Wind Power Champions: The InterContinental Miami

Sustainability InterContinental Miami

The InterContinental Miami gives Green Hotelier a passionate account of its sustainability work…

Under the leadership of general manager Robert Hill, the InterContinental Miami has implemented a comprehensive sustainability focus through the use of IHG’s Green Engage program that began in 2006, incorporating design, operations and technologies that reduce energy, conserve water, cut carbon emissions and decrease waste, while improving guest health and comfort and reducing overall operation costs.  As Robert Hill comments, “It is when a hotel can combine all of these elements together that the program can be truly sustainable.”

“This past year, the InterContinental Miami made additional strides through its $30 million renovation project, which included outfitting all 641 suites with energy efficient lighting, low flow water toilets and faucets and recycle bins.  Additionally, an LED light installation was made to the hotel’s stately porte-cochere entrance, replacing 550 incandescent bulbs with 4900 LEDs.  This switch reduced energy consumption at the entrance by 50%, translating into an overall 20% reduction in energy.”

Robert goes on to explain that the InterContinental Miami means business when it comes to lessening the impact of its energy consumption and waste.  Just last month the hotel announced a wind power purchase equivalent to its estimated energy usage for the year. The hotel supports green renewable energy and is adamant about replenishing the energy it consumes, so this purchase supports the creation of wind energy for others.  This is the second year the hotel makes this purchase and remains as the largest wind energy purchaser in Florida.

On the back of their commitment to sustainability the hotel have won several awards including the 2013 Hospitality & Tourism Beacon Award, 2010 Aqua-Recycle Award for achieving over 20M gallons of recycled water and the Greater Miami & Beaches Hotel Association Inn Key Award for environmental quality and commitment to being green in 2011 and 2012. Alongside these awards the hotel is also a member of the Florida Green Lodging Program and is on the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) 100% Wind Energy Purchaser’s List.

Robert continues, “Through the many sustainability initiatives, we hope to augment staff’s sense of ownership, so they may choose to translate what they do at work into their home lives – in essence creating a more environmentally conscious community.  As for guests, they are aware of the recycling program in their rooms and can choose to take part in the water conservation program, but most of their experience is seamless, so they never see the work that is done behind the scenes.”

“Our hotel has a long-time tradition of creating partnerships within the community for the benefit of our employees, guests, neighbours and environment, and look forward to advancing these efforts further in the future.”

One of the most exciting sustainable initiatives at the hotel is the purchase of wind power equal to 100% of the hotel’s estimated energy usage in 2013.  The hotel ranks as the largest green power purchaser in the state of Florida and maintains its place on the EPA’s 100% Purchaser’s List for a second year in a row.

The EPA estimates that this purchase avoids an estimated 11,534 metric tons of carbon dioxide, which is the equivalent to the greenhouse gas emissions from 2,172 passenger vehicles each year, or the carbon dioxide emissions from the electricity use of 1,381 average American homes for one year.

Here are some of the other eco initiatives in place at the InterContinental Miami at the moment:

Energy & Carbon

  • The introduction of energy efficient lighting in the guestrooms, corridors, public areas and the heart of house have represented an approximate 20% in energy reduction

Water

  • Low Flow Faucets: Standard US faucets can range between 1.0 and 2.0 gallons per minute.  Our guestroom sink faucets are rated at .5 GPM
  • Watersense Toilets: Guestroom toilets meet criteria established by the EPA, which allows them to use less water, while maintaining performance.  Our toilets are rated at 1.1 gallons per flush
  • Aqua-Recycle: The hotel’s laundry has a unique water recycling system that captures and filters portions of water used during rinse cycles for use in upcoming wash cycles
  • Project Planet Program: Yet another effort by the hotel to protect the environment through conservation of water and decreased use of detergent.  Guests help in this initiative, because if they are staying for multiple nights, they can choose to have their linens washed every three days

