Green Hotels In Unlikely Places

Green Hotels In Unlikely Places

July 13, 2009

Greener hotels are popping up in some places you may least expect to find them. We aren’t talking about college towns or left-leaning cities  Some of these hotels are in some of the most conservative parts of the United States.

Just this week, a newly constructed Comfort Inn & Suites in Augusta, Georgia, opened as the first “green” hotel in that city. In June,Elliott Lodging bought a Hampton Inn in Springfield, Missouri, and converted the property into its first GreenStay Hotel & Suites.

I spoke with Lee Futter, general manager of the GreenStay and he said initial reactions have been very positive. Well-heeled guests have even inquired about franchising. Futter, formerly the Hampton Inn general manager and a Missouri State University hotel school graduate, says the hotel meets and exceeds the AH&LA minimum environmental guidelines.

One of their first initiatives was the installation of dual flush commodes in every guest bathroom.  Futter says they have several additional initiatives such as guestroom energy management systems and biodegradable breakfast tableware that they expect to implement soon.

The owner of the Augusta Comfort Suites on Gordon Highway is T.R. Reddy, an India-born hotel developer and electrical engineer. He told The Augusta Chronicle that  there are six rows of pipes 200 feet underneath the hotel that constitute the geothermal cooling system. One set of solar panels on the roof of the overhang provide some electrical power. The rooms have low-flow faucets and energy-saving light fixtures. The front desk can control the energy usage of each room, as well, in case guests leave on lights when not in the hotel room. There are infrared sensors to sense whether people are in the room, Reddy said.

Reddy started a wholesale power control equipment company in Augusta in 1985, Powerline Inc., which designed and installed the lighting a power controls for the Jacksonville professional football stadium and the General Motors’ Saturn manufacturing facility in Tennessee. “The solar panels create 40% of daily requirements,” Reddy said of his new hotel. “Eventually, we may be approaching 60% to 70% power supplied ourselves.”

Though the green features added 25% to the cost of the Augusta Comfort Suites, Reddy said he feels the expense will be paid back through savings – and tax credits – over the next five years.

Having a green hotel is also a selling point to entice visitors, Reddy said. “Statistics prove that at least 20 percent more people visit green hotels,” he said.

I find it encouraging that hotel developers and managers are continuing to choose a greener road to travel. Is it because of the economic conditions or in spite of them? Whatever the reason, it’s refreshing to see the commitment to a more sustainable lodging industry even in what may seem to be unlikely places.

Read more stories on green hotelkeeping.

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