August 31st, 2010 by TRT Blog
With summer coming an end, much attention is turning to getting back to school. Here at The Refinishing Touch we’ll be turning our attention in the same direction as we review trends in education – one of the key industries that we work with.
Just like any other industry, education can see great returns from increasing sustainability initiatives. Green can have an impact at every level: from campus design, building or refurbishing dorms, choosing classroom furniture, right down to how students spend their money (or perhaps that of their parents’).
As students load up on the essentials to prepare for the upcoming year, it’s obvious that the focus should be to keep your kids prepared for their academic endeavors. But doing so responsibly is a challenge many parents seem to be failing.
According to the National Retail Federation families spend an average of $606.40 on back to school purchases. Yet many items that are bought are intended to be disposable. On some level, this is to be expected and is often practical. After all, you can’t expect a third grader to understand the care needed to look after a $75 pen. Sometimes a three-dollar pack of pens is the most practical solution. However, with the increasing consumption rate of students – every year in the US, an estimated six billion pens are thrown away along with 38 tons of paper, equivalent to 644 trees – a shift in thinking about back to school purchases may be needed.
Dollars aside, it’s important to make children aware of the cost of production, both financial and environmental. By increasing this awareness, tomorrow’s generation can pay more attention to the impact of consumption and the benefits of green practices by buying recycled products and thinking about how they look after their own belongings. We see many sites with sustainable and recycled products for back to school shoppers, but The Ultimate Green Store is definitely one of our favorites.
An increased awareness of the things we purchase every day and their sustainability is something that we can all learn more about.
August 27th, 2010 by TRT Blog
The Federal Government is the largest employer in the United States (excluding the US Postal Service) with about 2 million civilian employees, and just after our nation celebrated this Summer’s fourth of July, the White House kicked off its second annual contest encouraging federal employees to present ideas for curbing unnecessary government spending.
Named the Securing Americans Value and Efficiency (SAVE) award, in three weeks of the contest’s inaugural year in 2009 the initiative brought in more than 38,000 proposals on how to cut costs.
As submissions rolled in for the 2010 award it was clear that energy efficiency had staked its claim as one of the most popular subject areas for suggestion. Ideas ranged from simple solutions like shutting down unused computers and equipment to cutting paper waste by utilizing double-sided printing.
This year, federal employees were asked to rate their peers’ submissions and then officials will judge the submissions based on criteria including:
- Does the idea reduce costs in a way that is concrete and quantifiable?
- Does the idea improve the way government operates by:
- Improving the quality of output at lower costs; or
- Simplifying processes to reduce administrative burden; or
- Improving the speed of government operations for greater efficiency?
- Does the idea have a tangible impact on citizens’ lives or environment?
- Is there a clear and practical plan for implementing the idea?
- Will it be possible to realize savings immediately?
The judges will announce four finalists in September and the shortlist will be opened up to the American public to vote the best. The SAVE winner gets to meet with President Obama and will see their idea put into practice.
In recent years we’ve heard a buzz growing about striving for efficiency. Everyone from local town councils all the way up to the most powerful and influential seats in the government have brainstormed and submitted proposals with their ideas on energy efficiency. It’s great to see the government taking strides toward putting ideas into practice – and what better way than to stimulate great ideas from inside the government while involving the voice of the public outside the government.
August 24th, 2010 by TRT Blog
During Congress’ August recess there’s a lot of discussion of how the time should be spent by politicians to reconnect with the public they represent. While out of session and in their homes states, this six-week period is an opportunity for elected representatives to attend public meetings, reunite with citizens, and to listen. And there’s plenty to hear with a slow economic recovery, chronic unemployment, house foreclosures, and weak market sectors including manufacturing and construction.
Meanwhile, the Congressional Budget Office [http://www.cbo.gov/] has announced that the Federal budget deficit for 2010 will exceed $1.342 trillion. Although this new figure is $27 billion less than the $1.368 trillion projected earlier in the year, this substantial debt has a substantial impact on future U.S. economic growth.
But government representatives shouldn’t only be looking outwards as to how they can support economic growth: increase exports, encourage lending to businesses, and boost the stalling economy and drive payroll numbers; but should look internally at how they can also manage internal spending habits.
With this in mind, over the coming weeks we’re going to be showing some case studies. These will highlight how our team here at The Refinishing Touch has worked with government public bodies, both federal and state, to save public money through the management of furniture assets.
After all, saving money is crucial for every single organization in this tough economic climate – that’s one thing politicians can keep in mind when they return to D.C. in September.
August 20th, 2010 by TRT Blog
Here at The Refinishing Touch we’ve written, spoken, and shared our thoughts extensively about how the travel industry continues to adapt and evolve to overcome the challenges of the turbulent economy.
But while the industry considers ways to overcome challenges, travelers are out looking for them – via adventure tourism.
A study by George Washington University found that adventure tourism is boosting the hospitality industry in America and other countries, with affluent travelers from North America, Latin America and Europe keen to experience jungle tours, whitewater rafting, and rock climbing. In 2009, adventure tourists spent $89 billion worldwide, with a further $53 million spent on accessories and gear.
With a focus on spending time in the outdoors, and appreciating the wilderness, many adventure-based vacations and tours have a leaning to environmentally-friendly practices. After all, when travelers are spending so much of their time out in the environment, it’s difficult for them to not consider the impact of their actions
We’re always keen to demonstrate how financial and environmental benefits can complement each other, after all we spend every day working with hospitality, government and education organizations, demonstrating the remarkable financial and environmental benefits of refinishing. To us, that’s an adventure.
