Green Hotel Chains

A look at what major chains are doing to support eco-friendly meetings

The movement to conserve and replenish the earth's resources continues to build momentum, and meeting planners and suppliers are doing their share to advance the cause.

"Planners are asking for green meetings, but they aren't environmental scientists. They might not have the time or resources to research what the best choices are," says Amy Spatrisano, CMP, principal of the industry consultancy MeetGreen. "The more suppliers can be proactive about educating planners, the easier it will be."

Hotel companies have, in fact, jumped on the sustainable bandwagon with a variety of initiatives, including the creation of brandwide standards, carbon calculators for events and outright funding for innovative eco-efforts (e.g., this past February, the InterContinental Hotel Group gave a $500,000 grant to the MPI Foundation to develop a sustainable meeting and event training program, explore new sustainable techniques for meetings and more).  

What follows is an in-depth look at the efforts some major chains are making to help planners organize eco-friendly meetings and events.

FairmontThe Fairmont Newport BeachToronto-based Fairmont Hotels & Resorts' Eco-Meet program was launched in 2007 as the latest in the company's 20-year history of green initiatives; the effort focuses on four main components at each of its 63 properties.

Eco-accommodation: Information about a hotel's eco-friendly practices is placed in guest rooms to raise awareness. In addition, all rooms are outfitted with recycling bins, energy-efficient lighting and water-conserving plumbing.

Eco-service: Fairmont provides dishes and cutlery instead of disposable paper plates or plastic utensils, as well as linen napkins and centerpieces that either are edible or made from reusable items such as silk flowers. Recycling stations can be found in all meeting rooms, and whiteboards are substituted for paper flip charts.

Eco-cuisine: Local, seasonal and organically grown foods sourced from a 100-mile radius of each property are available at on-site restaurants. Some of the special menus available under the Eco-Meet banner feature a 50 percent reduction in animal proteins, which are replaced by vegetable proteins.

Eco-programming: This initiative offers planners options for green activities and team-building programs, as well as guest speakers offering eco-centric messages and education. Paper-reduction efforts include electronic check-in and checkout and an in-house TV channel dedicated to providing meeting information and updates to attendees. Planners also can offset their event's emissions by purchasing energy certificates, or credits, through the hotels; these go toward
projects that plant trees, promote low-carbon technologies and more.  

According to Fairmont, by following the Eco-Meet guidelines, groups can save up to three plastic water bottles, two aluminum cans, one writing pad, one pencil, two paper cups, three paper napkins, three paper plates and two sets of disposable cutlery per person per day. "To be able to add that up across the chain for thousands of meetings per year would be pretty wild," says Sarah Dayboll, the chain's manager of environmental affairs.

Hilton Hilton International has declared that all of its 3,600 properties will be using its carbon calculator program by Dec. 31, 2011. Known as LightStay, the system analyzes 200 operational practices, including housekeeping, paper product usage, food waste and transportation, and determines their environmental impact in terms of energy and water use, waste production and carbon output.

LightStay's dedicated Meeting Impact Calculator estimates the eco-footprint of an event to be held at any of the chain's properties and allows planners to project in detail the amount of consumption and waste the event will engender. Using this data, planners can modify the materials and operating practices they will use and even change elements of the agenda to reduce impact where possible.

During a recent one-year trial of the LightStay program, implemented for both business and leisure stays at some 1,300 properties, Hilton saved enough energy to power 5,700 homes for a year, conserved enough water to fill more than 650 Olympic-size pools and took the equivalent of 34,865 cars off the road through carbon-emission reductions.

Greening Beyond Meetings
The new Omni Dallas Convention Center
Rather than create separate green meetings policies, some hotel companies simply include meetings in their overall eco-policies.

Omni Hotels & Resorts' environmental stewardship program, for example, focuses on recycling, reducing energy consumption, decreasing carbon emissions and implementing water-efficient utilities. The chain uses recycled paper and sources menu items from local food supplies at all properties, including the new 1,000-plus-room Omni Dallas Convention Center, to debut in 2012 with expected LEED Silver certification.

InterContinental Hotels Group has been rolling out its Green Engage program since 2009 to help the chain's general managers calculate and eventually reduce energy consumption. Through Green Engage software, each hotel inputs its consumption data, compares its numbers to other properties across the brand and fields system-generated suggestions on ways to reduce impact on the environment.

"We see green meetings and events as part of running a green hotel," said David Jerome, senior vice president for corporate responsibility with IHG. "Green Engage provides a simple checklist to make the hotel sustainable and, in turn, a green option for meetings and events."

Hyatt Hyatt Hotels & Resorts' Meet and Be Green initiative, launched in July, offers clients a 3 percent rebate on qualifying charges on the final pretax master bill for following the chain's 10-point green guidelines. Meetings booked in North American properties by Dec. 30, and held by March 31, 2011, are eligible for the program; Jack Horne, Hyatt's vice president of sales, notes that if feedback is positive, the offer will be extended.

