Saunders Hotel Group Releases Sustainability Report

by Glenn Hasek April 16, 2014 06:12

The Saunders Hotel Group (SHG) released its 2013 Sustainability Report earlier this month. The company has been actively pushing sustainability since 1989 and it is the first time the company has documented its efforts in one report since 2001. The report includes statements from the CEO (Jeff Saunders) and the CSO (Tedd Saunders, Chief Sustainability Officer) and three general sections: an introduction to the company; utility data, consumption figures, quantitative goals and progress towards those goals; and community involvement. The report encompasses six properties in the company’s portfolio, four of which are in Massachusetts, one in Connecticut, and one in Virginia. SHG’s progress from 2011 to 2012 was impressive. The company decreased the volume of greenhouse gases per available room by 9 percent. The Lenox Hotel alone experienced a 24 percent decrease.

Using a 2008 baseline, SHG is aiming to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 20 percent by 2020. It has already done so by 15.2 percent. To reduce its impact the Saunders Hotel Group is using more LED lighting and Energy Star equipment. The company is also looking at larger system (HVAC-R) changes in its hotels, adoption of on-site generation where appropriate, and changing how it evaluates potential assets and constructs hotels.

In 2011 SHG officially launched its Sustainable Purchasing Policy. The company’s goal is to purchase 60 percent of goods and services from environmentally preferred products or companies. SHG readily admits that it still has some work to do to measure the percentage of purchases that fall under its policy. SHG’s waste diversion goal is 80 percent. In 2011 it was 27 percent and in 2012 it was 28 percent. SHG is currently exploring many different ways to reach its diversion goal.

As mentioned, the report wraps up with a summary of SHG’s community involvement initiatives, as well as progress made in areas such as diversity, donations and education. It is highly unusual for a hotel company the size of SHG to issue a sustainability report. It is not surprising at all, given SHG’s reputation for sustainability leadership, that it has issued one. For a copy of SHG’s report, e-mail Scot Hopps, Director of Sustainability for SHG, at shopps@ecological-solutions.net.

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Shark Fin Falling Off Menus of Leading Hotel Companies

by Glenn Hasek April 09, 2014 09:57

This past week another major hotel company—Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide—announced it will remove shark fin from its restaurants. Starwood committed to completely eliminate it across its global portfolio by year-end. In February, Hilton Worldwide announced that it would cease serving shark fin and stop accepting new orders for shark fin dishes by April 1, 2014. The ban covers all restaurants and food and beverage facilities operated by its 96 owned and managed properties across Asia Pacific. The announcement, Hilton said, puts it on track to ban shark fin in all restaurants and F&B facilities operated by its portfolio of 645 owned and managed hotels globally. In 2012, Fairmont Hotels & Resorts announced it would stop serving shark fin. Also in 2012, Shangri-La Hotels and Resorts made a similar commitment.

Starwood, in its announcement, said the world’s shark population is in severe crisis, with an estimated 100 million sharks lost each year to illegal hunting and poaching, primarily for use in traditional luxury dishes throughout Asia, often at weddings. Some shark species, Starwood added, have suffered population declines of as much as 90 to 99 percent in recent decades.

According to the website, Stop Shark Finning, sharks die a slow death because of finning. Finning is the inhumane practice of hacking off the shark’s fins and throwing its still living body back into the sea. The sharks either starve to death, are eaten alive by other fish, or drown (if they are not in constant movement their gills cannot extract oxygen from the water). Due to the clandestine nature of finning, records are rarely kept of the numbers of sharks and species caught. Estimates are based on declared imports to shark fin markets such as Hong Kong and China.

I commend the above mentioned hotel companies for removing shark fin from their menus. The announcements by these companies makes one wonder why other companies of their stature have not made similar commitments.

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Kind of Like a Week-Long Comment Card

by Glenn Hasek April 02, 2014 05:02

Cayuga Sustainable Hospitality* has come up with a unique approach to improving the eco-honeymoon experience of the couples who visit its properties. Cayuga is accepting applications from couples who have been married in the last five years or who will be married this year. The reason for the application process? Cayuga is on a quest to develop the perfect eco-honeymoon experience for its guests and is willing to offer a select group of couples a free stay in exchange for their input. The winning couples will become “eco-honeymoon designers.” “You choose where to go and what to do,” Cayuga says. “You experience romantic meals in spectacular settings, unique wellness treatments and an array of natural adventures in rainforest and beach settings and let us know what works and what needs to be improved. You will have the opportunity to work as a volunteer at our wildlife conservation and community projects.”