Education & training

  • As part of InterContinental Hotels & Resorts partnership with the National Geographic Center for Sustainable Destinations, every year hotel staff participate in a Responsible Business Week, a week full of activities and volunteer engagements with an overarching theme of being responsible partners in the communities they live and work in.  During the week, staff are given opportunities to see tangible results of their efforts e.g. they recently visited the local recycling plant and a local food bank, Feeding South Florida, where we donate food

Community

  • Feeding South Florida: Untouched leftover meals from the hotel’s restaurant, meetings and events is packaged by the Kitchen Staff, and this local food bank is called to pick it up and distribute to local non-profit organizations in need of meals for the homeless
  • Culmer Headstart and Child Care Center: Located in a low income sector of our community, the hotel’s staff collaborates to paint murals, landscape the facility, re-plant and re-sand the play areas as part of InterContinental’s Responsible Business Week.  The relationship has grown into yearlong activities, such as an annual holiday toy giveaway
  • Organic Table 40 at Toro Toro Herb Garden: The hotel’s rooftop houses an organic herb/fruit garden, harvested for use at the hotel’s Chef’s Table and mySpa. An expansion curated by Paradise Farms, in spring 2012, included 12 various citrus trees
  • Linens: Worn towels are turned into rags at the property and worn bed linens are donated to local charities
  • Clean the World Campaign: Under a joint partnership with IHG and Clean the World, the hotel recycles partially-used soaps and bottled amenities from hotel guest rooms. These are then distributed in communities with limited access to hygiene products. This program supports IHG’s Green Engage initiative by reducing hotel waste in our landfills.  Since adopting the program in May 2012, the InterContinental Miami has collected over 1,476 lbs. of soap, which means 7,872 bars of life saving soap will be distributed to children and families in need worldwide.
  • We’ve also collected 2,020 lbs. (21,547 ea.) of bottled amenities combined they have diverted a total of 3,496 lbs. or 1.7 tons of landfill waste

Events

  • Every year the hotel holds an Earth Day event, involving all staff.  In 2011, the garden mentioned above was planted

To wrap up, Green Hotelier asked Robert…

What have been the main benefits of implementing these green initiatives?

We believe being ‘green’ is much more than a trendy badge of distinction. Hotels produce a large amount of waste on a daily basis and by acting responsibly to minimize our impact on the environment is vital.  Simply put, we run our hotel operations with a dedication to sustainable development.  By being vocal about sustainability, we hope to set an example for all hoteliers.  If one can make a difference and positively impact the environment, imagine the impact we as an industry can make.  Every little green action contributes to the wellness of local communities. Additionally, our employees are proudly vested in the initiatives, which we believe translate into their own lives.  Having a sense of ownership in the place they live, work and play is invaluable.  For our customers, being green is of growing importance.  By doing business with us, they allow us to have more resources available to dedicate to expanding our green initiatives.

What are the plans for extending green initiatives in the future?

We are always evaluating next steps when it comes to improving, whether it is expanding our garden or adding greenery to the city street that runs parallel to our entrance. As part of our operations, we continuously partner with the local electric and waste management companies and others to evaluate energy efficient chillers, building energy management, and water and waste reduction strategies. All green initiatives require an investment, but we believe that in the end the costs will have a positive impact on our bottom line.

What would be your top 3 bits of advice to hotels looking to do the same?

  1. Take the time to assess the hotel’s use of energy, water, air, food and waste, and create a realistic plan with short-term and long-term green initiative goals
  2. Make sustainability part of the corporate culture, educate and train staff at the time of implementing green initiatives.  Do so in a manner than engages staff and provides them a sense of ownership and pride over the positive impact they are making
  3. Don’t discount green initiatives when being mindful of your bottom line.  At times, being green is expensive, but if you study the economic impact of a green decision you may discover that long-term, it can represent savings

For more information go to The InterContinental Miami and IHG’s latest Corporate Social Responsibility Report
IHG is a member of the International Tourism Partnership

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