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State of Missouri Launches Voluntary "Certified Green" Program for Hotels

Program Includes 80-item Checklist of Environmentally Sound
 Practices for Hotels to Self-report to the State
By Rick Alm, The Kansas City Star, Mo.McClatchy-Tribune Regional News

February 4, 2009 - Missouri has launched a voluntary "Certified Green" program for hotels, but the state may not have the greenbacks to run it.

"We don't know how much or how many resources we will be able to allocate to this program," said Sue Holst, spokeswoman for the Missouri Department of Natural Resources.

"Because of the current budget situation ... this is one of the programs we are reviewing," she said. "We hope hotels will do it whether or not our participation in it is active."

The state program, one of few nationwide, got a jumpstart in the waning days of former Gov. Matt Blunt's administration, when he signed a proclamation in November calling for voluntary certification in cooperation with the lodging industry.

The Missouri Hotel and Lodging Association ran with that and has unveiled program guidelines, including an 80-item checklist of environmentally sound practices for hotels to self-report to the state.

Hotels that earn a minimum number of points for practices like energy and water conservation, waste minimization, and recycling, get a plaque to display at the property and a promotional plug on the association's Web site at www. lodgingmissouri.com.

The rub is that little or no money is allocated for state inspectors to verify hotels' self-reported information. Some fear that could affect the program's credibility from the outset.

"I am thrilled that Missouri has a program, I just don't know that it will have the intended results, due to time and budgetary constraints," said Ray Burger, founder of the St. Charles, Mo.-based EcoRooms & EcoSuites. The private group also certifies and lists what Burger calls the "greenest of the green" hotels.

With or without state participation, Missouri's lodging industry appears committed to greening the state's hotels.

"With so many visiting our state to boat or fish on our clean, pure rivers or lakes, or for a day of culture and sight-seeing in one of our metropolitan areas, any investment that makes our water cleaner and our air healthier is also an investment in our economy," said association Director Ramona Mormann.

No properties are certified yet, but Mormann said the first, in Jefferson City, could be announced soon.

She added that as many as 40 more hotels around the state are expected to complete the certification process by Earth Day on April 22 when formal presentations are to be made.

Green hotel initiatives are proliferating.

Last week, InterContinental Hotels Group, the world's largest hotel operator with more the 4,100 properties under the InterContinental, Holiday Inn and other brand flags, unveiled "Green Engage." The initiative aims to cut the chain's energy bills by $200 million a year.

Travelocity.com recently unveiled a worldwide "Green Directory" of hotels that meet its standards on conservation and sustainability issues, support for community-based cultural and environmental preservation programs and reduced carbon footprints.

So far the only hotel in the region listed by Travelocity or Burger's group is The Q Hotel and Spa in Westport. Among Q's green initiatives are environmentally sound cleaning products and free bicycles for guest use.

"It's the right thing to do," said Q operator Doug Gamble, managing partner of Kansas City-based Gamble Hospitality.

Gamble added that going green doesn't come cheap.

"Some things save you money, but some things you do cost money, like recycling," he said. "We do the sorting, and that's labor.

"We have to pay somebody to compost the leftover buffet food," he said. "We have organic wines in the bar, but there are options out there that are cheaper."

To reach Rick Alm, call 816-234-4785 or send e-mail to ralm@kcstar.com.

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Copyright (c) 2009, The Kansas City Star, Mo.

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