The Merger of Marriott & Starwood: A Good Green Marriage?

by Glenn Hasek November 18, 2015 05:39

The announcement this week that Marriott International will acquire Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide will not only expand Marriott’s global property footprint, it will also dramatically increase its environmental footprint. I asked a Marriott representative to chat about the integration of Marriott and Starwood’s environmental programs but she declined, saying that it was much too early. My projection is that from a green standpoint, the marriage of the two companies will be a good one for the most part, as both companies have a lot in common. Both Marriott and Starwood have very successful environmental initiatives. For example, Marriott has a strong commitment to LEED with at least 106 LEED registered hotels and 31 LEED certified hotels. Starwood, with its Element brand alone, has at least 52 LEED hotels open or under development. When Starwood launched Element, it committed the brand to LEED certification for all properties.

Both companies are goal oriented and collect environmental performance data, often announcing targets for reductions in carbon emissions, energy consumption, water consumption and waste. Starwood has a goal of reducing energy consumption per built hotel room by 30 percent by 2020 (baseline 2008). Marriott’s goal is to reduce energy consumption 20 percent by 2020 (per kWh/conditioned m2, baseline year 2007).

Both companies have strong procurement initiatives. In April 2014, Starwood announced it would ban shark fin at its properties around the world. That same month, Marriott announced its ban. Both Marriott and Starwood were part of the working group that developed the Hotel Carbon Measurement Initiative, a methodology to calculate and communicate the carbon footprint of hotel stays and meetings in a consistent and transparent way.

Starwood is known for its Make a Green Choice program which gives guests the option of foregoing full housekeeping for up to three days in a row in exchange for Starpoints or a food and beverage voucher. It will be interesting to see if service-focused Marriott will continue this program. Finally, both Marriott and Starwood have full-time folks dedicated to carrying out the companies’ sustainability initiatives. Will there be personnel changes? Continue to follow Green Lodging News for information on the green impact of Marriott’s acquisition.


Sustainable Travel Proponent Eyes Guinness World Record

by Glenn Hasek November 12, 2015 06:17

Cassandra De Pecol, a self-taught sustainability consultant who at one time worked to green up luxury boutique hotels, is on a quest as part of Expedition 196 to visit all 193 nations on the planet in less than three years and three months. If she does it in that time frame, she will set a Guinness World Record. To get the record she must take scheduled public transport. “I can’t drive a car or ride a camel across the desert,” she told me. Cassie says her goal during her travels is to “promote peace through tourism, promote friendship, learn about cultures, to travel sustainably, and to share the beauty of what I experienced in each country.” Cassie’s plan is to visit each country as a peace ambassador of the International Institute for Peace Through Tourism. She will be meeting with Skal International presidents and ministers of tourism. Skal International and Expedition 196 are partnering together with the Skal chapters around the world to plant trees in order to offset Cassie’s carbon footprint.

In addition to advocating sustainable tourism by staying in eco establishments and embarking on eco tours, Cassie is now contributing by physically planting the national tree of the country she visits, with the help from Skal International. When I spoke with Cassie recently she had already met with six Skal presidents.

Cassie began her journey in July. During her travels she has been taking samples of water and sending them to Adventurers and Scientists for Conservation for testing for microplastics. Cassie currently has 12 sponsors. Among current supporters are Paul Lieberstein, actor and TV producer of “The Office,” and Adam Kaufman, actor and star of NBC’s “State of Affairs.”

Cassie told me her visit to Vanuatu, a South Pacific Ocean nation, was especially inspirational. A cyclone earlier this year had destroyed a lot there. “The people were so kind there,” she said. Vanuatu’s president said earlier this year that the cyclone seasons his nation had experienced are directly linked to climate change.

Cassie has a long way to go to break the Guinness World Record. “I am finishing up Europe before Christmas,” she said. Cassie is just 26.

It was an honor to chat with someone so excited about sustainability and who understands the power of peaceful travel. Be sure to follow Cassie’s adventures at


A Snapshot of Hyatt’s Progress Provided in Corporate Responsibility Scorecard

by Glenn Hasek November 04, 2015 05:31

Hyatt Corp. recently released its 2014-2015 Corporate Responsibility Scorecard. The document, four pages long, summarizes the progress the company has made on its social and environmental commitments and goals through the middle of 2015. Hyatt’s sustainability efforts are part of its Hyatt Thrive platform which includes four pillars: Environmental Sustainability, Education and Career Readiness, Economic Development and Investment, and Health and Wellness. From 2014 to 2015, Hyatt more than doubled the representation of women in senior executive roles globally. More than 200 senior executives completed Intercultural Development Inventory training. During 2013 and 2014, Hyatt required 54,000 colleagues to undergo training to combat human trafficking. In 2014, the Hyatt Hotels Foundation was launched.

