Eden Prairie, MN, December 2017 … It started with organic soaps, recycling bottles, water conservation and signs urging guests to turn out the lights before leaving the room. Today, environmentally conscious hoteliers support holistic conservation strategies that reach into every corner of the property. Driven by technology and the demands of environmentally conscious guests, these initiatives have sharply reduced waste, conserved resources, saved money and educated guests to the importance of environmental efforts. The hotel industry has made remarkable progress, but beyond the bricks and mortar of member hotels and resorts lie acres of countryside and coastline that present sustainability challenges and opportunities.
“For many hotels, responsibility for the lands and waterways surrounding the property has become a commitment and an increasingly complex challenge,” says Mike Schugt, president of Teneo Hospitality Group, the premier global firm representing 300+ independent and luxury branded hotels, resorts and DMCs. These responsibilities include woodlands, campgrounds, beachfronts, everglades, mangrove forests, lakes and rivers, as well as marine and wildlife, which has become a priority as rising tides, drought and development encroach upon habitat.
Teneo’s member hotels have spearheaded numerous sustainability projects at every level of operations, according to Mike Schugt. “We are seeing many creative approaches to managing land and water resources, and a trend towards educating guests regarding wildlife and land preservation. Teneo is excited about the sustainability efforts of their member hotels. The meeting planners and groups we partner with are equally enthusiastic!”
Critical Area #1: Land–Preserve It, They’re Not Making Any More
While many of today’s hotels offer impressive programs to save water and conserve energy inside the building, some resorts must find equally effective ways to deal with the great outdoors. The Resort at Paws Up in Montana comprises 37,000 acres of hills, woodlands and rivers, ideal for outdoor activities and an array of teambuilding and special adventure programs. The resort offers luxury safari-style campgrounds on land that must be responsibly managed. Several rivers run through the property including the Blackfoot, an angler’s paradise. Thanks to The Resort at Paws Up uniting efforts with local ranchers, hoteliers, conservationists and state and federal wildlife agencies, the waterways are as clear and brimming with trout as they were when Lewis and Clark passed through.
The staff of Vail’s Sonnenalp Hotel regularly volunteers to clean the nearby Eagle River, local highways and mountain bike trails. The resort helps employees to reduce their carbon footprint by providing bus passes, car pool coordination and housing within walking distance of the hotel. Sonnenalp also works to educate guests, employees and the public by supporting a range of community efforts, including Zero Hero information stations at community venues such as the Vail Farmers Market.
Since 1806, the healing mineral springs at the historic Omni Bedford Springs Resort have drawn a celebrated clientele. Thirteen US presidents from Thomas Jefferson to Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush have visited this bucolic retreat in Southern Pennsylvania’s Allegheny mountains. For 200 years, the hotel has carefully conserved these exceptional natural spring waters. The springs feed the indoor pool at the resort’s Aquatic Center and the natural spring waters are used in treatments at the Springs Eternal Spa.
Allegretto Vineyard Resort in Central California’s wine country is a Tuscan-style villa surrounded by beautiful vineyards that produce fine Allegretto wines served in the resort’s restaurants. Using Old World methods, grapes are harvested by hand versus machine and are grown in small lot vineyards to preserve land. The main villa was designed with the most sophisticated environmental systems available, including those that ensure highest quality of runoff water, preserve natural vegetation, and promote ground water recharge.
The Grand Geneva Resort & Spa in Southeastern Wisconsin spans 1,300 acres of ski slopes, lakefront and woodlands. Recently the resort, certified by Travel Green Wisconsin, extended its award-winning environmental efforts to one of its two championship golf courses, restoring tens of thousands of square feet of land surrounding the course by planting native grasses and plants. The Grand Geneva Resort is also home to the Roy Divik-designed Entry Garden, a sustainable meadow of more than 20 vivid flowers and grasses, predominantly native to the Midwest.
Most urban hotels have little acreage to worry about, but New York’s 1 Hotel Brooklyn Bridge supports the adjacent Brooklyn Bridge Park with funds and an innovative rainwater reclamation system that irrigates the park during the summer months. The system also reduces storm water runoff into neighboring water streams by more than 50 percent. Roughly 5,000 cubic feet of water is projected to be reclaimed each year.
Critical Area #2: Against the Tide
Beach erosion and water pollution are major concerns for oceanfront and lakeside resorts. The situation has grown more urgent following the three devastating hurricanes that pummeled the US and the Caribbean in the Fall of 2017.
