Creating a Thread Between Team Members and Guests in our Green Efforts

By Rick Gabrielsen President, Kupuna Hospitality, LLC | September 11, 2011

Saving pennies in a jar, the sports memorabilia from our youth or that favorite piece of clothing has always been a staple of our culture. By placing as much thought into the past or future, a thread is built that keeps us all connected. Creating a thread of "green" between our guests and team members is the lifeline to success in building relationships.

While determining the focus of our sustainable efforts recently at the Homewood Suites by Hilton Oakland - Waterfront, I was providing a glorious overview of the fun and exciting activities we will all be joining in and as I looked around the table, I noticed many blank looks. So, I asked the team a few questions:

• How many of you think what I have just proposed will work?
• How many of you currently recycle paper, plastic or aluminum at their homes?
• Are there items you have saved from the past?
• What are you saving for in the future?
• Do you recycle batteries or light bulbs at home?
• Are there resources available for you to recycle easily?
• If the program was at no cost to you, would you consider recycling?
• Do you use recycle bags at the grocery store or paper or plastic bags?
• Do you drink bottle water or tap water?
• Have you seen items that are in a landfill? Where does it all go?

Not surprising the many responses ranged from. "It is too difficult to separate the trash", "We do not have the time", "The guests don't care", "Guests expect turndown with the lights turned on", "Why close the drapes on the sunny side, it is too dark", "Can the recycling bins be different colors", "Our carts are to small", " I have always thrown away batteries", etc. The enlightened side of the comments were: "My wedding dress", "Pictures of my family", "I save coins, because I do not think they will be used in the future", "I want to buy a new car", "I want to buy a house", "I want to go back to school to get a degree and learn more", "I have wondered where my old car parts and computers go when trashed?"

As I listened to the uproar of a lion, I decided I would become the lamb and listen. During the time of listening and note taking, it was evident that we needed to speak with guests to see their view of sustainability, also. Keeping an open mind to the change in the environment, guests were provided the same question. It was not surprising that all of the guests were accommodating in our efforts to improve our ""Green" hotel. Their only comment was, "if we are instructed and see it followed through, we all will follow the hotel team." For example, leaving the towels on the rack or the card on the bed, we all want to conserve the elements, but be consistent. Ok, so if the guest wants us to be consistent and the team members wants the same, we need to complete small measures for each to develop a conversation. This is when we set forth 5 days when the team members and guests can bring in to the General Manager their old batteries and we will then provide them with new ones. In a short span of time we received 448 batteries. The next thread was to have the team members and guests bring to us old light bulbs that would be changed out to energy saving bulbs from incandescent ones. This time we purchased 400, one hundred watt replacement bulbs using only 23 watts, and in two days have provided 167 bulbs to team members and guests. As I noticed, each person now understood the impact on our environment because they were tied together with similar wants and needs. Quickly it became a culture of I can, because a thread was sewn between the provider and the processor.

The "green thread" is what we now refer to as our individual efforts bound together to create a visible and sustainable culture. "Our efforts combined with the team at EcoGreenHotel, Waste Management and our terrific owners at Oakland Hospitality have led the way to our recent recognition as an EnergyStar certified hotel", says Jason Olivares, who has managed the hotel over the past three years. The opportunities for visibility, training and understanding of "creating a Green thread" is available to any individual or group through researching websites, speaking with city officials, networking with other businesses and becoming an advocate for a sustainable environment .

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