In regard to the company’s 2020 environmental goals, energy consumption per square meter has been reduced in the Americas by 8 percent since 2006 while greenhouse gas emissions per square meter have been reduced in the Americas by 17 percent since 2006. Water consumption per guest night has been reduced in the Americas by 17 percent since 2006. Hyatt has a goal of each managed hotel diverting more than 40 percent of waste by 2020. Seventeen percent of owned and managed full service hotels in the United States have exceeded a 40 percent diversion rate.

In the area of purchasing, Hyatt is in the process of setting goals. By 2016, brand standards will be updated to consider sustainability in all product decisions. By 2018, Hyatt will source more than 50 percent of global seafood purchases responsibly.

Twenty-two owned, managed and franchised Hyatts have achieved LEED certification. By 2016, all franchised hotels will track and report environmental performance data as part of Hyatt’s EcoTrack system. To access the Scorecard, click here.


More on Marriott's 2015 Sustainability Report

by Glenn Hasek October 28, 2015 06:00

Marriott International recently released its 2015 Sustainability Report. I listed some of the highlights in my Publisher’s Point of View column this past week. For example, Marriott has reduced its energy intensity (kWh of per square meter of conditioned space) by 9.4 percent since 2007, its water intensity (cubic meter per occupied room) by 22.9 percent, and its greenhouse gas emissions intensity (kilograms per square meter) by 10 percent. I spoke with Denise Naguib, Vice President, Sustainability and Supplier Diversity, Marriott International, earlier this week to get more details on Marriott’s latest report. If you visit the Marriott site and dig into the report a bit, you will notice a reporting style that is infographic-intensive. Some of the information is even presented as if it were a tweet on Twitter. This approach was intentional, Denise told me. “At the end of the day, we want it to be read,” she said.

There are 12 sections to the report, two of which—Women’s Empowerment and World of Opportunity Youth—are new.

Marriott has so far fallen short of its 2020 goal of reducing energy intensity by 2020. Denise said some properties still have low-hanging fruit such as lighting to tackle but the company is taking a look at how it buys energy—specifically low-carbon and renewable energy—and how it can expand to producing renewable energy. Metering and submetering are also on Marriott’s radar. “As metering becomes more effective, that becomes a better opportunity,” Denise said.

In looking over Marriott’s 2015 report I noticed that 34 percent of Marriott hotels report using rainwater for landscaping. I thought the number was high but Denise said an increasing number of Marriotts are being built better and with storm water collection in mind. “As water rates continue to go up, you have to work with the water landing on your roof,” Denise said. I also noticed that 36 percent of Marriotts do not have a recycling program. “We do have places where they do not have any places where they can recycle anything,” Denise said. “Also, the economics are becoming more challenging for recycling. Operationally, we need to have standard ways to recycle. We are looking at that.”

In the report it is noted that Marriott hotels now make up 80 percent of those hotels participating in the EPA WaterSense Hotel Challenge. I asked Denise why Marriott has such a keen interest in such programs and she told me hoteliers are interested in the recognition that goes along with participating. The competitive nature of the programs also drives participation.

Marriott is working with its North American suppliers to ensure that they all have sustainability policies in place by the end of 2016. Avendra, Marriott’s purchasing partner, through which 80 percent of the spend by managed hotels is placed, has its own strong sustainability initiative and is helping Marriott to reach its 2016 goal. Denise said 84 percent of North American Suppliers already have a sustainability policy in place.

Be sure to check out Marriott’s latest report to learn more about the company’s efforts.


