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Greening Hotels

April 13, 2009 By: David Eisen Travel Agent
 

Top chains are ramping up their environmental initiatives


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Starwood’s Element brand combines sleek style with environmental awareness

It wasn’t long ago that “going green” was more of a whimper than a battle cry. “Alternative energy,” “fuel cells,” “LEED certification” and “carbon dioxide emissions” have only recently become part of the parlance of our time. Fairmont Hotels & Resorts, however, has been on the green path since the early 1990s, pioneering conservation policies on waste, water and energy use, and even sharing its successes with industry competitors, such as Hilton and Marriott.

Learn more about the efforts hotel company's are making to make their properties more eco-friendly in the podcast below, where Travel Agent's Michael Browne moderates a discussion on green travel, that includes input from representatives of Fairmont, Starwood, Hyatt and Wyndham.

“It’s a win-win for everyone,” says Sarah Dayboll, coordinator of environmental affairs for Fairmont Raffles Hotels International. “We introduced our Green Partnership Program (a how-to manual that provides comprehensive direction on how-to green operations) in 1990, and it is currently in place at our 56 locations around the world.”

Fairmont focuses on four core areas: energy and water conservation, waste management, sustainability and community partnerships. Guests staying at Fairmont properties will find such measures as low-flow showerheads, tap aerators and recycling bins. Three Fairmont properties—Newport Beach, CA; San Jose, CA; and St. Andrews in Scotland—use co-generation, which produces electricity on site and captures the excess heat for hotel use. The Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise in Canada, The Fairmont Washington, D.C. and Fairmont Vier Jahreszeiten in Hamburg currently contract part of their electricity consumption from renewable sources like wind and hydro. At The Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise, 50 percent of the property’s electricity needs are met by a blend of wind and run-of-river electricity generation, and nine of the 13 chalets at Fairmont Kenauk at Fairmont Le Chateau Montebello in Quebec have solar power systems supplying about half of their energy.

These types of measures, the hotel asserts, have no bearing on a guest’s stay. “Our success is that you can be green and still offer a luxury experience,” Dayboll says. “Guests don’t even realize that these green measures are going on around them.”

Hear more about how travelers are responding to green hotels in a discussion amongst hotel executives moderated by Travel Agent's Michael Browne in the podcast below.

Green Is Elementary

Starwood Hotels and Resorts’ newest brand, Element, is making sure that consumers and agents alike are aware of its greening efforts. Starwood says the brand, which is an extended-stay product, is the first to mandate that all properties pursue the U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED certification. The hotel company believes that just as its W brand was a trailblazer in hotel design and style, Element will do the same in the green arena.

“Starwood will continue to evolve our sustainability initiatives through a multi-year transformation that ultimately results in the establishment of a viable sustainable business model,” says Brian McGuinness, senior vice president of Aloft and Element Hotels.
As much as going green is about environmental stewardship, it makes sense economically, too. “We estimate that Element’s construction costs run an average of 1 percent to 2 percent higher than traditional building costs,” says McGuinness, “but project that each property will recoup that investment in energy savings, water-use reduction and waste reduction within three to five years.”

Element’s flagship, Element Lexington (which earned LEED gold certification in December 2008), just outside of Boston, also serves as the brand’s “green innovation lab,” where the hotel operator tests products and practices. “Element Lexington is saving enough energy annually to power 236 U.S. homes for one year,” McGuinness says. “Take that statistic and multiply it by thousands of hotel properties all over the world and you can only imagine the positive impact it would have on the global environment.”

While many hoteliers talk about going the extra green mile, some still aren’t totally convinced. “The real factor facing hotels regarding green is this: Is it a real effort, or is it window dressing?” asks Andrew Sacks, president of AgencySacks, a marketing firm in New York. “If it is a real effort, it must go beyond optional towel washing. The commitment has to be head-office [on] down, and genuine. Discerning guests will be skeptical of anything that is not fully thought through.”

The 550-room InterContinental San Francisco backs up its green talk. The hotel has integrated many green measures, such as double-paned windows to reduce temperature fluctuation; energy-efficient light bulbs, and motion and automatic sensors; and wholesale power, which allows the hotel to negotiate its source of power and purchase from green sources.

The hotel’s greening effort also extends into its I-Spa, which, along with using organic ingredients and recycled packaging, features 100-percent microfiber sheets and robes that cut down on drying time and expendable energy during the cleaning process.

“All of these measures, we do out of conviction,” says Peter Koehler, general manager of InterContinental San Francisco. “It saves money, gets business and creates a better environment for our customers and employees.” Koehler says that the hotel’s greening efforts have gotten the full backing of Andrew Coslett, CEO of InterContinental Hotels Group. “He’s pushing and supporting it,” Koehler says.

The biggest environmental push InterContinental San Francisco has made is in the implementation of green technology. The hotel utilizes industrial drain cleaners, which use microbial technology to eliminate fats, oils and grease that clog pipes. The process is healthier for employees and guests and not only reduces the amount of contaminants and toxins that filter into the city’s sewer system, but also reduces the need for mechanical drain management services in the future.

At Marriott International Hotels, greening its hotels isn’t enough; the Bethesda, MD-based hotel operator also has made it a mission to have zero net waste from its headquarters by 2012. On the hotel end, Marriott’s “Spirit to Preserve” is a five-point strategy, which includes greening its hotels and supply chain. Marriott is working to empower its hotel development partners to design and construct greener hotels and will by the end of the year develop its own green hotel guidelines, in line with LEED standards.

Moreover, Marriott is not only looking to “green the box,” but green what goes into it. Some actions include the use of greener key cards made of 50 percent recycled material; supplying beds with eco-pillows filled with material made from recycled bottles; painting with low-volatile organic compound paint; and using low-phosphate laundry detergent.

Marriott competitor Hilton Hotels has been busy mounting its green movement. Over the coming years, Hilton is committed to reducing energy, CO2 and waste by 20 percent and water by 10 percent. Already, the Hilton New York has completed the rigging of a fuel-cell power system, considered one of the cleanest power-generating technologies available, and, in 2007, The Hilton Vancouver Washington became one of the first hotels in the country to receive a LEED rating.       


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