The deadline for applications is May 1, 2014. The Top 25 applications will move to a second round of applications and the selected couples will be announced by May 30. Travel dates are August 20 through December 15, 2014 (with exception of Thanksgiving week). The duration of the honeymoon is between seven and 10 days depending on the number of hotels and lodges visited and travel logistics.

What Cayuga is doing is a great way to create some marketing buzz about its properties while simultaneously collecting valuable information to improve the guest experience. It is certainly several steps beyond your typical comment card.

In the application, couples are asked to answer the question: “Are you passionate about sustainability and green living?” This question gives Cayuga the opportunity to filter out candidates who may not offer them the input they need during the free stay.

Have you tried something similar to get guest feedback on your green amenities and programs? Or, do you simply rely on on-property or online reviews for input? I would love to hear from you with your comments. I can be reached at editor@greenlodgingnews.com.

*Cayuga Sustainable Hospitality is a company based in San Jose, Costa Rica that is dedicated to the management and development of small hotels and resorts in Latin America and the Caribbean that have an ecological, conservationist or sustainable aspect to them. Currently, the Cayuga Collection is made up of eight hotels in different regions of Costa Rica and Nicaragua.

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Share Your Expertise in a Guest Column in Green Lodging News

by Glenn Hasek March 26, 2014 05:25

Some of you may have noticed that I produced my 400th e-newsletter two weeks ago. I don’t believe I have missed a week since launching Green Lodging News in July 2006. While it may seem like I do not take a break, I do every now and then. The beauty of generating an electronic newsletter is that you can do it even while on vacation—on the beach while relaxing in the sun, or somewhere in the wilderness, as long as it is possible to get an Internet connection. One of the keys to the success of my newsletter and website has been the editorial contributions of people like you—experts in one aspect of green hospitality or another. Since July 2006 I have posted about 200 guest columns. Topics have been very diverse—from LED lighting to window film to IRS deductions. Typically I have about four or five guest columns in the pipeline. Today I have just a couple.

Here is where you come in. If you have been itching to write about green lodging—a technology, your experiences running a green property, etc.—now is the time to pitch your idea to me. You can be an owner, operator, supplier, educator, or have some other connection to green hospitality. Guest columns run about 700 to 1,200 words but there is some flexibility with length. Your photo will run with the article and you will get to plug your business in the last paragraph of the article. It is great exposure! Guest columns cannot be too self-promotional.

Interested in submitting a column? Send your idea(s) to Glenn Hasek, editor@greenlodgingnews.com, or call me at (813) 510-3868. I will look forward to hearing from you.

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AGPOM Green Property Plan Provides Helpful Savings Advice

by Glenn Hasek March 19, 2014 05:35

The Association of Green Property Owners and Managers (AGPOM) recently finished updating its Green Property Behavioral Plan for Hotels and Resorts. The plan outlines practical behavioral initiatives available to hotels and resorts for reducing their expenses and improving their indoor working environment. For ease of use, the plan is segregated into topics including Energy Efficiency, Water Conservation, Indoor Air Quality, Site Sustainability, and General Business Practices. Under Energy Efficiency, the plan suggests practical steps one can take in the areas of Heating and Cooling, Lighting, and Operations. Within the Heating and Cooling section, for example, the plan suggests to keep window coverings closed in unoccupied rooms and common areas to combat extreme hot and cold temperatures. Another suggestion is to clean refrigerator condenser coils at least every three months and defrost freezers frequently.

The Water Conservation section is separated into three areas: Building Maintenance, Laundry Facilities, and Exterior Areas. One water conservation suggestion, for example, is to only wash fully loaded dish racks. A commercial dishwasher will work the same and use the same amount of water no matter how many dishes are in the rack. Using full racks will make the dishwasher more efficient with the water is already using. Another water conservation suggestion: Avoid plant fertilizing and pruning that would stimulate excessive growth.

The Indoor Air Quality section includes general suggestions as well as those related to Green Cleaning. One Indoor Air Quality suggestion is to vacuum carpets regularly, preferably using a vacuum with a high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter. When cleaning carpets, use a non-chemical, low-water process, and use fans afterward to dry the carpeting quickly. Also, carpets should never be installed in kitchens, bathrooms, laundry rooms or other high-moisture areas. Another suggestion: Use microfiber pads for cleaning rather than paper or other disposable products. Cloth cleaning rags can be laundered and reused. Paper towels usually just end up in a landfill.

The section on Site Sustainability is divided into Food & Waste Management, and Reduce and Reuse. One suggestion under Food & Waste Management is to provide smaller portions. If plates are repeatedly returned with only a portion of the food eaten, then you are serving too much. Cut back to reduce the amount of food waste.

In the final section, General Business Practices, suggestions range from supporting vendors and business partners who have green policies in place, to turning off computers, monitors, printers and copiers during non-business hours.

