Mr. Weissman

Eco-Friendly Practices

Greening Your Full-service Hotel

By Arthur Weissman, President and CEO, Green Seal, Inc.

So far in this series we have covered applications to spas, resorts, and conference centers. Now for the grand old staple - the full-service hotel - which we define for this discussion as a property with the following services: one or more restaurants, ample meeting space, business center, room service, fitness center, and other amenities as applicable (such as parking, visitor information, dry cleaning, etc.).

What characterizes full-service properties from a sustainability perspective compared to more limited-service properties is that, essentially, they have just more of the same. Except for restaurants, the additional facilities and equipment are similar to what most properties, however small, have in their guest rooms, lobby, and front office. The expanded dimension of full-service properties means more need - and opportunity - to apply energy- and water-saving operations, to eliminate waste and toxins, and generally to provide a healthful and vibrant guest environment.

Saving Energy and Water

More space in full-service properties will be available to guests almost any time of day or night, hence, this space will have to be lit and heated or cooled most of the time. It is imperative, therefore, that the most efficient lighting and heating, ventilating, and air-conditioning (HVAC) systems be installed in this space, and that proper maintenance be applied to ensure continued efficient operation.

Space that requires 24-hour lighting and space-conditioning should get first priority. High efficacy lighting such as compact fluorescent lamps, low-mercury and low wattage linear fluorescent lamps, and emerging LED lamps should be installed and maintained in this space. Special attention should be given to HVAC levels to ensure both reasonable comfort in these zones and efficient operation; proper humidity, temperature, and ventilation levels will keep common areas comfortable while saving a lot of money.

It is almost as important to install occupancy sensors in the less-used public spaces such as meeting rooms and back hallways. In this way, space can be readily available for guests but will not be wastefully maintained as if fully occupied all the time. Energy-management systems can also adjust lighting and HVAC operation according to daily schedules and, for example, reduce the number of lights illuminated in certain passages in low-use periods.

Not to forget, either, the numerous bathrooms that full-service properties typically must have. These present numerous opportunities for energy and water savings: occupancy sensors, more efficient lamps and luminaires, low-flow appliances (or even no-flow, in the case of waterless urinals), dispensing systems for water and paper towels that limit the volume or flow, use of recycled tissue paper products, etc.

Eliminating Waste and Toxins

Because full-service properties do virtually everything, they have large throughputs of materials and substances. This can lead to considerable waste of resources and introduction of questionable substances to which guests may be exposed.

Every full-service property should have ample facilities for recycling all materials that can be economically recycled in its geographic area - whether paper, plastic, aluminum cans, newspapers, etc. Managers may cringe at the thought of having recycling bins in guest rooms or even in common areas, but accommodation can be made for both recycling and aesthetics. Meeting spaces, in particular, generate a lot of waste paper and plastic bottles.

With their typically large number of guest rooms and public spaces, full-service properties must use large volumes of cleaning chemicals. The exposure of both guests and workers to these chemicals makes it imperative that the latter be as healthful and environmentally responsible as possible. Some cleaning products still contain strong, toxic chemicals that can cause respiratory distress or worse. Floor-care products, such as finishes to protect floors and strippers to remove the finishes, can be even more potentially harmful. A large number of certified "green" cleaners and floor-care products are available and can be found at www.greenseal.org. Use of these certified products exclusively will significantly reduce the possibility of harmful exposures.

It is important to note, however, that housekeeping and maintenance staff must be fully trained in all uses of chemicals to ensure that these benefits obtain. Improper applications or procedures can reduce or negate the benefits of using green products. We like to cite the case we studied several years ago of two sister properties in a major U.S. city, one of which loved the new green cleaning products we introduced and the other of which much preferred its traditional cleaners. It turned out that the latter used the green cleaners at suggested dilution but the traditional cleaners at full strength! Obviously, all chemicals must be applied at proper dilution to prevent waste and potentially harmful exposures.

Properties that have garages or parking lots can reduce soil loads in other parts of the property by sweeping the parking deck surface and stairwells weekly and washing the parking deck surface at least twice a year to remove oil, grease, dirt, and chemicals (e.g., antifreeze, salt) that could be tracked inside.

A Word on Restaurants

Food-service facilities in full-service properties should conform to all the previously discussed guidelines. In addition, there are special practices they should follow.

For example, food wastes from restaurants or room-service should be composted if possible, and leftover food should be donated to nearby shelters. Food should be sourced as locally as possible and with preference for in-season items. Where feasible, organic foods should be used or at least offered to reduce the chemical burden in the environment.

Where appropriate, condiments should be offered in bulk dispensers rather than individual, disposable containers. Managers should work with their suppliers to reduce or eliminate packaging, and any secondary packaging (not in contact with food) should be recyclable or reusable by the supplier. Alternative food packaging for carry-out items should be sought for polystyrene materials; there are compostable, bio-based containers available that do the job.

Conclusion: Toward a More Healthy, Vibrant Environment

Like resorts and destination spas, full-service properties attempt to create a nearly complete environment that fulfills their guests' needs and desires. Where guests are attending a conference on the property, they may spend almost all their time there, comparable to a resort or spa. Hence, it is imperative that full-service properties make their environment as healthy and vibrant as possible.

Providing sustainable products, services, operations, and maintenance is key to creating a healthy and vibrant environment at the property. No one benefits from waste or toxicity; conversely, benign materials and substances and efficient flows of energy and materials foster well-being, both physically and mentally. Sustainable management of a property incorporates the latter approach in every facet of its operation and services. This kind of management is noticed by guests, at whatever level of consciousness, and plays into their sense of satisfaction at being at your full-service property.

Arthur B. Weissman, Ph.D., is President and CEO of Green Seal, Inc. He has experience in environmental science, policy, and standard-setting in public and private sectors. He has led the non-profit's resurgence as a force to make the economy more sustainable. He served as an international convener in developing the ISO 14000 standards for environmental labeling, and was the first Chair of the Global Ecolabeling Network. He has developed policy for the Superfund waste-cleanup program, served in the U.S. Senate as a Science Fellow, and worked for The Nature Conservancy. Mr. Weissman can be contacted at 202-872-6400 or aweissman@greenseal.org Extended Bio...

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