Eco-Friendly Systems in the Hospitality Industry - Steve Farzam

Eco-Friendly Systems in the Hospitality Industry

Interviewer:  Hi Steve! How are you doing today?

Steve Farzam: Hey, good morning! How are you?

Interviewer: I’m doing well, thank you.

Steve Farzam: Great.

Interviewer: So today we’re going to talk about eco-friendly systems in the hospitality industry. Can you give me a little bit of background on what your take is on eco-friendly hospitality?

Steve Farzam: Sure. Eco-friendly hospitality, great question, is a newer growing trend that we have in the hotel industry. It essentially establishes a bar for a more responsible carbon footprint that we all leave behind. Particularly, raising awareness amongst not only hotel staff, but our guests that frequent our properties to really give them the ability to be mindful of their effect on our environment and how it affects our community and their communities, and give them an opportunity to make a small difference, which everybody getting together and making a difference really has a bigger change for the whole.

Interviewer: Wow that sounds awesome! So what aspects of eco-friendly systems are incorporated at the Shore Hotel?

Steve Farzam: Great question. Shore Hotel is one of the newest hotels in Santa Monica and we have really set the benchmark with eco-friendly systems. Top-down, from the very beginning of the inception of the design build where we sourced most materials within five hundred miles at the hotel, all the demolition that occurred with the properties before that were there, we recycled 89 percent of the materials to proper landfills with the remaining parts that could not be recycled.

Steve Farzam: The hotel itself that is there now, we have approximately 164 guest rooms and we are a four-star hotel. What makes the Shore Hotel particularly eco-friendly is you walk into a guest room and from the flooring that is made of recycled content, to the lights in the room that are the most efficient LED light-emitting diodes, up to the design of the windows in the rooms. We essentially have the windows facing towards the horizon, which would allow for the most natural light to permeate the room, in other words, allowing the guests to use less lights in the room. Just a couple examples. I mean, I could go on and on. On the roof we have a recycled material that’s a polymer-like plastic, which is made of recycled material and has a 50-year life on it and it’s made of white plastic. Essentially what this does is it bounces off the heat rays and prevents heat islands from developing on the roof, which in essence, cools the building down, so it’s less air conditioning needed in the guest rooms.

Steve Farzam: So we did a bunch of things. One of the things that I’m particularly proud of – we were the first hotel in the entire United States that put our foot on the branch, and we were a little scared about it but you know, no risk taken, nothing ventured. What we did is, we partnered up with Southern California Edison, which is our power company, and we instituted a one-time pilot program – which has now grown exponentially – and is called the Demand Response Program. This Demand Response Program essentially does the following: the power company is able to look at the forecast and the days to come and determine what days going to be really hot. And we know in Southern California what’s hot to us; people tend to turn on their air conditioners on full blast and run their washing machines through the day and really drain the grid. If you recall back in the days, we had brownouts and blackouts, and all kinds of other horrific things that happened with our grid system that really takes out tens of thousands of homes and businesses, and really affects the critical infrastructure in our communities.

Steve Farzam: So what the Demand Response Program did and does is, on those days where there’s a critical peak need, without any human intervention, the hotel receives an automated response and we are able to shed our load by nearly 60 percent.

Interviewer: Wow.

Steve Farzam: In other words, the lights automatically dim down. The elevators only work upon you hitting the button, they don’t swirl around. The air conditioners all reset our tillers to a set temperature. It’s more eco-friendly and our guests really don’t even notice the difference. The parking garage changes its sensitivity levels for that few hours and it really makes a difference and it’s been a blast. It’s been a great partnership and done so well.

Interviewer: Yeah, that’s awesome! I mean it sounds really impressive and you have a lot of really great energy-efficient systems within the Shore Hotel so that’s awesome.

Steve Farzam: Yeah, it’s really been great and we have such an amazing staff. I could go on and on with their desire to want to wear recycled uniforms, to even incentivizing our hotel staff to take public transportation. We pay 100 percent of their public transportation as opposed to letting them park at the hotel for free, just so we can send a message that public transportation is better for less traffic on the roads. It’s better on so many levels; the smog, the carbon footprint. It’s a winner all the way around and the staff love it too.

