Who is the Sustainability Champion in Your Hotel?

trophyThere is no “one-size-fits-all” when it comes to sustainability leadership.  In a hotel setting, who is best suited to take the reins?  The answer to this question will be different for each hotel.  Sometimes it is the executive management leading the charge; sometimes the engineer; sometimes the marketing director.  Each brings a different focus to the role.  Yet there are certain traits that are shared by all successful green leaders, regardless of their area of expertise.

  • They want to work for a company that is a positive force in the world.

Most employees want to know that they are contributing to something larger than themselves.  Green Leaders accept this call and take action to ensure their company meets the challenge to make the world a better place.

  • They recognize that LEADERSHIP is a role, not a position, and they are not reluctant to assume responsibility.

A true leader knows how to lead regardless of their title, and can affect positive change in others without an organizational chart to give them authority.

  • They recognize that ALL department leaders are needed to fully integrate the program and strive to persuade and recruit supporters.

A Green Leader cannot be a Lone Ranger.  The overall concepts of sustainability include the necessity to integrate a culture of care throughout all areas of operation.  Green Leaders will embrace the role of “facilitator” and encourage each department manager to expand sustainable practices and performance in their respective departments.

  • They keep the dialogue and concepts fresh and relevant in order to promote a culture of continuous improvement.

It may sound cliché, but it’s true – sustainability is not a destination, it is a journey.  Any journey can get boring and tiresome if we don’t enjoy the ride.  Successful Green Leaders help keep the journey interesting by spotlighting new innovations, challenging themselves and others to improve, and highlighting successes along the way.

  • They make you believe in a brighter future, and that you can be part of it.

Environmental awareness should not be centered on doom and gloom.  Successful Green Leaders keep their focus on what’s right while issuing the challenge to move their teams in a positive direction.

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8 Steps to Kick-Starting Your Green Goals

mack2happy freedigitalphotos.net

mack2happy freedigitalphotos.net

Greening your business operations may seem like an overwhelming process.  Just getting started can be the hardest part.  We know it’s important, but where do we start?  You can demystify the process by breaking it down into manageable steps.


  1. Define Your Goal

Having a goal to “be green” is like saying “do better.”  Without a clearly stated objective, how will you know if you achieved it?  Decide on a specific measurable goal, such as “Achieve Green Seal Certified at the Bronze Level.”

  1. Make Sure You Really Want It

Your convictions should be strong enough that you won’t get talked out of it.  You will face challenges and adversity – be ready to stand strong.  BELIEVE you are meant to do this.  Let the strength of your commitment shine through.  “Desire is the starting point of all achievement.”  ~ Napoleon Hill

  1. Build Your Confidence

If you believe in the concepts of sustainability, then you know you are doing the right thing for your business.  Trust yourself, and know you are making your company stronger.  Remember – if you decide that failure is not an option, then success is inevitable.

  1. Plan it Out

Realize that sustainability is a journey, and you wouldn’t take a trip without planning things out in advance.    The things you consider when planning a trip are the same to consider here:

  • Where are we going?
  • When will we leave, and how long will it take?
  • Who will go with us?
  • How will we get there?
  • How much will it cost?
  • Do we anticipate any detours or road blocks?
  1. Get on a Schedule

Your goal will remain an idea until you put it on a schedule.  Without a timeline, the goal has no sense of urgency.  It will sit on the back burner while more “time sensitive” tasks are attended to.  Hold yourself accountable with deadlines, and you’ll be amazed what you can get done.

  1. Get Busy

Don’t wait for the stars to align to get started.  Take action now.  Every step, no matter how small, moves you closer to your goal.  Plus, the more you do, the more you learn.  The sooner you start, the closer you get to achievement.

  1. Rally the Troops

You may be good, but no one can do this alone.  Greening your business requires the strength of the whole team.  Besides, why should you have all the fun?  Let others be part of the process – they can share in the work and the successes.  Keep people motivated by giving them short-term goals and celebrating the successes along the way.

