With the rapid development of new technologies for environmental sustainability, we thought we'd take the opportunity to focus on places around the world that are making the most of them. As a way to spotlight efforts around the world, we've begun a series to keep us up with the happenings in what has become a global initiative: sustainability.
This week, we take a look at India, who is showing great progress in employing new greener technologies across various industries. In the hospitality industry, organizations such as the RambaghPalace in Jaipur are making use of new rain harvesting techniques to recycle water resources and reduce water consumption. Others, like JaiMahalPalace, have achieved success in utilizing similar water recycling techniques in their sewerage treatment and biogas plants.
But it doesn't end with hospitality; another area in which India is using new green technologies is construction. Green buildings are fast becoming home to several top businesses throughout India. To qualify as a green building, a building's management of energy, waste, materials and indoor air quality must meet a certain standard and its construction must be environmentally sustainable. One example of a green building is ITC's Green Centre in Gurgaon, which has reduced its water consumption by 40 percent and its energy consumption by more than 50 percent. The building uses materials and tools such as insulated glass and room sensors to appropriately adjust room temperatures.
Through its use of these new technologies and its commitment to further improving these methods, India is a fantastic example of the future of environmental sustainability, and we look forward to learning more about the actions that other nations are taking to conserve, protect and innovate as contributors to a global initiative for sustainability.
According to an article on MSNBC.com, women, youth and CEOs are projected to lead the future forge in sustainability throughout the United States.
Bill Roth, the contributing writer, highlighted that each of these three demographics were most likely to become the drivers in the adoption of sustainability.
Noting key motivations of each, Roth examined the three groups segmenting common opinion and found that while the youth have taken on inherited challenges such as climate change, women see sustainability as a goal for overall wellness, and CEOs are managing policies to tackle reducing carbon footprints on a company-wide scale.
June saw the meeting of sustainability leaders and pioneers gather at the Sustainable Brands Conference 2009. Now in its third year, the annual conference holds more relevance than ever. Each year its participants and attendees come together to discuss the ways that business, government and non-governmental organizations can contribute toward the success of sustainability throughout our nation.
At the conference, Travelocity's Director of Sustainability Initiatives, Leilani Latimer, interestingly noted that the greenest traveler is the frequent corporate business traveler. Businesses are adopting the reduction of CO2 emissions as a core business goal, and recognize its influence in the way it shapes travel expenditures, office operations and supply chain purchasing criteria.
Another speaker at the conference noted that women account for nearly 85 percent of retail purchases and added that mothers are embracing sustainability as concerned caretakers. Their contributions to sustainability come from a consumer standpoint through the purchase of locally grown, organic foods that are healthier for their families, and automobiles with lower emissions because they want a cleaner environment for their children.
The youth have adopted sustainability as their "North Star," which Roth notes was a major branding theme at SB09. Implying a point of direction, and enabling information for the execution of a path, the North Star concept sees the youth of our nation recognizing the need to drive the focus for sustainability in order to secure a greener future.
At The Refinishing Touch, sustainability is the driving force behind each and every aspect of our business. We see the work that we do throughout each of the government, hospitality and education sectors as contributions toward a greener, more efficient nation, and hearing of the success and thought leadership that comes from events like the Sustainability Brands Conference reinforces and encourages us to continue on our green path. We look forward to this being a drive for many more individuals and companies to come.
Hats off to Embassy Suites in Lake Tahoe: Energy reduction saves hotel $25,000 in the first 6 months
It was great to read this week that the Embassy Suites Lake Tahoe Hotel & Ski Resort in California has made a huge reduction in spending on energy. They have managed to spend $25,000 less than expected and the director of engineering at the 400-suite property, David Hansen, said that this could come close to a total of $500,000 in energy savings by the end of 2009!
The company compared this year's figures to last year's, and found the considerable drop. Amongst its staggering results, the resort found that its electricity consumption had been reduced by 575,000 kilowatt hours ($98,902 in savings) while natural gas consumption had dropped by 9,314 dekatherms ($67,709 in savings). Additionally, the hotel has experienced increased efficiencies in waste management, saving 48 tons of waste from being sent to landfill, translating to $15,250 in savings in waste management alone.
The hotel began its energy saving efforts in January of this year after completing a property survey. The Lake Tahoe team then began rolling out a series of energy-saving improvements at the cost of an estimated $200,000. Hansen told investors that it was estimated to take two years for payback, but the systems have produced far greater results than predicted. Adjusted figures now show that property owners will recover their investment within 10 months.
The process began with the purchase of a web-based energy management system which allows the property to better manage heating and cooling in meeting rooms, ensuring that heating and cooling was not being used while the spaces were unoccupied. Motorized dampers were then installed on outside air returns, allowing the hotel to be cooled without air-conditioning during Lake Tahoe's short summers.