The Green Property Behavioral Plan is a worthwhile read for those just starting to implement green practices or those with established green policies. Click here to check it out.

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Several Hotel/Resort Companies Mentioned in Proxy Review 2014

by Glenn Hasek March 12, 2014 05:55

Proxy Review 2014, released earlier this month, examines the hundreds of social and environmental resolutions submitted by shareholders to U.S. companies for proxy season 2014. According to the report’s authors, while corporate political activity remains a central focus of shareholder resolutions, accounting for 30 percent of the total, there are more resolutions than ever on the environment given a new push for action to battle climate change. Investors vote on shareholder proposals, or resolutions, from both management and shareholders about issues that raise governance and social policy issues. Proposals generally call for reports or policy changes on key issues that can have an impact on a company’s bottom line, often through posing reputational risks. Management in nearly all cases voices opposition to these proposals, with some rare exceptions, yet these proposals have been steadily gaining much greater support among large, mainstream institutional investors.

The report’s authors state that most proxy votes are dominated by company management and a few dozen large financial institutions, which often automatically vote with management and hold the majority of a company’s shares. Consequently, it is difficult and extremely rare to see a majority vote on a shareholder-initiated proposal, although votes have been rising steady and a majority vote is not as unusual as it once was.

I sifted through Proxy Review 2014 and there are just a few hospitality-related companies mentioned as having shareholder proposals submitted that have to do with social or environmental concerns. Walt Disney was challenged in a report on safer product chemistry. That proposal was later withdrawn. Wynn Resorts was challenged for its campaign spending practices. Wynn Resorts was also challenged for allowing smoking in company facilities. MGM Resorts International was asked to adopt a policy on human trafficking. Host Hotels & Resorts was asked to file a sustainability report.

To access Proxy Review 2014 and to learn more about the record-breaking 417 social and environmental shareholder resolutions filed this proxy season, click here.

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Oberlin Pursuing LEED Platinum for New Hotel, Conference Center

by Glenn Hasek March 05, 2014 05:32

I am eagerly awaiting more details on the Peter B. Lewis Gateway Center project at Oberlin College in Oberlin, Ohio. In case you missed the news, the college announced this week that the project will include a 65-room hotel and conference center that will be built to LEED Platinum standards. Overall, the project is a planned 100,000-square-foot, mixed-use development that will incorporate renewable energy systems. In addition to the hotel and conference center, the complex will include commercial and office space, a culinary training facility, and a restaurant featuring locally grown and sourced fare. The total cost of the project is estimated to be $32 million, and it will be financed with a mix of private funding and new market tax credits. Construction will be completed in four phases, during which parts of the hotel and the kitchen and dining area will remain operational.

A spring groundbreaking is anticipated and the entire facility is expected to be completed and operational in January 2016. When certified Platinum, the hotel and conference center will join just four other LEED Platinum lodging properties in the United States: Crash Pad (a hostel), Chattanooga, Tenn.; Hotel Skyler, Syracuse, N.Y.; Proximity Hotel, Greensboro, N.C.; and Bardessono, Yountville, Calif.

Achieving LEED Platinum is still a rare accomplishment in our industry. Each of the existing LEED Platinum properties is uniquely energy efficient. The Crash Pad has a solar photovoltaic installation and green roof. Hotel Skyler features a geothermal heating and cooling system. The Proximity Hotel has a large solar installation to heat water. The Bardessono has both a solar photovoltaic and geothermal system.

Kudos to the folks at Oberlin College for pursuing such a rare level of green building achievement.

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Hoteliers Encouraged to Take WaterSense H2Otel Challenge

by Glenn Hasek February 26, 2014 05:41

With its WaterSense H2Otel Challenge launched earlier this month, the EPA is stepping up its commitment to helping hotels reduce water consumption and related impacts. Those hotels or hotel companies joining the Challenge take a pledge to “ACT”—assess, change, and track their water use in the following ways: assess water use and savings opportunities throughout the hotel; change products and processes to more water-efficient models and methods; and track water reduction progress before and after incorporating best management practices. Caesars Entertainment is the first company to sign up for the H2Otel Challenge. To help hoteliers who have joined the Challenge, EPA has planned a series of educational webinars. In the webinars participants will learn more about the WaterSense H2Otel Challenge, review specific water best management practices, and hear from professionals who are using water more efficiently.

The next webinar, “Take the Plunge: The WaterSense H2Otel Challenge,” is tomorrow, February 27 from 2 p.m. to 3 p.m. EST. (Click to register.) That webinar will be repeated on March 12 from 2 p.m. to 3 p.m EST. (Click to register.) On March 6, a webinar entitled “Assess, Track, Realize Paybacks” will be held from 2 p.m. to 3 p.m. EST. (Click to register.) Finally, a “Washing 101: A Plumbing and Laundry Efficiency Primer” webinar will be held on March 27 from 2 p.m. to 3 p.m. (Click to register.)

