|By David Bauerlein, The Florida
Times-Union, JacksonvilleMcClatchy-Tribune Regional News
Jun. 21, 2008 - Florida's Green Lodging program used to be a low-profile affair, attracting interest here and there from hotels touting their eco-friendly side.
Then Gov. Charlie Crist signed an executive order in July 2007, directing state agencies to use Green Lodging-certified establishments for meetings and conferences.
Today, 204 lodging establishments have earned the designation and 365 applications are pending. Before Crist signed his order, 36 properties were certified as Green Lodging.
"It's really flourishing," said Jodi Conway, spokeswoman in Jacksonville for the state Department of Environmental Protection, which administers the program.
Green Lodging is among the voluntary programs that have emerged to encourage conservation in the workplace.
The American Bar Association, for instance, has challenged law firms to go green by following recommendations from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The Jacksonville offices of two firms -- Holland & Knight and Lewis, Longman & Walker -- have gained approval for their conservation policies.
At the Lewis firm, the strategy includes double-side copying and printing, recycling bins at desks, electronic document storage, Energy Star-rated electronic equipment, and installing energy- efficient, compact fluorescent light bulbs.
Since 2000, the state Department of Environmental Protection has used its voluntary Clean Marina program to promote protection of waterways. In return for going beyond regulatory requirements, Clean Marina properties get a 10 percent reduction on submerged land lease fees.
Green Lodging began in 2004 and likewise consists of best management practices for the lodging industry. Some of those are low-flow plumbing fixtures, linen and towel reuse, Energy Star appliances, programmable thermostats, recycling waste, using "green" cleaners, and installing high-efficiency air filters.
At Crowne Plaza Jacksonville Riverfront, which in August became the first Duval County hotel to get Green Lodging certification, motion-detector thermostats adjust room temperatures based on whether the room is empty or has guests in it. Crowne Plaza also instituted a recycling program for guests and staff.
Other Northeast Florida properties earning the Green Lodging stamp of approval in the past year range in size from the 1,350-acre Amelia Island Plantation in Nassau County to The Jenks House bed and breakfast in Jacksonville. The Jenks House, which was the second bed and breakfast in the state to be certified, has had a solar water heater for almost 30 years.
"We've been conservation nuts for a long time," said Tom Merten, who owns The Jenks House with his wife, Ila Rae.
Merten said Crist's executive order didn't influence the decision to seek Green Lodging certification, but he said the certification does get good feedback from guests.
Amelia Island Plantation also achieved Green Lodging certification to get credit for long-standing conservation measures. The resort added a major recycling program for guests and workers, and it switched to nontoxic pest control products. It is moving toward using solar energy for water heating.
"In the long run, I'm sure it will pay us back both environmentally and economically," Amelia Island Plantation spokeswoman Leigh Coulter Beal said. "It's also great for our guests, great for our island and great for our state."
GREEN LODGING IN NORTHEAST FLORIDA
St. Johns County leads Northeast Florida in the number of Green Lodging establishments, reflecting the importance of tourism to St. Augustine. Here is a list of area hotels and resorts that have earned Green Lodging certification. The state updates the list as more hotels gain certification at www.dep.state.fl.us/greenlodging.
--St. Johns County: Best Western Spanish Quarter Inn, Casa Monica Hotel, Castillo Real Resort Hotel, Days Inn St. Augustine Beach, Grande Villas at World Golf Village, Hampton Inn St. Augustine Beach, Hampton Inn St. Augustine, Hampton Inn & Suites Oceanside Resort, Hilton Garden Inn Hotel, Hilton St. Augustine Historic Bayfront, Holiday Inn & Suites, The Lodge & Club at Ponte Vedra Beach, Ponte Vedra Inn & Club, the Renaissance Resort at World Golf Village.
--Duval County: Crowne Plaza Jacksonville Riverfront, Hyatt Regency Jacksonville Riverfront, The Jenks House, Wingate by Wyndham.
--Nassau County: Amelia Island Plantation
--Flagler County: Island Cottage Villas
--Alachua County: Courtyard by Marriott Gainesville, Hilton University of Florida Conference Center.
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