Hospitality Industry Can Play Role in Stopping Wildlife Decline

by Glenn Hasek October 01, 2014 05:52

The news is alarming, to say the least, and the global tourism industry has got to do what it can to help reverse current trends. What I am referring to is the just released report that between 1950 and 2010, populations of mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, and fish around the globe dropped 52 percent. The 2014 Living Planet Report was produced by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF). “There is a lot of data in this report and it can seem very overwhelming and complex,” said Jon Hoekstra, Chief Scientist at WWF. “What’s not complicated are the clear trends we’re seeing—39 percent of terrestrial wildlife gone, 39 percent of marine wildlife gone, 76 percent of fresh water wildlife gone—all in the past 40 years.” According to WWF, while high-income countries show a 10 percent increase in biodiversity, the rest of the world is seeing dramatic declines.

Middle-income countries show 18 percent declines, and low-income countries show 58 percent declines. Latin America shows the biggest decline in biodiversity, with species populations falling by 83 percent. “We’re gradually destroying our planet’s ability to support our way of life,” said Carter Roberts, President and CEO of WWF. “But we already have the knowledge and tools to avoid the worst predictions. We all live on a finite planet and it’s time we started acting within those limits.”

What can our industry do to help? Stopping development that either directly or indirectly reduces wildlife populations is, of course, a good first step but also important is supporting efforts in those areas most impacted. For Marriott, for example, 2013 marked the five-year anniversary of its partnership with the Amazonas Sustainable Foundation (FAS) and the State of Amazonas in Brazil. In 2008, Marriott pledged $2 million to help FAS protect 1.4 million acres of rainforest in the Juma Sustainable Development Reserve, while also helping to empower and educate the local community that acts as guardians of this rainforest.

Not buying products that have a connection with wildlife decimation is also key.

The 2014 Living Planet Report not only addresses the decline of wildlife populations; it also addresses climate change and pollution. Be sure to read this important report.

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Big Easy is Home to This Year’s Greenbuild Conference and Expo

by Glenn Hasek September 24, 2014 06:32

Will you be attending the Greenbuild International Conference and Expo this year? I highly recommend setting aside time in your schedule if you can. While the conference is certainly not angled toward hospitality, the bulk of the educational sessions and trade show exhibits apply to those interested in building and operating smart, green lodging establishments. This year’s event is in New Orleans from October 22 to 24. Hanley Wood and the U.S. Green Building Council just announced the speakers for the Opening Plenary. Taking place Wednesday, October 22 at the New Orleans Superdome, it will feature leading author and environmentalist Paul Hawken; investor, philanthropist, and advanced energy advocate Tom Steyer; and Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley. Hawken, Steyer and Governor O’Malley will take the stage to have a discussion about “the dollars and sense of climate change,” and its profound impact on families, communities, the economy and the planet.

The trio will examine the progress made and how much remains to be done to address climate change.

During the evening of October 22 the Greenbuild Celebration at the Superdome will feature the band Alabama Shakes and also New Orleans native Trombone Shorty and his ensemble Orleans Avenue. In addition to the Opening Plenary and Celebration, there will be many educational sessions, building tours, LEED workshops, and networking opportunities. Among the highlights of this year’s program will be the Greenbuild Master Series, which brings together leaders of diverse industries who share the common trait of championing sustainability and green building. The trade show floor will feature a Net Zero Zone where booths are fully powered by on-site alternate energy generation and distribution—Solar, Wind, Micro Turbine Generators, Kinetic and Fuel Cells. Greenbuild goers can also attend the Greenbuild Film Festival.

For more information on Greenbuild, click here.

