Hotels put green into greening effort
TARRYTOWN - Steve Sackman knew it would be a major undertaking to replace more than 5,000 light bulbs at the 212-room hotel.
Yet the upscale Tarrytown House Estate & Conference Center expects a major payoff in lower utility bills as a result of the investment. The new compact fluorescent bulbs installed in the guest rooms, hallways, conference rooms and the lobby last 10 times longer and use far less energy than conventional light bulbs. Sackman said it is good news for the environment because each new bulb will save about 450 pounds of power-plant emissions over its lifetime.
"It is the right thing to do from a standpoint of cost savings and being a more profitable organization," said Sackman, the regional director of sales and marketing at Tarrytown House. "But it also is about being a socially and environmentally responsible organization. That is certainly at the front of everyone's mind right now."
Tarrytown House joins growing numbers of hotels nationally in going green during an age of rising public concerns about the environment and global warming.
Seventy-three percent of guests indicate they will participate in green programs if they are aware that the hotel offers them, according to a recent survey by J.D. Power and Associates.
More than 300 hotels around the country are now certified as "green" by state lodging programs, according to Green Lodging News, an online news site. "Offering green programs is a win-win situation for both hotel guests and hotel operators," said Linda Hirneise, executive director of the travel practice at J.D. Power and Associates in Westlake Village, Calif. "Guests are increasingly looking for these types of offerings, and hotels are finding that going green actually saves money."
The Westchester Marriott, a 444-room hotel in Tarrytown, has taken a variety of steps to save energy. In addition to efficient light bulbs, those initiatives include controls on boilers and thermostats. The hotel has cut water usage by limiting use of outdoor sprinklers and replacing showerheads. It also has installed toilets and faucets that use less water.
Environmental initiatives also are a growing priority at Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide Inc., the White Plains-based operator of more than 800 hotels worldwide.
Element Hotels, the company's new extended-stay brand, said that the hotels would be built from eco-friendly materials such as carpets with recycled fibers and walls partly made from recycled tires. Low-flow sink faucets and dual flush toilets will save an estimated 4,358.6 gallons of water per room each year, Starwood said. Shampoo and conditioner dispensers will eliminate the need for plastic bottles in the bathrooms. Each room will also include a recycling bin.
The first Element hotel is expected to open next year in Lexington, Mass. Additional hotels are expected to debut around the country in 2008 and 2009.
"When you look at the demographics of who our products appeal to, including Generation X and Generation Y, they want products that carry a sense of social responsibility," said Nicholas Lakas, director of Element Hotels.
The focal points of the Tarrytown House Estate & Conference Center are two mansions that date to the 19th century. On a recent hot, humid morning, work crews were at one of the mansions to install new air conditioners that use 30 percent less energy than older units in guest rooms dating to the 1970s. Another recent project involved the installation of motion-sensitive thermostats in guest rooms.
"Let's say you like your room freezing cold and you turn the thermostat way down to pump out the air conditioning," Sackman said. "But let's say that at about eight o'clock, you go out to breakfast and a meeting and don't come back to the room until five or six o'clock at night. Traditionally, at a hotel, the air conditioning would have kept churning all day, cooling no one. These new (thermostats) are motion sensitive. After a certain amount of time with no one being in the guest room, it returns the thermostat to an energy-efficient setting."
During the past 18 months, the Tarrytown House Estate & Conference Center has invested $100,000 in energy efficiency projects.
Other initiatives have involved collecting wastepaper from meetings, shredding it and recycling it; designing notepads with fewer pages to cut the number of blank pages that are thrown away; and installing water coolers outside meeting rooms for refills, rather than using new bottles of water.
The hotel also tries to buy as much food as possible from local farmers and vendors. Executive chef Paul Sant even grows some herbs himself in a garden on the 26-acre site.
"From an environmental standpoint, it is much a smaller carbon footprint working with local purveyors than shipping things from all over the country or the world," Sackman said.
The hotel's environmental sensitivity was welcome news for Steve Johnson, an Australian manufacturing executive who attended a three-day business conference last week.
"I was aware that they were trying to use less water and detergents in washing linens and towels," Johnson said. "That is quite obvious when you are in the room. I think in large establishments like this, low-energy light bulbs, better control systems for air-conditioning units and other types of initiatives are important."
By JAY LOOMIS
THE JOURNAL NEWS
(Original publication: July 31, 2007)