The core list of green standards includes the following.

• Provide venues with event orders at least 10 days in advance to reduce last-minute resource shopping;

• The group commits to use recycling bins in all function space and guest rooms;

• The group commits to using local printing services and recycled paper if electronic options are not applicable;

• Event organizers will allow no more than one pallet of materials to be shipped per 100 rooms occupied, and no more than half a pallet going home, in order to reduce transportation emissions;

• Meeting materials including pens and note pads will be placed in a central location rather than being distributed to all attendees;

• The group will use recycled products such as paper, pens and menus;

• The event will use reusable bottles and supply filtered water stations;

• Meals will be ordered from Hyatt's seasonal and local banquet menus, which are updated quarterly and feature regional fare from farmers and fisheries;

• China and cutlery will be used instead of disposable utensils and plating where possible, and

• Meeting room temperatures will be set "conservatively."

Because this is an evolving program, says Horne, the standards are flexible, with several options to swap out as needed. The idea, he says, isn't to be onerously regulatory, but to ease planners into the habit of applying green practices and realizing that it might be easier than expected.

"Relatively simple actions like these add up, and our customers appreciate being able to make these kinds of choices," says Brigitta Witt, Hyatt's vice president of corporate social responsibility. "We are giving them an opportunity to be part of the process."

In addition, Hyatt provides on-site Green Teams available to consult with planners on sustainable practices.

Kimpton In 2005, Kimpton Hotels & Restaurants became one of the first hotel chains to offer a dedicated green meetings package brandwide, attracting immediate interest from corporate clients such as Microsoft and Aveda.

EarthCare Meetings is a nine-point standard applied to every meeting held at all 55 Kimpton properties and includes the following.

• All printed materials use 100 percent recycled paper;

• All meeting correspondence is sent electronically, including sales proposals, catering menus and banquet orders;

• Catering ingredients are locally sourced and seasonal;

• Environmentally friendly cleaning products are used in meeting areas;

• Organic tea is available at all coffee stations;

• Plasticware, napkins and lunch boxes are made from 100 percent recycled materials;

• Styrofoam, disposable cups, wooden stir sticks and individually packaged condiments are never used;

• Motion-controlled lighting is used in all meeting space, and recycling bins are available in all meeting and guest
rooms; and

• Where possible, unused food is donated, and leftover food is composted.

The program is a win-win, says Steve Pinetti, Kimpton's senior vice president of sales and marketing: "It doesn't cost the meeting planner anything extra, and my hotel saves money. There's no downside to this."

Marriott Since 2008, Marriott has offered green meetings standards across its JW Marriott, Marriott, Renaissance Hotels & Resorts and Courtyard by Marriott brands. In addition to the propertywide use of energy-efficient bulbs, low-flow bathroom facilities, an energy-saving linens program and Energy Star appliances, the chain outfits meetings with 100 percent postconsumer fiber notepads, pitchers of water (instead of plastic bottles) and recycling bins. Marriott also offers recyclable box-lunch programs using biodegradable utensils and napkins, and all properties engage in paperless billing.

No item is deemed insignificant in Marriott's eco-efforts. The chain, which goes through 47 million pens per year, now only purchases Bic Ecolutions, which are made from recycled content and are biodegradable. The company also is working to supply special banquet tables -- which do not require linens, are 99 percent recyclable and made from 49 percent recycled aluminum -- to all properties in the near future.

Marriott enables planners to cut waste by donating extras to food banks through Feeding America; they also can contribute to the protection of the Brazilian Amazonas rainforest via a special program in which participating hotels donate funds equal to 5 percent of the total cost of a meeting group's guest rooms booked by Dec. 31, 2010, for an event held by Dec. 31, 2012.

Among Marriott's employees are some 3,600 certified Marriott Green Planners who have been trained and tested on green standards, vocabulary, and meetings products and services.

StarwoodStarwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide recently announced it would implement its new Sustainable Meeting Practices (SMPs) across all of its North American brands, including St. Regis, The Luxury Collection, W, Westin, Le Méridien, Sheraton, Four Points by Sheraton, Aloft and Element.

The chain's SMPs are expected to roll out in 2011 and will focus on paperless meeting planning, sustainable meeting services, sustainable F&B practices, impact assessment tools and socially conscious activities.

Practices to be implemented in all North American hotels for all on-property meetings and events include using electronic sales tools, recyclable flip charts and paper products, sustainable (nonpaper) supplies such as whiteboards and LED signage, green printing practices such as recyclable ink and double-sided printing, transportation initiatives including the use of hybrid or electric vehicles to and from off-site meeting venues, sustainable menu items in hotel restaurants and the use of potted plants instead of fresh-cut flowers.

Starwood also has launched its Meeting Impact Report, which allows clients to track water usage, energy consumption, waste levels and recycling.

On the Web Go to for a roundup of eco-efforts being made by Four Seasons, Loews and other chains.