SUMMING IT UP
• Opportunities to “go green” can be found in all aspects of club and resort property operations.
• In addition to showing environmental responsibility, making even the smallest efforts to save energy and cut waste will yield tangible cost savings.
In Part Two of a series, club managers share tips for how even the littlest things are making big differences in showing environmental responsibility-and saving operational costs-at their properties.
The “green” movement is currently burning up a lot of energy, at least where the public relations machines of hospitality-related businesses are concerned. Rarely an hour goes by now where the editors of Club & Resort Business don’t get another press release about the latest “green” initiative being undertaken by hotel or restaurant chains, or by suppliers to the industry.
A lot of this is more hype than help, of course. But the truth is, whether you believe in “global warming” or not, we as property managers can’t continue to manage our businesses as usual any longer. This year’s spike in energy-related costs has made it clear that we need to seek new approaches in our day-to-day operations—not only in areas related to energy management, but also human capital management, because our staffs’ ability to get to and from work, and to run their own “family businesses,” has also been directly and severely affected by the rising costs. When that happens, it can have a direct effect on how they can do their jobs and provide service to our members and guests.
So overall, a big part of our jobs as general managers must now be focused, in general, on conservation of resources, both natural and human. It is not just about the air we breathe or the paper and packaging that we use, but instead about a fundamental change in our lifestyles, both personal and business.
For example, it has been shown that unhealthy conditions now existing in buildings and office spaces result in 160 million sick days being taken in the U.S. alone each year, along with another 300 million days of restricted activity in the workplace. This costs $64 billion annually—$35 billion in lost work, and $29 billion for health care-related costs.
Most people also don’t know that it takes up to a third of a pound of dangerous chemicals to grow one pound of regular cotton, which then contains toxic substances that are produced into the clothing we wear. So organic cotton is worth a look, as a better alternative for the uniforms we’re buying for staff.
These are just some of the areas, and decisions, that we as club managers now need to look into, if we’re to do a better job of fully understanding all of the environmental impacts involved with how we run our enterprises. Clearly, there is a lot to consider when redirecting an organization to “go” green. There is also a lot of pressure, from both stakeholders and the community at large, to demonstrate how we’re being socially responsive and contributing to this effort.
The good news is, it’s really pretty easy to find ways to show how your property is doing its part—and when you do, there are some real benefits, both environmental and financial, that can be gained with minimal effort. As a followup to the first article in this series (It Is Easy—and Important—to be Green,” C&RB July, pg. 54), I contacted some fellow club managers to see how they, too, are getting on board. Here are some of the very interesting and innovative solutions they told me about:
Charting A New Course
“We are engaged in a program to do our part,” reports Jim Butler, General Manager of Grey Oaks Country Club in Naples, Fla. “In addition to the typical things—recycling, foam plate removal, takeout plates, energy efficiency, reduction of turf areas, native plantings, butterfly gardens, and light fixtures—probably the most significant items have been done on our golf courses.
“Our IPM [integrated pest management] programs include a significant lake planting program,” Butler says. “This helps to create a buffer between the water storage lake system and the chemicals from the golf courses. Most of our lakes are now ‘planted out,’ and the plants also serve to filtrate the water in the lakes.
“Our Estuary golf course was a tomato field before Bob Cupp turned it into a premier golf course,” Butler says. “The course now serves as an environmental habitat for all sorts of Florida wildlife, including fish, eagles, hawks, raccoons, foxes, and alligators.
“We are constantly looking to reduce our chemicals and fertilizers on the course,” he adds. “We bought a leaf-tissue sampling machine a few years ago, to measure the nutrient contents in the greens. So now we only fertilize when we need to, as opposed to when we think we need to. This has reduced the amount of nitrogen we are putting onto the course by almost 20%. I’m sure we are only one of a handful of clubs in the world with such a machine.”
“Mountain Brook Club is a true older club of Southern tradition,” reports Dana DiChiara, who recently became the new General Manager at the Birmingham, Ala. club. “While clubs like ours are sometimes slower to embrace change, we too are gradually going ‘green’ and thinking of future ways to change, as indeed, the rising costs of utilities and food are affecting us all.
“With fuel prices skyrocketing, and some employees traveling over an hour to and from work, one of the first incentives I introduced as the new General Manager was the “Great Gas Give-Away!” DiChiara reports. “Each Friday afternoon this summer, I drew an employee’s name from a jar on my desk for a free $50 gas card. To be in the drawing each week, department heads recommended staff members who had exceeded member expectations during the week. Believe me, this energized the staff and was a popular incentive for them to ‘go the extra mile.’ It also gave me a chance to see and thank the employees who qualified, when they came to put their names into the jar.”
“On a broader scale, several years ago an Energy Task Force team of employees was organized here, to brainstorm ways that we could take charge of our energy usage, lower monthly power bills and free up resources for other club needs.
“We are now in the process of re-organizing the team to encourage more employees to ‘buy in’ to the movement, with posted memos reminding them to reduce air conditioning in unoccupied areas and turn off equipment overnight when not needed,” DiChiara says. “My housekeeping staff now takes delight when I forget to turn off my office light during the day as I make my rounds of the club. I return to find my office in the dark and hear a little voice calling down the hall with a ‘gotcha’ smile, saying, ‘I turned off your lights for you while you were away!’ This once again shows me that it is indeed the small changes that can make a difference.
“Over the years the task force has also implemented several cost-saving measures, from changing to more efficient lighting and installing hydro heaters for the steam table in the kitchen to getting the guest suites on their own heat source,” she adds. “We also set up budget billing with a few utility companies; while this does not save dollars, it does make it a little easier at budget time to forecast future spending.
“Last summer,” DiChiara continues, “Birmingham was under severe drought. So even though we rationed water for course irrigation, a decision that was made a couple of years back to create an irrigation lake and pump station proved to be money ‘well’ spent—pun intended! Our local sewer rates are still expected to perhaps increase by as much as 12% a year through 2011, if not longer—so projects are now being discussed to ‘catch and recycle’ from ice machines and other areas throughout the club.
“At our pool, we are looking into perhaps changing to saline, to reduce chemical costs for the 2009 season. For now, we have opted against offering a poolside towel service, due to the cost involved for our in-house laundry. While this is a nice guest amenity, it’s definitely not an example of ‘thinking green.’
“On a smaller scale,” DiChiara concludes, ‘we now produce our own ‘server pads’ for taking orders from recycled Banquet Event Orders. While they don’t look the greatest, it saves paper and is indeed a conversation starter for members who inquire. Believe me, everyone does appreciate our efforts, no matter how small!”