What Does It Mean to Be “Green?”

green light bulbEveryone’s buzzing about “being green,” but what does it really mean? In a nutshell, “being green means “to pursue knowledge and practices that can lead to more environmentally friendly and ecologically responsible decisions and lifestyles, which can help protect the environment and sustain its natural resources for current and future generations.” Think of it like karma. What goes around comes around. If we harm the environment of today, what will the environment of tomorrow be like?

Any individual can focus on being more environmentally conscious, but for a business or properties like our hotels that hold titles such as “Tripadvisor GreenLeader” or “Green Engage” there are certain criteria that must be met to obtain those declarations. Here, we’ll talk a little about why going green is beneficial as well as some of the criteria that must be met in order to continue being called a “green” hotel.

Benefits of Going Green
There are many benefits of being a green property, starting with lower operating costs. If you’re keeping an eye on your energy, water, and transportation costs it may save you money and reduce your carbon footprint at the same time.

Going green can increase guest and employee satisfaction. It provides a healthier environment and can positively enhance the experience for the green-conscious individual, the allergy sufferer and improve guest morale by staying in a hotel that cares about the planet.

Maintaining the “Green” Designation
Once a property is deemed “green,” there are certain criteria that must be met to stay green. Random site and documentation audits are conducted by the providing agencies to ensure all criteria are continually being met. Once a property becomes green, the designation can be renewed. For example, the Florida Green Lodging program requires that your property must gain two new green initiatives every renewal period (3 years) in order to renew your green designation. Tripadvisor’s renewal period is annual.


Areas of Green Focus

Communication and Education
Spread the word and keep everyone on board, even guests!

Regular Staff Training. Give your staff the knowledge they need to be a successful green employee. Let them know what criteria must be met to keep the green designation and what actions to take.
Guest Awareness and Education. Let your guests know about your green designation and how they can participate.
Staff and Guest Feedback. Find out what your guests think about what you’re doing to make a more positive environmental impact. Ask for feedback through surveys in-room and online, as well directly through the Front Desk.
Provide a Written Environmental Policy and Action Plan. Putting a plan into writing can help you and your team stick to it. Making a list makes everyone more accountable and it’s a constant reminder of what must be done to meet your green goals.
Create a “Green Team.” Being a member of the Green Team means employees get to see their ideas in action! Members should be conscious of their own footprint, use best management practices in their own departments and readily share their knowledge with others. The Green Team will hold regular meetings, review current initiatives, brainstorm new ideas and ensure communication is efficient within and between all departments.

Waste Not, Want Not
Your trash is actually a treasure! Don’t toss it – upcycle, recycle, or reuse it!

The Recycling Bin. If it looks like it should go in the recycling bin, place it there instead of the trash. Our landfills are already full enough.
Bulk Purchasing. Purchase in bulk to avoid costly trips to and from the store for items that can be bought in larger quantities. Chances are, buying in bulk saves you money, reduces time spent driving to pick up items, reduces emissions from your vehicle from making those drives, and if you’re ordering from a vendor, that’s also fewer trips they have to make to bring the product to your door.
Donate eligible materials. Donations are another form of recycling. If you can’t use it anymore, someone else possibly can. Items to donate include furniture, electronics, toiletries and linens.
Recycle other eligible materials. As amazing as it sounds, mattresses, furniture, and flooring can all be recycled.
Track waste and recycling usage. Make sure to keep this documented, as the agencies may ask for it in a random audit. Plus, it keeps your hotel on top of things!
Use biodegradable takeout supplies. We can control what we do with our waste in our hotel, but not necessarily what happens to waste outside of it. Use earth-friendly takeout supplies versus other options that may not be considered as kind to the planet (like foam or other plastic materials).

Water Conservation
Water, water everywhere, save a drop to drink!

Track usage. If you know how much you need instead of just guessing, this can help you cut costs as well as stop unnecessary waste.
Preventative Maintenance Plan. Maximize your property’s efficiency by taking measures to minimize the occurrence of costly repairs like water-wasting leaks.
Florida-Friendly landscaping. In the Sunshine State, using drought-tolerant plants in your hotel’s horticultural design allows for more efficient irrigation since those plants require less water.

Energy Conservation
When it’s bright, turn off the light!

Use Energy Star Appliances. These appliances uses less energy, therefore they hold the “Energy Star” rating to let consumers know they’re better for the environment.
• Indoor temperature. Set thermostats to the correct temperature depending on the season and turn off heating and cooling in rooms that are not occupied.
Best Energy Management Practices. When you can, use natural light, keep the kitchen equipment turned down during nonpeak hours and keep preheat times to a minimum
Preventative Maintenance Plan. Again, this can help you maximize efficiency and reduce energy waste.

Indoor Air Quality
Breathe deep! Indoor air is almost always more polluted than outdoor air! Keep the air inside your hotel clean through some of these methods.

Green Seal Cleaning Products. Products with the Green Seal reduce human and aquatic toxicity and are produced in a manner that creates less air pollution.
Green Label Plus Certified Carpets. Some carpets may contain a higher level of VOC’s, or volatile organic compounds. VOC’s are actually vapors or gas emissions that come from the chemicals used to make certain products. Inhaling VOC’s can cause many issues including headaches, respiratory problems, damage to the central nervous system and some are known carcinogens.
Low VOC interior paints. Paints contain VOC’s, and as you can see, keeping them to a minimum can have a much better impact on the environment and the health of your staff and guests.
High-efficiency air filters. Reducing VOC-releasing materials and maintaining a 100% smoke-free hotel can increase air quality as well.

Purchasing
Buying green products can help your hotel be more socially responsible, increase efficiency and limit waste.

Rainforest Alliance Certified Coffees. “More than 25 million people in the tropics depend on coffee, a crop that is the economic backbone of many countries and the world’s second most traded commodity after oil. Rainforest Alliance certification helps farmers bear the erratic swings in the global market by giving them the keys to improved farm management, negotiating leverage and access to premium markets. By implementing the SAN sustainable farm-management system, farmers can control costs, gain efficiencies and improve crop quality.” RainforestAlliance.org
Minimum 30% Post-Consumer Recycled Paper Products.
Priority to Suppliers Supporting Take-Back Packaging. Some vendors take back the packaging items come in to reduce waste. A vendor participating in a take-back program will take precedence over one that does not.

These are only a few of the things that can be done to start down the green path. You can check out the Florida Department of Environmental Protection’s Florida Green Lodging Program to find out about all the requirements and how to become a “green” property or find out what it takes to become a Tripadvisor GreenLeader. Every little bit helps! Everything we do today impacts our future.

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