Green alliance helps hospitality industry

Green palmetto tree symbols could replace diamonds as the most-coveted rating for South Carolina’s hotels, motels, restaurants and other hospitality facilities.

The South Carolina Hospitality Association and S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control have joined to create a new “green” partnership: the Green Hospitality Alliance.

Tiffany Jaspers, South Carolina DHEC program coordinator, said the partnership with the hospitality association helps businesses in the hospitality industry “go green.” Those businesses often have a huge impact on the state’s environment and economy, especially through their energy and water usage, as well as the creation and disposal of waste.

Since the program kicked off in October 2009, Jaspers said results have been positive statewide. Four Beaufort County businesses were nearing completion of the certification process at press time (DHEC declined to name those businesses).

Tom Sponseller, president and CEO of the South Carolina Hospitality Association, said that encouraging sustainability and starting green programs has been a big issue in the hospitality industry for several years. The South Carolina program used Rhode Island’s template to develop a certification process that Sponseller called “pretty simple, but all-encompassing.”

The alliance helps facilities reduce their environmental impact by incorporating green practices; reducing waste through recycling and composting; conserving water and energy; using green cleaning products; and making environmentally-correct purchases such as sustainable local foods, and, especially in coastal areas, sustainable local seafood.

A green facility can reduce its environmental impact by conserving natural resources and saving energy as well as reducing pollution through waste reduction and recycling. In turn, reuse and recycling reduces disposal costs and lowers operating costs related to energy- and water-saving equipment.

In addition, facilities are encouraged to use “green” cleaning supplies to protect the health of staff and guests. In turn, that lessens the problem of disposing hazardous materials.

As consumers grow more aware of and interested in “going green,” they make travel and entertainment plans and purchases that consider environmental impact. That makes greener businesses more marketable and more competitive. Sponseller said that meeting planners now prefer selecting environmentally friendly facilities for their clients.

Meanwhile, the only Green Hospitality Alliance-certified hotel that’s earned three “palmetto trees” — the group’s highest ranking — is the new LEED-certified Holiday Inn Express in Mount Pleasant. Among its many green features are a series of tanks under its parking lots to catch wastewater that is then recycled to irrigate the hotel’s landscaping.

The Green Hospitality Alliance will hold regional workshops every Monday in March to help hospitality facilities learn how to conserve resources. Additionally, industry representatives will offer advice from their own experiences.

Members of the South Carolina Hospitality Association can join the Green Hospitality Alliance after completing a certification process. Certification must be renewed annually. That gives organizations the opportunity to up the number of “palmettos” in their rating if they implement more green practices throughout the year.

For more information on the Green Alliance program, call 800-768-7348 or e-mail greenhospitality@dhec.sc.gov.