Environmental Impact

Riding Towards Sustainability - By David Thurnau

The Monaco Washington DC is a unique hotel that has turned the old Washington General Post Office into a sustainable luxury hotel. Beyond its sustainable building though, the hotel has incorporated a multitude of sustainable practices into their day-to-day operations and guest experience, including an expansive and innovative bike share program.
General Manager of the Monaco, Ed Virtue, pictured with a bicycle outside the hotel
Riding Towards Sustainability - By David Thurnau

EcoVision Sustainable Learning Center The Monaco Washington DC is a unique hotel that has turned the old Washington General Post Office into a sustainable luxury hotel.  Beyond its sustainable building though, the hotel has incorporated a multitude of sustainable practices into their day-to-day operations and guest experience, including an expansive and innovative bike share program.  Recently, GreeningtheInn had the opportunity to chat with the General Manager of the Monaco, Ed Virtue, about these sustainable happenings.

Suite at the the Monaco Washington DCGTI: First off, we want to applaud your passion for biking and taking it to the next level as a marketable experience for guests. Where did the idea come from and what challenges did you face in getting this program operational?

Ed Virtue: I just happen to be into biking, so I think it was a natural thought to take it to the next level on this one.  Because of my experience riding in, to, and around the city – I found it a little easier to think of what a guest’s experience might be like, and what things would help make it more interesting and easier to enjoy! The biggest challenge is finding time to ride the GPS routes – Hotel GM is a 24 hour job and it can be tough to slip away for a nice ride.

GTI:  You take your guests biking on wonderful outdoor setting and paths with your “Bike with the GM” and “Race the GM” - but beyond that it is important to note that The Monaco occupies a beautiful, renovated historical building; a building that is nearly two centuries old.  What impact, if any has this had on the hotel’s pursuit of sustainable goals?

Ed Virtue:  Well, of course at its core, the Monaco is an excellent example of adaptive reuse of a building, something Kimpton [Hotels & Restaurants] specializes in.  Since the whole building is essentially recycled, it also comes with some challenges related to the inefficiency of its age and design as an office building in the 1800’s.  That had a lot to do with what we’ve been able to accomplish – and gave us lots of places to target for improvements!

GTI:  Have you been able to see a return on your investment in sustainability?

Ed Virtue:  The great news is there is almost always a great return on the investment in terms of cost savings and energy savings.  For example, our conversion from GSA Steam to modular gas-fired on-demand boilers, for domestic hot water and heating, has provided energy savings in excess of $200K per year.  The general idea is that what’s good for the environment, can and should be good for the guest, the employee, and the business, and that’s never been more true than it is today.

GTI: Do you have any minimum benchmarks you seek for return when pursuing sustainability investments?

Ed Virtue:  This depends – some things we do because we can and because they provide a better sustainable option with no significant cost increase. This may include using organic fair trade coffees, environmentally sound cleaning products, or insisting on environmentally preferable dry cleaning methods. For those things that require a significant capital investment, however, we like to see a four-year return on investment.

GTI:  As general manager, where does environmental concern rank in your decision making process?  Is it something that you think will continue to grow in importance in the years ahead?

Ed Virtue:  Though I’ve read a few position papers lately from some pretty influential people, I have to say that I think unequivocally yes, it will continue to grow.  The reality is that most people expect you to be making an effort, similar to the efforts they make at home.  It’s the minimum standard now – and in many cases, people aren’t as blindly loyal as they used to be to their points program or whatever.  They want a great, local and luxurious experience that they can feel good about, and sustainability is part of that for most people.

GTI:  What has been the general response to the hotel’s green efforts – from guests, media, the local community, etc.?

Ed Virtue:  We’ve received great responses from our guests, and have earned quite a few awards and honors for our efforts locally and nationally at the Monaco.  That holds true for Kimpton around the Nation too.  Specifically at the Monaco, guests love the Courtyard and Chef’s Garden in the summertime.  It lends such an urban garden feel to the whole, and is unique to DC because of its semi-secluded nature.  People just seem to love that!

GTI:  You also serve as a senior advisor for Kimpton’s EarthCare program.  How does this impact sustainability at the Monaco and other Kimpton hotels?  I’m sure practices are frequently shared between the hotels.

Ed Virtue:  Yes, of course we do share products and practices across all Kimpton properties. In fact, most of our practices come from the field as opposed to our senior leaders.  It’s really always been a grass roots effort by all of our employees, and for me that’s one of the things that makes it so much fun to be a part of.  Being a senior advisor has allowed me a lot of opportunity to be visible and suggest new ideas, test practices and products, and in general, live at work as I would at home.  I don’t feel a disconnect when I get to the office.

GTI:  And finally, in three words – how would you describe the Monaco experience?

Ed Virtue:  Fun.  Local.  Unique.

The Monaco Washington DC is a luxury boutique hotel operated by Kimpton Hotels and Restaurants.  It has been rated as a AAA Four Diamond Hotel since its opening in 2005 and was named as a Washington DC Mayor’s Sustainability Award winner in 2012, which recognizes efforts to make the District greener and healthier.

Contributor: David Thurnau has a background in political science, municipal government, and agriculture with an emphasis in environmental issues.

This article first appeared on GreeningtheInn.com. 



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