Saturday, December 4, 2010

20 hotels in Arizona get 'green' distinction

Twenty Arizona hotels have earned a "green" designation from the state under a program rolled out in early January that awards points for meeting environmental criteria.

Created by the Arizona Hotel & Lodging Association and two state agencies, the Office of Tourism and the Department of Environmental Quality, the Green Hotel program considers various eco-friendly categories to rate hotels that submit applications.

Ten of the 20 hotels already certified are in the Valley.

Five more lodgings are close to certification.

The categories include areas such as kitchen, housekeeping and energy, with points given for various efforts.

For example, in the kitchen, a hotel can be rewarded for use of local foods, relationships with food-related charities and establishing a composting system. In housekeeping, points are awarded for use of environmentally friendly cleaning products. Under energy, hotels can score points based on the use of solar energy and high-efficiency appliances.

"We looked at other programs, and we adopted the best practices," said Debbie Johnson, president of the hotel association, which counts more than 250 lodgings as members.

She said the group wanted to have a system that was tangible and easy to measure. Its checklist offers more than 100 steps in 15 categories that properties can take to earn points, with 150 points qualifying for green certification.

Certification is good for two years, and to remain certified, properties must increase their efforts.

Sherry Henry, director of the Arizona Office of Tourism, said the program was one of the best in the country.

Benjamin Grumbles, director of the Department of Environmental Quality, said the Green Hotel program represented a comprehensive commitment to saving energy and water.

"This is above and beyond what is required by law or government," he said. "We get real progress when people and businesses do more than they are required to do."

Still, the program has shortcomings. It does not address transportation to and from properties, it appears to offer more opportunities for larger hotels to score well and it is self-scored. Independent checks of properties are expected as the program develops.

Stephanie Dowling, who represents one of the top-scoring hotels so far, the Westin Kierland, said that hotels could save money by following sound environmental practices without compromising the visitor experience.

by Michael Clancy The Arizona Republic Dec. 3, 2010 02:49 PM

20 hotels in Arizona get 'green' distinction

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