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The Season for Sustainability Reports—A Peek at Wyndham’s

by Glenn Hasek September 17, 2014 06:23

This must be the season for the release of sustainability reports. Marriott International issued its 2014 Sustainability Report last month. Hyatt Hotels Corp. released its 2013-2014 Corporate Responsibility Report in the past few weeks. Last week Caesars Entertainment released its Corporate Citizenship Report and Wyndham Worldwide just released its 2013 Sustainability Responsibility Report. Articles about all but the Caesars report can be found on Green Lodging News. In this blog I would like to focus on Wyndham’s report. First off, the company’s Wyndham Green program is now in its eighth year. As has other companies, Wyndham has set 2020 goals for its operationally controlled assets. Using 2010 as a baseline, Wyndham intends to reduce its carbon emissions and water consumption per square foot by 20 percent by 2020. So far it has reduced water usage globally by 16 percent per square foot and carbon emissions by 13 percent per square foot when compared with the 2010 baseline.

The report, which aligns with G4 reporting guidelines established by the Global Reporting Initiative, covers all of Wyndham’s business units and outlines its People, Planet, Profits strategy. Highlighted in the report is progress made in the areas of Diversity, Human Rights, Wellness, Philanthropy, Ethics, Environment and Sustainability. Many interesting tidbits stood out for me in the report. For example, in 2013 Wyndham conducted Wyndham Green training and educational workshops for more than 4,000 hotel franchisees at its annual conference. In 2013 Wyndham presented its first Green Supplier of the Year award—to Ecolab. In 2013 a green certification program was implemented at all Wyndham Vacation Ownership properties. From 2007 to 2013, RCI North America, as part of the Wyndham Exchange and Rentals Business Unit, converted 58 percent of its direct mail circulation to e-mail—a carbon reduction of more than 552,000 pounds. Pretty impressive.

To read all about Wyndham’s progress in the area of corporate responsibility, click here.

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Swiss Company Catches My Attention with Launderable Mattress

by Glenn Hasek September 10, 2014 05:50

I often hear from folks representing startup companies. Sometimes the ideas they have are good ones but not practical. I recently received a press release about a toilet seat that includes a fan to help reduce the smell in a bathroom. The seat requires a connection to a hose leading to an outside area that can be vented. Would you buy these for your hotel? I also get pitches about products that just might make it in hospitality but are not green. One established company recently came out with a product in a fogging can that can be released in a guestroom that has an odor issue. The company says the product is non-toxic and safe for the environment. I put in a call to the company to see if it is safe to be in the room when the fogging is taking place. Nobody returned my call. That product, pitched as a green product, is supposedly being used in more than 300 hotels.

Fortunately, I occasionally hear from companies with great ideas that I am more than happy to share. SWISSFEEL AG has such an idea. Philipp Hangartner is with the company that has developed a whole bed system that is very sustainable. In fact, the mattress used in the system is made with a washable Swiss Mineral Foam. That’s right, the mattress is actually washable! Hangartner told me that about every 12 to 18 months the mattress can be washed to bring it back to a like-new condition, eliminating all of the sweat, dirt and who knows what else that accumulates in mattress over time. By being able to wash the mattress, one can of course extend its life significantly. The fabric covering the headboard and other parts of SWISSFEEL’s bed system can be removed for washing as well and can be designed to fit the décor of the guestroom.

Hangartner says his company already has hotel customers in Switzerland and Germany. SWISSFEEL would like to find a joint-venture partner in the United States. I know what you are thinking. How in the world do you wash a mattress? Hangartner says special machines are required and they would have to be operated by a company outside the hotel as the frequency of mattress washing would not justify the investment cost by an individual hotel.

It is clear that in order for SWISSFEEL’s idea to get off the ground it would need buy-in from multiple hotels so that there would be enough critical mass to justify the investment in the washer/extractor and dryer. Mostly, it would require a new way of thinking about how to provide a sustainable sleep experience for the guest—and how to allocate the cost of a bed system. What do you think? Is a washable bed system, including the mattress, a good idea? I would love to know your thoughts. Write to editor@greenlodgingnews.com.

