Sustainable hospitality is quickly becoming the norm rather than the exception in the industry, and thanks to efforts by the world’s largest hotel chains and environmental design organizations, there is no shortage of resources and certifications available.
In the great state of Florida, the Department of Environmental Protections’ Green Lodging Program “recognizes lodging facilities that make a commitment to conserve and protect Florida’s natural resources,” according to the initiative’s web site.
The Green Lodging Program offers resources for properties interested in receiving one of its four designations, as well as anyone interested in sustainable hospitality. Let’s take a look at some of their best practices.
Green Lodging Program Overview
The program has four tiers, or Palm Levels, and points are awarded to properties for their eco-friendly efforts in five categories of sustainable hospitality:
- Communication and Education
- Waste Reduction, Reuse and Recycling
- Water Conservation
- Energy Efficiency
- Indoor Air Quality
Once awarded, the designation is good for three years, and to maintain it, properties have to submit environmental performance data on water, waste and energy every year. They also commit to implementing at least two new environmental practices from any of the five categories.
In addition to the recognition, Green Lodging properties get preference for state-run meetings and conferences.
Communication and Education
One key point from the communication best practices is to engage everyone in your eco-friendly initiatives, from customers to employees and vendors, to members of the community.
Best practices include:
- Place placards in guest rooms about your property’s linen reuse program
- Include a “green tip” in each employee newsletter
- Highlight your conservation work in your marketing.
Waste Reduction, Reuse and Recycling
Simply put from the Green Lodging Program: “The preferred method for reducing waste is to prevent it in the first place.”
Highlights of the waste reduction best practices:
- Conduct a property-wide audit of how much waste is generated (and set goals to reduce it)
- Provide newspapers to guests by request only
- Clearly communicate what can and can’t be recycled with large signs on recycling bins that are placed right next to trash cans.
The program sites water conservation as “the biggest environmental challenge faced by Floridians,” and the best practices are again focused on staff, guests and contractors.
- Conduct a water use assessment
- Use Florida-friendly landscaping, with plants and grasses that are native to the state or a similar climate
- Install low-flow fixtures in guest rooms, restrooms and employee showers.
According to program officials, every $1 in energy savings is the equivalent of increasing operating margins by $2 to $3, more proof that sustainability practices aren’t just good for the environment, they’re good for your bottom line.
Best practices include:
- Have your utility provider conduct an energy audit at your property – many utility companies offer them for free
- Install occupancy sensors on your lighting to turn lights on and off based on whether someone is in a room
- Use equipment that’s certified by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s ENERGY STAR program
Indoor Air Quality
The EPA estimates that indoor air quality can be up to 10 times worse than the quality of the air outside.
The best practices for indoor air quality start with setting up a clean air program and going from there by:
- Using eco-friendly cleaning products
- Eliminating the causes of mold and mildew
- Maintaining a smoke-free facility.
Florida is fortunate to have an entire program focused on sustainable hospitality and eco-friendly best practices. With incentives for state business and statistics on how sustainability saves money, the program makes eco-friendly practices a win all around.