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D.C.-area hotels embrace green meetings

Meeting planners are always looking for that ideal location for their next event. When comparing venues, there are a variety of factors to be reviewed.

This fall, four Starwood hotels in Northern Virginia are giving an additional factor to consider: green meetings. All four hotels are managed by Crescent Hotels & Resorts, an operator of over 100 hotels in North America, including 15 in the Washington, D.C. area.

Westin Arlington Vertical Garden
Westin Arlington Vertical Garden

“Crescent Hotels has always been on the forefront of operating hotels in a community driven manner,” said Tim Bowes, vice president of sales for the company. “We are excited to roll out an enhanced version of Starwood Hotels & Resorts’s new sustainability program at our Washington, D.C. area hotels. Meeting planners are asking about more green initiatives, and we have quite a story to tell, including our farm to table movement. We feel it’s the right thing to do.” The collection of hotels include The Westin Reston Heights, Sheraton Reston Hotel, Sheraton Tysons Hotel and The Westin Arlington Gateway Hotel. All hotels are certified members of Virginia Green Lodging.

“From the moment a guest steps into one of our guest rooms at any of our hotels, they get the sense we are environmentally friendly,” said Tim Bailey, general manager of the Westin Reston Heights and adjacent Sheraton Reston Hotel. “We have multiple trash cans in all our guest rooms and suites, including those for recycling.” Optional changing of linen for guests staying multiple day reduces on water usage. In the hotel’s restaurants and meeting rooms, chefs use ingredients grown in The Westin’s own garden along with those sourced from local farmers, and menus are printed on recycled paper. The four hotels range in size from 191 to 449 guest rooms with meeting space as large as 45,000 square feet.

Hotel proposals, menus and sales collateral are all distributed electronically, cutting down on paper waste, and electronic signatures are accepted by all four hotels. Low energy light bulbs, light blocking shades in summer and newly added sensor lighting in office space helps reduce energy usage. Meeting room amenities at these Northern Virginia hotels have changed from plastic water bottles to more environmentally-friendly water pitchers.

“Clients are amazed at the amount of detail that is included on our green initiative. They truly are wowed by everything we do,” said Michael Broadhurst, general manager of The Westin Arlington Gateway. Broadhurst credits the hotel’s praises to the integration of green initiatives into every step of last spring’s multimillion dollar renovation of the hotel’s 10,000 square feet of meeting space, the guest rooms and public space. The focal point of the lobby is now The Haven – Westin’s vertical garden concept consisting of floor to ceiling plant life.

“We are proud of all the environmentally friendly activities we do that our guests see because it reminds them that sustainability is something that can take place anywhere; at home, work and while on travel,” said Mike Chouri, general manager of the Sheraton Tysons Hotel. “However that’s only the tip of the iceberg. We have a large variety of green initiatives working behind the scenes at our hotels.” The hotels utilize energy-efficient systems which automatically reduce settings for guest room lighting and electronic appliances such as televisions and radios. Pools and spas do not use chlorine (but salt water in pools) which eliminates the need for chemicals. This is not only better for the environment but for skin as well. Also cleaning personnel are appropriately trained in green housekeeping practices such as use, maintenance, disposal and recycling of cleaning chemicals, dispensing equipment and packaging.

When planning meetings, space specifications and pricing are key factors, however, forward thinking meeting planners will also be asking the question, “I can see what you can do for my meeting, now what are you doing for the environment?” Forward thinking hotel management companies, like Crescent, are ready with the answer.

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