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Highlights from Hyatt’s New Corporate Responsibility Report

by Glenn Hasek September 03, 2014 08:07

As you may have read on Green Lodging News, Hyatt Hotels Corp. just released its 2013-2014 Corporate Responsibility Report. The report details Hyatt’s new set of goals for 2020—goals extended from 2015 for reasons Hyatt explains in its report (portfolio changes, rapid growth in China and India, etc.). The following are just some of the highlights from the report. Moving forward, Hyatt will report its progress by region, instead of lumping all of its portfolio together. What was not reported in the press release about the new report is Hyatt’s energy and greenhouse gas emissions goals. Using 2006 as a base, hotels in Hyatt’s three regions will reduce energy use and greenhouse gas emissions per square meter by 25 percent by 2020. Each of the three regions will reduce water use per guest night by 25 percent compared to 2006. In water-stressed areas Hyatt will reduce water use per guest night by 30 percent.

Every managed hotel will recycle or otherwise divert the waste it sends to landfills by a minimum of 40 percent by 2020. Starting in 2015 Hyatt will consistently recycle or repurpose wall vinyl, carpet and carpet pads, case goods, bedframes and mattresses when managed hotels are renovated. Beginning in 2015, all new construction and major renovation projects for Hyatt’s wholly-owned full service hotels and resorts will be required to achieve LEED or an equivalent certification. (By mid-2014, 14 Hyatt properties were LEED certified, including Hyatt’s headquarters, which is in the LEED Platinum Certified Hyatt Center building).

By 2017, all of Hyatt’s major suppliers (by spend) will be required to have sustainability policies in place. By 2016, 100 percent of franchised hotels will track and report environmental performance data. These are just some of the highlights of the Environmental Stewardship section of Hyatt’s report. To access the entire report, click here.

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The Urban Heat Island Effect & Your Warming Hotel

by Glenn Hasek August 27, 2014 05:31

If you operate or plan to operate a hotel in an urban center, you would be wise to understand the urban heat island effect and its relationship to climate change. According to Climate Central, urban areas can be significantly hotter than areas outside of the city and climate change is making that difference in temperature more dramatic. Climate Central says summers in the United States have been warming since 1970. But on average across the United States cities are even hotter, and have been getting hotter faster than adjacent rural areas. Single-day urban temperatures in some metro areas can be as much as 27°F higher than the surrounding rural areas. The top 10 cities with the most intense summer urban heat islands (average daily urban-rural temperature differences) over the past 10 years are: Las Vegas (7.3°F); Albuquerque (5.9°F); Denver (4.9°F); Portland, Ore. (4.8°F); Louisville (4.8°F); Washington, D.C. (4.7°F); Kansas City (4.6°F); Columbus (4.4°F); Minneapolis (4.3°F); and Seattle (4.1°F).

Climate Central says urban heat islands are even more intense at night. Over the past 10 years, average summer overnight temperatures were more than 4°F hotter in U.S. cities than surrounding rural areas. Hotel owners with hotels in strongly impacted urban areas can help reduce the heat island effect by implementing white or green roofs, planting trees, and utilizing alternative materials that do not hold heat. Hotels in highly impacted areas can expect to incur higher costs for cooling, making the implementation of highly efficient cooling systems critical, along with guestroom energy management systems. Window film can help reduce cooling costs. So too can properly implemented curtains and shades.

Hotels in areas with a strong urban heat island effect tend to be in areas with high levels of air pollution, negatively impacting guests and employees.

To read the entire Climate Central report, click here.

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MGM Grand Hotel & Casino, Delos Build on Stay Well Concept

by Glenn Hasek August 20, 2014 06:13

Earlier this year, the MGM Grand Hotel & Casino and Delos completed an expansion of the Stay Well room collection at the MGM Grand. The entire 14th floor—171 rooms—now consists of Stay Well rooms and suites. These unique accommodations include more than 20 health and wellness features. A few examples include: Stay Well Vitamin C Infused Shower with shower water infused with Vitamin C which neutralizes chlorine to promote healthy hair and skin; Stay Well Air Purifier, a HEPA-standard air purification system that reduces allergens, toxins and pathogens, creating better air quality and breathing; and a water purification system which reduces disinfectant byproducts, chlorine, pesticides and some pharmaceutical and personal care products. The MGM Grand Hotel & Casino and Delos just announced that they are expanding the Stay Well concept to meetings. Stay Well Meetings, created by Delos, offers healthy environments for meetings with meeting rooms and spaces designed to optimize the health and well-being of attendees.