One More Reason to Be Skeptical of Biodegradability Claims

by Glenn Hasek October 21, 2015 04:51

The next time you see a plastic bottle described as “biodegradable,” be extra skeptical. Consider the plight of ECM Biofilms, Inc. I first mentioned the company back in 2010 in an article on bags. In that article ECM was mentioned as a supplier of an additive that another company was using to make its product biodegradable. ECM popped up in another article on Green Lodging News in 2013. In that instance the company was the target of Federal Trade Commission (FTC) complaint. The FTC charged ECM with violating the FTC Act by misrepresenting that: 1) ECM plastics (plastics made with ECM additives) are biodegradable and will completely break down within a reasonably short period of time after customary disposal; 2) ECM plastics are biodegradable in a landfill; 3) ECM plastics are biodegradable in a stated qualified timeframe; and 4) that various scientific tests prove ECM’s biodegradability claims.

Finally, the complaint charged ECM with providing its customer and independent distributors—through the distribution of its promotional materials—with the means to deceive consumers. ECM allegedly claimed, for example, that “plastic products made with [its] additives will break down in approximately nine months to five years in nearly all landfills or wherever else they may end up.” The complaint alleged that these purportedly biodegradable plastics do not in fact biodegrade within a reasonably short period of time after disposal in a landfill. Moreover, the complaint alleged that ECM has no substantiation to support its claims that its additive makes plastic biodegradable. In 2013, ECM was one of a number of companies fined for their claims.

ECM was back in the news this past week. The FTC announced its Opinion and Final Order against ECM, finding that the company acted deceptively by making false and unsubstantiated environmental claims about its product, a chemical additive that supposedly would make treated plastics biodegrade in a landfill within nine months to five years or within a reasonably short period of time, as alleged in the administrative complaint announced against the company in 2013. The Commission’s Final Order bars ECM from representing that a plastic product or package is degradable, or that any product or service affects a plastic product’s degradability, unless the representation is true, not misleading, and substantiated by competent and reliable scientific evidence.

In addition, the Final Order requires that for claims relating to degradability of plastic products, ECM must ensure that either: 1) the entire plastic item will completely decompose into elements found in nature within five years after customary disposal; or 2) the claim is clearly and prominently qualified by either the time for complete decomposition or the type of non-customary disposal required and the availability of such disposal facilities. Also, ECM must have competent and reliable evidence to substantiate claims for any environmental benefit.

The Final Order also bars ECM from providing others with the “means and instrumentalities” to make any false, unsubstantiated, or otherwise misleading representations of material fact or environmental benefits; and bars the company from misrepresenting the existence, contents, validity, results, or conclusions of any test, study, or research. ECM may file a petition for review of the Commission decision with the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals within 60 days of service of the Final Order.

The FTC is obviously serious about protecting consumers against false biodegradability claims. ECM is just one of a number of companies the FTC has penalized in recent years. Whether buying amenities, plastic bags or other items that claim to be biodegradable, don't trust so easily.


More on the Paper Towels Versus Hand Dryers Debate

by Glenn Hasek October 14, 2015 05:00

In response to my recent article and column on hand dryers versus paper towels, I received two responses. The first response was from a representative of a green certification organization who mostly advocated for the presence of paper towels (his organization certifies paper towels) in public restrooms. One of his reasons: Dryers can lead to wait times when restrooms are crowded, leading some patrons to skip hand washing or shake water onto restroom surfaces. The second response was from someone who runs a state green lodging program. This is what she told me: “When we were conducting one of our audits this year, we suggested hand dryers to one of our hotels. They stated that they buy paper towels as their vendor had informed them of “studies” being done on hand dryers that showed that germs were spread over a large area in bathrooms by the hand dryers. The vendor claimed that the dryers were less sanitary for that reason.”

One of the respondents said I could find more information on the hand dryer versus paper towel debate at There are 25 articles there to check out, including one entitled, “Debunking The Hand Drying Hygiene Myth.” Be sure to read that article and the others. In the “Debunking” article, a representative of Excel Dryer points out a study that found 17 types of bacteria on unused paper towels. Also highlighted is a study that showed no difference in bacteria levels on hands either dried with paper towels or hand dryers. On the site there is also an article that highlights hand dryer innovations that reduce the amount of dripped water below and around the hand dryer. Yet another article points out the nasty truth about fecal matter in public restrooms. Bacteria found in fecal matter can become suspended in washroom air for an hour after the toilet is flushed. This highlights the need for filters in hand dryers.

Do your homework before making a decision about hand dryers or paper towels. There is a lot to learn and it can get confusing. Ultimately, do what is best for your guests, your employees, and the environment.


