On a recent trip, I had the pleasure of staying in a LEED gold certified hotel. This property was not only a fine hotel, but it actually practices the concepts of sustainability as a part of its business model.
The hotel, an Element (part of the Westin chain) is not only a green hotel, it is a nice hotel. In fact, the green aspects are not really evident to those who are not initiated into the world of LEED.
During an evening reception I had the chance to speak with another guest. Our conversation turned to the hotel and when I mentioned its certified status, his question as to what that meant was enlightening. He had no idea that this was a “green” hotel. What he did know was that it was very comfortable, had a nice staff and was a nice place to stay.
After I explained some of the attributes of the hotel such as energy efficiency, zero VOC paint use and the nature of LEED as a building practice, he was more impressed by the hotel. I also noted that the hotel composted the leftover food from its complimentary breakfast in an onsite composter.
What I found most interesting in this exchange was the simple fact that the hotel seemed to accomplish two things at the same time. It was a good hotel by the standards that a guest would use to measure its value and at the same time it simply used sustainable practices as a part of its daily rhythm. In other words, the sustainability aspects were simply a part of its normal function.
And that is the point. Sustainability isn’t something that should be deemed extraordinary. It should simply become a part of the daily routine. Kudos to the Element for accomplishing this task.
I do have two minor suggestions to improve the Element model.
First, work a bit harder at telling people about your efforts at sustainability through subtle education within the hotel. Discrete signage about such things as energy saving, water conservation and the like will help people feel even better about their choice to stay at the hotel.
Secondly, get your parent hotel owner, Westin, to incorporate this concept across the entire brand. Why limit suitability to one brand?