To celebrate the debut, Delos Advisory Board member Dr. Deepak Chopra led the ribbon-cutting ceremony at MGM Grand.

How do you make a meeting a more healthy experience? Among other things, by including features such as WELL Shield, a self-cleaning photocatalytic coating applied to high-touch areas that triggers oxidation, resulting in cleaner surfaces; use of hypoallergenic products and state-of-the-art UV wand cleaning tool, which neutralizes bacteria, viruses and other microbes; circadian lighting, engineered to emulate the properties of natural light, enhancing productivity, energy and experience; and virtual biophilia, virtual window lights that bring an element of the natural environment into the meeting space.

Mike Dominguez, Senior Vice President of Corporate Hotel Sales for MGM Resorts International, said the positive guest response to MGM Grand’s Stay Well Rooms encouraged them to expand Stay Well features to the meeting spaces. A great idea.

MGM Grand Hotel & Casino and Delos join PURE Solutions in offering healthy meeting space solutions to the lodging industry.

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More on the Traceability of Feathers & Down

by Glenn Hasek August 14, 2014 05:54

In my last blog post I wrote about a conversation I had with the founder and President of United Poultry Concerns in regard to the ethical concerns surrounding the procuring of feather and down products for use in pillows, duvets (comforters), etc. In a nutshell, I was told there is no real supply chain tracking of feathers and down. Since that blog post I learned about the Responsible Down Standard (RDS), a standard completed in January by The North Face, the American outdoor product company specializing in outerwear, fleece, coats, shirts, footwear, and equipment such as backpacks, tents, and sleeping bags. RDS, according to The North Face, is a tool that will provide a global standard through which the outdoor-gear retailer says any organization can evaluate and certify its full down supply chain. RDS was created to ensure that The North Face’s down does not come from animals that have been subject to any unnecessary harm.

Oftentimes animals are subject to force-feeding or live-plucking. RDS provides a traceability system to validate the original source of down used in The North Face products.

The RDS was developed in partnership with Control Union Certifications, an accredited third-party certification body, and Textile Exchange, a global nonprofit dedicated to sustainability in the textile industry. The RDS will allow The North Face to audit and ensure the ethical treatment of all animals in its down supply chain and validate all claims through an established chain of custody process.

The North Face gifted ownership of the RDS to Textile Exchange, which will allow any organization seeking to source down more responsibly to use this tool. Adam Mott, Director of Sustainability for The North Face, says that, “Our hope is that the collective use of the RDS will effectively promote positive animal welfare conditions and traceability in the down supply chain at a much larger scale than we could accomplish alone. We firmly believe that by driving positive change across the global supply chain, the RDS will benefit the industry at large.”

It is encouraging to see that at least one company is taking its down supply chain seriously. If you purchase products that include down, be sure to ask your suppliers about RDS.

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Why I Will Never Look at a Pillow or Duvet the Same Again

by Glenn Hasek August 06, 2014 05:18

Marriott International is one of the companies singled out in a recent campaign by United Poultry Concerns (UPC) to discontinue the use of feather and down products. Nordstrom is another company UPC is urging its followers to contact to discontinue the use of feather and down. I was contacted by a public relations representative of UPC recently and ended up chatting with Karen Davis, PhD, founder and president of UPC. Turns out it is not just Marriott and Nordstrom that Davis would like her organization’s followers to contact. All hotel companies should be contacted, she says. Marriott and Nordstrom were pinpointed because, “You have to give people something to focus on,” Davis says. Of course if I were UPC’s PR representative, I would not single out any particular company. Davis says Marriott and Nordstrom's use of down/feather products was confirmed prior to the PR effort.

