Sustainability programs are only as good as their implementation, which is why very often it falls to management companies to carry out a hotel owner’s vision of a green property. For Gerald “Gerry” Chase, president/COO of Shelton, CT-based New Castle Hotels & Resorts, the core definition of a sustainable hotel is one that is LEED certified. “That’s your purest form of sustainability,” he said, but added even non-LEED certified hotels are incorporating greater amounts of green programs.
“There’s more sustainability in hotels today and based on the amount of hotels that are out there, there’s a tremendous amount of opportunity to go beyond just [energy-saving] fluorescent light installation. There are a lot of other applications that can be applied generally, and specifically, to hotels that really help the whole sustainability process going forward,” said Chase, whose company develops, owns and third-party manages a variety of branded and independent hotels.
However, he said there are some factors that could hinder hotels from going green. These include compromising guests’ comfort, using applications that might increase costs for the property and the need to vet products to insure sustainability.
Still, Chase believes owners and operators can find ways to be greener at the property level. “The things that we do have to be long lasting. We just can’t do ‘green-washing.’ It’s pretty easy to say: ‘We’re going to ask our guests to recycle their towels,’ which almost every hotel does now. It’s pretty easy to say: ‘We’re going to put in fluorescent bulbs,’ which we’ve done in every single property. But once you get through the surface applications, the next ones are turning toward energy monitoring systems to regulate heating and cooling or the laundry systems,” he said.
New Castle has already addressed these areas and others in terms of sustainability. For example, it used solar panels to illuminate marquee signage that was three blocks from one of its hotels, the 338-room Hilton in Woodcliff Lake, NJ. “We did that kind of as a cost savings, but it’s been remarkably efficient—it’s been there for eight years now,” said Chase.
New Castle is currently involved in a project with Mass Mutual, which has a substantial sustainability program for its hotels. “When they renovate, they look to see how much a product can be considered sustainable, whether it’s carpet or furniture. We will not jeopardize the design or pay a substantial premium for that type of effort but it’s amazing how much is available today at a relatively low mark up or cost-neutral application for the recyclable and sustainable products,” said Chase. “It just takes a little bit more work. There has to be a kind of cradle-to-grave approach; it can’t just be the industry saying this would be nice to do. It has to be an enthusiastic, pumped-up, power approach to the way we do business. It’s here and it’s getting better every day.”
Chase commented the green initiatives for the years ahead will likely focus on operators tracking a property’s carbon footprint with a thrust toward more organic products from food to linens to other aspects of a hotel. While cost is still part of the challenge, Chase pointed to the newness of the green effort as an obstacle as well. “There’s just so much being thrown at the wall right now but the question becomes how will this product hold up? We in such an infant stage on so many of the products that are out there for the designers and the architects,” he said. “What does the application really do long term? We’re so new into it, nobody knows.” —StefaniC. O’Connor