From the Ritz to the Sands, It’s Catching On
By Christa Romano
Green sustainability is changing the way we live. It’s changing the way we use energy, the way we manufacture and the way we dispose of trash. Now it’s even changing the way we sleep… the way we sleep when we are away from home, that is.
Hotels around the United States are catching on to the new green hospitality trend, becoming sustainable places for their guests to enjoy without even knowing that they are practicing ecotourism.
“Many guests don’t realize that they are staying in one of the greenest hotels in the world when they stay at a Sands Hotel,” said Nicholas Rumanes, the Sands Corporation’s President of Development. “And that is one of our goals, to be as sustainable as possible without sacrificing the luxury of the hotel.”
With expanding knowledge of the global warming crisis and so many sustainable-savvy travelers starting to hold a higher standard for where they spend the night, the race to become the greenest of green hotels is on.
Why we need Green Hotels:
Hotels have always been some of the biggest energy guzzlers around, contributing to the ever-increasing problem of global warming. Regardless of the time of day or what the accessible local resources are, hotels must provide each guest with the availability of steaming hot or icy cold water, heat or air conditioning as desired and enough electricity to power any and all electrical devices at any given moment.
According to the government-backed Energy Star Program, America’s 47,000 hotels spend an average of almost $2,200 per room each year on energy, making up a whopping six percent of all operating costs. Hotels are starting to realize that reducing this energy usage is good business. It makes a substantial difference fon the environment, on their profits and on their reputations.
Many travelers are already consciously supporting this new green-hotel trend, playing their part in ecotourism and saving the planet one holiday at a time. More than 90 percent of U.S. travelers surveyed by the online travel publisher TravelZoo said that they would choose a “green,” environmentally conscious hotel if the price and amenities were comparable to those at a non-sustainable, non-green hotel.
And the other ten percent?
They don’t yet grasp how important the emergence of sustainable hotels is, because if they could chose to do their part in solving the global warming crisis, why wouldn’t they?
It is also possible that this ten percent, the ones who are apparently oblivious to the environment, don’t think it’s worth the effort to find a green hotel because they don’t know what to look for. This is unfortunate, because finding a green hotel is not as hard as they would think.
How to find a Green Hotel:
Travelers easily can shop green when they browse the virtual Green Store, a database hosted by Expedia of more than 1,700 green hotels that have been awarded by one or more of the four major environmental lodging awards.
Orbitz has an entire section of their website devoted to finding green hotels. The company also helps travelers find hybrid car rentals and offset carbon emissions in air travel.
In addition to finding a hotel through Orbitz and Expedia, visitors can browse through volunteer programs and read tips on how to travel green and how to offset carbon emissions from air travel.
If you are making an effort to travel green it may be a more gratifying experience to stay in a hotel that is actively seeking to minimize its’ environmental impact.
It’s helpful to know that someone knowledgeable thinks that the hotel you’ve picked is “green,” because sustainable features and projects of a hotel might not be so obvious to a casual observer.
Chances are that you would never assume that a hotel recycles water or uses high-efficiency light bulbs, and you don’t get to see whether the wasted food goes into a compost pile or out to the dumpster. Unless you climb onto the roof, you’ll probably never see a solar panel.
There are some hotels however, that are publicizing their green hospitality efforts, and it has been paying off for them in terms of monetary savings and an increased number and satisfaction rating of clientele.
The Greenest of Green Hotels:
Several hotels in Las Vegas are ideal examples to consider. Vegas may be the last city you would ever think of as being eco-friendly but in actuality, “Sin City” is enthusiastically embracing the new trend of sustainability.
The Las Vegas Sands Corporation (LVSC), for example, has helped to make the City of Lights a front-runner in the green hotel trend. Rumanes calls LVSC an “eco-pioneer” because of all the revolutionary green measures they have taken in order to become one of the largest sustainable corporations in the world.
