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It's Easy Being Green

Reducing trash and water usage, adding features like rain gardens can make a big impact.

Friday, April 29, 2011
Amy Carniol
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In virtually every industry, eco-friendliness is a game-changing movement that can mean the difference between a business that thrives and one that fails. Hospitality is certainly no exception. According to National Leisure Travel Monitor’s May 2009 publication, 38 percent of leisure travelers would select an eco-friendly hotel if they knew about its commitment to the environment. For a hotelier, the lesson is simple: You must take steps to “green” your operations.

“Hotels are in a very unique position in that they are providing services, energy and various goods to many people,” says Caylin Sanders, founder of EscapeMaker.com, an online travel guide and host of the upcoming, consumer-focused Green Getaways Local Food & Travel Expo. “Hoteliers can make a huge impact on the planet because of how many people come through their facilities.”

But the wide array of potential eco-friendly changes can often seem overwhelming. For this reason, Jennifer Woofter, founder and president of Strategic Sustainability Consulting, recommends starting small. “Evaluate your current business practices to determine your best focus areas,” she says. “When you have a couple of quick wins under your belt, use that momentum and extra money to tackle some more ambitious projects.”

Energy changes are relatively simple to implement and can yield an immediate impact, explains Woofter. Utility companies will often provide a complimentary audit to help customers find ways to save energy. Taking advantage of such free services not only aids the planet but will likely lead to lower monthly bills as well.

To cut down on water use in an easy, inexpensive way, install aerators onto faucets. These small devices mix air into the water stream; pressure and quality remain the same, but water use decreases significantly. For an out-of-the-box approach, consider creating a rain garden, a shallow, bowl-shaped depression that uses deep-rooted grasses and plants to filter excess storm run-off. Since rain gardens put less stress on the sewer system, hotels that implement them may be eligible for rebates from local municipalities.

Waste is another arena in which hotels can improve their eco-friendliness. Woofter suggests conducting a waste audit, saving a week’s worth of trash and then sifting through to see how much of what was thrown away could have been recycled or composted. While such audits can get a bit messy, they engage staff at every level, opening people’s eyes to what kind of waste the hotel is generating.

Properly disposing of hazardous waste is also paramount. “Almost every organization has hazardous waste of some kind,” says Woofter. In a hotel, these materials can be in the form of compact fluorescent light bulbs, batteries, paints, solvents and pesticides. Set these items aside until you’ve accumulated enough to justify a trip to the local hazardous waste facility, which is usually attached to a recycling facility or landfill.

No matter which green avenues you choose to pursue, making eco-improvements will likely have a positive effect on your bottom line. “There’s a huge opportunity for hotels to reduce the environmental impact of their operations and attract a savvy green traveler,” says Sanders. “This is where your future guest is coming from.”

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Amy Carniol    Amy Carniol
Freelance Writer
Amy Carniol
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