Interviewer: That’s incredible. You also spoke about cogeneration in one of your recent blog posts. Can you expand a little bit on that topic?

Steve Farzam: Absolutely. Cogeneration, or also known as co-gen, is just such a fascinating system that it really caught my eye the first time I heard about it and I actually met with a NASA engineer who, over coffee, gave me the breakdown of how the system works. I think it’s under-utilized and not a lot of people know about it, and I really see it coming to the residential side of homes maybe in the next 10 to 15 years. But essentially, co-gen, co-generation, you have two forms of generation and what it is is, it’s a refrigerator-like size machine, and most people know about a generator in their home. When the power cuts us off, what happens? The generator comes on and it usually runs on diesel, which is not a very sustainable fuel option.

Interviewer: No, not at all.

Steve Farzam: Yeah, and it just creates power, which works for hospitals and businesses that need that critical infrastructure, like fire departments and police departments and stuff like that, but what co-generation does, it essentially is the same thing. It generates power, but it works with natural gas, which is a much eco-friendlier fuel and it’s abundantly available in California. What’s really neat about this is the natural gas comes into this unit, it creates 100 percent smog-free electricity, and the beauty about it is the off, if you want to call it, the heat that’s offset from the generator, is then used to heat up the water. So you get double bang for your buck. You’re getting electricity and the heat that comes off of the generator, which is a substantial amount of heat, we use to heat pools, to heat water in the guest rooms, and it is just the newer generation of the old school solar panel that people would use the heat up their water for their pools. It is very efficient, it’s very resourceful, and it’s just an amazing tool and it’s just a remarkable piece of machinery and technology.

Interviewer: I I mean yeah it definitely sounds like that. Thank you very much for the background.

Steve Farzam: Sure, sure thing.

Interviewer: Awesome. On a more basic level, in what ways, in your opinion, can hotel guests contribute to a cleaner environment?

Steve Farzam: That’s a great question, and this is something that we really value at Shore Hotel and our sister properties. Being a leader in the green movement, I particularly pride myself and my staff, which is really the “boots on the ground” that really helped the guests be educated. So we have several placards throughout the hotel that help the guests understand the initiatives that we have taken, just a few that I have explained to you today, and how their involvement with staying at the hotel essentially contributes to a cleaner environment. And how when they walk by the planters, for example, and they see a sign that says “this is a hybrid irrigation system” and “these are drought-friendly plants” they are able to communicate that, take a picture of it, share it on social media – those types of things. Another thing that we do that really creates some buzz amongst the guests and it’s something that I came up with when the hotel opened up. I remember asking a roundtable that we do with our staff early on, “How can we help motivate the guests to understand our mission with eco-friendliness and reducing our carbon footprint?” And a light bulb went off. We said “Hey, for every guest that stays at the hotel that chooses not to have their rooms serviced, let’s say you’re staying for three nights and you only want your room serviced for one night, or you don’t want your room serviced for any of the nights that you’re there because most people come, they’ll use a towel maybe and make their beds. The traditional hotel put those little flimsy placards up that say, “We’re trying to save tons of gallons of water.” Which is an amazing, great initiative. So throw your dirty towels on the floor and the clean ones, leave them up. This is good. It’s a self-serving initiative for the hotel because of course, they save water, they save electricity, and a bunch of other good things. Which is not a bad thing, but we took it a step further. And the step further is, we tell the guests for every day that you choose to not have room service, we will give you ten dollars. The ten dollars is a small token and essentially what that small token does is it allows the guests to understand that. And we explain this to them when they are checking in, that if they opt not to use our housekeeping services it essentially allows for less chemicals to be used in the guests rooms, less towels to be washed, which is less water, less electricity. The vacuum cleaner that comes into the room is not being activated, sheets aren’t being washed. I mean, the list goes on. Of course, if the guest calls and says they have a special request and they need some towels or shampoo and whatnot, we’ll get it up there in a jiffy. But in terms of really turning the whole room around and cleaning it out when most guests probably don’t even want it, we decided to incentivize them, and you know educating the guests. We tell the guests “Hey, you want to go to the Santa Monica Pier? Make sure you take a ride on the Ferris wheel. It’s 100 percent solar powered.”

