A Slight Decline in Number of State, Regional, City Green Lodging Certification Programs

by Glenn Hasek July 22, 2015 06:34

Since its founding nine years ago, Green Lodging News has kept track of the status of the many green lodging certification programs in the United States at the state, regional and local levels. As of our last update there were 27 states, two regions, and four cities with some type of green lodging or green business certification program. I just conducted a check of our list and three programs have been removed. The Hocking Hills region of Ohio no longer keeps a list. Since losing the person in charge of its program, the New Hampshire Lodging & Restaurant Assn. has stopped its certifications. And, after much searching and calling, I can no longer find any evidence of the Michigan Green Lodging program. So, as of today, there are now 25 states, one region, and four cities with some type of green lodging or green business certification program.

Certification programs have always been a challenge to fund and manage. It is disappointing to see some of the programs fade away. Done right, state, regional or city programs can be highly beneficial in helping owners and operators to green up their operations. They can also help direct eco-minded travelers to green places to stay.

The introduction of TripAdvisor’s no-cost GreenLeaders program more than two years ago has certainly impacted all other certification programs in the United States. Yet, I believe there is still a place for more local type certification programs. TripAdvisor, with its many thousands of GreenLeader properties, cannot provide the more personal level of consulting expertise that one can find in a smaller program.

Do you participate in a state, region or city type of program? I would love to hear from you in regard to how you benefit from participating. And, if you become aware of any other changes to our list, be sure to let me know. I can be reached at editor@greenlodgingnews.com.


Lessons to Learn from an Influx of Sargassum

by Glenn Hasek July 15, 2015 07:12

There has been so much concern in the Caribbean about Sargassum, a species of brown algae, that the Caribbean Hotel & Tourism Assn. (CHTA) has just released a resource guide for how to deal with it. The excess of Sargassum washing up on beaches in the Caribbean originates from the Sargasso Sea, located in the open North Atlantic Ocean near Bermuda. This sea is estimated to hold up to 10 million metric tons of Sargassum. It is known as “the golden floating rainforest”. It is also found in the Northern Gulf of Mexico. Scientists suggest that the influx of Sargassum in the Caribbean is due to a rise in water temperatures and low winds, which both affect ocean currents. Rotting Sargassum creates an unpleasant smell. (It is actually the organisms within the Sargassum that create the odor.) When experienced in large, continuous amounts, Sargassum can pose a serious threat to the tourism sector.

Acccording to CHTA, in severe cases, vacation cancellations and beachfront room closures have occurred, leading to staff layoffs and reduced economic gain for the tourism sector and communities.

The guide offers suggestions on how best to deal with Sargassum—the first step being to assure guests that it is not harmful. Burying the Sargassum can work. Organizing beach cleanups with volunteers can help. Sargassum can be composted and used as a soil amendment. For those dealing with Sargassum, CHTA suggests setting up a Sargassum task force to get the community involved. The guide also offers information on who to contact for possible grant assistance.

While most in the tourism sector never have to face something as “simple” and problematic as brown algae, they can benefit from reading the resource guide. The guide is a template for dealing with any environmental problem impacting tourism. Click here to see it.


GreenHotelWorld Calculates Green Hotel Density Per Continent

by Glenn Hasek July 08, 2015 11:14

It is a question I have asked myself a number of times and GreenHotelWorld now apparently has an answer—or at least close to one. The question: Just how prevalent are green certified hotels? GreenHotelWorld, which offsets the stays of those who book rooms through its site, GreenHotelWorld.com, just published a report on certified green hotel density per continent. Results of the study show global green hotel density is 6.2 percent. The study is based on more than 130,000 hotels worldwide that have been cross referenced with 50 hotel certification eco-labels through a green algorithm developed in accordance with standards set by the Global Sustainable Travel Council (GSTC). The continent with the highest concentration of green certified hotels is North America with 10.1 percent. Following North America: Europe, 6.1 percent; Oceania, 4.8 percent; Africa, 3.7 percent; South America, 2.7 percent; and Asia, .9 percent.

