Sustainability For All Seasons
In the historic White Mountains of New Hampshire lies a tiny community of just 3,000 residents. This quaint village has become a respite for travelers attracted to its picturesque, old-time flavor complete with bandstand and skating rink, along with outlying wooded hills, working farms, ponds and stunning mountain views.
Perched above this town is a 145-year-old resort that lies on 1,700 wooded acres in the heart of the mountains. The Mountain View Grand Resort & Spa in Whitefield, N.H., known for its distinctive White Mountains character and charm since 1865, has committed itself to maintaining the area's pristine nature by becoming an award-winning environmental steward.
The conservation efforts at the 144-room hotel recently nabbed an "Environmental Champion" certification from the N.H. Department of Environmental Services and the N.H. Sustainable Lodging and Restaurant Program, the highest level of certification available through this program. The resort attained this award by implementing multiple projects that reduce waste, as well as conserve energy and water.
The resort's commitment to environmental responsibility also earned it recognition as a 100-percent Green Power Purchaser in the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's Green Power Partnership program. Mountain View Grand is one of only a handful of companies in the state to have secured a place on this list of those that buy green power to meet all of their electricity needs. In fact, the resort relies heavily on an on-site 121-foot wind turbine for power.
"We generate a portion of our electricity from our wind turbine," says Gene Ehlert, marketing manager. "The remainder is purchased from the power grid, which has been certified as having been generated by wind power. This is accomplished through our purchase of Green-e Energy Certified Renewable Energy Certificates."
But behind the obvious energy stewards lies a group of unsung heroes in Mountain View Grand's environmental efforts. The custodial staff has worked hard to move the resort to green cleaning, which includes environmentally preferred cleaning chemicals and equipment, recycling and a sustainable laundry system.
"In our location, in the heart of the White Mountains, it just makes sense to go green," says Anthony Chase, executive housekeeping director.
Greening The Clean
When Chase considered greening Mountain View Grand's cleaning operation, he first looked at hazardous cleaning chemicals that endanger the environment by contaminating groundwater and pose a risk to cleaners working with the chemicals.
Step one was eliminating aerosol products and the harmful volatile organic compounds (VOCs) they emit. These products were very wasteful, according to Chase.
"Every time you spray with an aerosol can, you lose 10 percent of your product to the air," he explains.
Mountain View Grand switched to a citrus-based cleaner that is mixed with water at dilution centers across the facility to eliminate its aerosol use. And complying with recommended green cleaning procedures, workers spray the cleaner directly on cloths before wiping.
"You can do an entire room without having to reload the cleaning cloth," says Chase. "And it gives the room a nice citrus smell without being overpowering."
The cleaner also can be mixed in several dilutions to perform everything from general purpose to glass cleaning, reducing the number of products used on site.
"Right now, sanitizer is the only additional chemical we use," Chase says.
The citrus-based cleaner comes in 2.5-gallon containers and is metered out in the correct dilution every time, eliminating waste and reducing purchasing frequency. Chase explains that using concentrates results in a huge cost savings compared to the aerosol counterparts.
"I was going through a case of 12 aerosol cans every couple of weeks," he says. "That gets really expensive. Concentrated cleaners are definitely a cheaper way to go."
Buying in bulk also cuts the amount of empty bottles going into the waste stream and adds to sustainability by reducing storage space and fuels used in transportation.
Implementing the new cleaning products has also improved worker productivity and health, adds Chase. Because cleaners are not exposed to harsh chemicals, they tend to feel better at day's end.
"Our cleaners no longer have that Ôend of the day, I just need to go home' feeling," he explains. "The products also work faster and better, so it's made them more efficient."
Before he made the switch to concentrates, Chase says he did quite a bit of research to find exactly the right products.
"There are so many chemicals available," he says, noting his process began with Internet research and contact with those already using the chemicals. Once those efforts panned out, he used samples to conduct trials in one or two rooms at the resort. If the products worked well, he obtained a larger sample in order to test an entire floor.
"At this point, if I notice the trial room is cleaner, smells better and takes less time to clean, I try to get that product into the hotel," he says.
In addition to the trials, Chase attributes successful product additions to his staff and an open communication policy.
"I have a really good staff that has been here a long time," he says. "When they say, ÔThis product didn't work' or ÔLet's try this one,' I listen. Cleaning is a team effort and for it to work, everyone needs to be involved."
