Hotel Online  Special Report


Sustainability: Identifying the Barriers
and Removing the Excuses
By J. Ragsdale Hendrie, November 2006

2006 appears to be the Year when “Green” made its’ impact, raising our sensibilities, conscience and consciousness. A variety of sources, issues and events seemed to coalesce, and our attention was riveted, as we tried to harness this momentum, which challenged our usual approach to business.  We sought answers.  Sustainability was a new word, stewardship, a new priority and “Green” went beyond the usual currency exchange.

This stream of thought reverberated from a panel discussion, “The Bottom Line of Green is Black”, a portion  presented by Mark Petruzzi, VP of Green Seal, one of the experts I had empanelled for the annual meeting of the New England Inns and Resorts Association earlier this month.  Green Seal, as you might know, evaluates products and services for compliance with environmental standards and sustainability practices. Mr. Petruzzi spoke to many of the reasons Hospitality operations, as well as other businesses, use to validate their inaction when it comes to not only stewardship of the environment but also the embrace of ecological resources which make good business sense.  The audience that day was engaged, curious and concerned. 

The barriers we have erected are immense and very real, unless we exhibit some common sense and willingness to change.  Examples abound on the Hospitality landscape with companies who have made that commitment to sustainability – not just the little guys, but also the major players such as Starwoods and Marriott.  Enough with the thread count and curved shower curtains.  Let’s get serious.  Our resources are diminishing, our environment collapsing, and our guests and communities require action.  Perhaps, we need to unleash some of our angst and question existing structure, the why and the wherefores and open that dialogue.

Mr. Petruzzi set the stage with some salient examples, asking, ”By the time you head to work on a typical day did you: 

  • Sleep on the same sheets two night in a row
  • Grab a clean towel (not the one you used yesterday)
  • Open a bar of soap, use it once, throw the rest away
  • Use a water-efficient showerhead, toilet, faucet 
  • Put something in the recycling bin (milk jug, OJ bottle, newspaper, cereal box)
  • Leave the lights, TV and/or radio on
  • Leave the AC/heat running on high
Why should it be different at your ‘home away from home?’”, he opined.  A fair question, if we do not communicate with our Guest.  This is Key, for most of our Guests do pay attention to environmentally sound practices at home:  they recycle, they purchase ecologically sound products, and they turn the heat and A/C down to save money.  They are with us!  So, what must we in the Lodging industry need to tackle to create that sound structure for our businesses and lives? Mr. Petruzzi, again, provided some insight into the challenges for Environmental progress:
  • Very competitive industry, looking for margin
  • Little done to date, regarding purchasing and operations
  • Complex business arrangements with multiple parties (e.g., REITs, franchise agreements, management companies, national vendor contracts)
  • Question of market/ing value of environment
  • Requires a commitment of time, staff, resources
  • Cannot compromise “guest satisfaction”
Mr. Petruzzi and his fellow panelists deftly addressed these issues and more, essentially removing the excuses which usually provide that cover and comfort for we, the uninitiated.  Moderator, Tedd Saunders of the Saunders Hotel Group, gave specific examples from his businesses, which actually pioneered luxury, urban ecotourism.  He cut costs, implemented new systems, and made money.  Ray Burger, president of Pineapple Hospitality, provided the vendor/supplier perspective with environmental products, programs and services.  Lastly, Bill White, Senior Analyst for the EPA-New England, authoritatively demonstrated energy efficiency partnerships with business, governments and non-profit organizations. 

“Green” is here, loud and clear.  New rules prevail, old structures and concepts are no longer exempt from review, resources are available, materials and supplies are competitively priced, and, most importantly, our Guest is on board.  You can be a lean, keen, Green Hospitality machine.  You know what I mean. 

The author believes that Remarkable Hospitality is the portal to the memorable Guest Experience.  Green is part of that balance. 


John R. Hendrie

Also See: U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Names the Saunders Hotel Group as an ENERGY STAR Partner of the Year for its Leadership in Energy Management / March 2005
Saunders Hotel Group Finds An Innovative Way To Stay One Step Ahead Of A Potential Energy Crunch / March 2001

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