Environmental Technology: Why the Hype?

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October 15, 2015
Environmental Technology
Diane E. Estner - dianeestner@danni-enterprises.com

I had not given sustainable living much thought growing up in South Florida in the 1970s. To me, life was about surfing in my beautiful ocean and having year-round sunshine…. As a kid growing up, fresh milk was delivered to your door in a glass bottle, diapers were made out of washable cotton, and the average home size was 1,200 square feet.  People ate real food, and freshly washed clothes were hung on a line in the backyard with wooden clothes pins, drying with the breeze.

Sustainability just didn’t seem to be an issue.

As I started traveling internationally some years back, I noticed that other countries throughout Europe really seemed to be ahead of the curve with environmental choices that made sense. Their motivation could have been that their resources were limited and expensive, or they may have made a conscious choice, maybe both. On one of my first visits to Berlin, I remember the lights turning on automatically as I walked through a hotel hallway, as there were motion sensors installed to conserve energy in the common areas.     

The real game changer was when I moved from Florida to Portland, Ore. It was there that I began to appreciate a different way of thinking and living. Using plastic bags in grocery stores is but a memory there, as they have been banned. Walking, biking and hopping on the streetcar or train is safe, convenient and affordable. I had moved to a place where hybrid cars and bike commuters are the norm, not the exception. When I arrived, I decided to leave my car in Florida so I could experience the city as a native. What I realized during the first six months was that I had moved to a city where I did not really need a car at all. I had many transportation choices between walking, using my Zipcar membership, my bike and the streetcar. 

In contrast to my previous experience, driving was recreational rather than a necessity. My first apartment was in a platinum LEED-certified mixed-use building in town. It was designed with low flow, low voltage, wind turbines, high-efficiency glass, solar panels, eco-roof terraces, rainwater harvesting, grey water recycling and other environmental features. 

What I discovered was that being green, sustainable and living an environmentally friendly lifestyle requires both a personal and a social consciousness and awareness. Fortunately, many others now also have this mindset and they have already started to go “full steam and green.”  It is a great time for everyone to get on board!  

But what does sustainability even mean? Sustainability is not just about CFLs (compact fluorescent lights); it is about designing, living and working in spaces with more natural light. Sustainability is not just about driving a hybrid car. Sustainability is more about designing communities around alternative transit and walkable options, so people have viable choices to drive less, and connect with their community more. It is more about making environmentally smart decisions. 

What Does Sustainability Mean to Hoteliers? 
Collectively, hotels by nature are resource intensive. Hotels generally consume excessive amounts of energy to keep guests warm in winter and cool in summer. They consume large amounts of water for the comfort of their guests (bathrooms, food and beverages, laundry, swimming pools and other water features, etc.), and for the back of the house (HVAC, landscaping irrigation, cleaning and maintenance). And, of course, then there is the food and package waste.   

It has become easier today to go green with technology options and new innovative solutions. There are more companies coming up with solutions that are not only sustainable and operationally more efficient, but some can also improve the guest experience.  

There are commercial laundry options that do not use water. There are pool umbrellas that have solar panels built in so that guests can charge their electronic devices. Moving traditional hotel systems to the cloud is another example of where a hotel can reduce staff resource demands and remove power-hungry physical hardware. Consider also the benefits of offering your guests EV (electric vehicle) charging, encouraging them to charge up and recharge during their stay. It might even put more heads in beds. 

We’ll talk more about these sustainable technologies and their benefits to hotels over the coming issues. For now we hope you are intrigued and amazed with the examples we bring here to help you make good purchasing choices while also helping to preserve the environment.

If you have any questions or a particular sustainable technology you would like to know more about please email the author.

Diane Estner is the president of DANNI enterprises and can be reached at dianeestner@danni-enterprises.com.

