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Cornell Summit Reveals 'It isn't Easy Being Green'

The fundamental contradictions of sustainability in the hospitality industry formed a major focus of several presentations at the Cornell Hospitality Research Summit (CHRS), which aimed at improving both the industry's sustainability and profitability. The CHRS presentations on sustainability are summarized in the newly released conference sustainability proceedings, available at no charge from the Center for Hospitality Research (CHR).
As explained in the proceedings, "The Challenge of Hotel and Restaurant Sustainability: Finding Profit in 'Being Green'," the contradictions involve finances, operations, and marketing. Hotels and restaurants would save money from many sustainable practices, but often lack the capital to invest; operators that wish to improve practices lack measurement and benchmark standards; and guests expect hotels and restaurants to operate sustainably but don't use that as a decision factor in choosing a property.
Speakers at CHRS, held in October at the Cornell School of Hotel Administration, provided numerous strategies and examples of ways for the hospitality industry to move ahead on sustainability. To begin with, no sustainability program makes sense if it does not have a favorable cost-benefit ratio. For new hotels, sustainability starts with design. Hotels can be designed with the greatest possible efficiency, and that assists with sustainability even in the absence of outright "green" practices. An efficient design not only conserves resources, but it can make a hotel more viable (and profitable). However, when design is focused through the lens of sustainability, a new product emerges that should appeal to guests of all types, regardless of whether they are concerned about sustainability. Energy management should be integrated into hospitality operations so that it responds to actual building use, but at the same time the industry is still struggling to find benchmarks for "green" operations. Guest room energy management must be at the forefront of sustainability efforts, without interfering with the guests' convenience and pleasure. Food-service operations also face sustainability issues, complicated by guests' interest in healthy food and local sourcing. Finally, sustainability includes not only environmental issues but also the preservation of local cultures.
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