Even with a team approach, there were a few hurdles in the beginning as staff resisted chemical changes.
"They just had the mind-set that if there wasn't that chemical smell, the product wasn't working," he says. But, now that they've used the green chemicals for more than a year, Chase says workers realize the effectiveness of the products, as well as the health benefits.
Chemical changes also included a switch to green guest amenities. The resort provides guests with shampoos, hand soaps and lotions, which are eco-friendly, all-natural, organic and toxic-free, and come in biodegradable containers made from recycled materials. The switch to these more sustainable products has resulted in positive feedback from hotel guests.
"I've had more phone calls about the amenities over the past six months than I've had in the last eight years," Chase says. "Guests can't seem to get enough of them."
Although it helps, Chase stresses that there is a lot more to green cleaning than simply greening your chemicals. To be truly environmentally friendly, a cleaning program must also implement cleaning equipment that reduces harm to the environment. To expand their program, the Mountain View Grand operation tapped into microfiber technology because the product withstands hundreds of launderings and has proven to grab and hold particulates better than other cloths and mops.
The custodial team also added low decibel (under 69 dBA), HEPA filtration, dual-motor vacuums that increase efficiency and improve indoor air quality by containing fine particulates. In addition, all equipment has an Energy Star rating as an added assurance of its environmental benefits.
Reduce, Reuse, Recycle
Mountain View Grand's recycling program separates cardboard, paper and plastic products from trash designated for the local landfill. To aid in the process, recycling containers were placed in every office and housekeeping carts were equipped with mini recycling stations.
"Housekeepers can separate recyclables right in the cart," Chase explains. The recyclables are then taken to one of the resort's two recycling stations and are later transported to Whitefield's recycling center.
To help expand the program, Chase is looking to add stylish recycling units with three receptacles to every guest room, enabling visitors to separate their own trash.
"Our customers understand what recycling means and will often separate recyclables out for us," he explains. "The new units will give them a set place for each item."
A program like this might be status quo for an office and rare in hospitality facilities, but the benefits are the same. Recycling has saved the staff the time and trouble involved with transporting mounds of trash.
"We have a lot less trash to deal with from day to day," Chase says. "It used to take the truck two trips to dispose of all the trash the hotel generated. Now it takes just one trip, saving us the cost of labor and gas."
Airing Dirty Laundry
While the majority of the resort's linens and towels are cleaned off site, the hotel does have a washing station to handle any on-site laundry needs. This system uses organic and hypoallergenic chemicals that are distributed in the correct amounts every time.
Mountain View Grand also implemented a towel and linen reuse program, which has significantly reduced water and power consumption, not to mention labor. A laminated card in every guest room explains the program. Guests can opt to assist the hotel's conservation efforts by having their towels and linens replenished less often.
"This program has been well received," Chase states. "We still have some customers who want their linens changed every day, but 96 percent of our guests reuse them."
He attributes this to heightened public awareness to conserve the environment.
The housekeeping efforts tie well into the resort's other initiatives, which include a privately funded wind turbine adjacent to the hotel. In its first seven months of operation, the turbine produced 27,659 KwH of power and avoided an estimated 36,375 pounds of carbon dioxide emissions.
Guests can see how much energy the turbine generates on a screen in the lobby, which displays wind speed, wind direction and the electricity generated in real time.
The hotel also replaced more than 75 percent of the light fixtures with compact fluorescent bulbs and added low-flow showerheads and toilets to guest rooms. They turn spent cooking oil into diesel fuel for use by a local company and the hotel eateries spotlight vegetables and flowers grown on or around the resort. Mountain View Grand even has its own spring-fed water tower used to irrigate the grounds.
A Greener Future
Looking to the future, Mountain View Grand hopes to implement a comprehensive composting program and convert the building's heating system to biodiesel fuel.
Not to be outdone, Chase has his own plans for the housekeeping operation, beginning with a move to water-based cleaning, which would eliminate the chemical sanitizer currently used. Beyond that, greening the custodial operations at the resort will be ongoing.
"I continually walk through our buildings, taking notes of what we can do better and what's a more energy efficient or greener way to do things," Chase adds.
Ronnie Garrett is a freelance writer and photographer based in Fort Atkinson, Wis.