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CGA session outlines new standard for measuring carbon footprint

What exactly is a “green” hotel? Meeting professionals can give a wide range of answers to this question, but soon the answer will come into sharper focus. As attendees learned at a session held at the ASAE Springtime Expo called “Carbon Footprint and Your Events,” sponsored by the ASAE Convene Green Alliance (CGA).

A new program called the Hotel Carbon Measurement Initiative unites hotel industry efforts to calculate and communicate carbon emissions from guest rooms and meeting space in a uniform way. The initiative is sponsored by the World Travel and Tourism Council and the International Tourism Partnership.

While travel and tourism accounts for approximately five percent of the world’s carbon emissions, hotels generate less than one percent. Nevertheless, there is progress to be made in reducing the carbon footprint of hotels.

“Energy use is the biggest factor in the environmental impact of hotels,” said Denise Naguib, senior director, sustainability, Global Operations Services, Marriott International, Inc. “Solar, wind and nuclear energy have the lowest carbon emissions while coal and natural gas are higher.”

In general, in the United States, Midwest and Upper Midwest states have relatively high carbon emissions as do the states extending into the Ohio River Valley and extending into several Southern states.

“If you hold an event in a state with a lower base of carbon emissions, you may be generating only one third of the carbon emissions than if you held the event in a state with a higher base of carbon emissions,” said Naguib.

However, she added that this does not mean that organizations should avoid holding meetings in these locations. Instead, when evaluating carbon footprints for meetings at properties in these areas, meeting professionals should compare the carbon footprint with similar properties in the same vicinity.

The Hotel Carbon Measurement Initiative has established a standard methodology to calculate hotel carbon footprint according to the number of guest rooms, amount of meeting space, common areas of the property, and other factors. It calculates the carbon footprint for hotel stays by multiplying the “footprint per occupied room” by the number of occupied rooms. Likewise, it multiplies the “footprint per square foot per hour” of meeting space by the square footage of meeting space used plus the number of hours utilized to calculate the carbon footprint for a meeting. The calculation can be extended to multiple hotels for citywide events.

The model also accounts for certain energy-intensive activities such as laundry services, which are sometimes outsourced by hotels to external vendors. A calculation of average energy use for this, for example, is added to the energy use of the hotel if the laundry service is outsourced so that properties can be compared on an equal basis.

“Marriott is starting to aggregate data within its hotels to provide perspective on the carbon footprint numbers,” said Naguib. “Competitors may do the same. Ask hotels if their information is aligned with this industry standard for carbon footprint. As an industry, we are giving hotels time to transition to this new standard; the industry target is to have all hotel companies aligned by July 2013.”

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