Defining Greenwashing

by Glenn Hasek October 28, 2010 04:19

We have all seen it--companies that try to paint themselves or their products as environmentally responsible when they really are not. This is what has come to be known as greenwashing. Every now and then I hear from product suppliers who are way off the mark when it comes to having a product that is "green." I particularly remember receiving numerous calls from a guy who had come up with a urinal screen with block that he claimed to be recyclable. He actually sent me a sample. It smelled up my garage for a week. I could not imagine anyone trying to recycle one of them. What could he have been thinking? His product did not pass the common sense test. In trying to identify what is green or not green, I highly recommend applying the product or service to "The Seven Sins of Greenwashing" test.

If the product or service's claim does not fall into one of the seven sins, you can feel more confident in knowing the product or service is what it says it is. Here are the Seven Sins of Greenwashing:

• Sin of the Hidden Trade-off: committed by suggesting a product is "green" based on an unreasonably narrow set of attributes without attention to other important environmental issues. Paper, for example, is not necessarily environmentally-preferable just because it comes from a sustainably-harvested forest. Other important environmental issues in the paper-making process, including energy, greenhouse gas emissions, and water and air pollution, may be equally or more significant.

• Sin of No Proof: committed by an environmental claim that cannot be substantiated by easily accessible supporting information or by a reliable third-party certification. Common examples are tissue products that claim various percentages of post-consumer recycled content without providing any evidence.

• Sin of Vagueness: committed by every claim that is so poorly defined or broad that its real meaning is likely to be misunderstood by the consumer. "All-natural" is an example. Arsenic, uranium, mercury, and formaldehyde are all naturally occurring, and poisonous. "All natural" isn't necessarily "green."

• Sin of Irrelevance: committed by making an environmental claim that may be truthful but is unimportant or unhelpful for consumers seeking environmentally preferable products. "CFC-free" is a common example, since it is a frequent claim despite the fact that CFCs are banned by law.

• Sin of Lesser of Two Evils: committed by claims that may be true within the product category, but that risk distracting the consumer from the greater environmental impacts of the category as a whole. Organic cigarettes might be an example of this category, as might be fuel-efficient vehicles.

• Sin of Fibbing: the least frequent sin, is committed by making environmental claims that are simply false. The most common examples were products falsely claiming to be Energy Star certified or registered.

• Sin of Worshiping False Labels: The Sin of Worshiping False Labels is committed by a product that, through either words or images, gives the impression of third-party endorsement where no such endorsement actually exists; fake labels, in other words.

Thanks to TerraChoice for providing the above examples.

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Give Students an Opportunity to Major in Sustainable Tourism/Operations

by Glenn Hasek October 26, 2010 05:05

I love watching movies. If someone offered me a job as a movie critic, I would take it in a heartbeat. Last night I had an opportunity to see "Waiting for Superman." I highly recommend seeing this movie that provides a sobering look at the state of public education in the United States. While not touching on college level education, the movie did prompt me to wonder exactly how well our nation's hotel schools are doing at teaching sustainability, green design and green hotel operations. I have a list on my website of those hotel schools that offer at least one class related to sustainability. I ran through the list myself and noticed that just a few schools give students the opportunity to major in sustainable tourism or geotourism.

Perhaps those colleges and universities that have hotel schools, or that offer lodging or tourism related majors, just have not caught up with the times. Hotel companies are increasingly creating sustainability officer positions and they need qualified people to fill those jobs. I have interviewed many of those in sustainability positions and none of them have majored in sustainable tourism, green design or green hotel operations. Not to say they are not qualified for doing what they are doing, but if you were hiring someone to lead your green efforts, wouldn't it be nice to have a pool of candidates to choose from who have studied specifically what you have in mind for a position?

There are now more than 1,000 hotel projects registered for LEED certification, governments around the country are beginning to require green building and green travel, hotel companies are creating their own internal sustainability initiatives, the meetings industry is going green, and new products and technologies are transforming the way hotels operate. The more graduating students know about these trends, the faster they can contribute once they are hired.

It's time for all of our industry's leading hotel schools to offer majors in sustainability or related areas of expertise. Your thoughts? 

 

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Massachusetts Convention Center Authority Tapping Local Suppliers

by Glenn Hasek October 21, 2010 04:51

In your quest to purchase locally made items or locally grown food, how do you screen your suppliers? Do you take the time to visit their place of business? Is there an application process? Interview process? In their quest to purchase more than 50 percent of the product they serve from local sources, the Massachusetts Convention Center Authority and its food and beverage partner, Levy Restaurants, will be holding a Vendor Fair from October 25 to 27 at the Boston Convention Center. Interested vendors who sell either dairy, produce, or specialty items are being asked to submit an online application. The application asks vendors if they deliver directly and for the lead time required to fill an order.

Applicants are also asked whether or not they are headquartered in Massachusetts, and the annual revenues for the product in question.

