By: Robert Haynes-Peterson | HalogenLife | June 8, 2009
Last week’s bankruptcy agreement between General Motors and the U.S. Government placed an emphasis on increasing the company’s “investment and leadership in fuel economy and advanced propulsion technologies” reminding us once again of the power of the Green Energy movement in today’s world. Despite the economy (or perhaps because of it), our awareness of, and interest in, the need for responsible living continues to grow. After just a few years green initiatives, resorts, spas and golf courses have all found ways to improve energy efficiency, reduce fossil fuel consumption and waste, and promote environmental awareness while still pampering us.
But is going green actually influencing guests and where they stay? And are hotels doing more than simply washing sheets every other day and recycling cans (after all, last year’s rage at some new tropical resorts was heated sidewalks)? Apparently, in both cases, the answer is yes.
Pat Ware, director of engineering for the two Four Seasons resorts on Lanai, Hawaii, says the resorts are benefiting from dual initiatives: a chain-wide push for more efficient energy use and waste management (including techniques like the use of 100% gray water for irrigation on and off the golf course, energy efficient lighting and non-toxic pest control), and a separate goal from the island of Lanai to increase energy independence and develop clean energy sources.
Last December, Lanai, in partnership with Castle & Cooke unveiled the La Ola Solar Farm, one of the largest energy farms of its kind, and the Four Seasons has been intrinsically involved. “Along with the solar power, there is a cogeneration plant operated by Maui electric, and we’re using the waste heat, to help reduce fossil fuel use and increase the reliability of the island grid system,” says Ware.
Not only are these measures reducing energy waste and fossil fuel dependence, Michelle Edwards, a spokesperson for the Four Seasons Lanai resorts (Manele Bay and the Lodge at Koele) insists visitors are responding positively to the green initiatives, saying she’s received calls from potential guests specifically asking about the resorts’ green initiatives.
An informal survey among a group of luxury hospitality professionals at social network LinkedIn.com seems to support Edwards’ assertions that guests care about the “green-ness” of their swanky retreats (first names only were requested). Though some dissented (“No, it is not critical,” wrote Tom. “Nor will it be once we move on to ‘Global Cooling’”), many canvassed felt that concerted efforts at both awareness and efficient energy consumption were not just good, they also had a positive effect on a resort’s attendance.“I think there is a growing customer demand for luxury green hotels,” wrote Cynthia. “This niche market is also being filled by smaller boutique resorts, such as Six Senses, [a small chain of resorts dedicated to environmental sensitivity].” Meanwhile, another Hawaii hotel, the Mauna Lani Bay on the Big Island, was recently named one of the most eco-friendly hotels on the planet.
Moving forward, big issues like water consumption have to be tackled (one resort on the Big Island of Hawaii told me they went through a million gallons of water per day just for the golf courses), but Ware is excited for the future. “In the past two years, we’ve shown a 15-percent reduction in energy use. A lot of that has come from initiatives to fine-tune operations and using programs like Automatic Control Initiatives,” says Ware. “This is the direction all large buildings—not just resorts—need to move in.”
Image: Four Seasons Lodge at Koele, Lanai, Hawaii. Photo by Peter Vitale