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Hospitality Suppliers Go Green

From Battling Energy Costs to Bedbugs - New Products Offer Hoteliers Solutions

By Monique Newton, The Sun News, Myrtle Beach, S.C.McClatchy-Tribune Regional News

Jan. 28, 2010--Green is in at the 34th annual Hotel, Motel and Restaurant Supply Show of the Southeast.

This year, more than previous years, the event -- which started Tuesday and ends today at the Myrtle Beach Convention Center -- showcased energy-efficient and so-called green products and services to the estimated 22,000 hospitality employees who attended from across the region.

While economists say the recession is over, many hoteliers and restaurant leaders are still looking for ways to trim their monthly energy bills, officials said.

"I think that anything that's more efficient, there's a huge interest in it, because it affects the bottom line," said Linda Alcantara, show director. "I do know, especially in this economy, with a lot of new ownership, everyone's looking at what's going to be more effective."

Tammy Rausch, a director at the Sanford, N.C.-based Green Energy Authority, gets excited when she starts telling hospitality employees about the light-emitting diode (LED) bulbs.

"There's a tremendous amount of interest," she said. "The first obstacle, just like anything new, is the cost."

Each 5-watt bulb costs $35, but it's worth it, Rausch said.

"This will last five to 10 years going 12 hours a day, and there's no heat from any of them, which is a huge savings," she said.

"If you look over a five-year period how many you switch them in and out, it's a lot of cost savings."

For hotels and motels that are battling bed bugs, the Columbia-based Gregory Go Green is selling a new green alternative to chemical pesticides.

The company is providing businesses with a one-time treatment where a heater, set at 130 degrees, is put in the middle of a room for four to six hours, said Ann O'Halloran, a commercial account executive. It removes the bed bugs from beds, closets, electrical sockets, smoke detectors and furnishings.

"You don't have to use the chemicals, and you don't have to replace your mattress," she said. "It's green in the sense that it's not putting chemicals in the room, and it's not putting chemicals in the mattress."

Most importantly, this means hotel and motel rooms that normally would be out of commission for several days will be ready for guests the same night as a treatment, O'Halloran said.

Kenneth Williams of the Williams Equipment Service showed off a high-efficiency water heater that consistently runs at 99.8 percent efficiency and high-speed laundry equipment that draws as much water as possible out of clothes and linens so dryers can save on energy.

The former is a far cry from a typical water heater, which usually functions at 80 to 85 percent efficiency and, as it gets older, loses 2 to 3 percent a year, Williams said.

"It's a more expensive unit, but with the benefits that you get, you're recouping your investment pretty quick," he said. "The larger the units, the more return you're going to get back."

Hasit Patel, general manager of the La Quinta Inn and Suites in Hinesville, Ga., plans to invest in the high-speed laundry machine and the water heater for his 80-room motel.

He said he came to the supply show in search of something to cut down on pollution and energy costs.

"It might be a little bit expensive, but in the long term, it pays for itself," Patel said.

That was the same argument made by Bill Birchfield, a marketing representative for the energy-efficient Grohe faucets, which reduce the flow of water from normal faucets from 2.2 gallons per minute down to 1.5 gallons per minute.

Leaders of hotels and motels, he said, are paying exorbitant amounts for water usage.

"The trick is to lower the usage, but make sure their customer is still getting a superior experience," he said. "There's the cost savings and the feel-good savings that we're helping the environment."

One exhibit that drew a lot of attention was the Zoom-Room, an entertainment center and bed combo that allows hotel guests to use a remote control to slide a foam mattress up vertically into the entertainment center and create more space in the room.

"Most hotels want to try to get an extra bed in the space, and this is how to do it," said Kurtis Baird, logistics and supply manager for the Miami, Fla.-based company. "It's a real space saver."

This bed caught the eye of John Livecchi, CEO of Suite Services, a New York-based company that liquidates and renovates hotels.

"Obviously, the efficiency of it is great. I think the comfort level is a lot better than I experienced, and it's very unique," he said.

"We think that people's dollars are strained as it is, and if we can find a way to make it economical and feasible to do that, that's what we're going to do."

Contact MONIQUE NEWTON at 626-0310.


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