Not Easy Being Green
By Michael Adams
In the midst of so much talk about increasingly extravagant hotels and services, the question is begged more and more frequently, “What about green design. What’s being done about environmental issues in the hotel industry?” Truth is, not much. At a recent panel I attended, one designer said, “Among my colleagues, it’s important to think it’s important.” In other words, lots of lip service, little action. One architect, Kip Richardson of Ankrom Moisan Architects, relates of his experience with a panel of hoteliers who were grumbling about high energy costs cutting into their bottom lines. When he asked if energy efficient design was part of their future plans, he says he was met with bank stares and the response “no client demand.”
Another case in point: Our recent HD Awards for Creative Achievement had a category for Green Design. We had an abysmal response of two entries in the category, and neither was deemed exceptional by the judges. (They did choose another property, the Earth Spa in Hua Hin, Thailand, which was not entered in the Green category, for its sustainable excellence.)
So, sad news for the tree huggers? Not necessarily. Signs point to a greater awareness across the board. Our magazine holds an annual Green luncheon as part of our Las Vegas show, and this year attendance doubled. This year’s American Institute of Architects convention had a huge emphasis on Green design in its conference session, including a keynote by uber-conservationist Robert Kennedy Jr.
You’ve probably been to a hotel where they ask you to conserve energy by reusing towels and linens. Fair enough, and a good start, but as one writer put it, that’s especially risible in a place like Las Vegas, where waste and energy profligacy are of monumental proportions.
As Richardson points out, as revenue growth slows in the hotel industry (as it inevitably will), that bottom line will be increasingly scrutinized, and cost-savings measures that seem insignificant now when times are good may loom in importance. He points to some easy measures available now that can immediately affect profits: automated sensors that turn off lights and heat when guests leave the room; dual flush toilets; lighting retrofitted with energy efficient bulbs; energy misers on vending machines and appliances.
Despite a current administration that is virulently hostile to environmental concerns, the public mindset may be shifting. Richardson points to the banking community, whose members are more and more examining investment opportunities for their sustainability and social responsibility.
Naturally, some of the changes in hotels will come with a higher price tag for consumers. The real test of an attitudinal sea change will be if travelers are willing to pay more green for Green.