Environmentally Friendly Hotels Are Cool (but could be cooler)
There are very few industries that have embraced the notion of environmental stewardship quite like the hospitality industry has. Unique and innovative programs have been implemented that save water, reduce electricity loads, reduce lighting needs, manage cooling requirements and use biodegradable cleaning products – making hotels more friendly to the environment while still making us still feel clean and comfortable. In fact, hotels have trained us visitors to put once-used towels on the pegs behind the bathroom door so we can use them again (after all, how many times do we use a towel one time in our own homes?).
Thermostats automatically detect motion in rooms and adjust temperatures downward if the room is occupied and upward if the room is empty. Same situation with lights…motion detectors turn off lights if there is no one in the room and automatically activate to provide welcome lighting when the room key card is inserted in the door.
The hospitality industry has embraced these innovative programs, not only because they save money and resources, for many of the innovations are costly to implement and have extended payback periods They have implemented such changes because consumers demand it. Meeting planners now have an exhaustive checklist of environmental initiatives that must be in place before a hotel property can even be included in the consideration set for large conventions and meetings. Leisure travelers want to know that the places where they stay are doing whatever they can to maintain a positive impact on the environment.
The Accor Hotel Group has created a carbon footprint calculator to measure the environmental impact of events held at their hotels. Accor stated that “the carbon measurement tool was developed after a guest survey published in 2011 revealed 84 percent of business customers are sensitive to sustainable development, compared to 76 percent of customers overall. Of the business customers surveyed, 57 percent said they take sustainable development into account when they choose a hotel.”
USA Today published an article stating “the InterContinental Hotels Group, Hilton, Marriott, MGM Resorts and 20 other companies have agreed to adopt a uniform way to calculate their hotels’ carbon footprint. According to the World Travel & Tourism Council’s CEO, David Scowsill, ‘the initiative will give customers “more transparency and clarity.’ It comes at a time when Fortune 500 companies, government agencies and other groups are increasingly trying to monitor travel’s environmental impact – and, in some cases, factor a hotel or hotel chain’s “green” strategies into their booking decisions. Currently, hotels use a variety of methods to calculate their carbon footprint, which makes it confusing for customers – be they Fortune 100 multinationals or government agencies. The inconsistencies also make it difficult for the hotel industry to achieve gains.”
People are huge consumers of natural resources as well as being great contributors to waste – particularly carbon. According to Conservation.org, the Emissions per Person per Hotel Night = 0.0136 tons of CO2. And, being a consumer that likes to be comfortable, like most consumers, I want to be cool in the summertime – the heaviest travel season. And, in order to be cool, the air conditioning needs to work.
Now, I have been affiliated with the hospitality industry for over 30 years in one capacity or another. I have read the environmental requirements for LEED certification. I have read the requirements set forth by many hospitality associations required for environmental recognition and special incentives, and not one of these documents mentions a single thing about the management of refrigerants. Not one!
Refrigerant gases are the single largest potential contributor for carbon emissions in most hotels – particularly the larger convention-type or full-service hotels. Thousands of tons of carbon are represented by the refrigerants in a/c systems, chillers, ice machines, walk-in coolers and in-room refrigerators and there is not one mention regarding the proper management and handling of these refrigerant gases. Not one!
I will admit that LEED does mention not using CFC refrigerants as a requirement, but they don’t make much of that any more. However, it says nothing about the proper recovery of refrigerants during maintenance. It says nothing about what to do with the old refrigerant that is extracted from these systems during maintenance. It says nothing about utilizing recertified refrigerants or the utilization of a high-efficient reclamation facility to avoid the destruction or venting of refrigerants in the atmosphere.
Refrigerants have been the “invisible” part of HVAC maintenance and service. No one pays much attention to it…it’s more of a line item on the bid sheet. But, changes are coming.
California’s AB32 is now mandating management and accountability of refrigerant gases by the system owners in order to reduce leaks and manage refrigerant venting. The EPA is looking at changing its refrigerant management standards as outlined in 608 of the Clean Air Act.
My bottom line is this: participating in a certified refrigerant reclamation program is easy and reduces the overall cost of replacing refrigerants by keeping most of the original refrigerants intact. By using a highly efficient reclaimer as part of the equation, the cost of new refrigerants to replace the old refrigerant is virtually eliminated. There is really no excuse not to measure and manage refrigerants like it would water usage in its laundry facilities. Hotels should now start paying attention to the invisible side of being cool.
By Walt Baker, Vice President of Sales & Marketing for Polar Technology firstname.lastname@example.org