November’s Boutique Design New York to Feature Three Sustainability-Focused Educational Sessions

by Glenn Hasek October 08, 2015 05:56

Adjacent to this year’s HX: The Hotel Experience (formerly the International Hotel, Motel + Restaurant Show) is the sixth annual Boutique Design New York (BDNY) trade fair and conference from November 8 to 9. HX and BDNY will both be held at the Javits Convention Center. More than 5,000 interior designers, architects, purchasing executives and hospitality owners/operators are expected to attend BDNY 2015. As with HX, BDNY will feature several “green” or sustainability-focused educational sessions. If you are attending BDNY next month, be sure to check them out. First, on November 8 from 10:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. is “Innovations in Energy and Water.” The moderator for the session will be Lorraine Francis, Regional Director of Hospitality Interiors for Gensler.

Speakers will include: Brian Hassig, CEO, High Touch Design Science; Kirby Brendsel, Associate Director Sustainability, Global Citizenship, Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide Inc.; and Randy Gaines, Vice President Operations & New Project Development Americas, Hilton Worldwide.

From 12:30 p.m. to 1 p.m. on November 8, David Mahood, Co-Principal, Olive Hospitality Consulting, will lead a discussion on “Urban Landscaping, Community Gardens, and Central Parks: How to Add Value To Your Urban Hotel From The Experiences Of One Of The World’s Greatest Cities: New York.” The presentation is part of the NEWH Green Voice Conversations series. On November 9, also as part of the NEWH Green Voice Conversations series, the topic will be, “Designing to the Human Experience.” The moderator will be Lorraine Francis. The speaker will be Debra Duneier, Founder and President, EcoChi, LLC.

To learn more about BDNY and all other educational opportunities, click here.


A Long Night with a Long-Winded Solar Salesman

by Glenn Hasek September 30, 2015 05:28

It was a Wednesday night when my doorbell rang. It was immediately clear that the gentleman standing outside my front door was selling something. He introduced himself as a representative of American Solar Energy and he was in the neighborhood setting up appointments for estimates on solar systems. Living in Florida and of course having an interest in solar as editor of Green Lodging News, I was all ears. I agreed to setting up an appointment the next day. The salesman then put me on the phone with someone from his office who confirmed my contact details. Maybe at this point I should have been a bit suspicious. The salesman had already taken my contact information. Why would someone have to validate what he just did? Did his own company not trust what he was doing?

It was 6:30 p.m. the following evening when the company’s regional marketing manager arrived to chat with me and my wife. Keep in mind I have a 4-year-old so doing these types of appointments is not easy. The “marketing manager” made it clear that he was not a commissioned sales person. He took a look at the inside and outside of our home—our AC system, pool pump, attic, etc. After reviewing our monthly electricity bill, he determined that we were good candidates for a solar water heating system and solar attic fan. He said we qualified for a federal tax credit plus another program that he was only offering to us because we would be the first home in our zip code to buy the systems. American Solar Energy wanted to use our home as a showcase for selling to other homes in our neighborhood and zip code. (Yeah, right.)

Keep in mind that we are now at the 90-minute-plus point of the presentation. (He had a thick notebook of information that he seemed to be repeating over and over.) This is when things turned into one of those “Get me out of here, I am being sold a bill of goods by a bad car salesman” experiences. It was almost my son’s bath time so we were eager to know how much the systems were going to cost. Of course the salesman kept asking us if we would buy a system that would give us more savings than the actual payments. He wrote down a number in the $13,000 range (as if the systems really cost that much) and then began subtracting the federal tax credit and his own company’s incentive. By this point my eyes and those of my wife were already glazed over from the presentation that just did not seem to end. The “salesman” then threw in the solar attic fan for “free,” saying it was more than a $2,000 value. (I thought to myself: “How in the world could an attic fan cost that much?”)

Exhausted, I said to the guy that my wife and I needed some time to discuss the deal his company was offering. We had never even had a chance to price other systems and wanted to do that. He told us the installation would escalate the value of our home by $20,000 and that it would not be an issue with our community’s association. I wanted to check on all of those things. When he heard that from me he was not a happy camper. He told us that this was all a one-time offer and that he was only in our neighborhood for a limited time. Someone selling a home security system at my door had told me the same thing recently. My wife and I chose not to take the “take it or leave it” offer and the marketing manager walked out the door.

