Hotels Increasingly Come in Shades of Green

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On the 5th floor of El Moore, the room’s outdoor balcony overlooks Detroit.

At El Moore, a lodging facility in Detroit, Michigan which opened in 2016, the recycled-wooden walls frame the rooftop cabin room, where the lights turn on from the insertion of the room key in a designated electricity activator.  The bed-frame is composed of doorknobs, which were found in the basement of the previously abandoned, pigeon-excrement-filled building.  Greg Barnold, 37-year-old guest, chose El Moore because of its sustainable features.  He says, “It’s nice to see the reclaimed materials used in the rooms, energy-efficient systems throughout the lodge, and learn about their ongoing developments to engage the community.”

 

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The on-site rainwater harvesting system’s capacity is 4, 250 gallons and waters vegetation at El Moore.

According to a recent 2016-TripAdvisor survey, 88% of U.S. hotels, like El Moore, have ecofriendly practices.  This is a 9% jump from 2013.  These practices aim to decrease hotel environmental impact as the world faces climate change and resource limitations.  The Environmental Protection Agency says hotels use 15% of the commercial water supply.  This proportion is more than double the amount of water consumption of other large-scale facilities such as hospitals, which consume six percent of the commercial water supply.  Although the number of sustainable hotels has increased, these green programs vary in effectiveness with regards to counterbalancing their environmental impact.

For example, sustainable initiatives at Weber’s Hotel in Michigan include linen-reuse programs, recycling, and compostable coffee cups.  A Marriot chain of hotels called Element are all LEED- (Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design) certified.  These buildings decrease energy consumption by 25%.

These hotels provide a variety of ecofriendly practices and have distinct reasoning behind implementing them.  Anthony DiNatale, complex director of engineering of the Element Boston Seaport in Boston, Massachusetts, says, “We opened with a sustainable program and culture in place.  We hope due to these programs, we capture more occupancy.”  His position coheres with a 2016-TripAdvisor survey that says 85% of travelers look for ecofriendly practices when choosing hotels.

Max Weber, vice president of Weber’s Hotel, says, “When you start to see other places using compostable coffee cups, there’s an implied pressure to provide similar green items people start to expect.”

Nonetheless, some view current hotels’ sustainability as ineffective measures to reduce their environmental impact.  Glenn Hasek, editor of Green Lodging News, says there are shades of green and the majority of hotels stand at the low extreme, incorporating LED lightbulbs, recycling, and linen-reuse programs.

Siobhan O’Neill, editor of Green Hotelier, says, “Being ‘green’ is no longer enough.  Undoubtedly hotels can do more- they need to, and they need to do it faster.  I would like sustainable programs hard-wired in as part of the building from the ground up.”

Sue Norman, green building consultant from the Sierra Club, a national grassroots-environmental organization, argues hotels can do more.  She says hotels should function wholly on renewable energy and renovate buildings rather than constructing new ones.

For hotels to substantially reduce their ecological footprint, Howard Chong, professor at the School of Hotel Administration at Cornell University, says hotels must analyze their circumstances individually to formulate sustainable management specific to their situation.  In Chong’s 2014 publication, Hotel Sustainability Benchmarking, he explains how hotels differ in terms of their unique features, such as laundry frequency.  These factors cause discrepancies in water use, energy consumption, and carbon emissions.

Chong says, “Sustainability is defined very differently for each hotel in the world.  Consider how Las Vegas will be different from Detroit.  There is no set standard.”

Despite the prevalence of sustainability in the hospitality industry, some hotels are less inclined to implement ecofriendly practices.  The Bell Tower Hotel, an independent hotel in Ann Arbor, Michigan, offers guests recycling and linen reuse.  Hasek classifies this as the low-hanging fruit of sustainability.  Cody Perrault, front-office manager of the Bell Tower, says there isn’t enough money to invest in green practices because of the absence of corporate support.

The concern of capital difficulty is evident in experts’ concerns of the future of hotels.  Eric Ricaurte, founder & CEO of Greenview, a sustainability consultant group, says the biggest challenge in funding green hotels programs is for owners, operators, and brands to reach a consensus on the distribution of budgets.

Michel Soucisse, guest relations manager of El Moore, believes future hotels will face problems with managing guest expectations because guests can perceive sustainable initiatives as sacrificing quality service.  To prevent this misunderstanding he says, “We try to explain to guests why we do the things we do, and it’s usually pretty great.”

Although obstacles exist, Hasek believes there is a strong future for green hotels because they operate more efficiently and are financially rewarding.  Energy Star says hotels save $1.35 per room from a 10% reduction in energy consumption.

Dan Evans, operations manager of the Holiday Inn in Ann Arbor, Michigan, says, “Companies that aren’t implementing environmentally-friendly projects are truly throwing away their money as the return on investments on these projects has been excellent.”  For instance, he noticed per flush costs decreased from 10 cents to 0.2 cents from installing low-flush toilets.

In terms of guest benefits, Soucisse says guests gain a sense of satisfaction from actively participating in green initiatives.  Also, he says guests maintain a peace of mind in knowing their travels won’t generate a huge environmental impact.

Hotel Executive, a hotel professional resource, says green hotels have healthier indoor atmospheres.  DiNatale says hotels savings don’t transfer to guests, but Element hotels offer monetary rewards to guests who engage in their voluntary green programs.

For the future of hotels, O’Neill says, “We all want a better world for our children; therefore, it’s particularly important that the tourism industry is a leader in sustainability, not a contributor to the mass overconsumption of our finite resources.”

Hotels, such as El Moore, strive to do just that.  Barnold says, “I make sure to choose hotels that go beyond the common practices, because a change is needed and that change comes from all of us.”

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