Sustainable tourism - Boston Colonnade
- Dec 03, 2010
Nestled in the heart of the fashionable Back Bay neighborhood of Boston lies the Colonnade Hotel. Reading its website you will find it described as “an exceptional experience for savvy travelers in search of something different”. The “something different” that the website refers to is perhaps its “tantalizing French cuisine” or the “roof top pool”.
However I have found that there is something else “different” about this hotel which it doesn’t shout about on its website. The Colonnade Hotel has undergone an ambitious, $25 million (USD), “greening” campaign to reduce the environmental impact of the hotel. It has been so successful that in three years it has cut electricity and gas consumption by 25% and water by 19%.
I was so impressed when I read about this that I rang our head of Sustainability at Virgin Holidays, who told me that this was in fact one of the hotels that Virgin Holidays sends its customers to. Great, I thought, this can be the subject of that sustainability article my manager wants me to write for Virgin.com’s People and Planet section, where we plan to start show casing Virgin companies’ sustainability work.
After speaking with Christopher Lynn (Director of Sales & Marketing) and Keith Alexander (Head of Property Operations) I learnt that the first thing the hotel did was back in 2006, when the owner Ronald Druker decided to replace all the windows in the hotel. It was a huge and costly undertaking. However the thermo-pane insulating glass panels reduced electricity use by approximately 82,000 kilowatt hours (kWh) annually.
The driving force behind the environmental push has been David Colella, who is famous in Boston for being the longest serving hotel manager, (now in his 17th year!). In 2004 David started pushing for the hotel to improve its efficiency and reduce its impact. The hotel staff were very supportive, none less than his Head of Property Operations Keith, who lead the charge with his careful and measured approach. Every decision he made was analysed and scrutinised to the nth degree, so as to determine the capital costs and the pay back period.
An example of Keith’s careful and measured approach was how he chose which low energy light bulbs to use. Before he committed to one type he bought 50 different makes and filled his office with them; comparing the light they cast and their energy consumption. He then secretly started changing light bulbs around the hotel and waited to see if any staff or customers commented. He knew when he had found the right bulb when no one even noticed it was low energy.
There’s not enough room here to list all the changes that Keith has implemented (the document he emailed me was five pages long!) However their new additions range from: light sensors and energy star rated equipment to smart cars and waterless urinals. And as people always love numbers when talking about sustainability here are some to satisfy your appetite:
• The Guestroom Energy Management System Installation reduced annual electricity use by 455,088 kWh annually.
• Low flow shower heads reduced water use by 1,125,000 gallons annually.
• Installing new energy efficient lighting throughout the hotel saved 295,000 kWh annually.
• The Recycling Programs removed 85 tonnes of recyclables from their waste stream in the 3 years.
Keith explained that although they have done all the ‘easy’ stuff now, there is still scope for improvements. Also as new technologies come onto the market more opportunities arise. For example recently they retrofitted all the rooms’ air conditioning units with new efficient motors. Then after only two years they had to repeat the whole procedure, because a new model had come on the market which used 80% less energy! Although this was a huge inconvenience it is projected to save them 726,000 kWh of electricity every year.
My favorite however was their adoption of chemical free cleaning. They now have a machine which is called an electrolyzer, which ionises salt water (either with electricity or magic I can’t remember what he said) to create an acid which is toxin free and able to clean everything – I know what I’m going to ask Father Christmas for!
I asked Christopher and Keith whether they thought their environmental credentials were a differentiator for their customers. They said that although they have noticed their guests getting more interested that is not why they are doing it. “Whether it becomes a differentiator to customers or not doesn’t matter to us, we’ll proceed with 100% effort on our green initiatives, because we believe it is the right thing to do”.
And it’s because of this shared sentiment that Virgin Holidays is proud to partner with hotel like the Colonnade who prove that sustainability goes hand in hand with offering the best holidays in the whole wide world.
To find out more about how Virgin Holidays promotes and encourages sustainability, visit Virgin Holidays or contact the Responsible Business Team: firstname.lastname@example.org