Interviewer: Oh nice!

Steve Farzam: Yeah, or providing them bicycles for their family to take a ride instead of doing a rideshare or renting a car, those kinds of options. We also offer a fleet of eco-friendly vehicles and we have also a charging station at the hotel. We were the first hotel in California to have a level two fast charge. It was a grant that I worked on with Nissan with their lease and also with the department of transportation. We educate the guests on those types of initiatives. We have two trash cans in every hotel room. One is dedicated for recycling, the other one is for regular trash. So, every step of the way, we are mindful about our involvement with the environment and basic ways that we can help the environment by even simply asking a guest upon checkout, do they want a printed receipt or would they like one emailed to them? And if they wanted a printed one, no problem. Guess what? It’s coming out on 100 percent recycled paper.

Interviewer: Very cool!

Steve Farzam: Yeah, it’s really cool. And those are just a couple things. And the last thing I will say is this: our hotel is open to the public, guests, but other hotels alike. We invite other hotels that are either in their grand opening phase or their pre-grand opening phase to come out. What we do is not a secret and we don’t see other hotels as a competition. We see them other entrepreneurs trying to do well and we’re all providing a service, and if we can all provide a better service, so be it. Come check out what we’re doing at the Shore Hotel. Our door is open and we love to share what we’re doing if we can make your property a better place.

Interviewer: That sounds incredible. You’ve definitely made some very great strides incorporating eco-friendly systems within the Shore Hotel and contributing to the hospitality industry in general. So thank you so much for taking time out today and sharing this information with me.

Steve Farzam: Sure, thank you!

Interviewer: Yeah of course! Have a great day.

Steve Farzam: You too, have a wonderful day.

Interviewer: Thank you so much.

 

How Millennials are Impacting the Hospitality Industry - Steve Farzam

How Millennials are Impacting the Hospitality Industry

Millennials, those born between 1980 and 2000, are currently the fastest growing customers in the hotel industry and by 2025, they are expected to make up 50% of all travelers. With this generation comes the need for a tech-savvy, transparent environment, and the desire for connection. They have already begun to have an impact on travel and the hotel industry, in particular. They are looking for a unique experience that simultaneously meets their expectations. That being said, we can expect to see changes in the hospitality industry that appeal to this influential generation.

Technology

Millennials grew up with technology, so it isn’t too surprising that the desire for a technology-driven travel experience is a must. Millennials are very likely to post the overall experience of their stay on platforms such as Facebook, Yelp, Twitter, and more. The convenience and seamless process of checking in and out on their mobile device is very enticing to millennials. The same goes for free WiFi – it’s practically expected for a hotel to offer a strong internet connection.

Personalization

In conjunction with technology, the notion of personalization for their stay is particularly enticing to millennials. Artificial intelligence is an ever-growing sector of technology, and hotels that provide smart rooms and AI personal assistants attract these travelers. Additionally, having the ability to personalize their rooms online so that everything is how they would like it when they arrive at check-in, will play a large role in the adaption of hotels moving forward.

Green Living

Millennials are also a generation that focuses on the environment and they will make their decision on which hotel to stay at depending on whether or not the hotel implements sustainable, eco-friendly practices. These travelers want to supply business to those that coincide with their own values. Some specifications that may contribute to their final decision of stay are sustainability programs for energy, water, and other utilities (like cogeneration), efficient waste management, and eco-building certifications.

Experiences

Maybe it is because they are so interconnected through technology, millennials are actively seeking meaningful, genuine experience when they travel. No longer content to spend the entire vacation laying by the pool, this generation is more likely to leave the hotel to interact with the local culture. Hotels that provide information to millennials regarding local nightlife, events, and more, are enticing to these travelers.