According to GreenHotelWorld, green hotel density is directly related to activity levels of certification labels in each market/continent. More than 140 green certification labels exist globally. Amongst these labels, there are approximately 50 active eco-labels that focus on green hotel certification.

While GreenHotelWorld listed the eco-labels with which it works in its press release, it did not say if those eco-labels were ones included in the study. GreenHotelWorld also did not explain if regional, state and local certification programs were included. There are many of those in the United States. GreenHotelWorld’s numbers are close to what I suspected. While there are certainly many hotels that implement green practices that do not get certified, the study’s results, in general, show that green hotels are still a rarity in our industry and there is still much work to be done.


Vendor Surveys Confirm Growing Interest in Green Travel

by Glenn Hasek June 24, 2015 10:49

Two recent surveys confirm the likelihood that travelers are more apt to stay at lodgings that align themselves with social and/or environmental responsibility. The first survey, conducted by Booking.com of 32,000 travelers across 16 countries, found that more than half of all global travelers report that they are likely to choose a destination based on it social or environmental impact. Interestingly, sustainable travelers were 50 percent more likely to intend to book more luxury accommodations in 2015 than they did in 2014 and three times as likely to plan to stay in more “green” accommodations in 2015 than they did in 2014. Brazilian respondents were most interested in sustainable travel, with 74 percent reporting that they would be likely to base a decision on these concerns. Australians (59 percent) and Americans (53 percent) were also among the world’s top sustainable travel intenders.

According to Booking.com, while only 10 percent of respondents took a traditional sustainable trip in 2014 (defined as an eco-tour, a volunteering trip, a farm stay, a camping trip or a trip to learn about new cultures), this year will see the majority of global travelers being influenced by an intention to reduce their environmental impact, or to ensure that their tourism has a positive impact on the local community, when evaluating vacation destinations.

To determine what’s important to travelers when selecting a vacation or business trip location, a recent survey of 1,000 men and women in the United States was conducted by Social Science Research Solutions for Imprint Plus, a leading manufacturer of customized, eco-friendly, name badge and signage systems. When asked if they preferred to stay at eco-friendly establishments, an overwhelming 71 percent of the respondents reported that it was important. “Our survey tells us that U.S. travelers seek out eco-friendly establishments for their pleasure or business stays with nearly three-quarters stating that this was an important decision factor,” says Kristin MacMillan, Imprint Plus President and sponsor of the survey. “As an eco-friendly provider of reusable name badges and signage used widely by the hospitality industry, we realize the importance of being ‘green’ in America today.”


Captain Planet Chairperson Gets GMIC Meeting Off to Green Start

by Glenn Hasek June 18, 2015 15:52

The Green Meeting Industry Council kicked off its annual Sustainable Meetings Conference earlier this week. The theme: Power to Change. Laura Turner Seydel gave the opening keynote address. Seydel, daughter of Ted Turner, spoke about the many environmental organizations she is involved with. The list is long. She is chairperson of the Captain Planet Foundation which promotes hands-on environmental education projects worldwide. She is a director of and works with the Environmental Working Group to limit the toxic chemicals in food, air, water and consumer products. In 2004 she co-founded Mothers and Others for Clean Air and is currently the Chair of the Board, and in 1994 she and her husband co-founded Chattahoochee Riverkeeper. Seydel serves on her family’s foundation boards including The Turner Foundation, Jane Smith Turner Foundation, the Turner Endangered Species Fund, and Ted’s Montana Grill.

She lives with her husband and her three children in their home, EcoManor, the first LEED certified Gold residence in the southeastern United States.