I could not understand why a company would have to take this approach. Don’t you think it would do better if it worked with potential customers on a sale? I can’t imagine dealing with one of my potential advertisers like this. It is obvious that this guy was in fact a commissioned sales person. It was disappointing for me to learn that there are solar companies out there that use what I consider to be unethical sales tactics like these. I felt like I had been run over by a train by the end of the evening.

I hope that you never have to experience anything similar to this at your lodging establishment.


Drive Electric Orlando Expands with 14 New Chevy Volts

by Glenn Hasek September 23, 2015 05:16

It was almost exactly two years ago that Drive Electric Orlando officially launched. For those of you not familiar with it, it is a partnership of Enterprise Rent-A-Car, top hotels and major attractions in the Orlando area. The goal is to encourage the renting of electric vehicles (EVs) to those visiting. At first, Enterprise announced that it would rent Nissan LEAF plug-in electric vehicles at its Orlando International Airport location. Last week, Enterprise, along with Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer and other top community and business leaders, announced the expansion of Orlando’s EV car rental fleet. Fourteen new Chevrolet Volt plug-in cars were added to Enterprise’s local rental offering. The announcement came during National Drive Electric Week, an annual celebration taking place in cities and communities across the country to raise awareness and support for electric vehicles.

In March of this year, the U.S. Department of Energy announced that Drive Electric Orlando, in partnership with the Florida Office of Energy, would a receive $400,000 grant to continue its work in the Orlando area to expand the impact of the program. The 14 new Chevy Volts are now available for rent in Enterprise’s Orlando fleet, and the company expects to add more in the future. The Volt runs on both electricity and gasoline, traveling about 40 miles on battery power alone before seamlessly switching to gas power for longer trips. With more than 300 places to “plug in” across the region, including more than 140 public EV charging stations, visitors can go to and from area hotels and attractions without using a drop of gasoline. For those more distant trips, the Volt has a total combined range of 380 miles.

Drive Electric Orlando works with the City of Orlando, Orange County, travel companies, the major theme parks and more than 35 hotels to provide charging infrastructure for EV renters, as well as benefits like free charging, parking, and other perks for business travelers and vacationers.

Are you familiar with a similar program in another community? I would love to learn about it. I can be reached at


CitiesAlive Event to Feature 1 Hotel Central Park, Javits Center Tours

by Glenn Hasek September 16, 2015 05:27

CitiesAlive, the 13th annual green roof and wall conference, will take place October 5 to 8 at the New York Marriott at the Brooklyn Bridge. The event will have hospitality industry connections. On Wednesday, October 7 from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m., a tour of the newly opened 1 Hotel Central Park will be given. Green Lodging News has reported on this hotel on its website. Tour participants will have an opportunity to explore the inner workings of the efficiency irrigation and fertilization system that supports a three-story exterior living wall. For those of you not familiar with the hotel, it features 229 guestrooms, including 22 suites and one Greenhouse Suite. Each room is equipped with Triple Clear Water filters in all taps, sinks and showers; state-of-the-art, energy-efficient heating and cooling systems; natural Keetsa hemp-blend mattresses; and natural cotton towels, robes, socks, and linens.

In addition, there are yoga mats for use with in-room programming; custom 1 Hotels products featuring naturally-derived ingredients with crisp, fresh scents of nature; and eco-friendly cleaning solvents. Natural materials are used throughout the hotel. A total of 16,000 fallen twigs artfully embedded into two large steel doors welcome guests to the hotel.

On the same day and at the same time as the 1 Hotel Central Park tour, a tour will be given of the green roof atop the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center, home to this fall’s HX: The Hotel Experience. I recently spoke with Rebecca Marshall, Energy and Sustainability Manager at the Center, about the green roof. The 292,000 square foot rooftop has been transformed into an energy-saving green haven using sedum grown on a farm in Upstate New York. A recent study found that the roof has attracted nearly a dozen different species of birds who are using the green roof for nesting and breeding.

A green roof atop a high school and other school-related projects will be part of other tours offered during CitiesAlive.

In addition to the tours, the October conference will feature more than 60 speakers with topics ranging from “Green Walls 101” to “What's Out There? Awesome Green Roof & Wall Projects of the World.”


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About Me

Glenn Hasek is the publisher and editor of Green Lodging News. He has more than 20 years of experience writing about the lodging industry. He can be reached at or by phone at (813) 510-3868.