Another Look at Greenbuild's 95 Percent Waste Diversion Rate

by Glenn Hasek November 29, 2011 04:34

Green Lodging News recently reported that the Metro Toronto Convention Centre (MTCC) achieved a 95 percent waste diversion rate during October's Greenbuild event. (See article.) I spoke with two of the key players responsible for the waste diversion success this week: Vince Quattrociocchi, vice president of operations for MTCC, and Vivian Fleet, MTCC's sustainability coordinator. I was curious to know how one can achieve such a high rate. Turns out that MTCC actually has a long history of producing "zero waste" events--events with waste diversion rates above 90 percent. It took a lot of planning with Greenbuild (U.S. Green Building Council) staff, MTCC personnel and waste management contractor Turtle Island Recycling to accomplish the high rate. Exhibitors and decorators also were key to the event's waste diversion success.

"We went through everything with a fine-toothed comb," Vivian told me. Cardboard and packaging was recycled. So was carpet end cuts--a large portion of the event's waste stream. These were sent to a company in Toronto for recycling. Biodegradable and compostable food service wares including cutlery, plates, cups, lids and napkins were used. These were made from corn-based plastic or bamboo. A food waste composter that produces dry material was used. Vince said the composter turned out to be nowhere big enough to handle the food waste from the event. "We are looking at larger systems," Vince said.

The U.S. Green Building Council organized the placement of volunteers, some of whom were students, at the recycling stations. Turtle Island provided dock monitors to ensure recyclables leaving MTCC were not contaminated. Measurement was important to reaching the high waste diversion rate. "USGBC hired a third party consultant to ensure the green program was real and the audit results were real," Vince said. A team approach was key to the 95 percent waste diversion rate. "You need everybody involved," Vince said. "You need that team aspect."

The 95 waste diversion rate was the highest in the 10-year history of Greenbuild. "We are able to provide that level of green meeting to any client," Vince said.

What is the highest waste diversion rate you have ever achieved at an event? What waste items are the most difficult to recycle or repurpose? Please be sure to leave your comments here.



Mintel Survey Gauges Willingness to Pay More for Sustainable Cuisine

by Glenn Hasek November 22, 2011 04:29

Green surveys have consistently shown that travelers are not willing to pay more to stay in a green hotel. Are they, however, willing to pay more for sustainable cuisine in a restaurant? According to a recent Mintel report that included 1,906 respondents 18 years and above, just more than half (57 percent)of respondents are willing to pay more for local and sustainable fare. The majority of those, however, are only willing to pay from 1 percent to 5 percent more. When deciding where to eat, 74 percent of patrons based their decision on menu selection followed by pricing and convenient location at 69 percent and 67 percent, respectively. Local/organic ingredients and sustainable ingredients lagged severely behind with only 7 percent of people saying that drove them to a restaurant.

Going green and using local ingredients aren’t the only issues restaurants are facing today. For corporate social responsibility nitiatives, patrons place the greatest importance on living wages. When Mintel respondents were asked to rate their top three CSR initiatives they named living wages, local ingredients and company-provided medical insurance.

Which part of the United States is the greenest when it comes to choosing sustainable cuisine? According to Mintel, the West is best. The West has traditionally been a hotbed for healthier lifestyles and related culinary trends. Although still a small percentage of patrons are impacted, local or organic ingredients are particularly of interest to those living in Western states (11 percent versus 7 percent of the Northwest and only 4 percent of the Midwest).

Women were more likely than men to pay attention to a restaurant’s green and sustainable practices, especially on the menu, the report found. However, consumers define “green and sustainable” practices differently. Just over 50 percent said using reusable/compostable packaging fit the definition, and 40 percent said use of organic ingredients, followed by energy-saving initiatives/LEED certification, 37 percent; use of local ingredients, 37 percent; and having a low-carbon footprint, 35 percent.


Support for the Importance of Third-Party Green Certification

by Glenn Hasek November 17, 2011 04:41

When it comes to measuring the importance of third-party green certification in the lodging industry, little research has been done--especially as it pertains to leisure and business travelers. Yes, some research has shown that travelers, given a choice between a green hotel and a non-green hotel, most often would choose the green hotel. And, some research has shown that meeting planners by far are seeking out green meeting destinations. But would the fact that a property is green certified make a difference? Again, little research has been done. What research there is has shown that almost all U.S. travelers don't even recognize the brands of the organizations that green certify lodging establishments.

