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Sat 20 Dec 2008 04:00 AM

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Courtyard's eyes on the prize

Courtyard by Marriott director of engineering Wael Farouk believes the key to a successful environmental programme is to aim for the top, while setting realistic goals along the way.

Courtyard by Marriott director of engineering Wael Farouk believes the key to a successful environmental programme is to aim for the top, while setting realistic goals along the way.

Your role at Courtyard is director of engineering. How does this affect the hotel's green initiatives?

As part of the engineering role I am the chairman for the environmental committee of the hotel. We have a committee that is represented by each department in the hotel. We have a monthly meeting where we discuss what is coming up for energy conservation and environmental activities.

The main goal is to achieve zero footprint and zero trash — for everything to be recycled.

All the team members share the improvements that are being made on energy conservation for electricity, diesel, gas and water. People have to be aware that this energy consumption is coming off the bottom line and that we have a number of opportunities to save energy.

What kind of opportunities are there for hotels to take advantage of on a day-to-day basis?

We have the rule that when something is not in use it must be switched off. This is particularly important for operational groups such as our kitchen and laundry teams. In the kitchen and laundry we have critical machines that must be in use, so we must use them with full loads because it will consume the same amount of energy with a full load or half load. We have to get the maximum use from these machines.

For water we have fixed water savers in the rooms. We set the temperature for the air conditioning to the appropriate level of satisfaction for our guests - 22 degrees is the best we can see for the guest and for energy savings - and we are using the natural light as much as possible.

I am sure all these ideas are not new, but what makes the difference is the people. If you want to really conserve energy you have to concentrate on the people. You have to also encourage your guests.

Have you found that guests are enthusiastic about these measures?

The guests are very enthusiastic. We have a very good system for recycling linen and towels. This helps so much because washing consumes water, electricity and it uses chemicals. We have tracked these measures and since we have started the tracking we have achieved 20-30% improvement in laundry consumption.

What other green initiatives have you instituted within the hotel's operations?

Something that is new in the market is the use of solar panels for external lighting.

Previously we had solar panels for the hot water system, but now we are also going to use them for our car park lighting. Our external car parking lights will be fully powered by solar panels.

We have also planted our own organic garden. We have a small piece of garden where we are encouraging our associates to make organic products. Each department is responsible for their plot of land.

Do you use these organic products in the hotel?

Yes, we have enjoyed them in our cafeteria. However, for the guests obviously our food has to pass certain measurements.

We have an environmental programme across Marriott International. There are five pillars of this programme, which you will find at every Marriott. They are: energy conservation; waste management; clean-up campaigns; indoor air quality; and wildlife preservation. With management we have done a lot by recycling and reusing.

We were able to increase our recycling from 2006 to 2008 by 100% exactly. To date this year we have recycled approximately 50 tonnes of material, consisting of paper, cardboard, plastic, cans and waste. This also has a very good impact on our trash removal, because our volume of trash has been reduced by approximately 60%.

Of the five pillars that you mentioned, are some of your initiatives more important than others, for example energy or waste?

Some of them will lead to the others. Wildlife preservation and indoor air quality will lead you to enhancing awareness. Waste management and energy conservation will lead directly to the bottom line.

What challenges did you face when you were initially setting up your green initiatives?

The concept of environmental practice is not the same in everyone's mind as it is for me. I am very enthusiastic about it, but not everyone is the same.

We also found that some of the projects require significant investments. For example, setting up solar panels for our outdoor lighting is a big investment. In some other hotels it can be difficult just to convince investors that the pay-back for these projects will arrive in two to four years. It is a big challenge.

What are you doing to change people's perceptions?

We are creating awareness with day-to-day interaction. For example, we are communicating our daily consumption of energy with everyone in all departments.

We show them the goal and then we show them the consumption. We are always keeping the people aware of whether we are near or far from our goals and we have incentives where people can be awarded for their ideas for energy reduction.

What benefits have you seen from your green programme?

The benefit is that we are feeling part of our company's policy and we are feeling that we have a positive impact on the world.

We feel that we are trying to improve people's awareness and this is happening here. We have people who care about the environment not only in the workplace but in their own lives.

What feedback have you seen from clients and guests?

Guests have become more familiar with our initiatives and they really care - they read a lot and they are aware of the environmental impacts. This makes guests more loyal to the chain, because most guests are happy to come to a chain that really cares about the environment.

This is also happening with our suppliers; we are giving preference to those who are helping the environment. All the comments we are getting are very positive and no one is unwilling to participate.

How do you think other hotels can implement similar environmental strategies - where should they start?

I think from the beginning you have to get everyone involved. You have to make all the departments involved. Hotels should make an environmental committee where all departments are represented by active and interested people. The main thing is to find the key people who will be involved. From this you can start small and grow bit by bit. Make smart, realistic goals which you can achieve. Every day you must involve more people to widen your environmental circle.

How important do you think it is for hotels to start implementing environmental policies and is this already happening in the industry?

Hotels have become a very big industry that has a lot of impact on the whole world. The hospitality industry really has to participate and as far as I know a lot of hotels have started. Hotels are one of the leading industries when it comes to green implementation.

What are your future plans for Courtyard by Marriott?

We have goals to reduce energy year by year and we have our own goal to reduce the trash year by year. The main goal is to achieve zero footprint and zero trash - for everything to be recycled.

It is a very big goal that we need a lot of years for. If you want to make a big difference you have to have a big goal. So gradually we hope to reach for these things.

How do you promote your environmental initiatives to your guests and the general public?

Much of our promotion comes from participation in community and global campaigns, like clean ups and recycling. We have done a lot of tree planting with local schools in this area; we have planted a tree for every child and it has their name on it.

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