Another Hotel Company Ranking, Another Reason to Cringe—a Bit

5/4/2012 By Glenn Hasek

In their recently released report, “Hotel Energy & Carbon Efficiency,” did sustainability technology company Brighter Planet go too far in ranking the top 25 largest hotel chains in three service segments based on their modeled impact per room per night? Perhaps. On their ranking of 75 brands, Vagabond Inns ranked first and JW Marriott Hotels & Resorts ranked last. I wrote about the report this past week. Be sure to read the article.

Whenever I see a ranking I cringe a little bit because not everyone always reads the fine print to understand the methodology. I saw Brighter Planet’s press release in other publications and in regard to Vagabond Inns and JW Marriott Hotels & Resorts the release stated, “According to Brighter Planet’s estimates, the most energy- and carbon-efficient lodging chain in the U.S. is Vagabond Inns…The upscale JW Marriott Hotels & Resorts bottomed out in last place, ranking 75th of the 75 chains analyzed.” Kind of makes you think Vagabond Inns are really doing something great while JW Marriott Hotels & Resorts are energy hogs, doesn’t it?

If you dig down a little into Brighter Planet’s methodology, you will discover that they looked at data on 46,000 U.S. hotels but did not consider any efforts at the individual property level to improve energy or carbon efficiency. (Really, who in the world even has the capability of capturing individual hotel energy consumption data from 46,000 properties? Maybe STR Global if they wanted to but it would be an enormous task.)

Two Sources for Industry Data

Using data provided by Northstar Travel Media and the U.S. Energy Information Administration, Brighter Planet’s model for the 46,000 properties predicts natural gas, fuel oil, district heat, and electricity use based on local climate, number of rooms, number of floors, construction year, and air-conditioning coverage, and adjusts for the presence of various amenities such as swimming pools, hot tubs, and minibars. If most of the hotels in your brand happen to be in an area where electricity is generated relatively cleanly—California, for example—(where most Vagabond properties are located), the brand fared better in Brighter Planet’s report.

If the hotels in your brand happen to be newer and with larger size guestrooms, the assumption was made that the brand is less energy efficient. Why? According to Brighter Planet, “Among currently operating hotels, properties built in the 2000s use more than twice as much energy per room night as properties built from 1965 to 1975, and emit almost 2.5 times as much carbon.” If you have been thinking that hotels have been getting more energy efficient, Brighter Planet would disagree. While energy use per square foot has been dropping, the problem is that hotel guestrooms have gotten larger and hotels are offering more amenities, Brighter Planet says.

I spoke with Robbie Adler, director of business development and strategic partnerships for Brighter Planet, and asked him what Brighter Planet’s intent is with the study. He said it is to “jumpstart conversation” about energy and carbon efficiency and how it is measured in our industry—whether by square foot or by room night.

“Measuring hotel energy use and emissions per room night rather than per square foot is more relevant and actionable for business and travel managers,” Brighter Planet says.

Industry Already Looking at Measurement

A Carbon Measurement Working Group with representation from most of the leading hotel chains is currently working to standardize the methodology and metrics used to calculate and communicate carbon impact. Green Lodging News has reported on these efforts in the past. Adler says he has already had some contact with Working Group members.

Whether Brighter Planet jumpstarts conversation in our industry about energy and carbon efficiency remains to be seen. (Well, at least I am talking about it.)

What do you think about Brighter Planet releasing a ranking of the most energy- and carbon-efficient lodging brands? Is it all just too misleading? The report’s upside is that it points out our industry’s recent obsession with bigger space and more amenities, and its reliance on sources of dirty energy. The downside is that it offers the temptation to draw general conclusions about brands’ energy and carbon efficiency—conclusions that may not be true at all given the efforts (or lack thereof) at the individual property level in a brand to invest in efficiency.

Contact me with your comments at editor@greenlodgingnews.com.

Green Lodging News Adds Continental Girbau Case Study to Website

Green Lodging News has added a Continental Girbau Vendor Case Study to its website. The case study profiles the Westin Riverwalk Hotel in San Antonio, Texas, and its replacement of aging, inefficient washers with more efficient Continental Girbau models and a water reclamation system. The installation is saving the hotel from 300,000 to 350,000 gallons of water each month. As part of the washer purchase, the hotel’s owners took advantage of a $29,000 rebate from the San Antonio Water System. To read the case study, click here. To learn more about Continental, visit www.continentalgirbau.com, e-mail info@continentalgirbau.com, or call (800) 256-1073.

Who is Your Company’s Green Champion?

Every two or three weeks Green Lodging News features a sustainability/green champion in its Personnel Profile section. I am currently seeking suggestions for individuals to profile. Got someone to nominate? Contact me at (440) 243-2055, or by e-mail at editor@greenlodgingnews.com.

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Every two weeks Green Lodging News posts a new guest column on its website. (Click here for examples.) The guest column also appears in the weekly e-newsletter. Green Lodging News is currently in need of industry experts to contribute occasional guest columns. Experts may include consultants, architects, designers, suppliers and those who own or operate green lodging establishments. Columns may be articles that take a stance on a particular subject or be strictly educational in nature. Columnists benefit by having their photo included along with a one paragraph description of their company. Interested in writing a column? Contact Glenn Hasek, publisher and editor, at (440) 243-2055, or by e-mail at editor@greenlodgingnews.com.

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