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Hotels 'Go Green' to Save the Earth, Cash

By Sara Kennedy, The Bradenton Herald, Fla.McClatchy-Tribune Regional News

Apr. 30, 2008 - BRADENTON -- The Holiday Inn Express is "going green."

That means its management has made a commitment to try to improve its environmental practices, everything from installing water-saving devices to allowing guests to re-use towels if they choose.

"We'll save every year," said general manager Sue Carron. "It's to increase business for the hotel, government, business, state business. A lot of companies are 'going green.'"

"With the price of gas, 'going green' is a good thing. It absolutely will save money," she added.

Although only a handful of local hotels have won a "green" designation from the state, more and more are pursuing it, partly because it saves money in electricity and supplies, and partly because their clients are demanding it.

Some patrons refuse to book a hotel that does not follow "green" practices, Carron said.

Gov. Crist issued an executive order directing state employees to use "green" hotels for conferences and meetings, unless there is no other alternative, said Deas Bohn, director of sustainable initiatives for the state Department of Environmental Protection, whose Florida Green Lodging Program recognizes environmentally-friendly hotels.

Carron hopes that by June 1, her Bradenton hotel at 648 67th St. Cir. E. will join 169 others across the state that have already won admittance to the club.

Carron's staff is installing aerators on faucets to save water, checking timers on outside lights to save energy, and making sure air-conditioning filters are clean for better energy efficiency, she said.

The Sarasota Ritz-Carlton, 1111 Ritz-Carlton Drive, won a "green" designation in January after six to 10 months of effort, said Noah Unger, manager of human resources.

"We have re-allocated up to 50 percent of our waste to save energy," said Unger.

"We found a way it's not going to landfills -- all those plastic bottles and cans, paper, batteries and florescent lights, can then be re-used again. The carpet industry recycles plastic bottles. It still costs us money to do it, but we're doing the right thing," he said.

However, in the long term, a happy by-product is monetary savings, noted Bohn.

"A major advantage is the cost savings derived from conserving energy and waste, that's one thing, also the increase in occupancy rates because of the national movement on conservation and preservation," she explained.

Captiva Beach Resort, 6772 Sara Sea Circle, Siesta Key, won a "green" designation in January after owner Robert Ispaso accelerated recycling and conservation, instituted energy-saving practices, halted the use of chemical cleaning agents, and even switched to cold water for washing laundry.

"Do I save money?," he laughed. "Ask me next year, and I'll tell you. Our electric bill, month-to-month, is lower than the previous year, so obviously, we're doing something right."

"I have two children, they're into being green, and I'll tell you, they've pushed their dad. We recycle paper, we recycle plastic. They keep Dad on his toes."

Sara Kennedy, Herald business reporter, can be reached at (941) 748-0411, ext. 4500.

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Copyright (c) 2008, The Bradenton Herald, Fla.

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