Anyone who takes the WaterSense H2Otel Challenge pledge will get periodic e-mails from EPA with water-saving tips, case studies, and upcoming webinar dates. Just visit www.epa.gov/watersense/challenge to sign up.

According to EPA, approximately 15 percent of the total water use in commercial and institutional facilities in the United States takes place in hotels and other lodging businesses. The largest uses of water in hotels are restrooms, laundry operations, landscaping, and kitchens. EPA has estimated potential hotel savings from replacing all guestroom bathroom plumbing fixtures with WaterSense labeled models: An average urban hotel with approximately 150 guestrooms could save nearly 760,000 gallons of water and more than $7,000 in water costs annually. That’s the amount of water needed for a hotel to wash more than 300,000 pounds of laundry.

According to Nancy Stoner, Acting Assistant Administrator for EPA’s Office of Water, since 2006, WaterSense has helped Americans save more than 487 billion gallons of water.

In addition to the resources it already provides, EPA WaterSense is working on a water assessment and project evaluation tool, which should be ready later this spring, to help facility managers calculate simple payback periods for some of the most common hotel water-saving upgrades.

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A Big Week for Electric Vehicle Charging Stations

by Glenn Hasek February 19, 2014 05:00

Were this past week’s two announcements of large-scale rollouts of electric vehicle (EV) charging stations an anomaly or a trend? Only time will tell but I suspect such announcements are going to be much more common in the coming months. First, MGM Resorts International announced that it has started the largest installation of EV charging stations in Nevada. Twenty-seven EV charging stations will be located at nine of the company’s Las Vegas resorts in addition to MGM Resorts’ main corporate offices. Additional stations will be available at Circus Circus Reno. The charging stations, which will be installed in guest garages and valet areas, will be available for employees and guests to use at no cost. Four charging stations at Mandalay Bay, MGM Grand Las Vegas and Circus Circus Reno have already been installed and are fully operational.

Installation of the remaining EV charging stations is expected to be complete by the end of this month. MGM Resorts installed its first charging stations in 2011 at The Shoppes at Mandalay Place and The Shops at Crystals. In 2012, an additional station was installed at its corporate office.

Second, Best Western Canada announced that it has 50 EV charging stations installed or in the process of being installed across Canada. Best Western is working toward the goal of creating a network of Canadian Best Western hotels with EV chargers available to guests from coast to coast. Best Western even has a website page that includes a complete list of Best Western hotels in the Ontario area with EV charging stations.

Why is the number of EV charging stations rapidly growing? In 2012, Transparency Market Research reported 71,174 registered electric vehicles in the United States and more than 180,000 in the world. The figure has more than doubled since 2011. The number of registered EVs in the world is expected to grow by more than 18 percent by 2018.

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Edmonton's Shaw Conference Centre Builds on Green Meetings Reputation

by Glenn Hasek February 12, 2014 04:53

The Shaw Conference Centre (SCC) in Edmonton, Alberta, already one of North America’s leading facilities for green meetings, made two announcements in the past few weeks that further strengthen its standing in the green meetings community. First, it announced that it has achieved BOMA BESt Level 2 certification from the Building Owners and Managers Association (BOMA). BESt stands for Building Environmental Standards and represents the highest levels of environmental best practices in Canada’s commercial real estate industry. Second, SCC officially unveiled its new Sustainability Wall, a vertical garden that highlights a number of sustainable initiatives at SCC and throughout the City of Edmonton. The certification and wall are two additions to a long list of green accomplishments for SCC.

SCC already had a number of environmental best practices in place: an in-house Sustainability Coordinator and Green Meetings Toolkit to assist clients with planning green events, in-house recycling and compost programs, as well as a food recovery program that contributes to a 53 percent annual waste diversion rate. SCC offers eco-report cards and customized, local food menus and eco-friendly event itineraries. FRESH is a program that helps conference and meeting planners achieve event goals by creating unique Edmonton experiences for their guests. Also, SCC gives meeting planners an opportunity to honor meeting guests with an environmental legacy—a tree planting, scholarships for environmental programs, legacy gardens, and donating extra conference materials to schools. Soon, SCC will be transforming its outdoor spaces through the implementation of a new permaculture initiative which recognizes the cultural and ecological significance of SCC’s riverbank location. The new landscaping will feature traditionally used and medicinal plans found in the natural environment.

To learn more about SCC's green initiatives, 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.