Hotels seeing more green

The Waterford Hotel Group's gone green.

And it's not alone. Plenty of hotels, motels and bed-and-breakfasts across Connecticut now offer "green lodging" - certified, in fact, by the state's Department of Environmental Protection and Commission on Culture & Tourism.

The program entitles these lodgings to be green certified through an extensive process that includes energy savings, water conservation, "green" cleaning and other environmentally friendly practices.

Other hotels around our region that are sporting a decidedly greener disposition these days include the large and the small, from the Mohegan Sun's hotel tower and the Saybrook Point Inn and Spa to the Inn at Lower Farm bed-and-breakfast in North Stonington and Abbey's Lantern Hill Inn in Ledyard.

The state agencies say that 30 hotels, motels and bed-and-breakfasts participate in the green lodging program, which began in May 2009 after hotel owners asked the DEP and state legislators to offer such an environmentally friendly program. Twenty-six other states now have such a program, and Connecticut's is fashioned after the "green lodging" program launched in Maine.

State officials say that much of the push for a more "greener" stay these days comes from consumers, who recognize that hotels can be big energy users - there's the electricity to power the heating and ventilation and lights and electronics, water to clean towels and sheets, and chemicals to keep everything looking, and smelling, fresh.

Going green can be a good marketing tool, showing that the hotel, or motel or bed-and-breakfast recognizes the importance to the environment when it uses less power, less water and more environmentally friendly cleaning supplies.

All 14 of the Waterford Hotel Group's hotels in Connecticut are now "Connecticut Green Lodging" certified. It's a broad array of hotels, from the high-rise Marriott Hartford Downtown adjacent to the Connecticut Convention Center to the Sheraton Hotel at Bradley Airport, the Comfort Inn in Mystic and the Courtyard by Marriott in Norwich.

Farouk Rajab, who coordinated the green campaign for the Waterford Hotel Group, admits it was a long process, lasting some 18 months. But he says the task was made easier by many green initiatives that were already in place at the various Waterford Hotel Group properties. The Mystic Marriott, for instance, has been a green lodging since 2009.

Rajab says while the actual cost savings are hard to measure from the green lodging initiatives, the impact on the environment is "really the more important point."

The hotelier says some of the measures are more noticeable than others. Rooms with "smart" devices actually sense when a person enters the room, thereby cooling the temperature or raising the temperature, depending on the season. Yet when that room is empty, the devices can save on energy costs. Multiply that by the numbers of rooms in its hotels across the state of Connecticut and you can see substantial savings for the Waterford Hotel Group.

Rajab says guests can request to keep their towels for longer than a day. Hotels routinely wash linens and towels daily, but that's not an environmentally friendly practice, so if the guest is remaining in the room for more than a day and the towels and linens are holding up fine, then why not save on the electricity, the water and detergents. "At home, not everyone washes their towels every day," he says, adding that if guests prefer the daily service, the hotel will gladly accommodate the request. He says that all Waterford Hotel Group properties also use greener chemicals to clean rooms, do laundry and other tasks.

Rajab gives his associates at the Waterford Hotel Group plenty of credit when it comes to environmental initiatives. He says many of the suggestions for making the hotels "greener" start with the staff. "They love the concept," he says.

At the Mystic Marriott, where Rajab is the new general manager, he says a "green committee" is associates only - no management. "They're the ones who are embracing this. They come to us with ideas all the time. They want us to do these (green) initiatives, and we do."

Anthony Cronin is The Day's business editor.

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