Planning for Green Legislation: State-Level Mandates a Preview for Smart Hoteliers

By Jim Poad Director of Client Solutions, Advantage IQ | August 03, 2010

Government regulation of carbon emissions is slowly, but surely becoming a reality. Whether the federal government will demand a cap on greenhouse gas emissions, or require offsets and purchase of clean energy, is no longer an "if" but a "when." These changes are coming and promise to revolutionize the way America does business over the next few years.

The first businesses to feel the immediate effects of pending federal legislations will be the energy producers, and in turn, every energy consuming business. Regulations on carbon emissions production and requirements to be greener can be safely associated with higher costs and higher prices for end consumers. Companies who purchase energy to operate multiple sites, like big box retailers, restaurant chains, and hotel chains should take a close look at changes happening at the state level to be prepared for the day when their own states' energy producers are expected to meet similar guidelines, and they in turn see prices jump.

More than half of the continental United States is now either a member of, or observer of, a regional climate initiative, including the Western Climate Initiative, Midwestern Regional GHG Reduction Accord, or Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative. Many state governments have already passed legislation, targeting industry, to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The majority of noteworthy regulations set emissions standards for power plants-the biggest contributors of climate changing carbon emissions. Some states have set forth goals for statewide emissions reductions and enacted regulations on vehicular emissions and environmental impact of new construction. These states are taking legitimate action as a precursor to pending federal mandates.

Savvy business owners will pay attention to state-level legislation in place around the country. It's the perfect preview of what will likely come to their state, and in some instances even be required of them in coming years. California, Massachusetts, New Mexico, and Washington can all provide useful examples of state level initiative taken to address greenhouse gas emissions.

California

California, which is the second largest producer of greenhouse gases, behind only Texas, has taken serious action at the state level to get their emissions under control. The state has issued an Energy Action Plan (EAP), which states that "in meeting the state's energy needs, it would first invest in energy efficiency and demand-side resources, followed by renewable resources, and only then in clean conventional energy supply."

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Eco-Friendly Practices: Corporate Social Responsibility

The hotel industry has undertaken a long-term effort to build more responsible and socially conscious businesses. What began with small efforts to reduce waste - such as paperless checkouts and refillable soap dispensers - has evolved into an international movement toward implementing sustainable development practices. In addition to establishing themselves as good corporate citizens, adopting eco-friendly practices is sound business for hotels. According to a recent report from Deloitte, 95% of business travelers believe the hotel industry should be undertaking “green” initiatives, and Millennials are twice as likely to support brands with strong management of environmental and social issues. Given these conclusions, hotels are continuing to innovate in the areas of environmental sustainability. For example, one leading hotel chain has designed special elevators that collect kinetic energy from the moving lift and in the process, they have reduced their energy consumption by 50%  over conventional elevators. Also, they installed an advanced air conditioning system which employs a magnetic mechanical system that makes them more energy efficient. Other hotels are installing Intelligent Building Systems which monitor and control temperatures in rooms, common areas and swimming pools, as well as ventilation and cold water systems. Some hotels are installing Electric Vehicle charging stations, planting rooftop gardens, implementing stringent recycling programs, and insisting on the use of biodegradable materials. Another trend is the creation of Green Teams within a hotel's operation that are tasked to implement earth-friendly practices and manage budgets for green projects. Some hotels have even gone so far as to curtail or eliminate room service, believing that keeping the kitchen open 24/7 isn't terribly sustainable. The May issue of the Hotel Business Review will document what some hotels are doing to integrate sustainable practices into their operations and how they are benefiting from them.