Canada's greenest hotel practices what it preaches, resulting in profits

Visitors to the nation's capital have an appropriate place to spend Earth Day now that The Westin Ottawa has been declared Canada’s greenest hotel.
For this hotel, every day is Earth Day.
In late November, The Westin Ottawa, owned by Starwood Hotels, attained Green Key Global’s prestigious Five Green Keys rating in the Green Key Meetings Program.
The Westin Ottawa, which had received five green keys in the Green Key Eco-Rating Program a year earlier, became the first in North America to receive double five green key ratings from the international sustainable hotel certification body.
The Las Vegas’ Mandalay Bay Resort & Casino recently became the second on the continent to earn the double honour.
To help mark the occasion, The Westin Ottawa is planning an interactive event for its guests and associates on Earth Day 2013, set for Monday, April 22.
Guests and staff contribute to green goals
“Each department is going to be responsible for a showcase and a display, communicating to our guests how they contribute to our sustainability goals,” says Diana Helferty, The Westin Ottawa’s sustainability champion and catering sales manager.
“So we’re going to have interactive activities, prizes, giveaways . . . The objective of this is to really get across to our guests that today is Earth Day and we are proudly participating in it and also to showcase everything that we’ve done to date environmentally for our hotel, including our achievements and our awards.”
“We’re not just trying to showcase it for our guests,” adds Jeff White, director of engineering and co-green committee leader. “Traditionally, we do Earth Hour. We’ve done that for many, many years. It’s been very successful. We turn the entire lobby into an hour-long reception for that Earth Hour,” he said.
“This year we’ve taken it a step further and turned it into Earth Day. It drives you to be the best you can be, so just doing Earth Hour just isn’t enough. What can we do to go further?”
That philosophy has led to a raft of honours such as the Hotel Association of Canada’s Energy and Environment Award 2009; Hydro Ottawa’s Companies for Conservation Certificate of Recognition 2008; Energard Top 10’s Best Performer in Full Service Category for Energy Savings 2007; Starwood Hotels and Resorts’ Most Energy Efficiency 2006; and Energy & Environment Awards in 2009 and 2012.

Innovative thinking pays dividends
The last award was clinched by some innovative thinking, White says.
“There was a challenge put out to all the hotels in Canada to come up with a way to reduce associates using the elevators and go up the stairs,’’ White says. ”We turned our staircase into a piano.”
“It actually was the tipping point, I think, in our overall bid to win the energy and environment award. It was all these hotels doing really great things, but then it was The Westin Ottawa once again stepping way above the rest.”
The Westin Ottawa’s green committee has actually been stepping up ever since it was set up in 2006. Having attained the prestigious double five green key honours, the committee is continuing to work towards the hotel’s long-term goal of 30/20 by 2020; reducing energy consumption by 30 per cent and water consumption by 20 per cent.
Under Helferty and White’s leadership, the hotel has already exceeded its water goal and is more than half way to reaching the energy goal.
Leave nothing behind
The team has also implemented Leave Nothing Behind, a waste management policy for conference exhibitors with a goal of preventing left-over waste and to encourage exhibitors to recycle on-site or find ways for the materials to be reused without harming the environment.
Additionally, the green committee instituted a carbon offset program for meeting planners.
Helferty is well aware that achieving the hotel’s sustainability goals isn’t possible if staff members aren’t onside.
“We know we can’t market ourselves as a green hotel if our 350 associates aren’t green,” she says. “So we do really focus on that. For example, we’ve added a whole section on our associate new-hire manual on environmental sustainability and the policies in place and how those policies are integrated into their job tasks.
“All of our new hires go through a mandatory eight-hour orientation and we’ve added a whole presentation on green initiatives to kind of make sure that everyone that’s arriving at our hotel to work knows our goals. They know that we take this very seriously and what they can to contribute to reach these goals.”
The double five green key ratings also made the hotel the natural choice to host Ottawa’s First Green Key Forum: Enhancing Your Hotel Sustainable Toolbox, set to get underway at 9 a.m. on Wednesday, April 24.
Forum shares best practices within industry
The forum is designed for members of the Ottawa lodging industry to learn sustainable best practices from local presenters, including: The City of Ottawa; Envirocentre; Ottawa Centre Eco-district; Hydro Ottawa; Hilton Lac Leamy; JustFood Ottawa; Direct Energy; Loop Initiatives; Lightenco; Network for Business Sustainability; and, naturally, The Westin Ottawa.
“Green Keys is trying to enlist or find more buildings, not just hotels but everyone, to buy into the program and they thought what better way to showcase or try to entice people to come onboard than to do it at our building?” White says. “There’s many hotels that are coming, many suppliers that are promoting green initiatives, so we’re trying to get everyone together and we’re going to do a presentation there as well.”
 “The hotel is asking Jeff and I to speak about employee engagement because it’s obviously a big thing at the hotel,’’ says Helferty. “We have a lot of people here and without those people we wouldn’t be where we’re at.”
The Westin Ottawa is takes being green to heart, something customers are recognizing.
“Even before the cost-saving initiatives, I think we are so green because it’s the right thing to do,’’ White says. “It’s because of that we’re able to reap the benefits from a sales and marketing perspective. We now have clients who are coming to us because we’re the green hotel, so it definitely helps overall.”

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