Clients across the hospitality, government and higher education housing industries call on The Refinishing Touch’s furniture asset management services not only for its time-efficiency and cost savings, but in an effort to make a greater push towards sustainability. Because of this, we are always interested to hear from other industry leaders, in order to gain valuable insight into other environmental efforts spanning the globe.
Recently, we caught up with Eberhardt Rues, CEO and founder of EcoFriendly Hotels WorldWide, a voluntary referral hotel group, and Sustainable Hotel Development, an interim hotel consulting service, both located in Florida. Rues’ dedication to global sustainable tourism has remained at the forefront of his career and, in this special Q & A session, we sit down with him to hear more on environmental progress, challenges and trends throughout the industry.
The Refinishing Touch (TRT): Can you tell us more about EcoFriendly Hotels WorldWide and Sustainable Hotel Development?
Eberhardt Rues (ER): My environmental experience began with the development of the first RUES EcoLodge Village, in the Amazons of Ecuador, during 1976 until 1980. Unfortunately, a severe inundation in 1980 flooded the whole Village, but I made a promise to continue supporting sustainable hotel and tourism development around the globe for years to come after the incident. EcoFriendly Hotels Worldwide became the first voluntary referral hotel group in 1994. As a company, we aim to develop Bolivia as a prime eco-tourism destination in Latin America. This visionary goal was actively supported by the European Commission and by the Bolivian Tourism Secretary. After some success, we then launched our first website in 2003, and by this time, we had well over 100 member and partner hotels, spanning across five continents, all dedicated to sustainable tourism and working with us to solidify their initiatives.
TRT: How have you seen a commitment to greener initiatives evolve over time within the lodging industry?
ER: Greener initiatives began to take hold in the US with the introduction of the LEED program and the EcoTourism Society and Conservation International, among many others. These programs started to plant their roots at the turn of the millennium, and helped propel the industry to consider more sustainable alternatives. The driving forces behind these fundamental eco-changes, in my experience, have been the emergence of more environmentally-conscious guests and consumers, as well as the increasingly popular Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) programs.
TRT: What is your greatest sustainable achievement?
ER: In 1993, I wrote the first “Eco-Hotel Management” guidebook in the Americas. The book was published in 1995, by Grupo Editorial Iberoamerica, Mexico, D.F. and was distributed throughout 22 Latin American countries – helping hotel management teams become greener and look into alternative solutions.
TRT: Which challenges remain in place for hotels keen to adopt green practices?
ER: In my opinion, one of the greatest barriers that stand in the way of hoteliers going green is the lack of environmental curriculum both for hotel management staff and within universities. Another challenge, although this condition is improving, is that many states are still operating without strict environmental regulations and enforcement.
ER: Environmentally – sound practices are progressing and have been progressing since the mid-1990s, not only in the US, but globally. Those working in the travel industry understand that sustainable products and services – ranging from cleaning solutions, certification of LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) or furniture repurposing – are also safe, cost-effective and profitable. Greener alternatives provide a healthier environment for our children and generations to come. It pleases me to see that ‘eco-friendly’ is no longer being thrown around as a fashionable marketing term, but has slowly evolved into an achievable goal throughout the industry.
For more information on EcoFriendly Hotels WorldWide and Sustainable Hotel Development, please contact Eberhardt Rues. To learn more about The Refinishing Touch’s cost-effective, sustainable furniture asset management services, like refinishing, re-upholstery and armoire modification, visit our website.