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by Sally Braley | April 10, 2013

Lobby of the Conrad New YorkIn March, the year-old Conrad New York, with 463 rooms, was awarded LEED Gold certification for new construction, the prestigious ranking for sustainability from the U.S. Green Building Council. But as a member of the Hilton portfolio of hotels, the property also meets the international sustainability standards ISO 9001 (for quality management) and 14001 (for environmental management), two measurements from the International Organization for Standardization.

The Conrad is just one of the more than 3,900 Hilton Worldwide properties -- the whole portfolio -- that meet ISO standards, the happy result of the chain's LightStay sustainability program that tracks more than 200 measurements across the portfolio. Since the introduction of LightStay, Hilton has reduced its carbon output by 10.9 percent; waste output by 23.3 percent (they hit the 20 percent mark for this measurement two years ahead of schedule); energy use by 9.7 percent, and water use by 7.5 percent. The program's tools includes a meeting calculator that can measure the impact of any conference held at a Hilton property, and planners can use the data toward their own sustainability goals and reporting.

Randy Gaines of Hilton Hotels"We had this database to track energy, water and waste," says Randy Gaines, vice president of engineering, housekeeping and laundry operations, Americas. "As we refined our tool, we had a third-party firm look at it and decided to make it a brand standard in 2009." In the process, it became evident that by adding a few more best practices, the company as a whole could apply for ISO 9001 and 14001 recognition. "We still have properties going after LEED and Green Seal certifications," notes Gaines. "I'm on the U.S. Green Building Council's advisory board, and I'm on the AH&LA engineering and environmental advisory councils, and we advise Energy Star on where we think it should go. But Hilton really felt that ISO 9001 and 14001 are more globally recognized."

Gaines adds: "We have created a social page [on the company's intranet] where employees can friend another hotel and compare numbers and share projects. It’s helping our engineers stay close to their friends and be a bit competitive. More than 5,000 projects have been loaded in. So if a property is thinking of putting a variable frequency drive on a motor or LED lighting in the corridors, they can enter those terms and get ideas. If you put in 'ozone in laundry,' you get a lot of hits. It’s really taken off."

The hotel company isn't sitting on any laurels, however, continuing to look for new ways to consider the environment while conducting business as usual. The most recent innovation? Recycling old mattresses. Introduced in November, the program recycles about 85 percent of the materials in the hotels' mattresses and box springs. Considering Hilton has purchased more than 50,000 mattresses in the past two years, that's a big pile of materials that now, instead of sitting in a landfill, will become products such as tools, particle board, oil filters, stuffing and carpet padding.