National Drive Electric Week Set for September 12 to 20

by Glenn Hasek September 02, 2015 06:41

National Drive Electric Week will be held throughout the United States in more than 160 cities from September 12 to 20. The event is presented by Plug In America, Sierra Club, and the Electric Auto Assn. Be sure to check out the event website to locate activities near you. The event is an opportunity to learn about electric and plug-in hybrid-electric vehicles to use for your guests and those electric vehicles that your customers drive. In many places auto dealers will be offering test drives and veteran electric vehicle drivers will be on hand to talk about their experiences. The National Drive Electric Week website includes a map with event locations. Here in the Tampa, Fla. area, where I live, an event will be held in St. Petersburg from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Spa Beach Park. Local electric vehicle dealers will be on hand to offer displays and test drives. Food trucks will provide lunch and many exhibitors will be there.

A local event could be a great opportunity to exhibit and share your property’s sustainability success stories. According to the most recent AH&LA Lodging Survey, prepared by STR and funded by AHLEF, 11 percent of surveyed properties offer electric vehicle charging stations for their guests.

Increasingly, hotels and resorts are also using electric vehicles to transport guests. At the Six Senses Qing Cheng Mountain in China, for example, the property just purchased a Tesla Model S electric vehicle for airport transfers. The vehicle, which accommodates three to four passengers and offers generous luggage capacity, travels up to 310 miles on a single charge from a standard power outlet. Using the Tesla Supercharge system, the vehicle can be fully charged in less than one hour. Virgin Hotels is now offering guests car service seven days a week to select areas in Chicago in a red Tesla Model S. Last fall, Fairmont Beijing partnered with BMW in a showcase of the luxury carmaker’s new electric, environment-friendly i Series. Guests booking airport transfers and the Fairmont Beijing’s “Passion Package” were transported around the city in an electric vehicle.

Has your property purchased an electric vehicle for guest or staff transportation? I would love to learn about it. Write to editor@greenlodgingnews.com.

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Pollution Incidents Show How Vulnerable Beaches Are

by Glenn Hasek August 26, 2015 05:52

I have never seen a value placed on America’s beaches but it is certainly in the many billions of dollars. An incredible amount of hotel development is linked to beaches. So too are many other businesses. That said, you don’t just need beaches to keep the tourists coming. You need clean beaches. Incidents in recent weeks demonstrate how vulnerable beaches—and the businesses dependent on them—can be to forces out of their control. The first example is the beaches of Northern Ohio. In recent weeks a monster bloom of algae has closed beaches and sickened some. The algae, as in past years, is fed by nitrogen and phosphorus-rich runoff from the farmlands in Ohio and Indiana. Scientists say the algae this year ranks with some of the worst Lake Erie has seen. You can bet it is helping to keep tourists away—not only from the beaches but from hotels as well.

Is it the role of the travel industry in Ohio to weigh in on the use of fertilizer on farmland? It certainly seems like a good idea.

The second example is in Hawaii. There, tourists stayed away from beaches in Waikiki after heavy rains Monday morning triggered a half-million-gallon sewage spill near Hawaii’s tourist district. Ugly sewage is certainly not good for business. Perhaps Hawaii’s tourism industry should chime in on the importance of upgrading sewage system infrastructure? Algae, sewage, oil and other man-linked pollutants have the potential to do serious damage to tourism.

As our beaches become more vulnerable to manmade pollutants, representatives of the tourism industry in those areas are going to have to figure out ways to keep tourists coming while also making their voices heard about issues that historically have been out of their control.

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Niagara Casinos' Bet on Green Initiatives Pays Off in Big Way

by Glenn Hasek August 19, 2015 10:59

I don’t receive many press releases that bury the fact that a property or group of properties has generated more than $600,000 in annual savings thanks to environmental initiatives. But that was the case with a press release I recently received about Niagara Casinos and its Fallsview Casino Resort and Casino Niagara—both located in Niagara Falls, Ont. Niagara Casinos has operated a successful cross-property green initiatives program since 2010 but it was what the company accomplished from its 2014 to 2015 fiscal year that caught my eye. First, the replacement of all 1,425 incandescent bulbs and 47 pole heads in the 10 story parking garage at Fallsview Casino with energy-efficient LED bulbs resulted in an approximate annual savings of $216,000. Also at Fallsview Casino, the installation of variable speed drives (VSDs) on the cooling towers and soft-start motors for the hotel’s hot water boosters resulted in an approximate annual savings of over $40,000.

