon, which owns and manages the Aloft Asheville Downtown in Asheville, N.C., paired up with a local animal shelter last August, Charlie’s Angels Animal Rescue (CAAR), in an effort to increase the dog adoption numbers in the community. When guests arrive at the Aloft hotel, they are met by a dog (located behind the registration desk) in an “Adopt Me” vest. Guests can interact with the dog during check-in as well as at the hotel lounge and additional designated areas. And, if they so choose, can move forward in a process of adopting the dog. Since last August, more than 20 dogs have found permanent and loving homes.
Extended Stay America (ESA) has completed the renovation of more than half of its 682 properties in the United States and Canada. It is a program that began in 2012 that should wrap up sometime next year. What is impressive about the program is ESA’s commitment not to throw away recyclable or donatable items. So far, 25 million cubic feet of materials has been diverted from the landfill. ESA is not a company that typically comes to mind when it comes to sustainability. Aside from a mention of supporting the American Cancer Society’s Hope Lodge program, there is no mention of anything having to do with the environment or corporate responsibility on the company’s website. In its most recent annual report (2013), the word “sustainability” is not mentioned. Just because it is not vocal about sustainability does not mean it is not serious about it.
When I first heard about Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide earning the highest level of LEED achievement—LEED Platinum—for its headquarters building in Stamford, Conn., I scanned the information I received for some mention of solar, wind or geothermal. My search came up empty. Turns out Starwood achieved LEED Platinum without any renewable energy technologies. “We were able to do it without the big flash items,” says Ken Siegel, Chief Administrative Officer, General Counsel and head of Global Citizenship at Starwood. “Thought was the critical piece of this. We proved that you can do this without going overboard with things that may or may not make economic sense. Our headquarters is a lab.” Beginning in 2009, the team behind the design of the headquarters began working tenaciously toward the LEED goal—examining every LEED point opportunity.
In less than a month—March 28 from 8:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. local time—Earth Hour will take place around the world. The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) is the parent organization of Earth Hour. This year, the Earth Hour website is offering a guide for hotels interested in participating in the annual event. Be sure to check it out. At the core of any Earth Hour celebration is switching off or turning down the lights—without compromising guest or associate safety of course. Also key is creating an event or events around the act of switching off or dimming down the lights. Green Lodging News has reported on Earth Hour activities in the past—everything from “Cocktails by Candlelight” to entirely turning off exterior signage. Some companies have used Earth Hour as the kickoff for an entire week or month of Earth-inspired activities that include the celebration of Earth Day on April 22.
MGM Resorts International has certainly made a name for itself inside and outside of our industry when it comes to green building. Its Las Vegas CityCenter complex, the largest privately funded construction project in U.S. history, includes six LEED Gold certified properties. Undoubtedly, the company likes to think big when it comes to sustainability. It should come as no surprise then that MGM Resorts is moving forward with the largest commitment to solar energy in our industry’s history. In case you missed it, in my article posted this past week, I wrote about the company’s 6.4 MW dc array atop the Mandalay Bay Convention Center in Las Vegas. The approximately 20-acre installation, now operational and producing electricity, is the first phase of a two-part installation on the roof of the Center. The second phase will include another 2 MW dc and will sit on the roof of the Center’s expansion.
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