The impact on the local and state economy will be significant if the Massachusetts Convention Center Authority and Levy Restaurants meet their purchasing goal. The Convention Center Authority owns and oversees the Boston Convention Center and the Hynes Convention Center. Both locations bring in a huge amount of business annually. Between 2003 and 2008, the two centers hosted 634 events.

What is happening in Massachusetts is good for all of New England. The number of farms throughout the region is actually growing thanks to the increased purchase of locally produced food.

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New Book's Focus: Greener Cleaner Indoor Air

by Glenn Hasek October 19, 2010 05:39

When creating a healthy, green living space in your lodging establishment for your guests and employees, you need to pay very close attention to indoor air quality. I have posted many articles on the Green Lodging News website that address this subject. According to the EPA, indoor air can be as much as 10 times as hazardous to our health as outdoor air. There are many reasons for this: smoking, formaldehyde, lead, pesticide residue, pets, cleaning products, paint, etc. In "Greener Cleaner Indoor Air," author Mark R. Sneller, PhD provides a valuable reference guide for building owners, designers, managers and anyone else concerned about indoor air quality. I highly recommend checking out this book published by wheatmark.

Did you know, for example, that a refrigerator can be the worst area of a property to harbor bacteria, mold and viruses and that the laundry room may be the second worst? Or that indoors there is more emissions from paint than carpeting? In his book, Dr. Sneller separates content into 14 sections. Among the sections: Allergy Basics, Asthma, A Hazardous World (dust, soft furnishings, candles, radon, fiberglass, etc.), We're Covered with Chemicals (perfumes, air fresheners, etc.), Pesticides and Other Hazards, Indoor Air Quality, Pets and Critters, Machines and Devices in the Home, Home Maintenance, Mold, Safe Household Cleaning, Other Valuable Information. While several of the chapters apply to residential homes, the information is applicable to a lodging environment as well.

The "Machines and Devices in the Home" should be of particular interest to hoteliers and innkeepers, as it addresses ozone machines, air purifiers, vacuum cleaners, and air-handling systems. Dr. Sneller says, for example, that the use of ozone machines, often used in hotel rooms to remove odors, can result in an increase of formaldehyde in the room--because of how ozone reacts to other chemicals that may be present. I suspect sellers of ozone equipment would argue with Dr. Sneller's position. Regarding portable air purifiers, he says there has yet to be a peer-reviewed scientific or medical journal that has shown a lessening of symptoms with an air purifier present. Again, air purifier vendors would argue with him.

How much attention do you pay to air quality in your lodging establishment? Based on what Dr. Sneller says in his book, probably not enough. Your thoughts?

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Number of LEED Registered Hotels Hits 1,038

by Glenn Hasek October 14, 2010 04:55

The U.S. Green Building Council's (USGBC) Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) program is continuing to gain acceptance in the lodging industry. I just received an updated list of certified and registered hotels and conference centers from USGBC and the number of certified hotels now stands at 79; the number of LEED registered hotels: 1,038. In the last nine months there has been more than 40 LEED certifications and 132 new registrations. There are now 13 LEED certified convention centers and 51 registered. Even New York City's Jacob K. Javits Convention Center has registered for certification. Two of the more prominent hotels currently registered for LEED include the Waldorf Towers Hotel in Miami, and the Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center in National Harbor, Md.

The brands most represented on the certified hotels list include Marriott (8 hotels), Starwood (8 hotels), and Hilton (6 hotels). The state with the most certified hotels is California with 18. California also has 118 registered hotel projects. The convention centers currently certified include: Colorado Convention Center (Denver), Caesars Convention Addition (Las Vegas), Jackson Convention Complex (Jackson, Miss.), Virginia Beach Convention Center, Dallas Convention Center, Songdo Convention Center (New Songdo City, South Korea), Raleigh (N.C.) Convention Center, ARIA Convention Center and Showroom (Las Vegas), Oregon Convention Center (Portland, Ore.), Los Angeles Convention Center, Phoenix Convention Center, Kansas City Convention Center Grand Ballroom (Kansas City, Mo.), and Spokane (Wash.) Convention Center Expansion.

Companies such as Marriott, Hilton, Starwood, Hyatt, InterContinental Hotels Group, and many others are all making commitments to pursue LEED. That is good news for our industry and good news for the environment. Interested in seeing the entire LEED certified/registered list? Contact me at editor@greenlodgingnews.com.

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Be Sure to Check Out Marriott's New Sustainability Report

by Glenn Hasek October 12, 2010 05:10

Marriott International has just released its 2008-2009 Sustainability Report. It is the first sustainability report the company has ever produced. In producing the 28-page report, Marriott used guidelines established by the Global Reporting Initiative. I highly recommend checking out the report. Few hospitality companies, or individual hotels for that matter, produce sustainability reports. The report includes an introduction from J.W. Marriott, Jr., chairman and CEO, and Arne M. Sorenson, president and COO, as well as information on the company's diversity programs, position on ethics and human rights, and community donations in time and dollars. The report details Marriott's commitment to green building (LEED) and operations (Energy Star) and its accomplishments in areas such as energy management, water conservation, waste minimization, and purchasing.

