How Sustainability Can Contribute to Your Community's Economic Vitality
By Arthur Weissman President and CEO, Green Seal, Inc. | October 28, 2008
Property's Footprint, Particularly Relating to Worker Health
Every individual, institution, and activity has what is called an environmental footprint - essentially its impact on the environment through resource use, pollution, and waste. The footprint is sometimes literally calculated in terms of a land area (the portion of the Earth's surface required to support the entity), but we will just use it more generally here.
While lodging properties do not typically have heavy footprints in regard to their effect on the immediate local area, compared to smokestack industries, for example, they nonetheless can have significant and not necessarily positive local impacts. Examples include solid and potentially hazardous waste emanating from the property; water use in more arid locales and energy use where that is constrained (such as at peak use times); use of toxic substances (cleaners, paints, pesticides) and their effect on local air and water quality. These are all potential drains on the local economy because they erode the resource base and may cause additional public or private expenditures. For example, high water use in rooms and landscapes may require restrictions on other businesses. Conversely, a more sustainable environmental footprint will conserve the value of local resources and maintain their health for other users and for the future.
A particular area of the footprint that quickly gets disseminated in the community is the effect on the property's own workers. If the working environment is maintained in a healthful state, workers maintain their own health and productivity and contribute in their homes and other community activities fully. If the property uses products that may compromise worker health - such as cleaning chemicals that cause asthma or other respiratory infections, or pesticides that may have even longer-term effects - workers may not only find their own health and productivity diminished but also potentially bring back health problems that affect their families and neighbors.
Property as Community Leader and Model
Hotel properties can be pillars of the community, even in this age of placeless brand names and replicated franchises. This may be more obvious and true in the case of major properties particularly at the upper end of the scale, for they often play the role of centers for meetings, conferences, political events, and even just meals. But more modest properties may also contribute vitally as centers in their own communities and neighborhoods.