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Achieving Sustainability Status

Florida Beach Resort Recognized For Its Extensive Eco-Friendly Initiatives

Wednesday, December 18, 2019
Dennis Nessler
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Building a hotel on the ocean comes with many benefits, but as the management of the Hutchinson Shores Resort & Spa recognized such opportunity also carries with it a certain responsibility. The result is an eco-friendly hotel that was recently recognized by Florida with Three Palm Status, which designates the resort as a facility committed to protecting the state’s natural resources.

Ocean Properties in 2009 acquired the former flagship Holiday Inn--which was severely damaged and ultimately shuttered from a pair of hurricanes in 2004--before beginning a full rebuild in 2015. Located on Hutchinson Island--which is just north of Palm Beach--the 178-room hotel officially opened in 2017 as part of the company’s Opal Collection of unique, independent hotels.

The Hutchinson Shores Resort & Spa has a signature spa, two pools and cabanas, three resort dining options and 12,000 square feet of meeting and event space.

General manager Ed Griffith emphasized the importance of the hotel’s green initiatives. “We knew we had a responsibility on the ocean to protect the wildlife,” he said.

Building on the existing foundation of the hotel, Griffith further pointed out their efforts penciled out from a business perspective as well as being the right thing to do.

“We had an opportunity to change everything that made sense to change. We really started with things that would conserve energy and things that would conserve water because it works both ways. If we’re able to conserve natural resources we conserve on what we pay for those natural resources, whether it’s water or energy, and in return we have a more eco-friendly hotel and resort,” he said.

The hotel was recognized by The Florida Department of Environmental Protection’s Green Lodging Program and scored in the third highest percentile in the fields of sustainable communication and education, waste reduction, reuse and recycling, water conservation, energy efficiency and indoor air quality. Launched in 2004, the Florida Green Lodging Program seeks to recognize lodging facilities that make a voluntary commitment to protecting Florida’s environment.

The Three Palms designation was very much part of the plan for Griffith, who has been actively involved in the state’s Green Lodging Program for more than a decade. He detailed the process and the decision to wait nearly a year after opening to apply for status.

“When I opened this property it was definitely a goal to become part of Florida’s Green Lodging Program; I’m a huge supporter. But you don’t realize how long it takes you to get there. We knew we were just a breath away from moving the needle from something that we do a little bit to doing full force, and so it took us about 8 months to move that needle,” he said.

The general manager cited some of the specific efforts, starting with the property’s lighting, such as switching to LEDs for the entire property. Griffith also noted the hotel utilizes amber interior and exterior lighting or “special turtle lighting” as it is home to large populations of sea turtles.

“The cost to convert that is rather minor compared to the savings that come back to you and that’s just electricity” noted Griffith.

Meanwhile, he highlighted some of the eco-friendly features in the bathrooms, such as waterless toilets, which include an automatic flush, as well as automatic faucets. Griffith underscored the importance of these investments from a guest satisfaction standpoint.

“When you look at all the factors it just makes sense, not only to save money, but it’s what the customer wants. I think in the end that’s really what drives everybody; they want technology. They want a light that will turn on when you walk into a room, they want to walk up to a toilet without having to touch it. It’s a great added service and benefit and if you didn’t do it you’d be installing old technology when you’re a new property,” he said.

One of the biggest challenges associated with going green, according to Griffith, has been recycling and getting both guests and associates to actively take part.

“If you don’t get the the buy in of your staff and your team and they’re not 100 percent behind the initiatives, you can’t do them. A perfect example is recycling, we have used pictures, words, arrows, and we’ve even had people stand next to recycling containers,” he commented.

Other initiatives from the property include converting plastic straws to paper and water stations throughout the property to help eliminate plastic water bottles. The hotel also partners with organizations to help clean up the beaches as well.

Griffith acknowledged that in addition to taking a lead in being green many of the aforementioned investments have positioned the hotel for success against competitive properties who may have been constructed with an eye on keeping costs down.

“They build their hotels without these features and it just sets them back years trying to catch up...There is a direct relationship between the money you spend at your property and the revenue that comes in,” he said.

When asked about the potential of achieving other certifications or awards, Griffith emphasized the company was focused on local organizations, even in some cases mentoring nearby hotels to help them increase their commitment to sustainability.

“We have really kept a lot of our efforts local and I say local from the standpoint of within Florida and within the community. We decided the best way to give back locally is to join the organizations that are in our backyard,” he commented.

Griffith pointed out the hotel remains very much a work in progress when comes to eco-friendly initiatives and suggested reaching Four Palm Status could be on the horizon.

“We could have got to Four if we waited. We’re going to take the next year and put together the final pieces and then continue to push forward. It’s not ever a one-and-done program,” he concluded.


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Dennis Nessler    Dennis Nessler
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