|By Michael Miller, The Press of Atlantic
City, Pleasantville, N.J.McClatchy-Tribune Regional News
March 25, 2012--CAPE MAY -- Tony and Tina Mozingo, of Harrisburg, Pa., strolled Saturday in front of the nearly completed Convention Hall.
The couple, who were married on the beach here in 2004, often stay at Cape May's hotels when they visit. They are the target audience for a new state program that will help hotels go green in New Jersey.
The state Department of Environmental Protection is offering an energy audit to 120 hotels in New Jersey. As many as 10 will receive help implementing the changes through the Environmental Protection Agency.
While it might not be the first consideration of travelers, having a low-carbon footprint makes an impression, the couple said.
"It's not make or break but it's an added plus," Tina Mozingo said. "I would say price, location and availability are more important."
"We notice it when we see it," her husband said. "They encourage you to reuse towels to conserve water. I don't even like staying at a place that tells me to throw recyclables in the trash."
DEP spokesman Larry Hajna said the agency is still drafting the criteria for the program, which was announced last week at the annual Cape May County Tourism Conference.
"The green traveler is another niche market," said John Cooke, president of the Regional Chamber of Commerce of Cape May.
Cape May County draws thousands of visitors for its fishing, bird-watching and other eco-tourism. Many hotels are making small changes to cut down on energy costs and show visitors they are environmentally conscious.
"My gut tells me that hotels would jump at the opportunity to participate in the consultation," he said. "The guests' overall satisfaction will be higher knowing they are staying in a green-compliant hotel."
There are fewer business incentives available in New Jersey for certain green projects, particularly solar energy, said Mark Kulkowitz, owner and manager of the Carroll Villa Hotel in Cape May.
Residents or businesses that had solar panels could earn credits for amount of renewable energy they produced. But the value of these credits has dropped by more than 65 percent in the last few years as New Jersey saw a glut in solar production.
"Whereas before you were making, say, $600 per panel, now you're making less than $200," he said.
But his Cape May hotel has many other green features. The floors are made of fast-growing bamboo instead of tropical hardwood. The bar is made from recycled material. The men's rooms feature waterless urinals.
Hotels can be enormous consumers of energy. Each hotel room has its own independent heat and air conditioning, refrigerator, television and other small appliances and outlets to recharge laptop computers and personal electronics that most every visitor brings on vacation, he said.
"They're huge users of electricity, gas and water and then you multiply that by the number of rooms," he said.
Kulkowitz said hotel owners will need some incentive like these federal grants to make the investment.
"Most people aren't going to do it unless they're socially conscious or you can generate enough power to sell back to the grid," he said. "It all becomes a social-business decision."
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