The ten-story Fairmont Washington, D.C. is nestled in the city’s fashionable west end, near picturesque Georgetown. Built in 1985, the stunning hotel is more than just an upscale destination for business travelers and sightseers; it’s one of the leaders in the multinational hotel chain’s extensive environmental management and waste diversion program.
National Geographic, Traveler has called Fairmont’s Green Partnership Program the “most comprehensive environmental program in the North American hotel industry.” The program has been implemented at Fairmont’s 42 hotels and resorts that operate in six countries; these include the grand old CP hotels that are familiar to Canadians such as the famous Banff Springs Hotel and Chateau Lake Louise in Alberta, and the Chteau Laurier in Ottawa.
A chain-wide employee survey identified 16 points to promote property-level improvements in the areas of waste management, energy conservation, water conservation and purchasing practices. Most of these points are voluntary and aren’t required by regulation. The hotels and resorts have moved to aggressively eliminate hazardous wastes and convert to environmentally-friendlier products such as unbleached craft and recycled paper. Aerosol products have been replaced with ozone-friendly alternatives.
When I visited the Fairmont Washington in November it had recently entered into an agreement to purchase 6 per cent of its annual electrical needs from the Mountaineer Wind Energy Centre in West Virginia. It became the first hotel in the mid-Atlantic region to receive the U.S. EPA’s Green Power Partnership designation. The energy program will prevent the release of approximately 828,000 pounds of carbon dioxide each year, the equivalent of removing 72 cars form the road or planting 112 acres of trees.
Chain-wide the 3Rs target is to reduce landfill waste by 5- per cent and paper use by 20 per cent, chain-wide. Where facilities exist, Fairmont annually diverts thousands of pounds of glass, aluminum, plastic, newsprint, cardboard and compost to recycling facilities. At the Fairmont Washington small blue recycling bins (nestled inside attractive wicker baskets) are being introduced in each room to facilitate guest recycling, just like at home.
The hotel has also donated more than 1,500 pounds of recycled bath amenities and bed linens to local non-profit organizations such as Keys for the Homeless and the Central Union Mission. Food and beverage outlets have committed to phasing out disposable items, and contracts have been negotiated to reduce or eliminate excess packaging….
Looking closely I noticed that even the fanciest lighting fixtures are equipped with energy-efficient fluorescent bulbs. Guestrooms have water-efficient shower heads and tap aerators. Standard temperatures have been set for all domestic water tanks. Toilets in guestrooms are being replaced that flush more than two gallons.
The Fairmont Washington replaced Styrofoam cups in the staff cafeteria with china, reducing the amount of non-biodegradable materials sent to landfill and saving the hotel $900 each year.
Guests can leave special room cards with housekeeping staff to indicate they choose to re-use towels and linens so as to cut down on water, energy and detergent consumption. The Fairmont Washington recently installed a $70,000 hydrocarbon-powered dry cleaning machine that has replaced the toxic chemical Perc with Rynex, and environmentally-friendly product that doesn’t produce toxic wastes or hazards.
Phase Two of the Green Partnership Program makes the organization continuously self-improving with the Trees Employee Environmental Program. The hotel chain has developed more than 200 possible environmental initiatives for staff to choose from, each of which is worth a symbolic “tree” in the system. Each property has a Green Committee that competes for environmental superiority and the title of “Environmental Hotel of the Year.” The ten committee members of the hotel that achieves the highest number of initiatives (i.e., that receives the greatest number of “trees”) receive an all expenses paid one-week trip to another hotel within the chain. It’s not unusual for the winning hotels to complete over 100 initiatives in a year, with the chain-wide total climbing over 1,000.
“Competition among the Green Committees of the hotels and resorts occurs at three different levels,” says Environmental Manager Lyle Thompson. “Therefore, staff aren’t limited to winning only by being the best in the whole hotel and resort chain; they can also win by being top among their peers at the level on which they compete.”
He agrees that other organizations in other industries could benefit from adopting Fairmont’s team-oriented multi-tier competition for environmental excellence, since it encourages ground-up enthusiasm as opposed to compliance with a top-down directive.
Guy Crittenden is editor of this magazine.