The green movement craze is over. No, it’s not because people aren’t interested. In fact just the opposite is true. Now that the press has turned its watchful eye away from the glitz and glamour of green, it’s giving hoteliers and industry suppliers and opportunity to actually get down to business to create solutions that will have widespread effect on what hotels consume and recycle.
And the adoption of a green and sustainable philosophy is starting to take place at smaller boutique operating and management companies, as well as mega-corporations. This environmental awakening was the focus of a panel discussion held at this year’s sold-out Buyer Interactive Trade Alliance & Conference (BITAC) F&B sponsored by Hotel Interactive, which is taking place this week at Wynn Encore Las Vegas.
Most telling in regards to how the sustainability movement is sweeping across the hotel business is the awakening of meeting planners and guests in becoming more cognizant of what hotels are doing to curb waste.
In fact both hotel decision makers and industry suppliers are seeing a massive sea change in demand for greener facilities. According to a real-time poll of BITAC participants, 51.28 percent of conference attendees said guests or meeting planners specifically asked about sustainability efforts. In addition, nearly 20 percent are asking basic questions.
“It was all about green-washing in the beginning. Everyone was jumping on the bandwagon. It was about not changing bed linens and saying ‘we’re a green hotel’. Or getting certified by some questionable party. It’s changing as we work at cost containment and green,” said Quentin Incao, Director of Operations, MTM Luxury Lodging, whose company just opened the Bardessono, a luxury resort in Napa seeking LEED Gold certification.
“The reason green is taking hold is it’s good business, its smart business. There’s nothing wrong with doing something that is good for the environment and saves money,” said Jeff Slye, , Chief Evolution
Officer of Business Evolution Consulting, strategic advisers to Kimpton Hotels
According to Mark van Hartsevelt, principal Gemstone Hospitality, meeting planners are the ones that are really driving change. He is seeing more and more planners ask via survey what his luxury boutique hotels are doing to incorporate sustainability into the properties his company manage. “They’re asking what we do to be green. Do we have plastic bottles on the table? What kind of detergent do we use? If you don’t answer the question right, you don’t get the business,” said van Hartsevelt.
Tony Reiss is the executive director of purchasing MGM Grand Hotel and Casino ,and during the discussion he said that almost all companies are moving in that direction, but questions – like many others – what exactly is green anyway. “Where’s that threshold that says whether you’re green or not? We’re trying to come up with (metrics). It’s critical to meeting planners for us to have integrity and we are tracking things going forward to better understand what we can do to further this effort,” said Reiss.
Interestingly, the vast majority of companies represented at BITAC: F&B consider their organization green or pursuing an environmentally responsible initiative. In all 66.1 percent of attendees said they’re green while about 13 percent either don’t know where to begin or plan to get greener when the economy bounces back.
Even with such strong results, Frank Celli, CEO of BioHitech America, said there’s a misconception that green has to be expensive. “There’s going to be some economically driven answers,” he said, also noting it’s critical for the industry to have an accepted definition of what green actually means. “Green for one person might not be the same for another person. I don’t know that green is going to be defined in the dictionary.”
Donald Lee, Manger of Sourcing and Procurement with Disney World Wide Services, said do not get overwhelmed with going green, just take baby steps. He also said it's critical the movement be driven by employees.
“We find cast members who are passionately engaged about the environment. Then we put them on a task force and ask them what can we do about going green,” said Lee.