WASHINGTON, D.C. — The American Hotel & Lodging Association (AH&LA) launched its green strategy at a recent board of directors meeting. The strategy focuses on minimum environmental guidelines culled from 88 overall guidelines targeting effective energy, water and waste management.
The guidelines will be continuously added and built upon, with the next set focusing on design and construction, materials and resources, chemicals and cleaning, and indoor air quality.
Each of the minimum guidelines includes case studies, business cases and resources for general managers to implement. In addition, the AH&LA board will discuss the program mechanics, including how to recognize hotels that successfully implement the minimum guidelines. The completed guidelines and supporting materials will be launched via the AH&LA website, www.ahla.com, by the end of this month.
In addition to extensively surveying members, the association’s overall green strategy was crafted largely by the AH&LA Green Task Force, an extension of the AH&LA Environmental & Engineering Council. It convened in August and is comprised of the environmental point persons for a dozen of the hotel companies as well as AH&LA’s green consultant, Pat Maher, formerly of Marriott International. The group created an environmental policy statement, recommended AH&LA track state and national legislation, and advocated the need for supporting educational materials.
With no third-party certification programs readily available or affordable, the Green Task Force recommended identifying the most important pillars — including energy, water and waste — and have hotels report on progress against the pillars in terms of benchmarks and baseline numbers, AH&LA says. The guidelines were created based on the criteria of existing state and national certifications.
“We’ve exhaustively researched this important topic to determine the best way the association can assist our members who want to create an environmentally friendly and sustainable hotel,” says Joseph McInerney, CHA, AH&LA president/chief executive officer. “With so many certifications already out there — many of which are through the property’s state and a necessity for government business — the biggest feedback we received was the need for guidance on how to green properties effectively in various areas.
“Not all hotels will be able to achieve these guidelines, but we want to make sure we set a bar and goals now so hoteliers receive direction for immediate action. These guidelines — which address back-of-the-house and interfacing with guests — will be continuously added to in our ongoing effort to provide green resources in a broad spectrum of areas.”
The AH&LA Educational Institute (EI) has integrated environmental information into its housekeeping operations textbook and Certified Hotel Administrator certification. EI’s High Performance Hospitality: Sustainable Hotel Case Studies is available both in print and on CD.
Other green environmental priorities include working with the U.S. Green Building Council via a Hospitality Advisory Group to create a LEED lodging sector standard for new and existing construction. That standard is expected to be complete by June, AH&LA says. The association is also working with two meeting planning organizations, including the Convention Industry Council, to create eco-savvy standards for green meetings that are ASTM-certified. The standards are scheduled for release in May.
AH&LA was also represented on the steering committee of the United Nations Foundation's Partnership for Global Sustainable Tourism Criteria program, which is adopting universal sustainable tourism principles.