Volunteers from The Ranch at Laguna Beach currently maintain a 0.75-mile stretch of the Aliso Creek Channel in Mission Viejo. Since December 2015, the resort’s team has removed over 2,500 pounds of trash and debris from the channel, preventing this damaging refuse from polluting the Pacific Ocean. Using an invention called the GL Sand Machine, the resort recycles glass bottles by pulverizing them into sand that is then used in the golf course sand traps and to help replenish sand on Laguna Beach. The Ranch at Laguna Beach is the first property in the Continental United States to utilize the GL Sand machine and it has found a new use for it. Oyster shells from the hotel’s restaurant are ground up and used on the property’s bocce ball courts.
In South Florida, mangrove forests play a key role in marine ecology, serving as habitat for a variety of marine species and birds and as the first line of defense in the face of hurricanes. Guests of the Naples Grande Beach Resort can explore the adjoining 200-acre mangrove preserve and estuary via canoe and kayak. The hotel’s eco-friendly boardwalk, composed of recycled milk jugs, provides an eco-friendly path to the resort’s three miles of beachfront habitat, under the stewardship of its employees and managers.
Critical Area #3: Walk on the Wild Side
Wildlife preservation and education merge at select Teneo member hotels. They offer interactive programs that bring guests in closer contact with nature and wildlife, often as part of a teambuilding effort. Guests of the Garden of the Gods Collection in Colorado Springs can experience the Colorado Wolf and Wildlife Center, learning about the history, biology and conservation of wolves, coyotes, foxes, and the environmental challenges they face. The program, supervised by a trained wolf handler, can end with a group howl, symbolizing oneness with nature and its preservation.
The Garden of the Gods also offers groups a day of discovery at the 200-acre Elk Glade Ranch. Through the science of equine therapy, participants ride horses and drive cattle, gaining courage and confidence.
Part of Montana’s Resort at Paws Up is a working ranch, offering an equestrian program where guests, led by an experienced cowboy, help with an actual cattle drive. These equestrian programs, situated in nature versus a more mechanized or artificial environment, are growing in popularity as teambuilding efforts and exercises in enhanced communication. For non-expert riders, the exercises are held mostly on the ground, and involve approaching, grooming and walking the horses. Thanks to the high sensitivity of horses, participants can quickly learn how their body language, tone of voice and mannerisms impact interactions and team success.
Virtually all species of sea turtles are threatened and Teneo’s member hotels in Florida and the Arabian Gulf are working to preserve these amphibians that are essential to maintaining marine life. Sea turtles are among the few species that eat sea grass and algae that if not consumed, would grow and threaten the entire ecosystem. And, their nests provide nutrients that help to grow the grass that preserves the dunes.
In Vero Beach, Florida, Costa d’Este Beach Resort & Spa participates in the community’s annual Turtle Dig. During nesting season, hundreds of turtle eggs are laid and are protected by signs and markers until they hatch. Then, the contents of the nests are dug up and evaluated, helping scientists understand how well the beaches are incubating sea turtle nests. In July, the public is invited to watch nests on the hotel’s beach be examined. They receive a presentation about sea turtle biology, threats to their survival, and ways to help protect turtles.
In Dubai, United Arab Emirates, Jumeirah Hotels& Resorts plays a key role in a comprehensive and sophisticated conservation effort, The Dubai Turtle Rehabilitation Project. The project is based at the company’s two Dubai hotels, Bur Al Arab Jumeirah and Madinat Jumeirah and is run in collaboration with Dubai’s Wildlife Protection Office.
The public is encouraged to bring sick and injured turtles to the Wildlife Protection Office or to the Aquarium team at Burj Al Arab. Once the condition of the turtles is determined, they are then transferred to the state-of-the-art Turtle Rehabilitation Sanctuary at Jumeirah Al Naseem. When the turtles are deemed ready to return, they are released from the Sanctuary into the waters of the Arabian Gulf as part of the Big Jumeirah Turtle Race. Some of the turtles are fitted with satellite tracking devices. So far, the clear winner is a green sea turtle named Dibba who traveled 8,283 kilometers to a spot off the coast of the Southeast Asian Peninsula. Since 2004, over 1,350 rescued sea turtles have been returned to Dubai’s waters.