Two Billion Acts of Green!

Image: Stuart Miles/

Image: Stuart Miles/

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,,  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 /

Image: Kromkrathog /

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


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