Tuesday, December 30, 2008

The Season of Giving is Year 'Round

Hoteliers are always aware of the need to “maintain their assets,” which generally is taken to mean taking care of the property. To this end, hotels put great effort and expense into frequent upgrading of rooms, public spaces, and other facilities. All of this remodeling and refurbishing typically results in huge amounts of material that ends up being discarded and ultimately sent to landfills. Also destined for landfills are the collateral materials left behind at hotels after events-- visors, cups, coffee mugs, note pads, pens, tote bags, and an endless stream of other promotional materials.

Luckily for our over-taxed landfill, our depleting natural resources, and for the rest of us, a small group of SF hoteliers have been busy supporting the community and saving the environment, all while maintaining their assets AND helping the bottom line for good measure.

The San Francisco Hotel/Non-profit Collaborative was started over 12 years ago by Jo Licata, Community Projects Manager at the Hilton San Francisco (who continues to organize and maintain it). The other component of the membership was non-profit organizations--some of the best and most reputable groups serving the SF community. Glide Memorial Church, Street, and St. Anthony’s were among the earliest members. There are now almost 20 large properties, as well as the Moscone Center and other hospitality businesses and well over 20 non-profit organizations that meet on a monthly basis as part of the Hotel/Non-Profit Collaborative.

The goal of the Collaborative is to take usable discards from the waste stream of hospitality organizations and divert them into a steady stream of in-kind support for the non-profit agencies. Each year through the Collaborative hundreds of tons of materials are diverted from our landfills. Non-profit agencies receive desks and beds; at-risk children receive school clothes and toys; re-entry workers receive clothing; children in the Tenderloin receive a chance to learn computer skills… it would be impossible to recount all of the benefits to the community from these small efforts. But one more benefit worth mentioning here is the reduced garbage costs to the businesses. Throwing away all those beds, sofas, foam-core signs, and give-aways costs money in labor and garbage bills. Donating them to worthy causes not only saves money by making the problem ‘go away,’ it also goes a long way in creating a positive spirit of giving throughout the organization.

This Collaborative is really Jo Licata's project and her passion. Champions like her make a huge difference in their communities and to our world. Thanks, Jo!

Sunday, December 28, 2008

2008's Greenwashes of the Year

The Greenwash Brigade brings us a year in greenwashing and lists their favorites.


My personal favorite this year is the motorcoach company selling itself as “The Green Alternative.” Their promotions and website clearly stated this along with beautiful nature pictures. They were working very aggressively to get my endorsement so I asked them to send me their environmental policies. The firm said, Well...we are currently developing them and will send them to you when done." So I asked what makes them a “green alternative.” They said they annually plant trees to offset the carbon released by their fleet of motorcoaches during the year. Knowing that would require A LOT of trees to be planted, I asked how many they planted last year. Their response was that they hadn’t actually started planting trees, but were looking into it. Greenwashing at it’s finest!

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Tips For Avoiding Greenwashing

In the past, we have talked about greenwashing (you know, the practice of "advertising positive environmental practices while acting in the opposite way). So how can you avoid falling prey to greenwashing Here are a few tips:

-Be informed: The first step is to make sure you research your supply chain. What does it mean when your suppliers say they are green? Don’t be afraid to ask them about their specific practices.

-Understand what terms such as ‘organic’ and ‘natural’ mean. Natural does not necessarily mean healthy--arsenic, uranium and formaldehyde are natural yet poisonous. And as far as non-toxic goes, everything is can be toxic, or deadly in sufficient dosages including oxygen, water and salt.

-Be clear on the criteria used by ecolabels and certifications. The hotel sector has introduced quite a few, such as Green Seal (US), Green Key (Canada) and Green Globe (Europe and Austral-asia). These are all third party certifications which that look at green operations. LEED certification looks at green construction. When researching ecolabels and certifications look for those that use clear criteria, adopt third party verification and report regularly on their environmental performance.

