Hotels Go Green

September 24th, 2010 by Andrea Bennett

Many off-site meetings are joining the trend toward sustainability.

Brought to you by Liberty Mutual's
The Responsibility Project

Want to demonstrate your prosperity to clients and employees? For years, one answer was the lavish hotel meeting. Air conditioning cranked up to approximate an Arctic breeze, designer bottled water and customized baubles at every place setting -- these were the trappings of corporate success.

But these days many people don’t want to lug Santa-sized bags of paraphernalia home from the annual meeting; they’d rather know that companies are being more responsible in delivering their message. And hotels are catching on to how they can both capture the valuable dollars from off-site meetings while helping companies operate a more streamlined conference.

Last summer, Hyatt Hotels & Resorts announced a new program called “Meet and Be Green” to help corporations mitigate the effects of off-sites on the environment. Through March 2011, Hyatt will give clients a three-percent discount if they commit to ten steps to reduce waste and energy; among others, these include recycling during the meeting, printing materials locally, minimizing shipping and eliminating disposable water bottles. InterContinental Hotels Group has also worked toward a greener future for meetings. In 2008, it started the Innovation Hotel site to detail the sustainable measures already underway in its hotel locations worldwide; it also provides a forum for collecting ideas for future solutions.

As it turns out, being green is good for business. Travelocity’s rating system lets consumers award smiley faces to hotels, and users have consistently rated green hotels higher than non-green hotels; 83 percent of non-green hotels received three smileys or more, while 94 percent of green hotels received the higher ratings. You can find 2,000 such hotels in Travelocity’s Green Hotel Directory.

For those looking for potential locations for their next off-site, there are many additional green-meeting resources online. The U.S.-based EPA program Energy Star rates the energy efficiency of appliances used in businesses, and more than 400 hotels participate in the United States. Earth Check (the organization formerly known as Green Globe) certifies properties in more than 80 countries along stringent guidelines. And a growing number of hotels are now LEED-certified, a program created by the U.S. Green Building Council to certify that buildings meet standards of energy efficiency, conservation and community sensitivity. But some of the best tips for hosting a green meeting can be found at the Green Meeting Industry Council’s website, including surprising information about the cost savings of such simple green moves as putting water in pitchers, providing group transportation and even ditching the individual condiment packets at lunch.

You may not get a t-shirt at this year’s off-site, memorializing a day spent doing trust exercises with your colleagues, but would you have worn it anyway? Share with us your best tips for cutting out meeting waste.