December 2016

Championing sustainability

The Pierre, New York, a Taj Hotel and Taj Boston received a gold and a silver-level certification respectively from EarthCheck for their commitment to sustainable hospitality and support to local communities

Situated in the heart of the city, The Pierre New York, A Taj Hotel, first opened its doors in 1930, while the iconic Taj Boston started life as The Ritz Carlton in 1927. Over the years, both hotels have contributed significantly to the growth of their cities and their communities. When sustainable hospitality became the need of the hour, The Pierre and Taj Boston continued to lead from the front. The hotels have partnered EarthCheck, the world's leading scientific benchmarking, certification and advisory group for travel and tourism, to implement sustainable business practices. The Pierre has been awarded EarthCheck's gold and Taj Boston the silver certification after their environmental and social performance was evaluated and benchmarked against peers. Sustainability champions Thomas Trudo and Maureen Albright of The Pierre and Taj Boston, respectively, speak about the processes and practices that have enabled The Pierre and Taj Boston build enduring relationships with the community and environment.

Taj Boston and The Pierre have partnered EarthCheck, the world's leading scientific benchmarking, certification and advisory group for travel and tourism, to implement sustainable business practices
  • Thomas Trudo

    Sustainability champion
    at The Pierre

  • Maureen Albright

    Sustainability champion
    at the Taj Boston

 

'The Pierre is committed to strive to achieve environmental and social sustainability'

Sustainability champion Thomas Trudo speaks about the best practices at The Pierre that resulted in the hotel's EarthCheck gold certification

Could you tell elaborate on the sustainability policy of The Pierre?
The Pierre is committed to strive to achieve environmental and social sustainability through annual benchmarking and has partnered with EarthCheck, the world's leading benchmarking and certification provider. Embracing the importance of environmental and social sustainability and the commitment to be a benefit to the New York community, the hotel employs local people and purchases local products where appropriate. The Pierre has implemented an environmental management system that meets the requirements of the EarthCheck Company Standard. The hotel complies with all relevant legislations and regulations and strives to achieve international best practices in sustainability.

Thomas Trudo is director of engineering at The Pierre

As the EarthCheck coordinator, I ensure the ongoing environmental performance, identification of environmental risks, recording and monitoring of impact, and implementing environmental and social sustainability measures.

Special consideration is given to educate associates, guests and residents on proper environmental practices via informational vehicles (ie, employee training, guest room literature, press releases and marketing channels).

We encourage all associates to undertake a pro-active leadership approach in fulfilling property, company and industry goals, and in adopting a systematic and process-driven method for continuous improvement of environmental sustainability.

Our Go Green team makes sure that new ideas are implemented and existing systems are checked and tweaked for efficiency.

Can you take us through some of the hotel's key sustainability initiatives in terms of reducing consumption of energy and water?
Our key sustainability initiatives to reduce energy and water consumption are:

Energy

  • LED light bulbs were installed throughout the hotel in 2015 with a projected annual savings of 377,445 kWh per year.
  • Automatic light sensors have been installed in back-of-house and mechanical room areas.
  • We are scheduled to participate in a Con Edison curtailment programme in 2017.

Water

  • Energy-efficient toilets are installed in guestrooms as well as aerators for sinks.
  • We are replacing our laundry washer with newer high-efficiency units. Two have been installed and two more are being installed this month.
  • We monitor our water usage on a daily basis. Our engineers check all meters, including gas and electric.

How is the hotel reducing its carbon footprint as a whole? Can you provide some key figures?
We are participating in the NYC Carbon Challenge to reduce our current footprint by 30 percent by 2025. This process has been started by engaging an engineer to evaluate all our mechanical equipment and to put forward a plan to replace equipment that has reached life expectancy within the next 5-7 years.

How does the hotel reduce or find uses for food items that were earlier thrown away?
We donate more than 900lb of food per year to a NY City program called City Harvest.

Please tell us about any other sustainability projects that the hotel is engaged with and how these initiatives have helped the hotel's balance sheet and operations?
Some of the sustainability projects undertaken by Taj Pierre are:

  • Rock and Wrap: We donate all of our partially used guestroom amenities such as shampoo, hair gel, toilet paper, lotion and tissues. The donations go to a Harlem facility that houses and helps HIV and Aids patients.
  • New York Cares: We collect and donate coats to homeless shelters.
  • New York Cares - Winter Wishes: We donate toys for tots in conjunction with the US Marine Corp to be distributed to less fortunate children.
  • Central Park Conservatory Garden: We donate time to help maintain Central Park with projects such as weeding, landscaping, painting and clean up.
  • Our LED lighting program has contributed more than $40,000 per year in savings.

What kind of training was required for the post of energy champion?
I have over 25 years of experience in hotel and facility engineering management. I sit on the board of the Hotel Association of NYC sustainability team to ensure that we are in compliance with local sustainability regulations and the best practices that we implement are shared with other NY City hotels. I am also a Boy Scout leader and volunteer fireman who needs to lead by example and teach the next generation.