The addition of 28 VSDs to the 14 air handling units at Casino Niagara, enabling efficiency during the operation of air exchange, resulted in an approximate annual savings of over $300,000. LED lighting retrofitted into the gaming areas on the third floor and in the front-of-house washroom facilities at Casino Niagara resulted in an approximate annual savings of $108,000.

These were just some of the initiatives highlighted in the release. Other initiatives are also producing savings. For example, the installation of a 7,000 pound bio-digester unit, utilizing an industrial shredder to intake organics, and process the resulting matter into grey water, has resulted in a reduction of haulage fees for organic waste previously trucked off-property for composting. That is not all. Be sure to read the entire press release to learn about additional initiatives.

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USGBC Provides Easy Access to List of LEED Projects

by Glenn Hasek August 12, 2015 05:50

During a week in which I posted articles about two LEED Platinum projects, I learned that the U.S. Green Building Council has made it much easier to access a list of LEED certified and registered hotels. First the two LEED Platinum projects. In case you missed it, the College Park Marriott Hotel & Conference Center announced that it has achieved Platinum certification. It is only the fourth hotel in the United States to do that. The others include: Hotel Skyler (Syracuse, N.Y.), Proximity Hotel (Greensboro, N.C.), and Bardessono Hotel & Spa (Yountville, Calif.). Also, a new employee residence in Old Faithful Village in Yellowstone National Park has received a Platinum rating. The residence was built by concessioner Yellowstone National Park Lodges and is operated by Xanterra Parks & Resorts. LEED Platinum projects are rare, especially in lodging. It was great to see the news about the Marriott and Yellowstone projects this past week.

I know there is at least one more LEED Platinum pursuing hotel in the pipeline—in Oberlin, Ohio and being built by Oberlin College.

Now to the LEED project list. I am often asked to supply the list of LEED hotel projects. Here is how to access it. Click here. On that page you will see a breakdown of LEED certification activity. There are currently 408 certifications in the lodging space. Scroll down the page a bit and you will see an “Activity” area. Click on “See all”. You will then be taken to the long list of certified and registered projects. You can search the list using key words. I tried a search on “Ohio” and it generated one result. You can also do an advanced search by clicking here. The searchable lodging list has been a long time coming. It is great to see USGBC add it to its site.

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Portion Size & the Growing K-Cup Dilemma

by Glenn Hasek August 05, 2015 05:56

Portion size is a huge contributor to why we send so much waste to the landfill. I have written and posted about the plastic amenity bottles and partially used bars of soap many times. Until my research this past week on the plastic K-Cups that are used in Keurig Green Mountain brewers, I was not aware of the environmental impact of the cups. Do you include these types of brewers in guestrooms or breakfast areas? What do you do with the leftover cups? For the most part, they are not recyclable or compostable. In my research about K-Cups, I have learned that there are at least two companies that have come up with eco-friendlier versions of the cups—Intelligent Blends and G-Kup. I will be posting an article about my research on K-Cups and their greener counterparts soon on the Green Lodging News website. Be sure to watch for that article.

According to G-Kup, which is developing a compostable version of the K-Cup called the G-Kup, 60 billion K-Cups have already been consumed worldwide—enough, if put end-to-end, to make three round trips between the Earth and the moon.

Amenity bottles, partially used bars of soap and K-Cups are just the beginning to the portion problem in our world today. Have you noticed packages getting smaller in the grocery store while their prices remain the same? According to a TreeHugger article, the coffee in K-Cups works out to cost around $40 per pound—an astronomical price to pay for coffee. Yes, getting smaller is all about the money.

Interestingly, John Sylvan, who invented K-Cups and later sold his company to Keurig Green Mountain brewing company for $50,000 in 1997, now has regrets about his invention. “I feel bad sometimes that I ever did it,” he told an Atlantic reporter.

It will be interesting to watch to what extent the eco-friendlier versions of the K-Cups get traction. In the meantime, try to pay extra attention to portion size. It probably is not only costing you but the environment as well.

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Addendum to Article on Energy Storage Systems

by Glenn Hasek July 29, 2015 08:33

During the research for my article on energy storage systems (article posted last week on the Green Lodging News website) it was my intent to chat with Nick Bozych, Vice President and General Manager of the Lafayette Park Hotel and Spa in Lafayette, Calif. The Lafayette Park Hotel & Spa is a French Chateau-style property centrally located in Lafayette near the business centers of Walnut Creek, Concord, San Ramon and Oakland, and a 30-minute drive from San Francisco. The Lafayette Park Hotel has 138 guest rooms, European style day spa, restaurant, bar and over 10,000 square feet of indoor/outdoor meeting space. The property installed an energy storage system earlier this year to help reduce demand charges. Unfortunately, I did not receive the answers to the questions posed to Nick until after the article was posted. Here then are the questions followed by the answers.