“We realized that we have such an ability to make a difference in the environment because of our sheer volume and buying power,” Rumanes said about the LVSC. This is true for essentially all of the hotels in the area. Sands is the first and largest hotel corporation on the Vegas Strip to achieve a LEED certification (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design), which is the most difficult and of all environmental awards to attain.
The Palazzo Hotel in Las Vegas, which is also owned by the LVSC, has also been awarded the silver LEED award. This is not only for their revolutionary water-recycling project but also for their minimal use of energy. This hotel has installed special sensors to automatically adjust the temperature in each room to a comfortable level according to guest occupancy. Master light switches make it easy and convenient for guests to remember to shut off all the lights before leaving.
Eco-linen programs have also been implemented at The Palazzo – as well as at many hotels around the country. The program allows multiple-night guests to choose whether to replenish their linens and towels. The effect is a saving of more than 11 million gallons of water and 170,000 gallons of detergent per year.
“We are very proud [of our green achievements], just by the fact that we are saving millions of gallons of water a year in the middle of a desert, and it’s indiscernible to our guests,” Rumanes said.
In another substantial energy saving move, the hot water at LVSC is heated by solar-generated power. Not only has the Sands Corporation generated its own solar power but it has also generated a new breed of business travelers.
“We have been hosting Fortune 100 companies which have very strict guidelines about where they can hold conventions,” Rumanes said.
The logic behind LVSC’s ability to win sustainability awards is applicable to all large hotels around the country. The Ritz-Carlton in Charlotte, North Carolina, recently won a gold LEED award for the revolutionary efforts to make the hotel as eco-friendly as possible.
Located in downtown Charlotte, The Ritz-Carlton will soon be a significant contributor to the protection of the area’s eco-system. An extensive roof garden boasts two fully-contained bee hives, populated by 60,000 honeybees. The bees are critical to plant pollination not only in the garden, but in the surrounding area as well.
The Ritz provides guests, not only with a natural oasis in the middle of the city but also with a special selection of honey-based cuisine from their own hives!
The Green Hotel Movement
Jumping on the sustainability bandwagon, more hotels are adopting a “green” attitude for all future building projects. They are willing to make the upfront investment with the expectation of reaping long-term benefits – both financially and from a public relations vantage point.
Green hotels are not limited to the United States. For example, the resort at Isla Palenque, currently under development on Panama Island, is incorporating the concept of sustainability into its foundation. Less than five percent of the island’s 400 acres will be built upon in order to protect the forest preserve surrounding it.
Additionally, to prevent erosion, homes in the area will be built on stilts. Careful positioning of roads will allow for minimal environment disturbance. The use of local and readily available resources will heavily reduce the fossil fuels needed to transport materials.
Randall Johnson, the architect for the Isla Palenque resort, said, “Sustainability isn’t just about recycling. It’s a whole life cycle that includes the inhabitants, the people who live and work there.”
Hotels that are not green… yet.
This green hotel trend is exactly that — a trend. But it is a trend that could soon turn into a movement. With hotels like the Ritz-Carlton and those of the LVSC demonstrating that sustainability is a viable and profitable option, other corporations in the hospitality industry are beginning to follow suit.
Rumanes said that the LVSC is more than willing to share their sustainability secrets to other corporations looking to go green.
“We want to say, ‘Here’s how we’ve done it and here are the lessons we’ve learned.’ We like to share our success stories with other hotels, to share our blueprints and our cheat sheets to help others.” Rumanes adds. “But maybe I shouldn’t call them cheat sheets though; maybe I should call them ‘green sheets.’”
There is a tendency to criticize businesses for products and/or buildings that are not yet “green” enough. This is understandable given the dire warnings environmentalists have issued against a failure to act.
However, at this point in time all actions toward sustainability and neutral environmental impact should be applauded. Hotels need to join in the movement toward environmentally conscious guidelines which meet expectations of the present and future generations of travelers. This will help to preserve the environment for us all.
Christa Romano lives in Los Angeles and works in advertising.
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