Thursday, March 20, 2014

Many Shades of Green - Part 2

Our first Many Shades of Green blog shared no/low cost ideas to help you get started on the journey to greening your lodging property. If you now have a Green Team in place and made an investment in a little staff training; you can see that developing a green policy wasn't that difficult.  In fact, you’re undoubtedly curious about additional ways to be kind to both your bottom line and Mother Nature!  

May we suggest; to start on Part 2 of your Shades of Green journey first you need to take a walk.  
That’s right. With your Green Team take a walk around your property. Let them individually point out possible areas for improvements.  Listen to your staff. Their insight will be valuable in creating employee engagement and in implementing improvements. Be careful not to blame or point out a person who might be at fault. Remember that as Jeffrey Liker in his book, The Toyota Way, states, “It is the people who do the work who can improve the work.”   

HG has a Walk Thru Assessment Guide Book that helps staff define, find and prioritize areas for improvements. The guide is an easy to follow series of check lists that quantify and evaluate sustainable water, energy, waste, and purchasing practices and systems throughout a property. If nothing else, take notes as you see areas for improvements.    

It is easier to make improvements if you have a guide to follow. We recommend using either Trip Advisors Green Leaders Survey or HG’s Green Concierge (GC) Certification Standards? Either of these will give you a point at which to begin and a matrix for improvements.  TA’s Survey and the GC Certification Standards provide a comprehensive guide for looking at water, energy, waste, purchasing, employee and customer engagement, and policy improvements.

#2 the Employee Assessment
Assign members of your Green Team to assess and evaluate improvements in areas of your property where they spend most of their time working. Administration employees are best suited to improve practices within their area. Other team members and outside expertise can be brought on once the original employee assessment has been completed. By engaging the employees first, you will find that they are much more willing to accept modifications and changes, both large and small to products and systems. They initiate the change by conducting the walk thru assessment.

#3 Evaluating the Assessment
Before investing in costly upgrades and new products, first address all maintenance issues that you haven’t already done. More importantly make sure that employees are assigned to areas of maintenance that needed improvement. Add items to housekeeping’s check list like setting back thermostats and checking for leaking faucets.  How often and who is assigned to cleaning all sconces and hall lights? Who checks for water leaks in the property system and how often?  There are numerous areas that can save money and improve the overall appearance of a property.  Guests notice leaky faucets and stained and dirty fixtures. Work through each maintenance item and create check lists or assign people to each task.

#4  Track Energy Use
Do you know how much energy you use? Free on-line tracking tools such as the ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager make it simple to manage your energy and water use.  All you need to get started are your most recent energy bills and basic information about your building(s).  Within a few months of tracking you’ll see patterns of energy waste that can be corrected quickly and easily.  Reducing energy consumption will not only result in significantly reduced operating costs but will also lead to safer conditions for your staff and guests

#5 Track and Record your Waste and Purchasing Inventories
Even if it is not scientifically perfect, you need to at least estimate how much garbage and recycling is being collected. HG has a Resource Tracking Tool available for use that allows you to track everything from small containers to rolls offs. Read your bills and see if tonnage is provided. If not, how big is your dumpster or are they toters? Start with at least a decent estimate of what you are doing right now. How else can you make and manage improvements? “You can’t manage what you can’t measure….” Peter Drucker

#6 Evaluate your Cleaning Program
Start small by examining the cleaning products used by housekeeping.  The most successful green cleaning programs combine both green cleaning products and high performance cleaning equipment.  Rely on your third party certifiers, Green Seal and Eco-Logo for green validation. These certifiers have an in depth understanding of the federal regulations for chemical compounds. Let their chemists do the work for you. Remember to evaluate your cleaning equipment. Training will need to take place when adopting new products and procedures.

With input from your staff, data on current resource use, basic maintenance issues assigned, you are now ready to make decisions on new products, and systems.

#7- Approach all upgrades comprehensively
·         Utilize the services of good energy consultants who will pair state incentive programs to their services. A good resource for state energy incentives for energy efficiency upgrades and the installation of renewable energy systems is  Before making major upgrades or re-lamping the property, seek the advice of a lighting consultant who is familiar with  new products and potential state and federal incentives.  Speak to your energy consultant and ask for a few referrals. Today it is more than changing a bulb. Many of these services are free and or required for incentive programs. Don’t just purchase from a catalog. Before making any purchase, make sure that the lamps and fixtures are compatible.  Use the services of a reputable licensed service provider.