1.    How long have you been working with Stem, Inc.? When was Stem’s energy storage system installed? If you happen to know, what size of a system was installed?
The Stem system was installed earlier this spring and is a 36 kW/60 kWh system.

2.    To what degree were peak demand charges an issue at your hotel?
Demand charges represent about 40 to 50 percent of our electricity bill during the year. Prior to Stem the only way to address demand charges was to change how we operated the building, for example like limiting air conditioner use during the summer months.

3.    Were you doing other things to reduce electricity consumption?
We converted our lighting throughout the property to LED. Upgraded our chillers, boilers and cooling tower to high efficiency units.

4.    How is the system working for you? Do you know how much money it is saving you on a monthly basis? Even an approximation is fine.
Last month the Stem system saved 20 percent of the demand charge portion of my electric bill, which came out to about 9 percent savings off my total bill. The demand charges are the hardest part to address, since energy efficiency investments typically don’t have any effect on it. Stem runs in the background and allows us to tackle demand charges without changing the way we run the building. Stem’s software also helps in addressing these charges. It provides both predicted and real time—by the second—visibility so I can now see when a peak is coming up for the day, and precisely when it’s happening.

5.    Were you/Stem able to take advantage of any utility incentives as part of the installation?
The Stem system is part of California’s Self-Generation Incentive Program that covers a portion of the system cost. Stem handles all of the paperwork, from application to filing, and included this incentive in the cost of the system.

6.    Any advice you might offer to anyone thinking about getting this type of system?
The Stem system was a simple way to decrease my demand costs and lower operational costs for the hotel. The system runs in the background and doesn’t require me to change anything about my operations. Stem was great and took care of the entire installation process.

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Addendum to Article on Energy Storage Systems

by Glenn Hasek July 29, 2015 08:27

During the research for my article on energy storage systems (article posted last week on the Green Lodging News website) it was my intent to chat with Nick Bozych, Vice President and General Manager of the Lafayette Park Hotel and Spa in Lafayette, Calif. The Lafayette Park Hotel & Spa is a French Chateau-style property centrally located in Lafayette near the business centers of Walnut Creek, Concord, San Ramon and Oakland, and a 30-minute drive from San Francisco. The Lafayette Park Hotel has 138 guest rooms, European style day spa, restaurant, bar and over 10,000 square feet of indoor/outdoor meeting space. The property installed an energy storage system earlier this year to help reduce demand charges. Unfortunately, I did not receive the answers to the questions posed to Nick until after the article was posted. Here then are the questions followed by the answers.

1.    How long have you been working with Stem, Inc.? When was Stem’s energy storage system installed? If you happen to know, what size of a system was installed?
The Stem system was installed earlier this spring and is a 36 kW/60 kWh system.

2.    To what degree were peak demand charges an issue at your hotel?
Demand charges represent about 40 to 50 percent of our electricity bill during the year. Prior to Stem the only way to address demand charges was to change how we operated the building, for example like limiting air conditioner use during the summer months.

3.    Were you doing other things to reduce electricity consumption?
We converted our lighting throughout the property to LED. Upgraded our chillers, boilers and cooling tower to high efficiency units.

4.    How is the system working for you? Do you know how much money it is saving you on a monthly basis? Even an approximation is fine.
Last month the Stem system saved 20 percent of the demand charge portion of my electric bill, which came out to about 9 percent savings off my total bill. The demand charges are the hardest part to address, since energy efficiency investments typically don’t have any effect on it. Stem runs in the background and allows us to tackle demand charges without changing the way we run the building. Stem’s software also helps in addressing these charges. It provides both predicted and real time—by the second—visibility so I can now see when a peak is coming up for the day, and precisely when it’s happening.

5.    Were you/Stem able to take advantage of any utility incentives as part of the installation?
The Stem system is part of California’s Self-Generation Incentive Program that covers a portion of the system cost. Stem handles all of the paperwork, from application to filing, and included this incentive in the cost of the system.

6.    Any advice you might offer to anyone thinking about getting this type of system?
The Stem system was a simple way to decrease my demand costs and lower operational costs for the hotel. The system runs in the background and doesn’t require me to change anything about my operations. Stem was great and took care of the entire installation process.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.