The report is well organized and designed and includes a GRI Content Index. Highlights from the report include:

• Reducing water consumption per available room by 8.2 percent in two years.
• Increasing LEED registered and certified hotels from 18 to 67.
• Seeding $2 million to jumpstart an Amazon rainforest preservation project in Brazil and $500,000 to help protect access to fresh water in China.
• Surpassing the goal of 500 minority- and women-owned hotels a year early, reaching 525 in 2009.
• Reviewing community programs and NGO partnerships addressing poverty alleviation, disaster relief, education and children's wellbeing.

Has your company or property considered producing a sustainability report but chosen not to? I would love to learn the reasons why. Or, if one is in the works, I would also love to learn about it. Leave your comments here or write to editor@greenlodgingnews.com.

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Best Green Hotels List Approaches 5,400 Properties

by Glenn Hasek October 07, 2010 04:47

I am often asked by vendors selling green products, and others, where they should look to find green hotels. There are many lists online. The Green Lodging News website links to many of the lists from its Green Organizations and Certification Programs pages. The website that definitely has the most hotels listed--those properties located not only in the United States but all over the world--is www.environmentallyfriendlyhotels.com. According to a recent e-mail from Kit Cassingham, who manages the site, the site lists almost 5,400 lodging properties. Visitors to Kit's site can search by property name or location by using a basic search, or use an Advanced Search process to screen by specific green issue--whether or not the property composts, for example. The site has a definitions page to help you understand how the site's rating system works.

Properties listed on the site can earn from one to seven green trees. Areas covered in the rating system range from bulk soap and amenities to energy conservation to environmental cleaning. Guests visiting hotels listed on the site can submit reviews.

While the website is due for a redesign, its simple design is user-friendly. The website links to other useful sites, including our very own Green Lodging News. Be sure to check out www.environmentallyfriendlyhotels.com (also can be accessed via www.bestgreenhotels.com) and if you run a green lodging establishment, be sure to submit your property for consideration for listing.   

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Ritz-Carlton, Laguna Niguel Makes the Most of its Outdoor Learning Center

by Glenn Hasek October 05, 2010 04:41

The Ritz-Carlton, Laguna Niguel is making the most of its new Outdoor Learning Center. Created in partnership with ValleyCrest Landscape Companies as part of Jean-Michel Cousteau's Ambassadors of the Environment program, the center highlights a variety of fruits, vegetables and herbs, as well as a green house and life-size game board. The organic garden features California pepper trees and fruit trees including lemon, orange, grapefruit, plum, peach, loquat and fig. Various lettuces, tomatoes, red and yellow peppers, squash, and watermelons are all planted in raised beds. Rosemary, thyme, basil, parsley, mint and chives are also highlighted in the garden. Native plants, such as Evergreen Currant, Douglas Iris, Chalk Dudleya, Coral Bells and California Wild Lilac, have been incorporated into the garden and grow beside plants that were used many years ago by the Native Americans that lived in the region.

These native plants include White Sage, Cleveland Sage, California Sagebrush, Lemonade Sumac, Creeping Manzanita and others. As the fruits, vegetables and herbs mature, they will be incorporated into the menus in Raya, the resort's new restaurant concept by chef Richard Sandoval.

The greenhouse showcases the growth of native species of plants as well as organic, healthy vegetables that are used in the organic cooking activity, Ambassadors in the Kitchen. Rain gutters on the greenhouse collect moisture that is used to irrigate the garden and an underground cistern collects runoff that is used in the greenhouse and the garden. On the complimentary Garden Tour, guests have the opportunity to explore the garden and learn about the greenhouse.

The Outdoor Learning Center is incorporated into several of the Ambassadors of the Environment eco-excursions. Gardening Gurus allows guests to learn about organic gardening, composting and plants. A Vegetation Vacation starts with a hike in the Dana Point Reserve where guests discover the native plants and animals of the Dana Point coastal region. Upon returning to the resort, guests enjoy a gardening experience in the organic garden.

The Center's life-size game board is a fun and interactive way to teach guests about sustainable living. The game is divided into nine sections--energy, water, biodiversity, food, waste, toxic waste, transportation, homes and buildings, and being an Ambassador of the Environment. Guests are the game pieces and they roll giant die to move forward. They read questions from the Sustainable Living cards and if they answer correctly, they advance in the game. At the conclusion of the game, participants discuss what they learned and talk about each section and how it relates to their life and sustainable living.

Kudos to The Ritz-Carlton, Laguna Niguel for getting so much mileage out of its new Outdoor Learning Center. Has your property done something similar? I would love to learn about it. Leave your comment here.

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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.