While not a lodging-specific survey, Diversey just released the results of a study that found that 70 percent of U.S. adults agree that environmental certification of a company’s facility by a third-party organization such as the U.S. Green Building Council would enhance their opinion of the business. Diversey’s study, conducted by telephone by Harris Interactive on behalf of Diversey between October 28 and October 31, 2011, surveyed a random sample of 1,016 U.S. adults regarding the impact of environmental building certifications on Americans’ opinion of a business. The survey found that 69 percent of U.S. adults agree that they would prefer to work in a facility that has been certified by a third-party environmental organization; 64 percent of U.S. adults agree that they would prefer to patronize a business whose facility is certified by a third-party environmental organization; 49 percent of U.S. adults feel better about doing business with a company whose facility is certified by a third-party environmental organization; and 48 percent of U.S. adults indicated that third-party environmental certification of a facility improves the image of a company.

The survey also reveals differences by gender, region and age: Women are more likely than men to say they would prefer to work in a facility that meets third-party environmental standards. U.S. adults in the West are more likely than those in other regions of the United States to say third-party green certifications make them feel better about doing business with or working for a company. Younger adults, ages 18 to 54, are more likely than those ages 55 and older to agree that third-party environmental building certifications enhance their opinion of a business, and younger adults, ages 18 to 54, are more likely than those ages 55 and older to agree that they would prefer to work in a facility that meets third-party environmental certification standards.

For complete survey methodology, including weighting variables and subgroup sample sizes, contact Mark Goldman at


green certification

Green Products Prevalent at IHMRS, Boutique Design New York

by Glenn Hasek November 15, 2011 04:45

I just returned from the 96th annual International Hotel/Motel + Restaurant Show (IHMRS) and 2nd annual Boutique Design New York in New York City. Attendance at both events appeared to be strong. I don't have any final attendance numbers at this point; the IHMRS does not wrap up until later today. I was on the hunt for new green products and trends. I was not disappointed. Last year bed bugs was the hot topic with many different vendors offering their versions of green solutions. While the problem of bed bugs persists, there were just a few vendors talking about the topic this year. What seemed to be hot this year is LED lighting products. There were many vendors selling them--proof that this technology is here to stay.

Speaking of LEDs, I had an opportunity to stay at the InterContinental New York Barclay during my trip. One of their meeting rooms was recently retrofited with LEDs in the chandeliers. The next time you are in the area, stop at the hotel and check it out. The installation looks great.

Sustainable Cards featured its hotel key cards made from sustainable wood. Cintas featured its new air-conditioning coil cleaning service. Little Twig introduced a line of organic amenities for kids. Rinnai was at the show touting the upside to on demand "tankless" water heating. EcoStay featured its program to help hotels go carbon neutral. Scandinavian Amenities was on hand for the first time offering dispenser alternatives to amenity bottles. Jean-Michel Cousteau was at the Concept Amenities booth to help introduce a new amenities collection—Jean-Michel Cousteau by Maricoid. Food2Water featured its Food Waste Liquefier, Premalux offered a line of green cleaning products, and Ultra Green displayed its lineup of tree free paper products. These are just a few examples of what I saw at the shows.

Trade shows like IHMRS and Boutique Design New York are a great place to find green products and services that you would otherwise never would have discovered. Be sure to include these shows on your travel schedule in 2012.  


Latest TripAdvisor Survey Included Three "Eco" Questions

by Glenn Hasek November 08, 2011 15:49

TripAdvisor released the results of its 2012 Travel Trends forecast this week. More than 2,700 U.S. travelers were surveyed. There were three "eco" questions in the survey. First, guests were asked whether or not they participate in a hotel's towel and linen reuse program when they travel. Seventy-one percent said they do. This is about the same percentage I have seen in other surveys--possibly lower. Fifty-one percent said they switch off the air-conditioning or heat when leaving the hotel room. This one surprised me a bit as I thought a far fewer percentage of guests would actually do this. Perhaps guilt played a factor in the travelers' response? Finally, only 12 percent--yes, just 12 percent--said they choose a hotel specifically because of its green or environmentally conscious credentials.

TripAdvisor did not make it clear how it framed the "hotel choice process" question but of course one would expect location and cost to be the predominant reasons for choosing a property.

