What Hotel Chains Are Doing To Help Protect Our Planet
by J. Michael Nemeth
Every day, LGBT travelers become savvier and more socially aware when spending their money. They want to influence the marketplace and bring about change by rewarding businesses and organizations that respect the gay community. This also applies to how many people spend their eco-focused money. When it comes to protecting the planet, many gay men and women put their money where their mouths are by staying at the hospitality industry's most earth-friendly accommodations. We have moved past the days when it was enough to screw in a few CFL lightbulbs or to leave a card on the bed asking us to live with sheets that aren't changed every day. Many people now demand true change that puts a priority on protecting the planet before they will book their rooms. Here is a look at some of the leaders in hotel chain sustainability and eco-practices.
CARLSON HOTELS WORLDWIDE
The hospitality company that includes brands like Radisson, Country Inns & Suites, Park Inn, and Park Plaza hotels is an industry leader in Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR). Last year, they signed the United Nations Global Compact that asks companies to not only do the right thing, but use their influence to effect change in others around a core set of values: human rights, labor standards, the environment, and anti-corruption. Their in-house "Carlson Credo" puts a strong focus on making a positive impact for the common good. The hotel loyalty program, Goldpoints Plus, partners with the CarbonNeutral Company (http://www.carbonneutral.com) to balance CO2 emissions as well as invest in global re-forestry and efficient energy programs. Carlson also created a guidebook, The Practical Guide to Greening Your Hotel, to assist other hospitality companies as they navigate the road toward eco-responsibility. The book's broad focus covers issues like recycling, indoor air quality, green meetings and event practices, energy conservation, and waste management. http://www.carlson.com
In 1990, before most of us became fluent in green-speak, Fairmont Hotels & Resorts were already leading the industry with their Green Partnership program. Committed to minimizing their hotels' impact on the planet, they keep current with a steely focus on waste management, energy and water conservation, and connection to community. This was the first luxury hotel group to formally address climate change. The Fairmont group partners with the World Wildlife Fund (http://www.wwf.org) and also boasts a "Climate Savers" program pledging dramatic reductions in CO2 emissions. A new energy and carbon management mandate ensures existing and future properties will strive to be in ever-greater harmony with nature. Fairmont has even published a guide to lead other corporations looking to green up their practices—the Green Partnership Guide. Their "Eco-Meet" program helps event and meeting planners minimize the ecological footprint of their activities and conferences, utilizing organic menu items for breaks, food and beverage service that is free of disposable waste (no plastic or paper throwaway service items), and eco-inspired meeting break activities. Fairmont also redistributes household goods and food to those in need, purchases wind and hydro power, has in-room recycling for guests, offers organic and sustainable food on menus, serves biodynamic wine, and grows on-site herb gardens. The Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary System even certifies Fairmont golf courses. The company continues to innovate and has been awarded Best Practices in Responsible Tourism awards from the World Travel and Tourism Commission and the Worldwide Hospitality Award for Best Corporate Social Responsibility Program. http://www.fairmont.com.
Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts have long had a strong commitment to environmental issues, and this year, in honor of their 50th birthday, they are upping the ante with a renewed focus on sustainability. Their "Local Effort, Global Commitment" programs include some major undertakings, like staff planting ten million trees around the world, preserving coral reefs and indigenous species around individual properties, experimenting with alternative energy sources like small micro-turbines, starting on-premises green gardens for use in the hotel restaurants, bolstering recycling programs, and initiating local events for community involvement. Their three-pronged Living Values (http://www.livingvalues.fourseasons.com) philosophy encourages supporting sustainability, building communities, and advancing cancer research. Now you can enjoy a stay at top-of-the-line accommodations guilt-free, confident that your dollars have positive reach. http://www.fourseasons.com
Hilton Worldwide has created a new "LightStay" program to reduce energy, carbon, and waste for their properties, which includes all Hilton Hotels, Waldorf-Astoria, Conrad, Doubletree, Embassy Suites, Hilton Garden Inn, Hampton, and Homewood Suites. LightStay helps analyze environmental impact, and the 1,300 properties in the chain conserve an annual sum of energy enough to power 5,700 homes for a year, enough water to fill 650 Olympic pools, and the reduced carbon equivalent to the emissions of 34,865 cars. Each year, those numbers rise. New practices lower consumption and impact in every avenue, including housekeeping, food service, recreation, and meetings. Their properties donate leftover food to local charities and Hilton is hailed as the first multi-brand hospitality corporation to implement sustainability systems company-wide. The company also has broad spectrum initiatives at worldwide locations, such as Earth Day and Earth Hour celebrations, as well as "Plant for the Planet" programs. Several properties feature bicycle programs, and Hilton has recently been awarded the Travel + Leisure "Global Vision Award" at the World Savers Conference. http://www.hilton.com
There is an entire website dedicated to the green efforts of the Hyatt family of properties, http://www.hyattearth.com. The Hyatt Earth program, energized by 80,000 associates and dedicated "Green Teams," is focused on five commitment categories. Globally, Hyatt decision makers focus on: creating a culture of environmental responsibility; conserving natural resources and reducing greenhouse gas emissions; reducing waste; establishing responsible purchasing practices and: integrating sustainable practices into the design and construction of properties. Their achievements and efforts are measured by an in-house tool, Hyatt Eco Track, that follows energy consumption, greenhouse gas emissions, water consumption, and waste generation by property, region, and brand. By 2015, Hyatt, Park Hyatt, Grand Hyatt, Andaz, Hyatt Regency, Hyatt Place, Summerfield Suites, Hyatt Resorts, and Hyatt Vacation Clubs intend to reduce energy consumption by 25%, reduce green house gas emissions by 25%, lessen water consumption by 20%, cut 25% of the waste sent to landfills, and work with the Green Teams to source materials from environmentally responsible suppliers worldwide. Their new Sustainable Design Criteria means that new properties will be sited, designed, and constructed with more environmentally sound practices. http://www.hyatt.com
Each of the Kimpton Hotels across the country has a dedicated Eco Champion on staff to oversee green programs. These "eco-concierges" work with staff and operations as well as with guests, with requests like providing canvas bags for shopping excursions, scheduling volunteer activities with local green charities, and guiding guests toward local parks and green spaces for outdoor recreation. The Kimpton EarthCare company-wide efforts have transformed operations to remove toxic cleaning products; introduce organic food and coffee service; use recycled paper in operations; reduce use of plastic, oil, electricity, and CO2; and provide recycling options for guests. In-house restaurants in many of the properties grow their own vegetables and/or source produce from local farms, donate leftover food to homeless shelters and food banks, and they all adhere to seafood watch programs to eliminate overfishing. Corporate practices thrive in partnership with The Trust for Public Land (http://www.tpl.org), The Nature Conservancy (http://www.nature.org), and Wines That Care. The chain donates partially used soaps and shampoos to local charities, stocks honor bars with organic food and drink options, and has also developed an impressive green meetings system. Even Kimpton's key cards are made of recycled plastic. They have been recognized with numerous awards for their green pioneering, such as "America's Healthiest Hotel," "USA Greenest Hotel Chain," "National GeoTourism Award," and every property has received a Green Seal Certification. http://www.kimpton.com