by Cheryl-Anne Sturken | August 01, 2006

Florida green hotel logo

California green hotel logo



Mixed results for
two hotel-based
environmental efforts

While they launched just nine months apart, the California Green Lodging Program has quickly grown to more than 85 hotels, but Florida’s counterpart is finding hotel chains slow to commit to a code of environmental responsibility.

Part of the problem is that many Sunshine State properties “have stacks of policies and procedures they have to go through at the corporate level, and they are just not participating,” said Peter Goren, environmental manager of the voluntary Florida Green Lodging Program, which was launched in March 2004 by the Tallahasse-based Florida Department of Environmental Protection. “Right now, Disney and the Hilton in Gainesville are our biggest collaborators. The rest are mostly smaller inns.”

By contrast, the California program got its start in June 2003, part of a joint partnership between the state’s San Diego-based Department of General Services and the Integrated Waste Manage-ment Board, in an effort to encourage state employees to stay at environmentally responsible hotels. According to IWMB, two percent of California’s food waste, about 112,000 tons per year, comes from the lodging industry. And the state estimates annual state employee business travel spend at $50 million.

The program’s success is largely a result of a commitment from the Beverly Hills, Calif.-based Hilton Hotels Corp. and San Francisco-based Kimpton Hotels & Restaurants.

Hilton joined the program last October, immediately committing its 50 properties in the state, including Hilton and Embassy Suites brands, to undergo certification. Several already have achieved the distinction. To be certified, hotels must meet specific operating criteria, such as initiating recycling programs and using water and energy conservation equipment.

In Florida, where similar criteria apply, Goren said his department also would like to add standards such as indoor air quality, in light of the state’s humid climate. “That means addressing issues like the ongoing maintenance of air-conditioning systems and carpet cleaning, where mildew and mold are potentially hazardous,” he noted.

The state’s Environmental Pro-tection Agency is working with Florida Atlantic University to research energy consumption and costs to show hotels the savings that can be achieved by moving to more energy-efficient systems in their back-of-the-house operations. “Maybe when they see the hard data and hear about the cost avoidance, they will take notice,” said Goren.