We've talked a great deal about energy spend reform on our blog. In this case, anyone can see that the efforts put forth have yielded truly significant results. The resort has implemented many more small changes in its continued efforts to save energy including a new laundry system, pumps which run at variable frequencies and fans being put on timers.
All in all, these small changes have resulted in huge savings in both energy and money and the hotel's efforts really should be celebrated! It just goes to show what can be achieved when energy efficiency is properly assessed.
This week, the Sustainable Endowments Institute released its 2009 College Sustainability Report Card the only independent evaluation of campus and endowment sustainability activities of colleges and universities with the 300 largest endowments in the United States and Canada.
We like the Report card – it highlights commitments to sustainability and aims to provide accessibility to information for schools to learn from one another's experiences.
According to the Institute's methodology, grades are determined by assessing performance across 43 indicators in nine main categories, and ultimately, the Institute's position is that the Report Card's drive is to enable universities to establish more effective sustainability policies.
The San Francisco Chronicle took a look at this year's results and made note of some of the Report Card's most significant statistics. Or click here for the report itself.
Most notably, this year's report card showed that
• 45% of campuses have made strides to fight global warming by cutting carbon emissions
• 59% have high-performance green building standards for new buildings
Other stats pulled from the report card showed that
• 42% of the included universities use hybrid or electric vehicles
• 37% purchase renewable energy
• 30% produce a quantity of their own with wind or solar generators
Harvard, Dartmouth and the University of Washington received the highest marks, while JuilliardSchool, HowardUniversity, RegentUniversity, and SamfordUniversity received the lowest.
We are thrilled to see an organized external body taking the lead in recognizing and holding the nation's largest competitors accountable for their contributions to sustainability. As you well know, sustainability is an issue of great importance to us, here at TRT. We believe that extraordinary efforts deserve recognition, and we extend our congratulations to this year's top ranked universities.
Here at TRT, we were particularly interested in a recent story on treehugger.com which looked at how the city of Amsterdam is taking hold of smart energy spending with the pilot of the 'smart grid.'
As the smart grid is the next big green buzz word, many eyes are on Amsterdam following their announcement for plans to implement the new program, managed by IBM, Cisco and Dutch Utility Nunon. Around 500 homes throughout the city will be fitted out with energy management systems which will include smart meters and energy monitors.
If you're still unsure of what a smart grid is, have a quick glance over this definition.
Those selected to participate will benefit from cutting their C02 emissions by 'at least 14%' as a part of the pilot program. Combined reductions across the community are expected to enable the city to reach its goal of reducing green house gas emissions by 40% from levels recorded in 1990 by the year 2025.
Making energy consumption transparent will raise awareness and understanding, and will help those who see energy as invisible to make better decisions. The increased knowledge and awareness will have everyone thinking about energy efficiency more often than when the bill comes through the door.
Marthin de Beer, senior vice president of Cisco's Emerging Technologies Group said 'Giving the citizens of Amsterdam more information and better control over their energy use will cut down on costs and consumption as well as reduce their overall impact on the environment. Innovative cities like Amsterdam recognize the opportunity in using the standards-based intelligent communications network as a platform for economic development, better city management and improved quality of life for citizens. With this pilot, we hope to demonstrate how smart and connected communities can be more energy conscious and more green.'
It's great to see global momentum taking hold of green initiatives. As Amsterdam embraces this new plan, we hope to see many more cities following suit around the world, and throughout the US.
BITAC brings together industry friends – old and new
Earlier this week, we had a chance to attend the always fantastic BITAC Purchasing & Design East Conference in Aventura, Florida. The tropical climate played host to record breaking attendance for the conference, and we were thrilled to be a part of the event.
As always, BITAC was filled with an abundance of useful information, and food for thought. Existing relationships were renewed and new ones were forged as its attendees were given the chance to discuss some of the hotel industry's hot topics.
In the current economic climate, it's no wonder that industry executives were discussing the ever prevalent topic of hotel lending and had the event buzzing with a common interest in renovation and solutions to create opportunities for hotels in distress.
In the wake of a tremendously successful event, we look forward to the next BITAC conference to once again bring together friends, both old and new.
At The Refinishing Touch we have a deep interest in wood: where it comes from, how it is logged sustainably and how the furniture interest can support the US industry, and avoid needless and unsustainable logging. With that in mind, this story about a logging community in Oregon is close to our hearts.
John Day, of GrantCounty, in Oregon has only one wood mill left (Malheur Lumber Co.) after a rapid decline in local mills over the last twenty years. Lumber mills have been the backbone of GrantCounty since anyone can remember and the local community is bleak about the chances it has for surviving.
The problem isn't so much the log demand, the pine trees are growing thicker than before, but the money driving the mills. The recession has obviously only added to the problems, swallowing up loggers, wood-product makers and mills across the state. Prices for an average ponderosa pine log fell from $500 for 1,000 board feet last year to less than $240 this year.