August 18th, 2010 by TRT Blog
Despite the efforts of individuals to protect the environment, it’s vital that large organizations take green ownership and drive sustainability processes. One organization has just done that – and they don’t get much bigger than this.
The owners of the Empire State Building have recently announced it will be undergoing a retrofit to minimize its environmental impact. Among the changes the historic building will undergo will be the replacement of all windows to provide better insulation, replacing light fixtures with energy efficient models, and the installation of smart air circulation systems to improve the efficiency of the HVAC in the building. The owners expect the retrofit to reduce the building’s energy consumption by up to 40%, and the reduced carbon footprint will be the equivalent of taking 20,000 cars off the road.
By spending $13 million, the building will not only do its bit to save the planet, but will save its owners $4 million per year – in fact, the cost of the retrofit will be recouped within three years. At The Refinishing Touch we see this time and time again – saving the planet and saving money go hand in glove.
So next time you’re in Manhattan, looking up at the Empire State Building, reflect on how this colossal building isn’t just making the apple big, it’s making it green.
August 13th, 2010 by TRT Blog
The hotel industry as a whole has reversed its fortunes after the dismal year that was 2009. We’ve mentioned this a few times already. It’s not going to be easy, but soon we hope to hear that our friends in the industry in all locations get back and righted before it’s too late.
We say “in all locations” because an unfortunate trend is slowing the overall recovery. Small towns have not been as fortuitous in the returning guest rates that cities such as New York or Chicago have seen.
This Bloomberg story illustrates that even though the industry has seen improvements, much of that can be attributed to hotels in large markets. New York City for instance has 514 hotels, which only makes up just a shade below two percent of the US room. Yet those same hotels comprise six percent of the revenue share. On the opposite side of that coin, of the $3.8 billion lenders have in foreclosed hotels, 86 percent of those are in secondary markets.
With big city hotels skewing the numbers on the rebound from the recession so greatly, it can be easy to overlook the fact that not everyone is experiencing the same return to form. Secondary markets must continue to innovate and adapt since they are so much more vital to their respective areas.
August 10th, 2010 by TRT Blog
We’re surprised at the steps some hotels are taking in this economic climate to reduce costs while the industry is in repair. The ideas have varied from replacing newspapers with iPads pre-loaded with newspaper subscriptions to cutting back on existing services that are a staple of the industry.
Of those services being reevaluated is the daily replacing of linen in rooms. Most chains are now offering their guests the option of completely forgoing the changing of linens and bathroom towels daily, and instead having them changed once every three days, rather than the more frequent alternative, though some have chosen to reduce the rate of linen changes in the room regardless of customer preference.
Hotels are marketing these changes as a part of their “green packages”. While there is an environmental impact to take into consideration, this largely has a financial impact on the industry. The costs and energy savings that come from reducing the amount of washing towels and linen daily have been documented, so hotels announcing these changes stem from a new green commitment are not without merit. And while Bjorn Hanson of New York University states that many guests aren’t completely convinced that this is solely a green initiative, they are ok with the modest cutbacks being made.
To be clear this is a positive for travelers, the industry, and the environment, and although the green aspect is being questioned slightly, there’s no doubt that the idea is a step in the right direction.
August 6th, 2010 by TRT Blog
It is said you grow wiser with age. Or that as you mature, so does your palette. Both may be true. Though any age can be discerning.
A new study in the workplace among Generation Y, basically people born between 1981 and 2000, found that they have certain expectations of what they want from their employers in their workplaces; and a green workplace is one of them.
The study found that respondents wanted to work in organizations that were ‘on the cutting edge’ of technology, where they could work effectively. And when asked about work environment, they said they didn’t just prefer employers who provide eco-friendly conditions, but they wanted them to exceed minimum compliance standards.
Logic dictates that if this generation expects above average working conditions with regards to green practices, then it’s probable that these workers when they’re traveling for work or pleasure, are going to hold the same, if not higher, standards to the entire travel industry.
It’s refreshing the leaders of tomorrow say that they have standards and want to see organizations demonstrating theirs. This also presents an opportunity for every hotel and travel destination to demonstrate its sustainability and commitment to green, and a lost demographic for those that don’t.
August 3rd, 2010 by TRT Blog
We’ve spoken before about where the hotel industry should consider making investments to improve the pace of recovery following the recession. But, those suggestions never really took into account the main reason the industry survives and thrives: the guests.
Consumers are the lifeblood of the hospitality industry and no amount of smart renovating or discounts will make up for poor service. Thankfully that has not been the case – if anything we’ve seen our friends in hospitality looking to step up their game. In 2010, the overall satisfaction has improved considerably according to the JD Power and Associates North American Hotel Guest Satisfaction Index Study.
Across six hotel segments (i.e., luxury, mid-scale full service, and budget/economy), seven measures are examined in each – such as reservations, hotel services and hotel facilities. All segments have improved from 2009 in overall satisfaction. The measures which had the highest improvement were costs and rates, reservations, and guest room measures.
The hotel industry is not going to be fixed overnight. Hotels must continue to keep satisfaction levels high with its guests, and with happy guests, happy referrals follow. It’s great to see they are aware of this and continue to take steps to keep the quality of the entire guest experience high.