Other results not related to the environment showed that despite the current economic climate, 31 percent anticipate they will spend more on leisure travel next year, while 49 percent expect to spend the same amount as they did in 2011. Seventy-nine percent of respondents plan to spend a minimum of $3,000 on vacations in the coming year, 57 percent will pay out at least $5,000 and 21 percent will invest $10,000 or more on 2012 leisure travel. Ninety percent of respondents are planning to take two or more leisure trips next year, and 24 percent are planning five or more getaways. The top three international cities U.S. travelers plan to visit are Paris, London and Rome. The top three U.S. cities for 2012 are New York City, Las Vegas and San Francisco.


Connecting Hospitality & Population Growth Landmark

by Glenn Hasek November 03, 2011 05:49

Experts disagree on the timing of it exactly (some say it happened this past week) but most agree that we are at or close to the point when world population reaches 7 billion--an astounding number. For the hospitality industry, growing population certainly presents expansion opportunities--specifically in places like China, India, etc. As our industry grows along with the population, however, it needs to be ever mindful that it not contribute to the worsening of environmental conditions. It is tempting, with much to gain from expansion, to not consider the net increase of one's environmental impact on the planet. That would be a mistake. Hotels, as with other commercial buildings, can strain water supplies, fatten landfills with waste, and stress power grids that most often are charged through the burning of dirty coal.

Should our industry's leaders be making public statements about women having babies? Of course not. In a roundabout way, however, they can help positively impact those cultures where women have few reproduction rights by supplying jobs and encouraging and even funding education efforts. Believe it or not, according to the Worldwatch Institute, more than two in five pregnancies worldwide are unintended by the women who experience them, and half or more of these pregnancies result in births that spur continued population growth.

Should global population growth have a place in the conversation about hotel development? I believe it should. As an industry we need to make sure that we are building hotels in population growth areas that stand as symbols of efficiency and environmental and social responsibility. Our industry can do a much better job than it has been in eliminating waste through green building, procurement, technology and training. Our industry could also be more vocal about supporting green travel--the use of alternative fuels and electric vehicles, for example. 

Seven billion is a number that is overwhelming for everybody but we can at least make sure we are not contributing to the destruction and waste that such a lofty number represents.


Resort Owner Expands Upon Allergen Free Guestroom Concept

by Glenn Hasek November 01, 2011 04:14

Whatever you wish to call them--PURE Rooms, allergy-friendly rooms, ABC “Purity +” Rooms, etc.--guestrooms that feature air purification systems are becoming more common. I wrote about them this past week in a feature article and in my weekly column. In some cases, these special rooms include much more than air purification systems--for example, mattress and pillow encasements, showerhead filter, etc. The ultimate goal with these rooms is to provide a haven safe from allergens and other airborne or surface-borne items that negatively impact those with allergies or chemical sensitivities. Of course these rooms are also attractive to those that just plain want a guestroom that is cleaner than others. Guests are paying more to stay in these types of rooms--up to $24 more per night--and they should given the extra costs involved.

Up until this point I had only heard of hotels participating in pure air programs offered by companies like Pure Solutions or UV Flu Technology. Because the allergy-friendly room concept is rather new to the industry, hoteliers have been relying on the experts to set up these rooms. That is understandable and wise given the fact that the already established companies know what works and what does not work when it comes to setting up and marketing the rooms. After my column on air purified guestrooms ran yesterday however, I heard from a resort owner who had explored the programs offered by other companies but then decided to come up with her own allergen free room concept. She said it cost more than what other companies were offering but it was worth it.

One section of rooms at her resort now includes hardwood floors, leather furniture, HEPA air purifiers, encasements on mattresses and pillows, and chlorine filters on showerheads. "The rooms physically look different from our other rooms and we only charge $10 per night more for guests wishing to reserve an allergen free room," she says. "We have had great success and our guests love the rooms." I have met this resort owner before and know she is passionate about the environment. Hats off to her for taking a great idea and expanding upon it. I know her staff uses green cleaning products in guestrooms to ensure that the allergen free rooms remain that way.

If you could create an allergen free room from scratch, what would it look like? I like the fact that the resort owner I mentioned has eliminated carpet. Please leave your comments 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 or by phone at (813) 510-3868.