Hotels Face Challenges, Opportunities in Going Green

Hotels Face Challenges, Opportunities in Going Green

When Florida's Governor Charlie Crist signed his comprehensive climate-change executive order last week, one of the items on the list of new practices mandated that state agencies must plan meetings and conferences at hotels and facilities that meet the state's Green Lodging certification for environmentally friendly practices.

The Executive Order launched what is likely to be boom times for the state's Green Lodging Program, which currently counts 25 hotels certified under the program, and an additional 33 hotels awaiting certification.

But two new studies of consumer behavior finds that even when a hotel adopts energy- and water-saving measures or other green practices, hotel guests are more likely to waste resources at a hotel than they are at home.

A survey of frequent travelers from Element Hotels, a new line of hotels from Starwood Hotels & Resorts, found that 59 percent of regular travelers admitted that their "green routines" often slipped when they were on the road. Sixty-two percent said they use water and energy less efficiently for the simple reason that they don't have to pay for it. Seventy percent of the travelers surveyed said they try to conserve water at home, but only 18 percent said their same behaviors applied when they stay at hotels.

And as part of J.D. Power and Associates' 11th annual "North America Hotel Guest Satisfaction Study," respondents were asked about the conservation programs in place at the hotels they visited. Nearly a third -- 29 percent -- said they didn't know if their hotels had a conservation program in place, and a further 27 percent were aware of the programs, but chose not to participate.

The study found that older generations are much less likely to get involved in green programs at hotels: only 33 percent of the "Pre-Boomer" generation (those born before 1946) staying at luxury hotels said they would participate in a conservation program at their hotel, compared to 87 percent of Baby Boomers (people born between 1946 and 1964), and 95 percent of Generation Xers (people born between 1965 and 1976).

Among the most surprising findings of the survey, according to Linda Hirneise, executive director of J.D. Power & Associates, was the level of awareness about conservation programs at hotels. Twenty-nine percent of respondents said they didn't know the hotel had any conservation programs in place, which Hirneise said is likely a failure to promote the programs rather than a lack of having conservation programs at hotels.

Similarly, when asked what conservation programs did the property have, 82 percent of guests said their hotel would change linens and towels only by request, but the next highest response was the 35 percent who said their hotel used water saving toilets and showers. "I think it really comes down to marketing and making guests aware of what conservation programs are already in place," Hirneise said.

The survey from Element, tied to the launch of the new luxury hotels, aims to make it easier for guests to stay green when they're abroad. In addition to incorporating eco-friendly materials in the buildings itself, Element hotels will exclusively use compact fluorescent light bulbs and maximize natural lighting wherever possible to save electricity, install low-flow faucets and toilets to conserve water, and use shampoo and conditioner dispensers instead of the packaging-intensive mini-bottles.