Why cogeneration is an ideal fit for the hospitality industry - Steve Farzam

Why Cogeneration is an Ideal Fit for the Hospitality Industry

Cogeneration is also known as Combined Heat and Power, or CHP, and is a highly-efficient grouping of technologies that uses fossil or renewable fuels to supply energy locally. There is a growing awareness that the sustainability of CHP is an ideal fit for the hospitality industry.

Energy efficiency is a top priority in the hospitality industry, seeing as it ranks in the top five for carbon emissions. The hospitality industry spends almost $4 billion a year on energy. Due to the low cost of natural gas and the steadily-increasing cost of electricity, CHP and hotels are a match made in heaven. Since hotels have a high demand for energy and CHP carries the ability to efficiently use heat generated from these systems, the combination makes sense.

CHP provides hotels with a reliable source of energy 24/7, ensuring guests are comfortable and safe. CHP does this by producing simultaneous heat and power all day, every day. CHP can easily integrate into existing heating and electrical systems, and can be designed to operate and continue to provide power should there be a utility outage.

While CHP increases efficiency and reliability, it also improves environmental performance. The power and heat produced by CHP on-site offsets the purchase of electricity and fuel for boilers. Those same reductions reduce the environmental impact of hotels by reducing air pollution via reduced fuel consumption.

Potential customers have also increased their awareness of their green credentials. Evidence has been growing that travelers are choosing their hotel accommodations based on the green credentials they are being offered by the hotel to host them. Guests look for hotels that are green, convenient, and economical. With CHP, hotels are able to reduce their carbon footprint, drastically reduce their energy costs, and increase sustainability, while simultaneously enticing prospective green-guests to stay at their hotel.

CHP technologies have also become more reliable, remaining fairly inexpensive and generating efficiency. The technologies are flexible and offer a wide range of sizing options based on the needs of the hotel. CHP is typically designed to match the thermal demand of the hotel and will usually provide 50 to 70 percent of the electricity needs of the facility.

There are at least 16 hotels in the United States that are already using CHP systems to meet their energy needs. Many of those systems were installed in the 1980s and are continuing to operate efficiently and reliably, atoning to their long-term benefits.

Steve Farzam

How Hotels Are Embracing Sustainability

As concerns about climate change continue to increase, more and more corporations worldwide are attempting to lessen their carbon footprints by promoting sustainability and minimizing waste. This has given rise to the concept of the “green meeting,” or “green event,” defined by the Convention Industry Council (CIC) as an event that incorporates environmental concerns into every aspect, so as to make it more eco-friendly.

As such, it’s important for event planners and hosts alike to incorporate these practices into their own businesses, to make their services more appealing to prospective customers. At the Shore Hotel, we’re proud to embrace our responsibility to the environment, and we’ve already taken a number of steps to help reduce our carbon footprint and act more sustainably. Here are some examples of how the sustainability trend is re-shaping the hotel industry!

Water and Energy Conservation

A good first step toward creating less water waste is the linen reuse program (those tags on the bathroom door that remind guests to hang towels for reuse) that is now an industry standard. A growing number of hotels have also switched to more efficient lighting and heating systems and installed low-flow bathroom fixtures to further decrease water and energy waste.

Recycling Efforts

Guests have long been encouraged to recycle beverage containers, but the movement has been taken several steps further with the reduction of disposable items, such as paper and plastic cups, coffee filters, and the like. Some hotels have even entered into composting programs to help eliminate food waste. In 2012, one hotel cut its diversion rate—the percentage of material diverted from landfill—from 15 to 90 percent with the aid of such a program, making it a “zero waste” facility.

Room Keys

The standard PVC keys—which utilize a highly toxic manufacturing process—are today often made out of more eco-friendly materials like paper, bioplastic, and even wood.

Natural Cleaning Products

By choosing more eco-friendly products—particularly ones that also cut back on the amount of packaging used—hotel chains can make drastic cuts to the environmental hazards caused by the ones containing toxic ingredients. This also decreases the risk to employee health.

Spas and Dining

Hotel restaurants that offer fresh, organic produce and GMO-free meat and dairy products will appeal to a growing number of health-conscious diners. Similarly, the use of natural products in spa treatments will help to strengthen the facility’s aura of well-being.