-Participate in a back of house tour. This is the most effective way to ensure that vendors who claim to be green are actually operating in a green way. Ask to see the kitchen and areas where waste is sorted. Vendors who are being honest will not be fearful of letting you see what they do in the back of house.

-Be transparent in your own practices. Do what you say and be honest about what you do. Your risk of greenwashing your own practices is reduced when you are clear and up front about your commitment, intentions and actions.

The general rule of thumb still appies: Caveat emptor – buyer beware!

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

You Should Be Ashamed!

An article in The Oregonian newspaper on December 4, 2008, is headlined, “Oregon Convention Center's eco-friendly policy boosts business.” That is great news! I read on to see that,
“The International Oil Spill Conference -- worth 4,800 hotel room nights, $4 million to $5 million for the local economy and untold possibilities with worldwide visitors -- had just agreed to bring its 2011 gathering to Portland. One of the city's best selling points? The Oregon Convention Center's promotion of environmentally friendly programs.”
Fantastic, the Convention Center is seeing the competitive advantage of being environmentally friendly. This is, of course, in addition to the amount of energy (money) the Oregon Convention Center is saving by having adopted these practices. Wow, I think, that is a win/win worth talking about!

Until I read a little further in the article where it states they are now charging to receive measurable data
...“For an additional $800 daily, the conference organizers will receive daily breakdowns of the energy they use and conserve, how much was recycled, and composted and other savings.”

Really?…Why should the conference organizer pay more when the Oregon Convention Center is generating business and enjoying economic savings--especially in these economic times? As a meeting professional, I would either expect they provide this service at no additional cost or it would be a dealbreaker!

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Maximum Profits and Minimum Costs

An article was posted on the The Financial Express website with some fascinating statistics on why sustainable restaurants are flourishing in these economic times. Here are a few examples:
- This year it is estimated Americans will spend $558 billion dining out.
- Restaurants account for 33% of all US retail electricity use.
- The average restaurant goes through 300,000 gallons of water a year.
- New York City is the most active city for the Green Restaurant Association followed by Boston.
- According to the National Restaurant Association, 62% of adults surveyed say they are likely to choose a restaurant based on how environmentally friendly it is.
- As an example, Jose Duarte, chef-owner of Taranta, reports composting and recycling costs him 30% less than traditional trash service. It also saves large amounts of energy. By composting 63.7 tons per year, Duarte figures, he saves 10.19 metric tons of carbon equivalent, or 422 trips from Boston to New York in a Prius. By replacing one conventional light bulb with a compact fluorescent one, he says, he can save $35-45 a year. “Do you know how many light bulbs a restaurant has?” And I will add to that, do you know how many hotels and convention centers serve food.
Need more proof? Read/share the whole article on The Financial Express website http://www.financialexpress.com/news/green-restaurants-move-up-the-menu/395529/1

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Recession: Seize The Opportunity

It’s Official: The Big "R" is here.

We have seen it in the headlines, “Companies Announce Layoffs”…“Economic Crisis Deepens in Europe, Asia”…”Retailers Face Financial Woes…and now it is official. The National Bureau of Economic Research reported yesterday “the U.S. has been in a recession since December 2007.” And the stock market responded by falling 680 points.

There has been a lot of talk in the meeting industry about how we will be affected. Each day I respond to a new survey about what is happening with the meetings we manage. There is plenty to worry about. There are also plenty of opportunities for reshaping our world by not doing business as usual. It is time for creativity, innovation and a new model of success.

It is time for sustainability in meeting practices--economic, environmental and social sustainability. It makes good business sense…especially now! Today, Meeting Strategies Worldwide is releasing a white paper to make the business case for green meeting practices. The White Paper, “The Economy and the Environment:
One Solution for Two Meeting and Event Industry Issues,” focuses on five key advantages to sustainable meetings providing supporting research and statistics.

Hot off the press, it is now available for download on our website at http://www.meetingstrategiesworldwide.com/files/docs/Meeting_Strategies_Worldwide_Economy_and_Environment.pdf

A passion for the industry AND for the environment provide the solution!