  1. Don’t Get Emotional

You will get frustrated at some point, but don’t take it to heart.  Bear in mind that emotions, both positive and negative, are energy-intensive.  You want to be energy-efficient, and conserve your energy for constructive action.  So, if you are tempted to feel discouraged, disheartened, or even angry at a setback, try to channel that energy into positive action that will move you toward your goal.

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4 Steps to Developing a Green Character

IntegrityI read a great quote today:

“The character of the leader underlines the content of the message.” – John Maxwell

When I read this I couldn’t help but think of Green Team Leaders. Many times I find in a hotel management team that the wrong person has been assigned to the role of the Green Team Leader – not because they aren’t competent or don’t possess leadership qualities, but because they haven’t yet developed a “green character.” It is hard for a team to get inspired by someone who does not live the values they are tasked to uphold. So how does one develop a “green character?” You don’t have to become a hippie or staunch environmentalist to develop a green character – you just need to embrace the values of your Green Team mission statement.

To build up YOUR green character, focus on the following:

Live the Message

Reduce your own personal consumption of energy and water, and reduce the amount of waste you produce. Do this by thinking ahead – plan your route, choose products with little or no packaging, walk short distances rather than drive, bring reusable cups. It takes a little forethought, but makes a big difference.

Speak from the Heart

You have heard the saying, “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” This is the key to green team leadership. It’s very important to have head knowledge about green initiatives, but it’s impossible to inspire a commitment in others unless they see that commitment in you. Take an introspective look into your own belief system to be sure that you see how the green practices you are leading are aligned to your own values.

Have a Stake in the Outcome

In other words, take it personally. A green team leader is more apt to inspire action in others when they are personally affected by the success or failure of the initiatives. Assume responsibility for the results. Lead those horses to the water and make sure that they want to drink!

Recognize Your Role in the Grand Scheme

It’s important to understand that your efforts will not only improve your hotel’s environmental performance and bottom line, they also contribute to an overall endeavor to protect the Earth from harm; and the affects are far-reaching. View your efforts as more than “doing your part.” As a Green Team Leader, you are making change happen in the world.

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Two Billion Acts of Green!

Image: Stuart Miles/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image: Stuart Miles/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

On April 22nd, the world will celebrate Earth Day – a day set aside to inspire awareness and appreciation for the Earth’s natural environment.  In 2010, on the 40th anniversary of Earth Day, the Earth Day Network launched the “Billion Acts of Green®” in an effort to register one billion actions.  This goal was achieved by Earth Day 2012!  This amazing accomplishment highlights the desire, strength, and commitment of humanity to make a difference in support of environmental stewardship.

Now, let’s see if we can make it two billion.

You can be part of the Earth Day effort by making a pledge and being part of the Billion Acts of Green Campaign, the largest environmental service campaign in the world.

Simply go to their website, www.act.earthday.org,  and make your pledge.  Need some ideas?  Check out 25 Ways To Live A Greener Life.

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Energy Management Tips for Hotels

EnergyAs Earth Day approaches, many hospitality businesses are focusing on ways that they can reduce their environmental impact and promote these green practices to their stakeholders.  One of the most important environmental goals that a business can embrace is energy conservation.  While energy conservation strategies are often associated with high-cost renovation projects and upgrades, there are several ways that hotel managers, supervisors and employees can help to reduce the building’s overall energy consumption through their daily actions.

Following are easy no-cost or low-cost ways to reduce energy consumption in your hotel.

Promote energy conservation tips to employees and guests.

Awareness can be a powerful thing.  When people feel like they are part of something bigger than just themselves, they are more likely to join in.  But it takes more than just asking each person to cut back on energy usage – it’s important to communicate where your hotel currently stands and where you want to take it; then explain how each person’s individual efforts can help to reach that goal.  When a person knows the why and the how of what they are being asked to do, they are more likely to connect with the vision and participate.  Helpful resource: AH&LA Green Tips for Travelers

Conduct energy audits. 