Seydel told a number of stories about her famous father—an environmentalist and advocate himself of many green causes. She said her father picks up trash during his walks and taught his family that you have to be responsible for other people’s actions as well as your own. Seydel emphasized the importance of exposing children to nature and referred to nature deficit disorder, a phrase originally coined by Richard Louv in his 2005 book, “Last Child in the Woods.” She said many children today grow up with a fear of nature.

Of particular interest to Green Lodging News readers: Seydel said her father owns two lodging establishments in New Mexico. Those two properties, plus the many Ted’s Montana Grill locations, make Ted Turner a hospitality industry veteran. There is a strong sustainability story behind Ted’s Montana Grill. You can even download it from the company’s website. One of the company’s guiding principles is to “Be passionate ambassadors to help raise sustainability consciousness.” The restaurant’s founders, Ted Turner and George McKerrow, Jr., pioneered the effort to preserve the American bison. Bison is now served at Ted’s Montana Grill restaurants.

Ted’s Montana Grill recently opened its first LEED certified restaurant. It is located in Alpharetta, Ga.

Seydel closed her presentation by talking about the National Restaurant Association’s Conserve Initiative and also mentioned the American Hotel & Lodging Association’s Green Initiatives.

“We have to think about how our actions today will impact future generations,” she emphasized.


Many Recognizable Names in Newsweek's Green Rankings

by Glenn Hasek June 10, 2015 05:17

Newsweek just released its Green Rankings. The project consists of two lists: The U.S. 500 ranks the 500 largest publicly-traded companies in the United States by market capitalization, while the Global 500 looks at the 500 largest publicly-traded companies globally by market capitalization as determined by Bloomberg as of March 4, 2015. In other words, if your company is not public or it is not large enough to be in the top 500 lists based on market capitalization, it was not considered. This year Newsweek generated the lists in partnership with Corporate Knights Capital and HIP (Human Impact + Profit) Investor Inc. Data used was from 2013 and there were eight criteria considered: Combined Energy Productivity, Combined Greenhouse Gas (GHG) Productivity, Combined Water Productivity, Combined Waste Productivity, Green Revenue Score, Green Pay Link, Sustainability Board Committee, and Audited Environmental Metrics.

Some of the methodology is pretty complicated and certain criteria are weighted more heavily than others. At least one company so far, Wynn Resorts, Limited, has issued a press release touting the fact that its U.S. ranking jumped by 244 positions since last year. Wynn Resorts’ ranking this year: 100. Also ranked on the U.S. list this year:

Las Vegas Sands Corp. at 60;
MGM Resorts International at 112;
Wyndham Worldwide Corp. at 114;
Host Hotels & Resorts, Inc. at 199;
Marriott International, Inc. at 231;
The Walt Disney Co. at 255;
Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide, Inc. at 256;
Hilton Worldwide Holdings Inc. at 300; and
Hyatt Hotels Corp. at 335.

I have worked on a number of similar rankings in the past and they are never perfect. No company is perfect when it comes to sustainability. Newsweek itself admits there are flaws in its project. “Because companies, for the most part, do not report their impacts on biodiversity or the impact of their suppliers, it is possible for a company to outsource or push these environmental impacts “off the balance sheet,” Newsweek says.

What hospitality companies appear on Newsweek’s list is no surprise. They all have ambitious sustainability initiatives. It is good to see our industry represented on a list with such media exposure.


Florida's Reedy Creek Improvement District is Hub of Green Activity

by Glenn Hasek June 04, 2015 05:46

Most folks outside of the Orlando area have never heard of the Reedy Creek Improvement District. According to the District’s website, its history goes back to the mid-1960s when the Walt Disney World Co. proposed building a recreation-oriented development on 25,000 acres of property in Central Florida. The property sat in a remote area of Orange and Osceola County, so secluded that the nearest power and water lines were 10 to 15 miles away. Neither Orange nor Osceola County had the services or the resources needed to bring the project to life. The predicament was resolved in 1967 when the Florida State legislature, working with Walt Disney World Co., created a special taxing district—called the Reedy Creek Improvement District—that would act with the same authority and responsibility as a county government. I visited the District last year for an article on the Central Florida Energy Garden.

