Mr. Dolce

Group Meetings

Going Green - Five Hot Trends in the Meetings Industry

By Andy Dolce, Founder, Chairman & Managing Partner, Dolce International

Business travel is big business with millions of individual and group trips being tracked in each year. Among overnight trips, 85% of business travelers stayed in a hotel or motel. While this is good news for airlines, rental car companies and hoteliers, business travel exacts a heavy toll on the environment.

Travel is the main culprit of climate change accounting for one-third of climate damaging emissions. As such, the travel industry has become increasingly concerned about saving the environment for future generations of travelers. Industry groups such as the International Association of Conference Centers have compiled lists of "Green Best Practices" for hoteliers taking steps to cost-effectively go green with their operations and the hospitality industry has already made strides in its concern for the environment.

As leaders in global hospitality, today's hoteliers have a responsibility to address their commitment to minimizing the impact that their hotels have on the environment. Policies need to focus on awareness and education to promote and reinforce a culture of environmental consciousness through all facets of global operations. We all need to be committed to protecting our natural environment, to the comfort and well being of our guests and to respecting the communities in which we operate.

Most major hotel companies have implemented some steps toward "going green." From incentives for employees who carpool, corporate procurement policies for everything from office paper to materials used in manufacturing, eco-friendly kitchens, recycling programs for guests and employees and offering carbon offsets for individual and group travel, today's travel leaders have many positive initiatives in place for preserving the environment.

Responsible environmental stewardship is not only an integral part of doing business at Dolce International; it is the core of who we are as a company. Read on to learn about five hot trends in the meetings industry I recommend for going green.

1) Giving Back to The Environment - Carbon Offsets

Global warming is clearly an issue challenging our environment and our ability to sustain the planet. While automobiles and power generation are the largest contributors of emissions, hoteliers also need to focus on activities they can control and influence. One of the hottest trends in business and a growing trend in the hospitality industry is offering carbon offset programs.

According to Trees for the Future, a program aimed at offsetting travel-related emissions, a jet emits approximately one pound of carbon dioxide per passenger mile. That means 3.2 million acres of trees would need to be planted every year to offset the emissions caused by the 240 billion miles the National Business Travelers Association claims are racked up by U.S. business travelers annually. Add in the greenhouse gases generated by rental cars, the energy and water use of hotels, and waste produced by conferences and meetings, and it's obvious: Greening business travel will result in significant environmental benefits.

Carbon Offset programs to allow individual and group travelers to calculate their "carbon footprint" for travel-related emissions from automobile, train or air travel and underwrite enough renewable energy to make up for the carbon their energy spews into the atmosphere. Sample costs are $5 to offset a flight from New York to Chicago and $100 to offset a two-night meeting for 100 travelers coming 200 miles by air and car.

For meeting organizers, planning a carbon-neutral event is growing in popularity. Meeting planers can now offset the easily measurable carbon emissions by funding carbon-offset projects such as renewable energy, energy-efficiency, or reforestation projects. Aside from travel emissions, planners can also offset costs for electricity consumed and waste produced during a meeting.

This is especially noteworthy for eco-conscious corporations who embrace sustainability as a key business strategy. It must be said that carbon offsetting is not intended to 'pay for your sins'. Hoteliers should be following environmentally sustainable practices and adding to the end goal with carbon offsetting programs. A number of companies offer these services to hoteliers including Carbon Fund, Sustainable Travel International, LEAP, TerraPass and Live Neutral.

2) Letting Guests Pitch In

Today's travelers are used to conserving energy at home so why not let them do the same on the road? According to TripAdvisor.com's outlook for 2008, many respondents said they will be more environmentally conscious in their travel decisions in the coming year. Today's hoteliers need to offer guests a variety of ways to go green not only in their rooms but in their activities as well.

Some of the in-room eco-friendly offerings we offer our guests include electric key cards that control the room's power, options for reusing/washing sheets and towels, recycling trash bins, low-flow showerheads, toilets and sink aerators, wall-mounted soap, shampoo and conditioner dispensers, newspapers in lobbies instead of at every door and windows that open and can be used instead of air-conditioning.

Hotel staff should be trained to make eco-friendly suggestions to guests such as setting the thermostat a few degrees warmer or cooler depending on season or traveling with AC adapters that allow their computer to "sleep" without draining power when not in use.

In addition, staff should provide individual and meeting travelers with a list of non-energy dependant activities and sightseeing options such as bicycle trips, hiking excursions and walking tours.

3) Getting Green Certified

Eco-friendly travelers and meeting groups want to know which hotels share their eco-friendly practices so being "Green Certified" is more important than ever before. Green-friendly certification from federal, state or environmental organizations is becoming the basis for rating hotels across the country. Some of the top organizations include Green Seal, Green Globe, Green Key and Green Leaf. The United States Green Building Council's Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Green Building Rating System measures the sustainability of buildings.

As an example, buildings that are "Gold" LEED Certified such as the Doerr-Hosier Center at Dolce's Aspen Meadows Resort reduce waste sent to landfills, conserve energy and water, and reduce harmful greenhouse gas emissions while offering a healthier and safer space for occupants.

4) Getting Employees Involved

A hotel's employees are the best ambassadors to create awareness and reinforce a culture of environmental consciousness through all of facets of the property's operations. At eco-friendly properties, executives have been named to lead these task forces with titles such as Vice President of Environmental Affairs and Green Czar.

At Dolce International, for example, we have a corporate Green Council and each of our properties has a dedicated Green Team. Property Green Teams focus on on-site initiatives and also get the property involved with community outreach programs and local environmental projects.

Staff training is crucial in preserving the environment as little steps such as printing on both sides of paper and sending e-mails rather than paper memos go a long way. One of our properties switched from bottles to water and soft drink dispensers which reduces the number cans and bottles entering recycling stations and/or landfills by 400,000 containers per year. Initiatives such as e-mail signatures that include a phrase like 'Go Green, Keep it on the Screen' and incentives for carpooling or using public transportation are also key.

5) Making Smart Purchases

Hoteliers need to pay attention to purchases in every department from food and beverage to housekeeping. For example, chefs should use local produce and have in-house gardens to improve freshness and decrease food costs and motion sensor activated lighting and signage using LED lighting should be installed whenever possible.

A variety of smart options are available for today's hoteliers including: energy efficient (EnergyStar) appliances, eco-friendly sprinkler systems; furniture made from environmentally friendly products including wood from sustainable forests; office supplies such as post-consumer recycled paper and soy-based ink; non-toxic cleaning supplies; carpets and wallpaper made from sustainable or recycled materials; compact fluorescent light bulbs; amenities made from environmentally friendly, sustainable ingredients and packaging and organic cotton or bamboo sheets and towels.

Andrew (Andy) J. Dolce founded Dolce Hotels which has become the world's leading conference hotel company by providing environments where people can meet and learn. Dolce is at the forefront with properties in the U.S., Canada and Europe. He has been named one of the "25 Most Influential Executives" in the meetings and travel industries by both "Meeting News" and "Business Travel News". Mr. Dolce has been a board member and president of the IACC. He is on the board of NYU's Center for Hospitality, Tourism and Travel Administration and serves on Iona College's Legal Board of Trustees. Mr. Dolce can be contacted at 201-505-5906 or andy.dolce@dolce.com Extended Bio...

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