Comfortable temperate days, clear sunny skies, luxurious beaches, and a front row seat to the Pacific Ocean. That certainly sounds like the place to be, especially if you’ve been stuck in the depths of winter during the last few months. Well, there is a hotel that holds all this: the Montage Laguna Beach, located in Southern California, just south of Los Angeles and north of San Diego. Not only does this hotel possess these gifts of nature, but it has taken the effort to help persevere and enhance them. From a hands-on waste reduction effort, to money saving energy efficiency improvements, to environmental education initiatives, the Montage Laguna Beach is In the Limelight.
Lending a Hand to the Trash Can
It’s an unfortunate fact of the hospitality business, but hotels produce waste, and a lot of it. With that in mind, however, the Montage Laguna Beach has gone all out to send as little of this waste to the landfill as possible.
- In partnership with Waste Management, the hotel is able to comingle a variety of recyclable goods, such as paper, plastic, and metals, which makes recycling more user-friendly. Hotel staff is responsible for ensuring non-standard recyclable items are not collected, but Waste Management handles the sorting of these recyclable materials at their facility.
- What about cardboard you might ask; a staple of most recycling programs? Well, they have their own cardboard baler on site. And the hotel actually earns money for their baled cardboard!
- And hooray for composting! The hotel, with the help of Waste Management, installed two on-site composters, which can turn 200 pounds of food waste (also known as “wet” waste) into 10 pounds of compost. But that is not enough to meet the hotel’s needs, so they worked with Orange County on a pilot project for the collection and composting of the hotel’s additional food waste. This entails the placement of waste containers in the hotel’s food outlets that are meant specifically for food waste collections. Waste collected in these containers is then hauled off-site for composting. Overall, these efforts have allowed the hotel to divert 100% of their food waste from landfills.
- Items that can’t be recycled with other materials, such as batteries and compact florescent light bulbs (CFLs), are collected separately, and picked up by contractors who specialize in the recycling of these toxic items.
- Trash cans were removed in administrative offices, limiting the options that employees had to dispose of waste. This increased recycling, and encouraged employees to think more about how they were disposing of certain items. After all, would you throw just anything into the recycling bin?
- Unused and partially used amenity bottles are donated to Clean the World. Last year alone, the hotel donated over 2,000 pounds!
- Furniture, bedding, and other functioning but used items, are provided to local charities and groups through Hearts of Montage.
VFDs, AFDs, LEDs, Oh My!
The Montage Laguna Beach has found energy efficiency to be a win-win for both the environment and their bottom line. Central plant chillers were equipped with Alternative Frequency Drives (AFDs), which allows them to function in tune with demand; enabling the hotel to cut their electricity usage by over 500,000 kilowatt hours a year. Additionally, the hotel installed Variable Frequency Drives (VFDs) and Carbon Monoxide Monitors to the ventilation and exhaust system motors in the garage. VFDs improve the energy efficiency of electrical devices, reducing the hotels electricity use by nearly 200,000 kilowatt hours a year. In addition, they were able to utilize utility rebates and incentive programs, cutting the cost of these devices in half. And within two years, these investments had already paid for themselves.
Great value has also been found through the installation of more efficient light bulbs throughout the hotel. Mind you, however, this didn’t come stress-free. As we know well here at Greening the Inn, choosing the right light bulb isn’t easy, and the Montage Laguna Beach learned that first hand. Initially, the hotel began transitioning to CFLs. However, they found the quality of these lights diminished over just a couple of years. When learning about the improved efficiency of Light Emitting Diodes (LEDs), the hotel changed the lights in its guestrooms to LEDs, doing so with the help of a $15 per light bulb rebate from Southern California Edison (SCE). As Montage Hotels & Resorts Director of Sustainability, Mark Slymen, explained to Greening the Inn, “A utility can be a hotel’s best friend when it comes to energy efficiency.”
Learning to be Green
It’s one thing to take action to improve your hotels sustainability, but those actions won’t mean much if your hotel staff doesn’t buy into and carry out these practices. This led the Montage Laguna Beach to establish ways to keep their employees engaged and up to speed with the hotels sustainability goals. All new hotel employees go through a two-day sustainability orientation that familiarizes them with sustainability at the hotel, and the practices the hotel utilizes toward that goal. Sub-contractors are also informed of the hotels environmental focuses, provided a tour of the facilities, and required to adhere to the same procedures as hotel staff. The hotel’s Environmental Impact Committee implements sustainable policies in areas of energy efficiency, waste management, product procurement, alternative transportation and community outreach, while continuing to educate staff on these initiatives.
The hotel also sponsors quarterly beach clean-up days, which further demonstrates, to hotel staff and the surrounding community, the hotel’s commitment to sustainability. Hotel employees, working with local non-profits, spend time making sure that the nearby beach is void of waste and debris and maintains its aesthetically pleasing look. With the beach being such an important asset to the hotel, it makes all the sense in the world that the Montage Laguna Beach and its associates do all they can to preserve it.
The California sun and Pacific waves may mercifully distract you from the ideas of sustainability and environmental issues at hand, but they have only motivated the Montage Laguna Beach to work harder to maintain them, and that makes them very worthy of a spot In the Limelight.
GreeningtheInn Contributor, David Thurnau, has a background in political science, municipal government, and agriculture with an emphasis in environmental issues.
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