John Shelk, managing director of the Ochoco Lumber Co. in Prineville, OR told The Oregonian recently, "We have a real strong feeling for the John Day community. We feel an obligation to keep the mill open if possible, but we have had multiyear losses."
With GrantCounty being a mountainous terrain, the option to use the land for other re-useable energy projects is almost zero. With canyons and the thick forest covering vast areas, there has been no talk of wind turbines or solar panels to plug the gap left by logging. However, something that looks like it could work would be a biomass plant, something that would require logging to take place – but this is years down the line.
TRT feels strongly about the topic. The concern for wood isn't just about the sustainability of the environment – it's about the sustainability of communities. We see far too many pieces of furniture that come needlessly from far-off lands and are made of rare and endangered woods. It's important that American consumers and American manufacturers support our own sustainable logging industry.
TRT has been taking great interest in the G8 summit, which is the first attended by President Obama.
As ever, green is on the menu, led by climate change. There are negotiations, ideas and debates and as expected, final decisions are hard to come by. A deal for G8 nations – plus India and China - to reach a unanimous 2050 decision on carbon gas emissions was quickly dispatched after the developing nations ruled for a stronger commitment by 2020 from the developed nations, including the US, on emissions.
However, all is not lost. This summit has been hailed as 'historic' due to all the G8 nations and 17 developing nations accepting a two-degree goal to limit the rate at which the world is warming. Michael Froman, President Obama's top negotiator on international economic issues, said the declaration 'represents a significant step forward in terms of adding political momentum.' Other topics being discussed are the fragile state of the global economy, and farming initiatives in the developing world.
Watching the G8 announcements, as an individual, family or a business, it's easy to feel that not enough is being achieved on issues such as climate change. But keep in mind the scale of the changes – the population of the countries involved, the global impact of even the smallest decisions – there is a glimmer of hope, and incremental successes will lead to larger ones. We all live in hope, and that's not a bad thing.
Green Lodging News recognizes TRT's work with the Liberty Hotel
We were thrilled to see that Green Lodging News had highlighted the work we recently announced the completion of for the newly re-opened Liberty Hotel in Cleburne, Texas.
The historic Liberty Hotel underwent a total refurbishment to restore the property to its original grandeur. We were able to get involved with this great project and were happy to contribute with a sustainable solution for a property so rich with history. Check out the Green Lodging News piece here.
Following our recent post about the top green cities in the US, and in the spirit of that theme we were interested to see Florida in the press for the number of green jobs the state is creating.
According to business owners and a director from PEW Center on the States, Florida green business owners are creating new jobs, although consistent funding and policy support is needed.
Florida has also been noted by PEW Charitable Trusts for having its clean energy economy grow by 7.9% between 1998 and 2007 and is now within the top ten for green jobs – which is brilliant news for the state.
Lori Grange, Interim Deputy Director of PEWCenter on the states, feels that Florida is only behind other states because of public policy questions. In this she noted Florida's failure to succeed with Governor Charlie Crist's proposed renewable energy portfolio standard. For Florida to have embraced this, a proportion of the state's energy would have to be produced from renewable sources. And while this isn't happening in Florida, it's already happening in 29 other states.
Florida also hasn't become involved in regional carbon and climate change initiatives, but Grange pointed out that is it developing its own carbon cap and trade program. Florida was among one of the top 10 states for jobs in clean energy in 2007, and half of its $116,980,000 of venture capital funds over the last three years has gone toward supporting clean energy generation.
In the whole of the US, jobs in clean energy grew by 9.1%, while total jobs grew by only 3.7% - a fantastic comparison – at The Refinishing Touch we applaud all initiatives that boost green employment, create awareness and, of course, encourage sustainability.
Happy Fourth of July: Celebrate with some cut-price luxury
It is no surprise to hear that luxury hotels are feeling the impact of the economic downturn. But as we've said before, the hospitality industry is a robust one and when the going gets tough, we see from our customers – from boutique hotels through to international chains, they're ready to respond.
This Fourth of July, 37.1 million Americans are expected to travel more than 50 miles from home. In the wake of hard financial times, even luxury hotels are putting their best foot forward with a mixture of extraordinary discounts and some really innovative online campaigns to broaden communications with potential customers.
With the typical U.S. hotel's net operating income expected to fall 37.8% in 2009 and a predicted further decline of 9.2% in 2010, it's no surprise that hotels are turning to online marketing, social media and new web initiatives to boost awareness of their deals. Competition is rife. Services are becoming more tailored at the point of booking from what will be stocked in the mini-bar, through to delivery time of breakfast.
Hotels are still being built, although at a sporadic rate. An estimated 48,000 fewer hotel rooms will be built this year, a 23% drop from last year, according to Smith Travel Research.
In the interim – it's a time of opportunity: for hotels to innovate at every level – from room design, services and how they market, and for consumers to support the industry and our own economy by trying out some of the best hotels in the world.
From all of us here at The Refinishing Touch, we would like to wish everyone a happy Fourth of July weekend!