The Energy Garden is an organics management and renewable energy facility that converts organic waste—human waste, food scraps and fats, oil and grease (FOG)—into renewable biogas and natural fertilizers. When operating at full capacity, the facility will process more than 120,000 tons of organic materials annually while producing 5.4 megawatts of combined heat and power. Walt Disney World Resort sends its food waste to the Energy Garden.

The District was in the news again this past week for another sustainability-related project. In case you missed it, Duke Energy Florida has received approval to build, own and operate a 5-megawatt solar facility that will serve the District. The Reedy Creek Improvement District Board of Supervisors voted to accept a 15-year power-purchase agreement with Duke Energy Florida Solar Solutions LLC, a subsidiary of Duke Energy Florida, to purchase solar energy from the facility. Once constructed, all of the energy from the facility will be sold to the District to meet its energy needs. The facility will occupy approximately 20 acres near World Drive and Epcot Center Drive at Walt Disney World Resort. Construction is expected to begin mid-summer with the facility to be in service by year end. The facility’s 48,000 solar panels will be arranged in the shape of a Disney-inspired design.

According to Duke Energy Florida, it has taken several steps to advance solar technology in its service area. In April, the company announced plans to build up to 500 megawatts of solar by 2024 as part of a 10-year plan. It also has funded more than $8 million in solar photovoltaic system installations at approximately 50 K-12 schools and universities in Florida to generate electricity and help foster renewable energy education.


One More Energy-, Water-Saving System to Consider for Your Laundry

by Glenn Hasek May 28, 2015 05:36

Earlier this month I posted an article on ozone laundry systems, the suppliers who offer those systems, and the many benefits that can be derived from using ozone in washers. I just heard from a company that does something very similar to the suppliers I mentioned in my article. The company is OMNI Chemicals. OMNI, not a Green Lodging News advertiser, is somewhat different from the other ozone system suppliers in that they also manufacture the chemicals used in the laundry in conjunction with their system that uses hydroxyl radicals. According to OMNI, its advanced oxidation system uses the heavy humid air in a washroom to fuel its UV dispenser which creates hydroxyl radicals. What is created stimulates all facets of the wash process as the radicals are 500 percent more reactive than chlorine bleach or the older ozone technology. This next generation technology is dispensed just like one of the other chemicals in measured precise doses to achieve the desired outcomes.

“This is a huge change from previous applications or equipment associated with ozone,” the company says. “Unlike ozone, hydroxyl radicals have no harmful side effects and is supported by both the CDC and EPA.”

OMNI’s business model is also quite unique in that they offer their system and chemical pumps at no cost with the purchase of a one year supply of laundry and housekeeping chemicals. According to the company’s website, its system works best in cold environments and leaves no harmful byproducts behind. OMNI’s laundry chemical products are designed specifically to perform in cold environments with hydroxyls. All of OMNI’s products are completely biodegradable and do not contain any harmful and dangerous compounds such as alkalis or caustics. OMNI is also a provider of natural cleaning products for glass and other surfaces.

As you evaluate all of the suppliers mentioned in my original article, be sure to include OMNI Chemicals in the mix.


GoFoam Florida Reaches Out to Green Lodging News

by Glenn Hasek May 20, 2015 06:50

I recently heard from someone representing a local foam advocacy site here in Florida. The name of the site is GoFoam Florida. In case you are wondering what kind of foam I am referring to, it is the polystyrene foam found in cups (often referred to as Styrofoam cups, even though Styrofoam is a registered trademark of the Dow Chemical Company that is used for insulation, not food packaging products). Polystyrene foam is also used in egg cartons, serving trays, to-go containers, etc. GoFoam is an affiliate of Dart Container Corp., maker of polystyrene foam containers. Of course it is in the best interest of Dart to do what it can to keep folks using polystyrene foam. For those who do, and there are a lot of you, Dart has provided a map of public drop-off locations for polystyrene foam recycling. A quick check found just four locations here in Florida.