Fair guy that I am, I gave Davis the chance to tell me about her cause. Like the acquisition of many animal products, the securing of feathers and down for pillows and comforters and other products is not a pretty business. According to UPC, “Down, the soft breast feathers of live birds, is mixed with slaughterhouse feathers from ducks, geese and chickens to fill pillows and comforters at many hotels and in the making of some designer outerwear. The feathers originate on industrial farms where they are ripped from the bodies of live geese, leaving them bleeding in excruciating pain. Other feathers are byproducts of the foie gras industry, in which ducks and geese are force fed with metal tubes to create diseased livers for gourmet appetizers.”

On UPC’s website, investigator Marcus Mueller, who tracks the Hungarian brigades of feather strippers, describes the process: “The men and women from the brigades work without feeling, grabbing terrified geese by their wings or legs, sometimes breaking them, always hurting them, as they tear out the birds’ feathers. Manufacturers and retailers who say they don’t use down from live-plucked birds cannot prove their claim. Brigades go from farm to farm stripping the birds as they go, then the feathers are sold to brokers and middlemen who mix live-plucked feathers with those recovered from slaughtered animals.”

I put in a call to a pillow company contact I have to ask about all of this but did not get a reply. “Even though a retailer may assure a customer a product was sourced from a place where birds were not live-plucked, they don’t really know that,” Davis says. “There is no real tracking of where the feathers come from.”

Davis says that when she stays at a hotel, she insists on a feather and down free hotel room, preferring to sleep with fiber/polyester-filled pillows and coverlets.

I am sure there is a lot of merit in what UPC argues and I will never look at a pillow or duvet the same again. The procurement of feathers and down is one of those things that happens that we do not think about or want to think about. I rank it right up there with leather acquisition and meat processing.

Your thoughts? I can be reached at editor@greenlodgingnews.com.

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New York Resort Builds on ‘Make a Green Choice’ Idea

by Glenn Hasek July 30, 2014 06:07

I have written about Starwood’s Make a Green Choice program several times in the past. In case you are not familiar with it, it allows a guest to opt out of housekeeping entirely for up to three days in a row. Guests are rewarded for their participation with a $5 voucher to use at a Starwood restaurant or Starwood Preferred Guest points (500 points, or 250 if a select-service hotel). Between the program’s launch in 2009 and the end of 2012, it had resulted in the saving of 153 million gallons of water, 662,000 kilowatts of electricity, 871,000 therms of natural gas, and 190,000 gallons of cleaning supplies. Interestingly, at least one property has taken the Make a Green Choice idea and made it an opportunity to give back to the local community.

Like guests at participating Starwood properties, guests at the new Lake House at High Peaks Resort in Lake Placid, N.Y. can opt out of daily housekeeping services. In addition to significant reduction in the use of chemicals and their disposal, guests will earn a $5 daily credit which can be applied at the Bar at Lake House, or in Dancing Bears Restaurant at High Peaks Resort. Alternatively, the guest credit may be donated to the Mirror Lake Watershed Assn., which works to preserve the pristine beauty of Mirror Lake. While I have heard of savings from towel/linen reuse programs being linked to a worthy cause, this is the first example I have come across of an “opting out of housekeeping” decision being linked to helping a nonprofit. According to a resort spokesperson, only a few guests have opted to choose the donation option so far but the program is still in its first weeks.

In the press release about this action, Matthew Wheeler, General Manager of Lake House at High Peaks Resort, said, “It is important for all of us who live and work in Lake Placid to help protect and preserve our natural resources. So we have found a way for our guests to conserve too, and perhaps even contribute to the preservation of our local surroundings. All you need to do is dial the ‘service at its peak button’ from your in-room telephone, and you can request participation in our easy yet vitally important program.”

According to Bill Billerman, Chairman of the Mirror Lake Watershed Assn., the objective of the Mirror Lake Watershed Assn. is to “further the enhancement and protection of the ecology and beauty of Mirror Lake, its shores, and its watershed.” The Mirror Lake Watershed Assn. was formed in 1997 by the LP/NE Water Management Committee to focus on water quality in the Mirror Lake watershed.

Have you linked your “opting out of housekeeping” program to the assistance of a nonprofit? If so, I would love to learn more about it. I can be reached at editor@greenlodgingnews.com.

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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.