Illinois Hotels: Taking Home The “Green” Ribbon In Eco-Friendly Initiatives

By Michael Jacobson President & CEO, Illinois Hotel & Lodging Association | October 06, 2019

Illinois hotels and their restaurant, banquet and spa outlets are – more than ever – dedicating resources to establish eco-friendly practices that aim to preserve our environment. In addition to numerous hotels being designed specifically to meet LEED certification requirements, there is an abundance of creative ways in which hotels are bringing mindfulness to their everyday business practices to do their part in supporting our natural resources.

These include initiatives ranging from monitoring for energy and water efficiency to reducing plastics, crafting sustainable wine lists and even placing used furniture with those in need.

As one of the Illinois Hotel & Lodging Association's core platforms, we explore how hotels nationwide can implement thoughtful, sustainable and turnkey practices as exemplified by others leading the way in this critical effort.

Reduction in Plastics

In the fight against plastic waste, hotels across the state are turning the tide on single-use plastics. To put this into perspective, InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG) -the corporation that claims brands like Holiday Inn and Kimpton Hotels and has 5,700 properties around the world-uses 200 million miniature plastic bottles for shampoo, lotion, and other bathroom amenities each year. This number is about to drastically change.

By 2021, IHG is said to be cutting out the usage of mini shampoo bottles in-room and will replace them with larger bottles and bulk dispensary. This shift will significantly reduce the total amount of plastic being used, and since they won't be going home with any travelers, the likelihood that the plastic is properly recycled also increases.

Even seemingly minor tweaks can lead to a major reduction in the environmental impact and help in our fight against plastic. At the Thompson Hotel in Chicago, Illinois, General Manager Paul Cardona has taken steps to eliminate all plasticware. So far, plastic containers and lids (such as the ones you'd find at a coffee bar or continental breakfast) have been switched to Green Restaurant Association-endorsed paper containers and all 5.5-inch and 7.75-inch straws (a hot button factor to the plastic debate) have been replaced with paper compostable straws.

At the Great Wolf Lodge in neighboring Gurnee, Illinois, the indoor waterpark resort has pledged to replace plastic straws with more environmentally-friendly paper straws at each of its 17 locations nationwide. It is estimated that this effort alone, will eliminate the waste of more than 5 million plastic straws annually.

Water Efficiency

We often see hotel rooms offer the option to not replace towels or linens until the end of a guest stay or the two-setting feature on toilets in an effort to save water. Illinois Hotel & Lodging Association partner, ECOLAB, assists hotels with programs focusing on water, hygiene and energy technologies and services that protect people and vital resources. With the consistent washing of linens in the hotel industry, many of our member hotels choose ECOLAB products and services to keep their environment clean and safe, operate efficiently and achieve their property's sustainability goals.

To showcase the power of its eco-friendly initiatives, ECOLAB conducted a case study with the Shangri-La hotel in Taiwan. ECOLAB implemented its Aquanomic™ Laundry Program that reduces water use by eliminating a flush-and-rinse step while still delivering clean, white and soft linens. Better yet, this specialized laundering process maximizes the longevity of towels and linens and reduces the environmental impact. In total, ECOLAB reduced Shangri-La Hotel's water usage by 363,236 gallons and saved $4,000 in water and energy savings.

This direction is something we are encouraging our members across the state to consider in achieving our sustainability and efficiency goals. By switching to a process that delivers the same outcome but yields lower environmental impact, it is a win for everyone.

Reduction of Energy

One of the top eco-friendly issues we face today is lowering our energy usage. As one of the top five operating costs for most businesses, energy is an important part of the overall business strategy, especially in the hotel industry. Due to the amount of electricity and gas hotels use to power their properties, our properties naturally emit greenhouse gasses. That's why we are working with the state of Illinois who is actively making an effort to be more sustainable, including a dedicated state effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 26-28% by 2025. With still a ways to go, Illinois has already reduced our emissions by 16% since 2005.

One of the ways Illinois Hotel & Lodging Association members are combating excess greenhouse emissions is by partnering with Constellation, the nation's leading competitive energy provider. Constellation offers a variety of energy solutions, including electricity plans, renewable energy plans and natural gas plans.

