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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Calendar Filling Up with Green Conference, Trade Show Events

by Glenn Hasek July 24, 2014 06:04

Those interested in green lodging educational and networking opportunities should pay attention to this summer and fall’s events calendar. Just this week the Dover Downs Hotel & Casino and its Dover Conference Working Group (DCWG) announced that it will host the Mid-Atlantic Green Hospitality Conference, a first-of-its-kind opportunity to unite foodservice and lodging facilities, tourism agencies, green product suppliers and consultants around the common cause of maintaining and promoting environmentally friendly lodging and foodservice practices. The late-summer conference will take place September 15 to 16. Details on the conference’s educational sessions have yet to be posted on the conference website.

ARIA Resort & Casino, LEED Gold and Green Key certified, as well as a TripAdvisor GreenLeader at the Platinum level, will be the site of this fall’s second annual Lodging Green & Sustainability Conference & Expo in Las Vegas. The LODGING Magazine event, with the support of EcoGreen Energy Solutions, will take place October 28 to 30. The three-day conference and expo will kick off on Tuesday, October 28 with a tour of ARIA, part of the CityCenter complex, the world’s largest environmentally sustainable, mixed-use new construction development to achieve LEED certification. The tour will be followed by a two-hour optional Master Class on “Waste Management Innovations.” Also on the schedule the first day of the event: a keynote address and welcome reception in the exhibit hall. The complete agenda is now available on the conference website.

Green Lodging News has put together five green panel discussions that will take place at this November’s International Hotel, Motel + Restaurant Show (IHMRS) in New York City (November 8 to 11). The following are the session titles: “Crafting a Career in Sustainability in Hospitality & Tourism—Sustainability Trends in Hospitality Education”; “Hotel Energy Management All Stars”; “Gone Platinum! A First-Time Ever Gathering of Leaders of Three LEED Platinum Hotels”; “The Power of Green Certification—Updates from Lodging’s Leading Certifiers”; and “Waste Management Champions Making a Difference”. More details on the sessions will appear soon on the IHMRS site. This year’s IHMRS will also feature a Hospitality Green Division on the trade show floor for the second year in a row, as well as other green educational opportunities.

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Going Under the Sea (or Lake) to Cool Your Hotel

by Glenn Hasek July 16, 2014 08:08

When The Brando opened on the French Polynesian Atoll Tetiaroa recently, it did so with a seawater air-conditioning system. The Brando is the second lodging establishment that I am aware of to employ such a system. The InterContinental Bora Bora Resort & Thalasso Spa was the first in the world to do so. The system at that property uses 7,874 feet of pipe that reaches a depth of more than 3,000 feet (the deepest ocean pipe in the world) off the reef of Bora Bora. The pipe feeds the cold seawater through a titanium heat exchanger, transferring the cold into the fresh water circuit that then air conditions the hotel, before returning the seawater back to the sea. According to the InterContinental Bora Bora Resort & Thalasso Spa, the system has zero impact on the environment and is quiet.

Also according to the InterContinental Bora Bora Resort & Thalasso Spa, the system requires virtually no energy to bring the deep seawater to the surface, produces no carbon dioxide or other greenhouse gasses, and saves 90 percent of the electricity consumed by a conventional cooling system of similar capacity. This translates to a reduction of CO2 emissions that is the equivalent of approximately 2.5 million liters of fuel oil imports per year to French Polynesia.

Interestingly, Honolulu Seawater Air Conditioning, LLC is currently developing a 25,000-ton seawater air-conditioning district cooling system for commercial and residential properties in downtown Honolulu. A page on the Honolulu Seawater Air Conditioning website explains how that system will work.

While all of the above are seawater-based systems, there is at least one hotel that I am aware of that has implemented a fresh water-based based cooling system—the Ritz-Carlton Toronto. I wrote about the project several years ago. In that hotel’s case, it participated in a program offered to downtown Toronto buildings by the City of Toronto and Enwave Energy Corp. Water from 200 feet below the surface of Lake Ontario is utilized in a system to cool downtown Toronto buildings.

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Is Your Green Property Tour-Worthy?

by Glenn Hasek July 09, 2014 06:03

Is your property tour-worthy? Interestingly, an increasing number of green properties are becoming tourist attractions because of their investments in sustainability. Here are some examples: The Hilton Fort Lauderdale Beach Resort has launched a Sustainability Property Tour series to provide the public with a behind-the-scenes look at the resort’s progressive environmental sustainability practices and initiatives. The complimentary program series is hosted weekly and made available to hotel guests, area schools, community groups and local businesses in an effort to educate and raise awareness about the innovations and initiatives that the property has implemented to address waste reduction, resource conservation and energy efficiency. The Alexander, a LEED Silver certified hotel in Indianapolis, offers building tours with detailed explanations on how certain green initiatives (waterless urinals, storm water collection system, etc.) came to fruition.

