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Super 8 Hotel Defines "Green on a Dime”

If this hotel can do it, so can yours. Here is one owner’s sustainability story.

Tuesday, April 08, 2014
Raakesh Patel
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When we took over the Super 8 in Ukiah, Calif. in 2005, things were going well. The hotel was an existing, older structure, but business was good. However, when the economy took a downward turn in 2009, bookings took a serious hit. Many of our neighboring hotels chose to remodel, creating a very competitive market—and it suddenly became a struggle to keep our 54 rooms filled. We knew we needed a creative solution to draw customers.

After conducting some research, I determined that we should tap into two new trends in the hospitality industry: improving brand awareness with social media, and implementing environmentally friendly amenities. Studies shows that more than 62 percent of consumers consider the environment when picking a hotel, and our location in Northern California attracts a nature-loving customer base that strongly supports conservation.

We started small, with easy and affordable changes that made immediate improvements to the hotel’s sustainability—like separating bottles and paper for recycling—and quickly found that our staff was up to the challenge of spreading green habits throughout the hotel.

From there, we made a number of changes to boost our hotel’s sustainability, including:
  • Training staff to turn off lights and HVAC units whenever possible
  • Switching to chemical-free, organic cleaning supplies and biodegradable utensils
  • Adding a linens reuse program to enable multi-evening guests the opportunity to keep their bedding and bath towels until they need a clean set
  • Installing motion sensors on common area lighting throughout the property
  • Replacing outdated faucets
  • Converting the hotel pool to saltwater to reduce our chlorine use and lighten our water footprint
The more sustainability initiatives we implemented, the more buzz we generated. Word spread quickly through our Facebook page, and more and more guests booked rooms at our hotel. Clearly, what we were doing was working.

We’ve continued to add new green amenities to our property ever since. We were one of the first Super 8 hotels to install an electric vehicle (EV) charging station, and it’s been a huge selling point for guests who needed to juice up their EVs during a road trip. Today, it’s not uncommon to see Teslas in the parking lot.

The one sustainability credential that eluded us for many years was greening our power supply. It simply did not make financial sense to install solar panels on our roof, no matter how many different ways we crunched the numbers. Yet, we still believed it was important to offer our guests clean, renewable energy. Then we heard about clean energy providers that purchase clean energy from solar and wind farms across the country, and pass the credits along to their customers via their standard utility bill. We selected Pear Energy to provide our clean energy and since have not looked back. By making the switch, we can offer our guests 100 percent clean energy during their stays at the Super 8 Ukiah—without solar panels on our roof or a wind turbine in our backyard. It’s hassle-free and cost-effective solution that really resonated with us.

Today, the Super 8 Ukiah is the greenest Super 8 in the U.S. We’ve received a host of accolades for our sustainability efforts, including a Trip Advisor Green Leaders Silver Level, a Green Seal from the State of California, a Spirit of Super 8 Award from Super 8 Worldwide, Champion of Green from the Wyndham Hotel Group, EPA Energy Star designation three years in a row and a Green Business Bureau Platinum Certificate.

Enacting smart, sustainable initiatives has truly helped our bottom line. We’ve been able to reduce overall operating costs by 15 percent while increasing business by a staggering 25 percent. Without remodeling our property, our hotel is drastically more sustainable than it was in 2009—proof that going green isn’t all about new buildings and the latest technology.

Still, we know there is more to be done. Next on our list is finding a way to reuse our laundry machines’ grey water in our landscaping to reduce waste and increase our efficiency. As our success over the past few years has shown, it is possible to benefit both the planet and our business. Simply put, "Going green makes green!”
Credit
Raakesh Patel
General Manager
General Manager or Innkeeper
Super 8
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