by Sarah J.F. Braley | July 17, 2014

James FarrellLast year, the 201-room St. Julien Hotel in Boulder, Colo., won the American Hotel & Lodging Association's Good Earthkeeping award for a medium-sized property, for minimizing waste, reducing energy consumption and getting the surrounding community involved in similar programs. In 2007, when green efforts at the then two-year-old property first kicked into high gear, some 33 tons of material had gone to landfill in one month alone. How times have changed: In 2014, the hotel has been sending an average of just 3.5 tons of material to landfill, about a 90 percent reduction. I chatted with James Farrell, St. Julien's sustainability coordinator and an avid hiker and biker, about the hotel's programs.

What's your favorite initiative?
The most successful is commercial composting for all of our food waste and other compostable materials. Any unfinished food items from the restaurant, catering and the bar go into the bins, and all of the sorting is done in the back of the house. Any time a banquet server is clearing the food, they are putting food waste and paper napkins into the compost, same with the prep area. To-go coffee cups go in, as well as compostable utensils given out with prepared food. The sheer volume of what we can compost vs. send to landfill is impressive. We're sending twice as much material to be composted than we are sending to landfill, anywhere from 11,000 to 20,000 pounds per month.

As far as my favorite, the local partnerships that we have been able to create and nurture have been the most rewarding, finding items in the hotel that we would normally send to landfill and figuring out which have life left in them and donating them. We have one-use candles that we will use in the bar and the outdoor areas; we send them to the Resource Area for Teachers, which sells them cheaply to teachers to use in their classrooms. And then we'll donate our unused soap, shampoo and conditioner to a Boulder shelter for the homeless or the Clean the World program.

We have three overarching goals: the waste component, reducing energy at the hotel and hosting events at the hotel involving the community.

Bike-maintenance station offered during Bike to Work dayWhat kind of green events does the hotel host?
We'll hold events like the city of Boulder's Earth Hour event, during which we turn off all nonessential lighting and host an extended happy hour with a live band, all by candlelight. We work directly with the city to encourage participation throughout the city, inviting the public in to celebrate awareness. [Earth Hour was held March 29 from 8:30-9:30 p.m.; next year's will take place on March 28.]

In the past we've also done a waste summit, bringing in other organizations in the community like restaurants, hotels and general office firms, and having them give a series of presentations on their successes and challenges. We invite the public in to share ideas and further the conversation. On America Recycles Day, we'll always host some type of event.

Boulder has a Bike to Work day in June; we host a breakfast station and a bike-maintenance station, and we have our spa participate by giving five-minute chair massages.

How do you help groups go green?
From the group's perspective, we can offer an extremely high waste-diversion rate. We set tables with reusable dishware, flatware, napkins. We will not use plastic water bottles unless specifically asked by the group. We have a water-bottle filling station in the hotel, there will be carafes on the tables and we offer customized water bottles that can be part of the event. We encourage the group to source through our suppliers to minimize the waste that comes into the hotel. Depending on the season, we have a lot of sources for locally grown food, so if you want seasonal cuisine, we can offer that as well, to minimize greenhouse gasses and transportation for the food.

For waste diversion for 2014 year-to-date, we have a 78 percent diversion rate. Waste is either composted, recycled or donated. That's about 1.3 pounds of waste per occupied room that goes to landfill. Some of the bigger hotel groups send 4.5 pounds to 7 pounds per occupied room.