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I posted an article this past week on Tom Rhodes, NC (North Carolina) GreenTravel Initiative Program Manager. I had an opportunity to meet Tom at a conference a number of years ago. One of my readers suggested Tom as someone I should profile in our Personnel Profile section. Of course Tom was a great choice. Any kind of city, regional, state or national green lodging recognition program is only as good as the person or people behind it. Tom is a very good reason North Carolina’s GreenTravel Initiative is such a success. For those of you not familiar with the NC GreenTravel Initiative, it is a program that was developed through a partnership of the North Carolina Division of Environmental Assistance and Customer Service (NCDEACS), The Center for Sustainability at East Carolina University, Visit North Carolina and the Waste Reduction Partners program. It was launched toward the end of 2011 and allows businesses to be certified and recognized as green businesses, meaning they have accumulated enough points for their best practices as noted in the Application for Recognition.
I recently wrote about water bottle filling stations, their many advantages (dramatic decrease in plastic bottle consumption), how they can be used to increase profits, etc. This past week I posted an article on atmospheric water generation and several companies that have come along to offer systems that produce filtered, drinkable water from the humidity in the air. Whereas the water bottle filling stations require a water line connected to the machines, the atmospheric water generators do not. If they are solar powered they can be located just about anywhere—as long as humidity levels are at least 40 to 45 percent. I first learned about atmospheric water generation during last fall’s HX: The Hotel Experience in New York. There, Florida-based Atmospheric Water Solutions, Inc. featured its air to water generators. That company offers a machine capable of producing water cooler quantities, high-capacity bottling machines that produce up to 2,000 bottles per eight hour day and generators that produce up to 5,000 gallons per day.
Trade shows and conferences seem to come and go in our industry but one that has had staying power is HD Expo. The event, held at Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas last week, brought together over 10,000 designers, architects, hotel owners and operators, developers, specifiers and purchasers with more than 800 hospitality design manufacturers and product providers. HD Expo is always a great venue to connect with suppliers of green products and services and this year was no different. Interestingly, there was one year the planners of HD Expo actually separated out many of its green suppliers and placed them in a green zone of sorts. That idea lasted one year and today you need to pay a little more attention if you want to connect with a company committed to sustainability. I walked the entire trade show floor twice and discovered some interesting companies to pay attention to—some are newcomers, others have been around for quite some time. Glass Recycled was at the show with many examples of countertops and other items made by mixing crushed glass with an epoxy resin.
I just added another hotel to the Geothermal Powered page on the Green Lodging News website—The Hotel at Oberlin in Oberlin, Ohio. Anyone familiar with Oberlin College would not be surprised by the college’s latest venture. The 70-room hotel, set to have its soft opening this month (May), is on track for the rare LEED Platinum certification and will join just a handful of hotels in the United States in that group. I recently spoke with Christopher Noble, Project Developer, SMART Hotels LLC, to learn more about this outstanding property. “Our path to LEED Platinum is based on energy efficiency more than anything else,” Noble told me. The Hotel at Oberlin features a hydronic radiant heating and cooling system tied to the geothermal system. There are 48 geothermal wells, each 405 feet deep, surrounding the property. There is LED lighting throughout the hotel. “It is fair to say we are solar powered as well,” Noble says. During the planning stages for the Peter B. Lewis Gateway Center, of which the hotel is a part, a nearby solar array was built. The energy from that array helps power the Center.
I used Earth Day to announce the launch of the planet’s premier Green Lodging Survey. Set to launch in June (watch for it!), the survey is being produced in partnership with Greenview. Eric Ricaurte is the Principal of Greenview and I will be working with him on this exciting project. Greenview has helped launch several innovative industry initiatives including the Hotel Carbon Measurement Initiative, the Cornell Hotel Sustainability Benchmarking study, the Hotel Footprinting Tool, the Green Venue Report, and the UNWTO’s sustainable cruise development strategies for South-East Asia. In June and months following hoteliers and innkeepers will be asked to complete the online survey that will consist of about 75 questions covering topics ranging from indoor air quality to energy management to procurement. The intent of the survey is not only to cover the best practices you are familiar with but to also uncover innovative new green products, technologies, and steps seen nowhere else that hoteliers are taking to reduce their impact while increasing profitability.