By utilizing energy suppliers like Constellation, and leveraging their property-level energy assessments, hotels can begin to dramatically reduce their energy usage and implement renewable energy goals for the future. This not only helps the environment, it makes good business sense, with the potential to save each hotel thousands of dollars each year.

Recycling Toiletries and Furniture

We all know and often hear the phrase, "Reduce. Reuse. Recycle." For many, reducing energy and water usage and recycling paper, plastic and aluminum are the quintessential ways to be eco-friendly within a given property. However, in the individualized and hygienic hotel space, reusing materials can become an obstacle, for the property and the guest. One of the best ways we have found to "reuse" is by donating the surplus of unused toiletries and gently used furniture to those who need it most.

This past Mother's Day, The Hotel Human Resources Association (HHRA) and the Illinois Women in Lodging (I-WIL) committee partnered on a community event where local hotels supplied excess amounts of shampoo, soap, lotion, toothpaste, combs and other toiletry items to assemble into "gift bags" which were delivered to survivors of domestic violence living in transitional housing. A simple toiletry drive like this can help alleviate the surplus of plastic for properties in order to make room for larger-capacity bottles while also doing good for the community. Similarly, this effort can be applicable for furniture as well.

Furniture is the least recycled household item in the U.S. and every year, over 10 million tons of furniture is thrown away. When properties undergo a renovation or decide to upgrade guest rooms, the hotel is often left with tons of extra furniture. Instead of throwing it all away, companies like the Chicago Furniture Bank, an Illinois Hotel & Lodging Association charitable partner, accept the furniture, donate it to those in need and provide complete furnishing packages.

To date, the non-profit organization has diverted over 280 tons of furniture from heading to landfills. After partnering with the hotel industry, the Chicago Furniture Bank was recently offered a donation of 50 hotel rooms-worth of furniture from the downtown Chicago location formerly occupied by James Hotel.

This is the type of "reusing" that all hotels can pursue rather effortlessly in its sustainability programs. Not only is this a generous charitable act, but a direct reflection of the hotel industry's core values in bettering its surrounding community.

Other Ways to be Eco-Friendly

Although many properties are adopting large-scale and corporate-wide initiatives, there are many smaller ways to be eco-friendly that can generate a substantial impact. From supplying locally sourced, organic foods and beverages to offering gas-free transportation, every amenity adds up.

As the winner of IHLA's 2018 Good Earthkeeping Award, the Holiday Inn Chicago Mart Plaza is a true frontrunner for sustainable hotel initiatives. The LEED Gold Certified property has recently partnered with Walter Payton College Prep High School for Earth Week celebrations. Students designed and built a small underwater robot to complete a series of public safety challenges such as inspecting and making repairs to a hydroelectric dam and monitoring water quality. Holiday Inn Chicago Mart Plaza even offered its pool to the students for practice leading up to the competition.

Amenities abound at the Radisson Blu Aqua Hotel, where guests can enjoy discounted DIVVY bike cards to take around the city and plug in to electronic car charging stations in the parking garage. The property even locally sources up to 40% of its food and produce.

Interestingly enough, the Thompson Hotel has even found a way to implement sustainable practices geared toward its bar. The property's wine list, curated by Sommelier Bret Heiar, relies heavily on organic, biodynamic and sustainable farming; featuring carbon neutral wineries and smaller producers. The hotel's commitment to sustainability is even showcased by their use of Santome Prosecco, which comes from sustainable vineyards powered by solar panels.

The integration of eco-friendly initiatives and pushing the creative envelope in this category is vital to the sustainability of our industry and the preservation of our precious natural resources. Doing so will help attract visitors who care about these critical issues, increase spending and contribute to building greener communities and hotel experiences.

Mr. Jacobson Michael Jacobson has served as President and Chief Executive Officer of the Illinois Hotel & Lodging Association (IHLA) since October 2018. Mr. Jacobson brings an exciting level of visibility for Illinois' hotels throughout the state, garnering political influence for the organization with leadership in Springfield and Chicago. He has played a significant role in key legislative victories for the industry, including increasing the lodging per-diem for state employees; striking a compromise on the Fair Workweek Ordinance that balanced predictability for employees and flexibility for employers; and working with state legislators to pass legislation protecting hotel employees from sexual harassment and prevent human trafficking in hotels. Previously, Mr. Jacobson served as the Senior Director of Industry Relations and Political Engagement of the U.S. Travel Association (USTA), where he contributed to a dynamic organization made up of 1,200 member organizations, 65 employees and $34M in revenues. In addition to his business development and member retention responsibilities, he led the charge in political engagement activities. Mr. Jacobson holds a BA in Political Science from Seton Hall University, and remains active in the alumni community. Michael Jacobson can be contacted at 312-346-3135 or mjacobson@illinoishotels.org Please visit http://www.illinoishotels.org for more information. Extended Biography

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We can be reached via telephone, email, or online at our contact page. When you visit our site we do not log any information regarding your domain or email address. Information Sharing: We do not share user information with any third parties other than via press release distribution as described below.