·         Work with cleaning product providers who will test product with you and provide staff training. Buying off the shelf from your local food co-op or a big box store is throwing money out the door.

·         Consider working with a consultant to evaluate and modify energy, waste and water contracts. This is money well spent. Often their contracts are based on the savings that they are able to provide through contract re-negotiation.   

#8 – Let your guests know that you are “Going Green”
By making outward guest sensitive improvements first, guests will readily see them. Your return guests can be involved in the process. If done with authenticity and comprehensively, Going Green can:
·         Solidify your credibility as a green lodging property
·         Increase tourism revenue
·         Engage your employees
·         Decrease operating costs
·         Increase financial returns.

Economic and environmental sustainability can easily be achieved by recognizing and applying the Many Shades of Green!

Monday, March 10, 2014

The Many Shades of Green

Running a “green” hotel – sounds daunting, doesn't it?  As hoteliers we have enough to do.  Running multiple venues across the property, managing staff, dealing with maintenance issues plus the all-consuming, relentless struggle to keep guests happy.  Who has the time or resources to implement an environmentally responsible green program?!

Actually, it’s not as hard as one might think.  In fact, even just a few no cost/low cost changes can result in cost-savings and favorable guest reviews, which gives you an edge in a very competitive industry.

According to a recent customer survey conducted by the 2013 CONE Communications Green Gap Trend Tracker, 70% of consumers “Think Green” when purchasing; and that number is growing.  Consumer observations and interests also affect their purchasing and the survey reveals 85% want companies to educate them.  So as hoteliers how can we afford to not “green” our hotel and “green” train our staff? 

In hard financial times what can we do that is no cost or low cost but will satisfy the growing hunger of guests looking for eco-destinations?  Being inside our properties, it’s difficult to see the most obvious areas for improvements and greening.
Be smart.  Start where you will get the best returns, guest satisfaction and cost savings with the least amount of capital outlay.

#1  Develop a “Going Green” Policy
Your policy doesn't have to be lengthy or highly detailed.   It should include your intentions to protect the environment, the health and safety of your employees, and the community in which you conduct your business.  Your policy should adopt environmentally responsible business practices by conserving energy, water, and other natural resources.  It can also state you will stay committed to these goals while maintaining your standards for customer comfort and enjoyment.

#2  Select a “Green Team”
There’s no need to go it alone.  With employee team members who represent your full scope of operations (housekeeping, maintenance, food and beverage, etc.), you’ll have expert help in identifying and implementing the best practices for your property as well as monitoring your progress and cost savings.

#3  Invest in Training your “Green Team”
These are the people on your staff that need to understand your “Going Green” policy and will be your “doers.”  It is important to educate them on “Green.”  Everyone needs to understand the many shades of green and have a mapped out process for getting there.  Invest in green training for your team.  A minimal training investment will be paid back within a short period of time by authorizing your green team to adopt minor operational changes.

#4  Fix Water Leaks and Manually Adjust Thermostats
Make sure kitchen staff and housekeepers alert maintenance staff to leaks regularly.  Water leaks can be costly but the good news is they can be easily fixed.  Make sure housekeepers set back thermostats when finishing a room.  Turn off lights in areas of the hotel that are not being used, but make sure all common access areas still meet fire code standards.

#5   Set-up a Towel Reuse Policy
Every day millions of gallons of water and laundry chemicals are used to wash towels and linens that have been used only once.  Create a simple room placard that gives guests the option to hang their towels back up and pull the comforter over the bed if they would like to help protect the environment by reusing their towels and linens.

Customers notice if you do not have recycling bins. At the least, set up recycling bins for your customers in common areas and near vending machines.  Paper, cardboard, plastic, metal, glass – recycle some or all.  It’s as simple as contacting your waste vendor, requesting recycling bins and placing them strategically in common areas.
In some states, you can even get bottle return money!  Make sure you don’t just collect it, but actually recycle it.

The 2013 CONE Communications Green Gap Trend Tracker survey also provided the following statistics:
       69% say, “It’s okay if a company is not environmentally perfect as it is honest.”
       78% say they will boycott a product/service if they discover an environmental claim to be misleading.

Congratulations!  With the above “shades of green” in place, you now are on the way to “Going Green.”
Sure there is always more you can do, but with a small cash outlay, you’re off to a very good start.

Investing in an educated Green Team who can answer guest questions, and with an adopted credible environmental policy, you can now proudly display your environmental policy on your website and on property.  Travelers searching for green practice hotels will take notice, and your business will be well on its way to becoming both economically and environmentally sustainable.