The "green" bandwagon moves triumphantly through our communities. Where we used to be called "tree huggers" and fringe conservationists - many now understand that sustainable hospitality is within reach, where we can be good stewards of the environment AND make money.
Let's put the green movement in perspective, just from today's news items. Detroit still pimps the Hummer and SUVs, big oil is even bigger, and our governments refuse to address global warming. Areas of the world have fragile ecosystems under siege, the glaciers are melting (Boston the new Miami?), and certain species require protection. Oil, landfills, the greenhouse effect, acid rain, even consumer products are all creating risk and no reward, much less a palatable future perspective.
Do you remember how it all started? Saving the spotted owl, voluntary recycling, return deposit on your beer and soda containers, trying to reduce smog, save a tree campaign, and so forth. Huge advances to present, yet we are at quite a crossroads. Fortunately, we have an educated consumer, and technology, systems and products have adapted to the marketplace and the realities of how we exist. We have the means to act, we can be responsible citizens and we can make money, too. "Green" is a portal to hospitality success. Let's take a short tour of our challenges and opportunities.
A major chunk of your budget. What are the options here? Look at Vail, Colo. Rob Katz, C.E.O., Vail Resorts, made an extraordinary commitment. "By embracing wind power as a clean and renewable source for 100 percent of our company-wide electricity use, we want to reinforce our commitment to the natural environment in which we operate." Facilities throughout the world harness solar power, particularly in Southern climes. Consider reducing the wattage of your light bulbs. Offer linen replenishment and service every other day. There are just too many options not to seek alternatives, which will be cost effective and not guest intrusive.
Design, construction, renovation and maintenance:
I, for one, would welcome some innovative design work beyond the chain "cookie cutter" norm, which hurts my sensibilities. And, while you are at it, give me a new look for construction elements—low volatile organic compounds in your paints and adhesives, materials with recycled content, modular units, even options for reuse of computers and your FF&E. Look at what Logan Airport in Boston accomplished with the reopening of Terminal "A", as reported in the Boston Globe.
The article said: "The windows reflect heat to trap warmer temperatures inside when it's cold and keep heat out in the summer, reducing power usage. The interior lights dim when natural light shines from the outside, and, in the restrooms, the urinals are waterless and the faucets are low-flow. There's drip irrigation for landscaping and storm water filtration to remove pollutants from rain runoff." Folks, this is an international airport, not a lodging or restaurant. Think what you could do.
Water conservation, heat and cooling:
This goes beyond the old brick in the commode and "shower with a friend" mentality. Environmental showerheads and toilet tank fill diverters can dramatically reduce water usage. Of course, your solar panels or other apparatus can help with the heating/cooling issues, or you might want to consider what Almond Resorts, Barbados, created to irrigate their golf course with waste water. All are doable.
Solid waste management:
It is reported that in the United States, we are up to 230 million tons a year, of which two-thirds reside in landfills or incinerators. I do not think this is a case of one's detritus being another's collectable treasure. It is junk! Recycling is the answer, and for restaurants they should be looking at food rescue, alternatives for cooking oils and composting programs.
Environmentally preferred goods/products:
How much of the above solid waste represents our passion for packaging to consumers? We still get our coffee in Styrofoam cups and plastic pervades our lives. Why not use amenities that are environmentally sound, yet elegant in their presentation? Or, paper products made from recycled sources? All these and more are out there in the marketplace. Change your purchasing practices and mentality!
What many in the hospitality industry have yet to grasp is that their guests already practice environmentally sound behaviors at home. They recycle, pay attention to the goods and services they purchase, fret over energy costs, turn off the lights in rooms not in use, and seek alternatives in renovating their homes. Your guests are already on the environmental bandwagon, and, when they visit you, yes, they want special attention and care, but not at the expense of the environment. Matter of fact, they expect you to protect the very facility and destination they choose to visit. They want to be informed about what you specifically are doing on their behalf. They will not complain, and, matter of fact, they will become your best partners for the "green" effort.
John R. Hendrie is principal of Hospitality Performance, Merrimac, Mass. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.