Michael Milburn Helps Lighten the Impact of La Quinta’s More Than 800 Hotels

8/22/2012 By Glenn Hasek

Name: Michael Milburn
Title: Director, Energy & Sustainability Department
Organization: LQ Management L.L.C. (La Quinta)
Years with company: 12 years
Primary responsibilities: “My primary responsibility is to work with all levels of management within the La Quinta organization to develop and implement energy management programs, conservation programs, and sustainability initiatives.”
Organization’s most significant environment-related accomplishment so far: “I believe it would have to be when our senior management team recognized that we (La Quinta) had to establish a Sustainability Program in order to do our part in reducing the company’s environmental impact on our communities and planet.”   
Organization’s most significant environment-related challenge: “Balancing our conservation and sustainability efforts with the expectations of our valued hotel guests will always be a challenge. We strive to provide our guests with the great experience they’ve come to admire and expect from La Quinta hotels. As a result, our sustainability efforts must be tempered with that in mind; for example, we would not turn off the a/c in a guestroom during summer in order to reduce energy, only to have our guests return to a hot guestroom that may take hours to cool down.”

DALLAS—As director, Energy & Sustainability Department for LQ Management L.L.C. (La Quinta), Michael Milburn influences activities that can have a tremendous impact on La Quinta’s overall environmental impact. Reducing its environmental footprint is important for a company the size of La Quinta—it operates and provides franchise services to more than 800 hotels, representing more than 80,000 guestrooms.

Milburn’s typical day is spent assisting hotel managers with any property related issues such as mechanical, plumbing, HVAC, electrical, etc. His responsibilities include utility bill management—the collection, organization, budgeting, auditing, and payment processing of corporate utility bills (electric, natural gas, water and sewer). He is also in charge of supply side management—the negotiation and procurement of energy supply in competitive deregulated areas.

Demand side management is also his responsibility—reducing energy usage thru energy efficiency measures, technology, and conservation methods. Finally, he oversees La Quinta’s overall sustainability program—incorporating and implementing socially meaningful practices designed to reduce La Quinta’s environmental impact.

Has Lead Role on Green Team

Milburn, who reports to La Quinta’s executive vice president of design & construction services, has a lead role on La Quinta’s Green Team and is responsible for communicating the company’s green efforts.

“Our Green Team was formed from representatives throughout the organization, and includes members of the La Quinta senior management team,” Milburn says. “Our Green Team’s purpose includes the development, review and analysis of sustainability initiatives and conservation projects for all La Quinta properties. We meet as often as necessary to share ideas on new initiatives and/or results.”

Under Milburn’s watch, La Quinta has taken many steps to reduce waste and energy and water consumption. Energy management systems that control heating and air-conditioning have been installed in more than 23,000 guestrooms. These are a brand standard for all new properties. La Quinta has been using energy efficient compact fluorescent lighting (CFLs) for all of its guestrooms since 1998. CFLs typically use approximately 66 percent less energy than standard incandescent light bulbs.

Installed water conserving mechanisms in guestroom showers and toilets use 20 percent to 40 percent less water than traditional systems. In the past three years, La Quinta has diverted approximately 600 tons of carpet from landfills to reclamation companies to be recycled. La Quinta also provides energy conservation tips to hotel staff throughout the brand via the company’s intranet.

Eye on Continuous Improvement

“We continually review and test new, and in some cases improved, sustainable technologies and practices which include: solar energy, LED lighting, high efficiency water heaters/boilers, recycling, ozone laundry technologies, renewable energy purchases, etc…for balanced opportunities,” Milburn says.

“An on demand water heating system was recently installed in our property in downtown Little Rock (Ark.),” he adds. “The system is much more energy efficient than the previous system. La Quinta installed an ozone laundry system at the DFW North property (Irving, Texas) in order to evaluate the sustainable benefits of using ozone; these include reduced chemistry use, reduced hot water, and reduced drying times.”

Milburn says La Quinta’s employees, owners and operators all understand their potential impact on the environment.

“We promote a company culture where ideas are not only embraced and encouraged but taken seriously,” Milburn says. “If a hotel manager would like to forward a question or idea for research, the idea is forwarded to the appropriate department or individual within La Quinta to respond to the idea or inquiry.”

Former Business Analyst at AmGas

Prior to working at La Quinta, Milburn began in the deregulated energy industry 22 years ago as a business analyst with AmGas Inc., a natural gas marketing company that provided natural gas supply to commercial (including hospitality and lodging segments) and industrial end-use customers located in deregulated energy markets.

“I later served as national operations manager with AmGas,” Milburn says. “I was responsible for managing national operations involving natural gas sales, utility tariffs, and customer service. AmGas was subsequently acquired by regulated electric utility company, MidAmerican Energy Company, headquartered in Des Moines, Iowa.”

When asked if he has always had an interest in the environment, Milburn says his feelings have evolved over the years.

“Early on, as a young person, I remember a PSA campaign launched by the nonprofit Keep America Beautiful organization,” he says. “The theme of their 1971 campaign was “People Start Pollution. People can stop it” featuring the now iconic “crying Indian” played by Iron Eyes Cody. That PSA left an indelible impression upon me. Today, having been involved in the energy industry for as long as I have, I’ve gained a close perspective on how finite our world energy and freshwater resources are. This evolution has brought me to conclude that today, it is no longer just socially expedient to be environmentally sustainable; it is morally compelling that our generation preserve an environmental inheritance for future generations.”

What he most enjoys about his job, Milburn says, is being able to work with the great people at La Quinta and to also have a positive impact on the company, employees, and guests.

“La Quinta’s core values are: People, Passion, Integrity, Excellence, and Unique,” Milburn says. “These values were not handed down as an edict from the company. Rather, they were created from the human resources and intellectual capital of our employees. So, coming to work is what I enjoy most about my job.”

Go to LQ Management L.L.C.

Glenn Hasek can be reached at editor@greenlodgingnews.com.


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