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Hotels See the Light, Conserve Resources

June 25, 1992|RICHARD KAHLENBERG | Richard Kahlenberg is a writer who has been involved with environmental issues for 20 years.

North County hotels and motels are going "green." They are doing things such as switching to energy-efficient lighting, recycling cardboard and piping in reclaimed water for landscaping.

In addition to the benefits of demonstrating good corporate citizenship, the hospitality industry has recognized that there is money to be saved in conserving energy, water and other resources.

Bruce Meyer, director of engineering for La Costa Resort and Spa, wasn't shy about the economic benefits of environmentalism. "We save a tremendous amount of water and expense by using reclaimed water piped in by the water district," said Meyer, whose operation includes maintaining a golf course and extensive grounds. La Costa isn't alone in recognizing the value of using water a second time--the Rancho Bernardo Inn also uses reclaimed water to keep its greens green.

There is also a payoff in energy bills when hotels go green. SDG&E helps to retrofit places like La Costa via rebates and grants. Low-energy bulbs, timers on pumps and lights, and efficient heating and cooling equipment have been installed. "It's an extreme cost in the initial system, but it saves money in the long run--with a payoff down the road 36 months or five years," Meyer said.

Besides the savings in actual energy use, when big users reduce their consumption, the pressure to build new generating facilities that all consumers would pay for is reduced.

Over at the Del Mar Hilton, manager Clifton Clark noted a "dramatic difference" when he checked out his waste disposal bills before and after the facility began recycling.

The 3-year-old building was engineered from the start to be energy-efficient--even down to having photocells to switch on and off the exterior lights only when needed. But they didn't think of everything back in 1989. Clark has just ordered installation of a baler for cardboard boxes. "You can make pretty good money on baled cardboard," he said.

The hospitality industry is a natural source of core, reusable materials.

At La Costa, chief steward J. D. Cannon organized the 1,200 employees to recycle paper, glass and cans. This cut garbage hauling bills and North County landfill crowding. The money saved helped soften the impact of recent staff cuts--some people were reassigned to devote time to the new, economically attractive endeavor of recycling.

The recycling group, I Love a Clean San Diego, recently held a seminar for local hoteliers and restaurateurs. Later this summer, San Diego County's Department of Public Works plans to sponsor a seminar geared to the industry. According to Jeff Lindenthal, one of their recycling specialists, the tentative date is Aug. 14 at a site with an exemplary recycling program.

Industrywide, the hotel and motel business is getting into conservation of energy and water. For ten years now, the American Hotel and Motel Assn. has been scouting its membership annually for hoteliers worthy of the annual Environmental Quality Achievement Award.

This fall San Diego will be the site of the annual California Hotel and Motel Assn. convention. A lot of the exhibition booths and seminars there will be devoted to environmental matters--and the thrifty tips that go with serious environmentalism.

The association itself is about to publish a comprehensive manual called "Reducing Water Consumption" for its members. Jim Abrams, executive vice president, said there are all kinds of side benefits to water conservation. "Think of the heating energy that's saved with low-water shower heads. And it cuts the amount going into the sewers," he said.

North County hotels, motels and restaurants interested in recycling information specifically related to their business should call Jeff Lindenthal, San Diego County recycling specialist, at 974-2642 about workshops and consultations. Advice on reducing water consumption is available from the California Hotel and Motel Assn. at 1-800-678-2462.

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