There are recycling “hot spots” in the Northeast, Michigan and California but as a whole those of you still using foam containers would be hard pressed to find a drop-off location.

I wrote about a proposed polystyrene foam ban in New York City a couple of years ago in my blog. It is pretty clear that the person who wrote to me was given marching orders to try to combat any negative press polystyrene foam had gotten.

On the GoFoam Florida site Dart explains what happens to foam containers that are recycled. They are used to make items such as garden nursery trays, picture frames, rulers, and architectural molding. Dart also explains the other advantages: less costly than more easily biodegradable alternatives, insulates better than paper, etc. In its “About” section, GoFoam comes right out and says, “Foam is good for the environment.” One of the criticisms of polystyrene foam is that it biodegrades slowly and is thus seen as a huge litter problem. Dart says, however, that it is not the foam that is the issue, it is people’s behavior. “A foam ban will not stop people from littering,” Dart says. Of course that is unfortunately true. My advice is to study all of the alternatives when it comes to packaging. If you still use polystyrene foam, certainly seek out recycling options. If there are no drop-off locations in your area—and I recognize it is an extra burden to have to go drop off anything—seriously explore other packaging options. Your thoughts? I can be reached at editor@greenlodgingnews.com.


A Bit of Green News from Day One of HD Expo

by Glenn Hasek May 14, 2015 05:44

HD Expo has always been one of my favorite shows and for good reason. From a sustainability or “green” standpoint, there are always many new products to discover, many new green stories to uncover, and other news to pick up as well. Day one of this year’s event at Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas proved to be no exception. My first stop on the trade show floor was booth 5872. There, I found first-time exhibitor WoodTrac introducing its new decorative wooden ceiling system. The system is an alternative to the standard drop ceiling systems. The system has Forest Stewardship Council Chain-of-Custody Certification and includes recycled wood content. WoodTrac is a division of Sauder Woodworking. Sauder’s cogeneration plant in Ohio is fueled by sawdust from its manufacturing operations. At booth 3211 I learned about a just announced collaboration between CentraLite and Leggett & Platt Smart Products. The two companies have combined to produce a guestroom energy management system that goes beyond others I have seen. For example, guests can choose their optimal room temperature prior to their stay.

During the show Leggett & Platt Smart Products introduced LPSense Illuminate. It is a lighting system that senses a guest’s presence. It can be integrated into furniture, including beds, night stands and dressers. The product was developed to help guests navigate dark rooms. Leggett & Platt Smart Products also introduced Helios Time, a bedside alarm clock that offers Qi wireless charging technology, Bluetooth streaming, Wi-Fi connectivity and a carbon monoxide detector.

Simmons Hospitality Bedding (booth 2823) announced that it has added TENCEL fiber to its Advanced Temperature Management Design. TENCEL is now the first layer of temperature control in the mattress, helping to absorb and wick away moisture, Simmons says. TENCEL is a botanic fiber from Lenzing Group. At booth 2435 I learned about Grohe America’s enhanced GROHE Blue Chilled + Sparkling faucet that offers users the option of dispensing filtered still, medium sparkling or full sparkling water. The system eliminates the need for plastic bottled water. Through five layers of filtration, the five-stage filter removes all unwanted substances that will affect the taste and smell of water.

Be sure to read about other interesting products I discovered at HD Expo in my upcoming Publisher’s Point of View column. Finally, it was while walking the trade show floor that I ran into a friend from Lodging magazine. He informed me that Bill Corsini is no longer with Lodging. Bill was the driving force behind the 2013 and 2014 Lodging Green & Sustainability Conference + Expo. Lodging still plans to organize a conference in 2016 but losing Bill will be a setback for sure.


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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 editor@greenlodgingnews.com or by phone at (813) 510-3868.