|By Ludmilla Lelis, The Orlando Sentinel, Fla.|
Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News
Jun. 9, 2005 - DAYTONA BEACH SHORES -- Guests at the Palm Plaza Oceanfront Resort and the Beachside Motel may spot the recycling bins on the pool deck or new air filters in their rooms, but they may not realize their air-conditioners use less electricity or their faucets and showers use less water.
These environmentally-friendly measures have been noticed by state environmental officials, who announced Wednesday that this pair of Daytona Beach Shores hotels have been certified for the Florida "green lodging" program.
Under a new voluntary program run by the state Department of Environmental Protection, hotels and motels in the program take extra steps to recycle, conserve water and electricity, and make other changes that benefit Florida's environment.
Disney's Coronado Springs Resort and Boardwalk Resort, both in Lake Buena Vista, were among the first four to join the program last year.
"Voluntary programs like this can be very effective," said Vivian F. Garfein, director of the DEP's central district. "We still have our regulatory programs, but we're looking for ways for industry to go above and beyond what is required to make a difference for Florida's environment and to become leaders and stewards."
These environmental practices also benefit the businesses' bottom line by reducing utility costs and earning rave reviews from guests, said Larry Fornari, chief executive officer of the hotels that became the fifth and sixth businesses certified as "green hotels."
Since instituting the changes, Fornari said, the hotels have cut their electricity bills by 26 percent and are using 22 percent less water.
Several guests have praised the air filters, which not only improve air quality and help customers breathe easier, but also make air-conditioning systems run more efficiently.
"The long-term benefits of the program are tremendous," he said.
About 10 years ago, Fornari decided to swap out high-wattage incandescent light bulbs for lower-wattage fluorescent lighting and to use more water-efficient washing equipment. He and his managers realized that greater attention to environmental improvements could add up to even more savings.
The 98-room Palm Plaza and the 33-room Beachside Motel have recycling bins throughout the floors and public areas, use low-flow faucets and showers, and have new air conditioners that use less electricity than older models. There are top-of-the-line air filters in every room, maintained and sterilized by the Tallahassee company Rejuvinair.
The hotels also offer a linen-reuse program, in which hotel guests can choose to have sheets and towels changed every three days instead of daily.
Garfein said $1.50 is saved for every night a hotel guest makes such a request. "That doesn't seem a whole lot when you look at just that number," she said.
However, it adds up, because Florida has 35 million tourists annually, staying at 400,000 rooms at 4,700 hotels, she said.
"We could save $25 million a year, and conserve billions of gallons of water," she said.
As incentives for joining the program, Florida officials will promote the certified green hotels through a state Web site, floridagreenlodging.com, and will encourage state employees and state conventions to be held at certified hotels.
About a dozen hotels have applied to join the program, officials said.
Fornari said taking extra environmental steps is not difficult, and the return on the investment should be enough to get other hotels to go green.
"It's not a huge hurdle. All it takes is some thought and creativity," he said. "Then, the business not only reaps the savings, but is also offering a great environment for guests to stay."
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