At Grande Lakes Orlando, guests have the opportunity to learn about the resort’s natural surroundings with from six certified Florida Master Naturalists who are experts in the areas of the local wildlife, ecosystems, and environmental stewardship. These naturalists conduct educational eco-tours at Grande Lakes providing guests with a unique glimpse into the pure surroundings of the resort including bird habitats, fishing experiences and nature trails.

During its Summer Honey Festival last year, The Ritz-Carlton, Charlotte offered registered guests guided Saturday morning tours of the hotel’s rooftop herb garden and beehive. The tours allowed guests to see the green, vegetated roof’s 18,000 sedum plants in their full summer bloom, the hotel’s two beehives and 100,000 resident honeybees that have called the rooftop home since early 2010.

These are just a few examples of guest tour opportunities I have come across in the last couple of years. It would be interesting to learn what value the hotels are finding in giving such tours. Are the tours actually putting more heads in beds? I suspect they are not in any significant way but the tours can help sway the booking decision of a group or individual. Tours certainly can be a great way to connect with the community and can be an essential part of an overall corporate citizenship strategy. Guests can take lessons learned home with them and visiting hoteliers can implement similar green initiatives at their own properties. Tours offer the opportunity to showcase F&B offerings, potentially building that area of a business. Tours can also be excellent PR tools. Media can be invited.

Are you offering tours of your property? I would love to learn about them. I can be reached at editor@greenlodgingnews.com.

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NRDC Releases Annual Guide to Water Quality at U.S. Beaches

by Glenn Hasek June 26, 2014 05:32

As it has done for 24 years running, the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) has released its beach report that lists the United States’ “Superstar” beaches and “Repeat Offenders” when it comes to water pollution. NRDC lists 35 Superstar beaches that can be found in 14 states including Alabama, Florida and North Carolina. Seventeen Repeat Offenders can be found in eight states with Ohio alone having seven (Lake Erie shoreline). Be sure to check out the report to see how close your property is to a problem area. According to NRDC, nearly 3,500 beach locations were tested nationwide. Ten percent of all water quality samples collected last year contained bacteria levels that failed to meet the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s most protective benchmark for swimmer safety. Notorious for causing water quality issues along beaches is storm water runoff and sewage overflows.

The new report includes not only the Superstar and Repeat Offenders lists but also a searchable map (by zip code). I typed in my zip code here in Tampa, Fla. and was able to see the results from many of the beaches I have visited with my family.

This year’s report includes measurements based on the EPA’s newly created “Beach Action Value” (BAV). The results in this year’s report show an uptick in failure rates for beach water quality safety due to BAV, which is a more protective health benchmark used in lieu of a now defunct and less-protective beach water quality standard.

While aging and problematic drainage and sewage systems may not be your fault, you can help reduce the volume of water that enters storm drains by investing in porous pavement, green roofs, rain barrels and cisterns.

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EPA WaterSense H2Otel Challenge Webinars Rich with Water-Saving Tips

by Glenn Hasek June 18, 2014 06:23

In February, the EPA launched its WaterSense H2Otel Challenge as a way for agency partners and other organizations to encourage hotels to use best management practices that will save water and money, while reducing greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to climate change. As part of its H2Otel Challenge, the EPA has held a series of webinars, each of which has been recorded and posted on the WaterSense website. Already, five webinars have been held and there are two more planned. I strongly encourage taking a look at the webinars that have been held and participating in those coming soon. Those webinars that have been held are viewable via a recorded webinar link or by transcript. The EPA has done a great job lining up informative speakers—experts in water conservation who are able to share valuable tips that can help you save money, energy and water.

The first webinar introduced the H2Otel Challenge. In the second webinar, Rob Morris, Corporate Manager, Utilities & Engineering, Caesars Entertainment Corp., discussed seven steps to water management planning: making a commitment; assessing facility water use; setting goals; creating and implementing an action plan; evaluating progress; and recognizing achievements. In the third webinar, Brandon Leister, Conservation Planner, San Antonio Water System, discussed plumbing and laundry projects completed at three local hotels as part of his organization’s WaterSaver Hotel program.

In the fourth webinar, Richard Restuccia from ValleyCrest Companies, Inc. presented a case study on landscape and irrigation improvements at the Resort at Pelican Hill in Newport Beach, Calif., to illustrate how making changes outdoors can result in significant hotel water savings. In the fifth webinar, participants were able to learn how to use WaterSense’s Water Use and Savings Evaluation (WaterUSE) Tool and associated Water Assessment Worksheets, which were designed to help hotel operators and facility managers identify and prioritize cost-effective water efficiency projects and best management practices to reduce water and energy use and save money.

To access previous webinars and to see a schedule of future ones, click 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.