'It has been a journey of self-awareness, self-discovery and self-commitment'

Maureen Albright, sustainability champion at the Taj Boston, explains how the hotel is working to conserve, reduce, recycle and reuse resources

Can you take us through some of the hotel's key sustainability initiatives in terms of reducing consumption of energy and water?
Our key sustainability initiatives to reduce energy and water consumption are:

Energy

  • Installation of a water reuse system which captures steam condensate and uses it to pre-heat water and reduce steam usage.
  • Use of LED bulbs in 90 percent area of the hotel.
  • Hallway lighting is switched off nightly from midnight to 5am, with emergency lighting in place.
  • A guest elevator is shut down nightly from 11pm – 5am.
  • Equipment used are energy star rated.
  • VFD (variable frequency drives) on larger HVAC [heating, ventilation and air conditioning] equipment to temper fan speeds as needed, rather than constant fan operation at 100 percent.
  • Natural cooling, rather than mechanical cooling, in cooler months.

Water

  • Steam condensate is captured and used to pre-heat water. It eliminates the use of water needed to pre-cool the condensate.
  • Use of low-flow shower heads and low-flush toilets and urinals, and aerators on all faucets.
  • Harvesting rainwater for watering exterior gardens.
  • Utilisation of un-used ice, from the restaurant and front desk, in exterior gardens.

How is the hotel reducing its carbon footprint as a whole?
We have reduced our carbon foot print with our water re-use system. We monitor our carbon foot print by annual checks and balancing our large, critical, mechanical equipment. 

How does the hotel reduce or find uses for food items that were earlier thrown away?
At the close of functions, un-used food is sometimes brought to the employee cafeteria and consumed, as opposed to throwing away food. The hotel has two dehydrator machines that can each convert 250lb of wet trash (food) and convert it into less than 20lb of first-stage compost. This compost is often used by staff in their home gardens. Some of the compost is used in the hotel's exterior gardens. Collection containers are located in all areas of the kitchens so that we capture as much food waste as possible. An inventory is maintained and items of food are purchased as per business demand.

Please tell us about any other sustainability project that the hotel is engaged with and how sustainability initiatives have helped the hotel’s operations?
Taj Boston has 12 apiaries — the honey collected from the hives is used in the hotel. We use the honey in our bar — infused in cocktails — and in our restaurant for making ‘honey butter’ and in some of our desert offerings. Honey is given as a gift to key clients, and based on guest preferences, honey is sometimes given as an amenity. We are trying to reach a level where only organic honey produced in our apiaries is utilized in our bar, pastry shop, and for amenities. Our exterior gardens were set up to produce herbs organically for use at the hotel. 

Our initiatives have helped us to become one of the five Trip Advisor Platinum hotels in Boston. With the introduction of the ’guest opt out’ program, and the guest being given the choice of laundering linen and terry, we have seen a reduction in our overall guest laundry expense. In addition, lesser washing and drying helps in maintaining fabric integrity, allowing for fabrics to remain fresh longer. Our sustainable practices have also brought us repeat guests, especially in the bar and restaurant.

What are the key community or corporate social responsibility (CSR) activities conducted by the hotel?
The hotel conducts and is part of several community and CSR initiatives across Boston. We serve quarterly breakfast to the women's shelter in our neighbourhood and provide holiday meals to the local fire station during Thanksgiving and Christmas. This has allowed us to form relationships in the community, and has gained us business.

We partner with a local church, on Arlington Street, and other businesses to provide the holiday feast for homeless. Taking part in community initiatives such as Boston Shines (cleaning and beautifying our community) and Boston Green Fest (Boston’s annual green celebration) are some of the ways in which we get the message out about Taj Boston’s commitment to the environment, sustainability and community.

We are the host hotel for the annual Boston Green & White Ball, an event hosted by ‘Friends of the Public Garden’. It is an annual ball to raise money to take care of the beautiful Boston Public Garden.

Can you take us through a typical day as a sustainability champion?
As the sustainability champion and director of engineering, I check all key mechanical and central plant systems to ensure we are using our systems wisely and efficiently. Round sheets, completed by shift engineers, have to be checked to ensure that mechanical equipment is functioning properly, temperatures are optimal, waste is not found, etc. Discrepancies are noted and addressed immediately. Spot checks of restrooms are conducted to ensure there is no leaking or wastage. Several times a week, environment conservation is discussed at our daily operation meeting.

A typical day as a sustainability champion entails various responsibilities: It could involve sending reminders to recycle. It could be talking about sustainable practices followed not just at Taj Boston but at other companies like Starbucks and 8 O'Clock Coffee. It could be engaging with employees, encouraging them to recycle in all operational areas. It could be about making sure that employees are recycling, and that they have the tools needed to do it effectively and productively. 

A champion's role is about encouraging and supporting employees and all that they do on a daily basis and letting them know that we appreciate their commitment. It is about talking with key stakeholders about our efforts at Taj Boston. It is about speaking with our vendors and contractors to ensure their practices meet ours and that they follow our recycling and SOP initiatives. It is meeting with HLP and commodity providers, looking at projects in the hotel's pipeline and what type of partnerships can be formed. It is about speaking with neighbours and local businesses to ensure we are not negatively affecting our community, and to ensure we are being good neighbours, helpful, open and aware of the community. It is about me being open to suggestion and open to learning and trying new things.

What kind of training was required for this role?
The first prerequisite is an understanding of the company standards. You also have to learn about EarthCheck and what the program entails, and how best to utilize it for the success of the hotel. It has really been a journey of self-awareness, self-discovery and self-commitment, and sharing with staff members. It's been about partnerships in the community to build on sustainable practices. It has been about being open and willing to take risk.