Building maintenance routines should include regularly scheduled energy audits to track and monitor the effectiveness of your equipment.  Things change, including the condition of your equipment and surroundings, as well as opportunities for new innovation.  A regularly scheduled energy audit with your power provider will help to keep tabs on how well your equipment is running, and any new opportunities for newer better products, including rebates and incentives.  To learn more about energy audits, check out Energy Star’s “Guidelines for Energy Management” Step 2.5: Conduct Technical Assessments & Audits.

Seek out most energy efficient equipment for replacements.

It is not necessary, or even recommended, that you swap out all of your equipment at once for more energy efficient models.  (Doing so could produce more GHG emissions related to waste than is reduced through energy use reduction.) But what is necessary is that you identify IN ADVANCE the equipment you own that is the most inefficient, and identify the best choices for replacement for when the time comes.  Too often we wait until something breaks down, and then scramble to replace it as quickly as possible.  Last minute purchases are unlikely to result in the best overall choice for price, efficiency and fit.  Take the time in advance to inventory your existing operating and computing equipment, identifying your least efficient models and creating a replacement plan as needs become apparent.  Helpful resources: Energy Star’s Find Energy Star Products, and the Green Electronics Council EPEAT Registry.

Verify heating/cooling output matches occupancy.

No two hotels run exactly alike.  There will be varying occupancy loads depending upon seasons, days of the week, and times of day.  Take the time to learn more about your hotel’s occupancy load patterns, then check to ensure that HVAC systems are set to match the needs of your business.  Helpful resource: Business Energy Advisor “Strategies for Demand Response

Ensure equipment is scheduled to run at most efficient times.

As we all know, energy is not a one-size-fits-all commodity.  The costs to produce it, delivery it, and use it can vary dramatically depending upon your location and the availability of sources.  Your costs will also fluctuate considerably based upon your demand periods.  Most utility companies charge a different rate for base usage, low-peak periods, and high-peak periods.  You can realize significant savings on utility costs by knowing the timetable established for these rate variances and adjusting any flexible work tasks in accordance with these times (for example: laundry, carpet cleaning, etc.).  Helpful resources: LADWP “Understanding Your Rates.”

Use daylight to help light interior spaces. 

Sunlight not only provides an inexpensive light source, it makes people happier and more productive.  Open up the window coverings and use the sunlight to your advantage!  As much as possible, train housekeeping and banquet staff to clean and set rooms using natural lighting, and advise office personnel to open blinds.  The positive impacts will go beyond energy conservation and will help to improve the overall mood and staff morale.  Helpful resource: LEED Hotel News, Daylighting: Energy Saving and Productivity Boosting Benefits.

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The Power of Positive Green Thinking

Image: Kromkrathog / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image: Kromkrathog / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

There is a well known and widely accepted theory that our thoughts, whether negative or positive, have a profound effect on the success of our endeavors.  If you believe something will fail, it probably will.  Conversely, if you visualize yourself succeeding, there is very little that will prevent you from doing so!  This theory holds true for managers who embark on the journey of greening their business.  Maintaining a positive attitude toward environmental stewardship and BELIEVING you will succeed will greatly influence both the acceptance and performance of green practices in your workplace.

Too often, employees perceive a business’ decision to “go green” as either a marketing gimmick at best, or a corporate mandate adding to their workload at worst.  Instead of viewing green initiatives as a way to improve the quality of their lives, they may see it as disciplinary or corrective action.  The fact remains that if the staff does not understand the motivation behind improving sustainable business practices, there is very little chance that they will embrace and embody the green concepts and practices being implemented.  The challenge of a green leader in the lodging industry is to effectively communicate the advantages and benefits of green initiatives in a positive way so that all employees understand and embrace their role in contributing to the success of the program.

An important step in harnessing the power of positive green thinking is to dispel the myths associated with going green and focus on positive outcomes.  Keep the following points fresh in the minds of employees and co-workers:

Green is Gold!