Hotel Newswire is a newswire service that distributes press releases on behalf of our users. If you decide to submit a press release for distribution through our system we will transmit your entire press release including any personal information therein contained to our media contacts and online distribution points including search engines. This is the only redistribution of your information that we engage in. Your submission of press releases through our system indicates consent with this policy. The information we collect during your registration process is used to notify users about updates to our service and inform users of any special events hosted by Hotel Newswire. This information is not shared with other organizations for commercial or non-commercial purposes.

Cookies: Our system requires the use of cookies to enable the user to log back into our website to access information from the newswire, without having to log in each time using the required username and password.

If you do not want to receive email from us in the future, please let us know by following instructions included in our communication with you. Users who supply us with telephone numbers online may receive telephone contact from us regarding their account, or informing them of new products and services available on the HotelExecutive website. If you do not wish to receive such telephone calls, please edit your account and remove your phone number from your account profile. This can be done from your user account menu.

Ad Servers: We do not partner with or have any relationship with any ad server companies. From time to time, we may use customer information for new uses not previously disclosed in our privacy notice. If our information practices change at any time, we will post the policy changes to our website to notify you of these changes and provide you with the ability to opt out of these new uses. If you are concerned about how your information is used, you should check back at our website periodically.

Upon request we provide site visitors with access to all information (including proprietary information) that we maintain about them. Users can access this information by logging in to their account.

Security: We always use industry-standard encryption technologies while transferring and receiving user data exchanged with our site. We have appropriate security measures in place in our physical facilities to protect against the loss, misuse, or alteration of information that we have collected from you on our site. We do not store credit card information in our systems.

If you feel that this site is not following its stated information policy, you may contact us.

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This week's Top Pick...

Zoe Connolly

When the world is facing high levels of volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity (VUCA), in part thanks to fast-changing technological, social and business environments, leaders and companies must be prepared to increasingly adjust to unanticipated events. VUCA in hospitality manifests on different levels and can affect individual hotel properties, tourism and entire companies, on a global basis. Many today would assert that, given the current geopolitical climate, the world's VUCA level has again spiked to higher than normal levels. People and corporations must increasingly adjust to unpredictable events. The hospitality sector is no exception. Read on...

Coming up in November 2019...

Architecture & Design: Biophilic Design

The hospitality industry is constantly evolving to meet and exceed guest expectations. As a result, hotels are always on the lookout for new ways to improve the guest experience, and architecture and design is an essential part of this equation. Bold design is often the most effective way to make an exceptional first impression - an impression guests use to distinguish between brands. One design trend that is being embraced worldwide has become known as "Biophilic Design." Biophilic design is based on the concept of biophilia, which is the theory that human beings have an innate tendency to seek out nature, natural elements, and natural forms. Biophilic design is more than hotels simply adding a surplus of plants; it involves incorporating specific design elements into a hotel in order to imbue it with a sense of wellness and well-being. Some of those elements include exposure to natural lighting; views of nature and rooms with a view; natural architectural patterns; salvaged or reclaimed woods of all types; reclaimed metals; sustainably sourced stone; living green walls and vertical gardens; and direct and indirect exposure to nature. Hotels that have incorporated biophilic design into their properties are reaping the benefits associated with this trend including reduced stress responses, better air quality, lower energy costs, and more positive guest reviews. Biophilic design has also been shown to improve guest moods and to satisfy consumer demand for environmental responsibility. Savvy hotel owners and managers are aware that nature-inspired elements enhance their guests' comfort and well-being, which is why this trend is becoming so prevalent. Biophilic design is just one topic in the fields of hotel architecture and design that will be examined in the November issue of the Hotel Business Review.