Green hotels cater to increasing numbers of eco-conscious travelers
With increasing consumer focus on the environmental impact of everything, it’s no surprise that travelers are seeking hotels that consider the environment too. Consumers who buy locally produced food, products with less packaging and compact fluorescent light bulbs want lodging that does the same.
“Going green is one of the hottest trends in the lodging industry,” says Ray Burger, owner of Pineapple Hospitality, a green hotel product supplier and environmental/marketing consulting firm in St. Charles, Mo. “No one used to talk about green lodging unless it was about energy efficiency, until California started their program in 2004, and since then it has really taken off.”
Missouri’s Green Lodging Certification Program began in January 2009 and more than 40 hotels are now certified. The program is conducted through the Missouri Hotel and Lodging Association. Its coordinator, Ramona Mormann, says, “The [green hotel] program uses a combination of self-reporting by member hotels and random third-party inspections to ensure that members are adhering to written commitments to implement strategies to reduce environmental impacts.”
Pineapple Hospitality also provides certification through its Eco Rooms program. “It’s always best for hotels to start with the state certification and then go through certification programs like ours when they are ready to go one step further,” says Burger.
Burger was thinking green long before green lodging certification programs started to pop up. “I installed compact fluorescent bulbs in a hotel in 1985, 20 years before they became mainstream. Of course I had to take them out a few months later because the first CFLs worked so badly.”
Today, compact fluorescent bulbs outperform and outlive all incandescent bulbs.
“Technological innovation is one of the main reasons so many businesses are able to go green. Two years ago no one would have considered using LED (light emitting diode) lights because their quality was so poor, but now they are a viable, affordable, energy efficient option,” observes Burger.
LEDs are widely used in exit signs and emergency lighting, outdoor lights and casino and theater lighting. They are very bright but put out no heat, which reduces the need for air conditioning in heavily lit areas.
“Common sense is another reason so many businesses are going green,” Burger says. “Greening hotel operations creates tremendous economic benefits. It results in water conservation and a huge reduction in waste, not to mention the increased patronage from government and business travelers who are required to stay in lodgings that have implemented some green guidelines.”
Burger points to one Missouri hotel as a leader in green hospitality. The Q Hotel and Spa, formerly the Quarterage Hotel in Kansas City’s Westport, follows a 38-point plan that goes above and beyond most green certification programs. Among its environmentally friendly features are compact fluorescent bulbs, programmable guest room thermostats, the use of Green Seal and recycled content products, recycling receptacles in guest rooms, low-flow shower heads and toilets.
At the Q Hotel you can say goodbye to miniature soaps and shampoos — there are bulk product dispensers in all the rooms. Your leftover breakfast food will be given to local organic farmers for composting and you can choose from organic wines at the bar and free-trade coffee from the coffee shop. A hybrid car serves as the hotel shuttle and there are six bikes available for guest use.
Shawn Duke, general manager of the Q Hotel and Spa, says that running a green hotel takes a little more diligence than running a typical hotel. “We reuse all of our paper, so you have to make sure that all the paper that’s been printed on one side is put in a stack for in-house use only. We don’t use note pads; we just write on the back of paper that’s already been used.”
As for all the hard work, Duke says, “Doing this makes it a better place for our customers. We save a lot of money too. All of our lighting is energy efficient and because we use bulk dispensers we don’t have to throw away a ton of little plastic bottles.”
Customer communication is important at a hotel like the Q, which is essentially an experiment in how green one hotel can be. “Guests suggested that we change our recycling receptacles to make it easier for them to separate items and we did,” says Duke. “People tell me all the time that they chose our hotel because of our environmental practices.”
Duke understands the significance of these customers’ choices. “Like any good business, customer service is at the heart of what we do to be green. It’s the type of service that goes a step further in customer satisfaction; it’s not just about the customers’ needs, but about their values too.”
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