Many people still falsely believe that becoming green is an unwarranted expense.  While there is sometimes an initial investment to become more efficient or more responsible in purchasing choices, the overall affect of greening a business produces a positive cash flow in the form of utility and water expense reduction, rebates for recycling, reduced waste, and revenue from new markets.  Take the time to track and review your revenue and expenses statistics, and share the good news with your staff – this will build green enthusiasm.

Every Little Bit Helps!

So many people underestimate their own impact on the environment.  They think, “I’m only one person, how much of a difference will I really make?”  According to the EPA, the average American produces 4.4 pounds of trash per day, and uses between 80-100 gallons of water per day.  Multiply this by the number of employees and customers served, and you can see how big the impact really is.  Present this challenge question to your staff: “If everyone in our company adopted the same green habits as you, would our overall environmental performance be better or worse?”  Then remind each person that their example will influence the behavior of someone watching – make sure it is a positive influence!

You Are Not Alone!

It can be discouraging for employees to see trash in the recycling bin, or plastic bottles in the trash, causing some to feel like they are the only ones trying to do the right things.  Remind these green soldiers that you notice and support their efforts, and that their contributions are making a difference.  They are part of a select yet growing army of workers who are saving the planet at work on a daily basis.

Support Random Acts of Green!

Take the opportunity to catch people in the act of being green and calling attention to their environmental heroism.  Initiate a system of recognition that randomly recognizes conservation and waste reduction efforts.  Consider a “Pay It Forward” approach that requires your anointed green hero of the day to find, select and anoint the next green hero of the day tomorrow.  This will keep green practices fresh in the minds of your staff and draw attention to what others are doing right.

Above all, allow yourself to be refreshed and encouraged by the positive steps you and your company are taking.  Shed the negative stigma that is sometimes attached to the “angry environmentalist” and focus on the power of the positive.  You will soon find that your positive green thinking is contagious!

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Can Your Team Answer This Question?

green questionDoes your hotel team know the answer to this question: What environmental initiatives have been implemented at this hotel? In most cases, “green knowledge” varies greatly between departments, hierarchy, and individual inquisitiveness or desire to know. Even a hotel that has installed the latest energy and water retrofits and met stringent certification standards will not reach its full potential for environmental stewardship without engaging all levels of staff in the hotel’s green identity.

There is no question that large scale initiatives, such as lighting, plumbing and equipment retrofits, can have a major impact on a hotel’s environmental performance. Because of the potential ROI in cost savings for utilities, these project tend to receive the most focus and funding, as well they should. Quite frequently, however, the purpose and results of these projects are only made known to engineering and finance managers, with very little detail about the projects and their impacts communicated to line level employees.

Then, there are the daily impacts of hotel operations. These include actively diverting waste, conserving resources, making wise purchasing decisions, and working safely with chemicals. These impacts are directly influenced by the actions of individual employees. The engagement level that employees have with these daily activities has a significant effect on a hotel’s overall environmental performance. It is crucial for hotel management to communicate the importance of environmental stewardship in these daily activities through training, discussion, and leading by example.

Keeping employees apprised of the hotel’s major environmental projects and their progress will help to build loyalty, increase engagement, instill pride, and encourage ongoing support. Job specific training of green practices will ensure employees are empowered to contribute to environmental goals and will give each individual a base knowledge of why their daily actions matter. Showing employees that the hotel is willing to invest time and money to keep them trained and informed on these issues will pay dividends in employee retention and job satisfaction as well as bottom line improvement.

The best way to engage your employees in a desired activity is to give them the base knowledge to understand the impacts, and show them that their actions make a difference. Take action:

• Provide training that is directly related to each individual’s position that explains how to perform their job duties in support of sustainability goals.

• Widely communicate the projects and programs being implemented that will improve the hotel’s environmental performance and report on the results and successes of each one.

• Be seen working in a greener way, and praise the efforts of your team when you see them accomplishing their tasks with green consciousness.

For more information on engaging all staffing levels in sustainability training, visit www.greenhotelresources.com.


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