Earth Day is April 22. I have been hearing from some companies and individual hotels regarding their plans. All 11 of Greystone Hotels’ California and Oregon based properties will donate a portion of gross room revenues from Earth Day to the Nature Conservancy. Earth Day will also be an organized day of service for all employees. Kimball International, Inc. is recognizing Earth Day and Arbor Day by continuing its traditional “Trees for Tomorrow” program. For 2016, the program involves a $1 donation for every employee to the Arbor Day Foundation which will plant a seedling in forests on behalf of Kimball employees. To mark Earth Day, properties in the Valencia Group collection will be joining the community in various efforts ranging from tree and seed planting projects to neighborhood beautification and community garden initiatives. Throughout April, Valencia Group hotels invite guests to toast its food and beverage program’s focus on locally sourced ingredients with a special menu of Sustainable Sips cocktail offerings, which utilize gins, vodkas and whiskeys.
On April 22, 2013—Earth Day—TripAdvisor launched its GreenLeaders program. Almost three years later, that program that recognizes lodging establishments for their green initiatives has more than 11,000 participating properties in 66 global markets across North America, Latin America, Europe, as well as Australia and New Zealand. In the last year, TripAdvisor has added nearly 3,000 GreenLeaders participants. The free, voluntary program is clearly one of the most successful green programs to have ever launched in our industry. I interviewed Ryan Dillon, Responsible Travel Specialist at TripAdvisor and manager of GreenLeaders, for a Green Lodging News article that was posted on the Green Lodging News website this past week. Be sure to read that article. As with other green certification or recognition programs, hotels and B&Bs must complete an application in order to participate. Questions in the application address topics ranging from towel reuse to staff training to preventive maintenance. Qualifying properties are marked with a badge on their TripAdvisor page. To see a list of the business’s environmentally friendly practices, travelers click on the property’s GreenLeader badge.
At the top of a Marriott website dedicated to lesbian and gay travel, a Marriott statement reads as follows: “At Marriott, there is no room for inequality. We believe that every guest, whoever they are, wherever they go, should feel comfortable and welcome the moment they walk through our doors.” Marriott is just one example of many companies in our industry that have made sure that the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community is welcome in its hotels. Of course it makes sense—legally, ethically, economically, etc.—to welcome all people just as much as any other without discriminating based on religion or sexual preference. We are indeed all equal, aren’t we? Or, as some believe, are there those of us who are more equal than others? Responding to what I see as another knucklehead-driven piece of state legislation that legalizes discrimination, Marriott joined companies including Hilton, Starwood Hotels, Choice Hotels and many others in signing a letter last week that calls on North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory and the North Carolina General Assembly to repeal the radical provisions in the deeply discriminatory House Bill 2 that recently was pushed through the legislature.
This past week I had an opportunity to chat with Dominique Cocquet, CEO of Villages Nature. I am working on an article on the very impressive Villages Nature project. For those of you not familiar with it, it is a joint venture of Pierre & Vacances Center Parcs and Euro Disney and is located 20 miles east of Paris and just a few miles from Disneyland Paris. Villages Nature is expected to open next spring with 916 dwellings, more than two-thirds of which will be cottages and one-third family suites. Within the next five years there will be more than 1,700 dwellings. The dwellings will be owned by individual and other investors and managed by Villages Nature. Villages Nature is expected to host up to 900,000 visitors a year—almost 2,500 daily—on its 444 acres. In addition to places to stay, there will be many attractions including the Aqualagoon covered water park and outdoor lagoon, shops and restaurants, farm, lake, spa and gardens. All of the heat demand will be covered by geothermal energy.
Last week’s article on water bottle filling stations was tweeted about by many and already has had about 1,000 page views. It was great that so many folks got to read the article. While traveling this past week, I saw one of the bottle filling stations I had written about at Philadelphia International Airport. They are certainly becoming more common. In response to my article, I heard from Jack Hlavec, General Manager of the Hilton Concord in Concord, Calif. Jack told me his property, which I have written about numerous times in the past few years, began implementing bottle filling stations early in 2015. The hotel has added fill stations on guestroom floors and in employee break rooms. All employees have been provided with refillable water bottles to use while they are working. The bottles include the Hilton logo. An in-room tent card advises guests about the stations. Guests have the option of purchasing the refillable bottles located in their guestrooms or in the lobby gift shop. “The water bottles have been well received,” Hlavac says.
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