Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Santa Fe Green Lodging Initiative

Watershed Project: Get Hotels Greener

The Santa Fe Watershed Association plans to roll out a pilot project next month aimed at helping local hotels take their eco-friendliness to the next level. 
Dubbed the Green Lodging Initiative, the effort will include helping hotels better conserve water and reduce the amount of chemicals and other pollutants they release into the environment. “We’re really interested in helping lodging facilities streamline their resources,” Watershed Association executive director Felicity Broennan said.
The initiative is being funded by a $49,700 grant awarded to the Watershed Association by the federal Environmental Protection Agency. The Watershed Association is contracting with HospitalityGreen, a New York company, to analyze the operations of participating hotels and provide them with recommendations on becoming greener. 
That could involve looking at what kind of soap or light bulbs the hotels use, or how they distribute toiletries. 
It’s “all of these things we don’t think about when we’re in a hotel room, yet if all that stuff is getting washed down the drain, it has an impact on the river,” watershed and other natural resources, Broennan said. 
A Watershed Association news release noted that “more than one million tourists visit Santa Fe each year. 
“While they are welcomed and are an important part of our economy, they also put considerable pressure on our environmental resources.” 
The idea is to help hotels set achievable goals commensurate with their capabilities, Broennan said. “This is a certification program. It really includes a lot of training, a lot of measurement tracking tools, these customized programs. 
“That is what makes all the difference,” she said. “It definitely is a commitment on the part of the hotels, but they don’t have to pay anything for it.” 
As of last week, just a few hotels had signed up, including La Posada and Inn of the Governors. But several others have expressed interest, according to Broennan. The goal is to sign up 10-15 hotels, motels, resorts, B&Bs and other facilities. 
Sam Gerberding, the general manager of Inn of the Governors on West Alameda Street, said the program is “a wonderful chance for the Santa Fe hotel community.” 
Gerberding said he hopes it will help his inn save some money. He also said he wants to increase the hotel’s appeal to eco-conscious travelers. 
“Over the years, we’ve been very conscientious about wanting to do more and being greener as a hotel, and we’ve integrated certain aspects of that throughout the years,” Gerberding said. “This is an exceptional opportunity for us. It will be helpful to have that little extra perspective and assistance in getting it off the ground.” 
The EPA funding will cover a year of services, and the Watershed Association is looking at the program as a pilot project. The organization hopes to expand in the future. 
“I’m hoping we’ll see some real measurable outcomes in pollution reduction and water conservation,” Broennan said. “And then we can grow the program to include a lot more hotels and restaurants, as well.” 
As part of the initiative, the city of Santa Fe, New Mexico and Santa Fe Lodging Associations, Santa Fe Green Chamber of Commerce and a handful of local hotels and lodges have joined forces to create a related working group.