©2015 Hospitality Upgrade
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Having a sustainable strategy supports:

+ Gaining a competitive advantage by being a leader in your market
+ Lower operating expenses
+ Customer loyalty
+ Improved employee retention
+ Awards and recognition
+ Regulatory compliance
+ Increased brand value

Many global hotel brands have been committed to implementing a clear strategy with specific goals benchmarked.

If you don’t have a strategy in place today, here are some starting points:

First establish a program to “green” up your hotel.

+ Identify a green coordinator/champion
+ Set a baseline to focus your efforts and measure future success
+ Engage your staff
+ Set an action plan
+ Elect a green team to run the program in house
+ Write an environmental policy statement
+ Train employees
+ Benchmark your efforts

Diane has been enjoying her career in hospitality technology for more than 25 years. Previously working with a start-up company, DANNI enterprises was created in order to expand her role and direct involvement in several of the exciting industry shifts occurring in hospitality today. Among other areas, Estner is passionate about sustainability solutions that help reduce costs and work toward creating a consciousness of environmental stewardship.   


LEED Platinum
College Park Marriott Hotel and Conference Center

The College Park Marriott Hotel and Conference Center is owned by the University of Maryland, University College (UMUC) and developed by Marriott. As part of the recent facility “reinvention,” UMUC sought and achieved LEED Platinum status for the conference center building, having previously achieved LEED status in 2005 for the hotel building. The LEED review process is lengthy and detailed and was handled by a third party on Marriott’s behalf. The conference center building was renovated in October 2013, and received certified platinum credit in June 2015. The property contains 111 guestrooms, a restaurant and pub, two ballrooms, 30 meeting rooms, a conference dining room and numerous art galleries.

Examples of best practices used to achieve platinum credit include:

+ Sustainable site: Mass transit options and bike racks provided for guest and employee use.
+ Water efficiency: Demonstrated a 41 percent potable water reduction in both guest and public restrooms.
+ Energy and atmosphere: Demonstrated a 26 percent reduction in lighting power use via more efficient lighting fixtures, occupancy sensors used in public and office areas, Energy Star equipment and fixtures used in guestrooms and facility to reach a 62 percent savings in energy use.
+ Construction waste management: 93 percent of construction waste was diverted from landfills to recycling options, 46 percent of construction materials were manufactured within 500 miles of College Park, and 12 percent of materials used had recycled content.
+ Indoor air quality: CO2 sensors were used to monitor indoor air quality and save energy by limiting the use of outside air that needs to be conditioned, high-efficiency motors were used in HVAC equipment to minimize energy use, energy recovery units were used to minimize the cost of conditioning outside air, low VOC materials were used where possible, and 63 percent of public space temperature can be controlled by guests.

UMUC participates in the American College and University Presidents Climate Commitment. The owners, along with Marriott, see achieving LEED Platinum status as part of a long-term goal. Working in partnership with the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) and the Green Building Certification Institute (GBCI), Marriott is empowering hotel development partners to build green hotels. Marriott has 106 LEED-registered hotels, and 31 LEED-certified hotels. In 2011, Marriott developed the first LEED Volume Program (LVP) to provide a streamlined path to certification for the hospitality industry through a green hotel prototype. Using the Energy and Environmental Action (EEAP) plan, the best-practice auditing tool, helps properties achieve a 25 percent savings reduction in energy and water consumption. Database and monitoring systems help track consumption and observe progress against goals.

Environmental goals include:

  • Further reduce energy and water consumption 20 percent by 2020. [Energy 20 percent per kWh/conditioned m2; Water 20 percent per occupied room (POR). Baseline: 2007]
  • Empower hotel development partners to build green hotels.
  • Educate and inspire associates and guests to conserve and preserve.
  • Address environmental challenges through innovative conservation initiatives including rainforest protection and water conservation.

Marriott has teamed with vendors to provide price-neutral products that conserve energy, reduce and divert waste, and are comprised of more sustainable materials. Low-energy light bulbs, showerheads that use less water, “room-ready” towels, recycled key cards and pens, and biodegradable laundry bags are just some of the products that help hotels meet sustainability goals.

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