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Green hospitality Sustainability becoming watchword among hotels as they discard old materials

The hospitality industry’s conventional answer to the endless waste that came from updating its facilities — the sheer volume of furniture in hundreds of hotel rooms, the thousands of square feet of carpeting and wall materials — wasn’t what one might call eco-friendly. It all went to the landfill.

Full dumpsters are not a sign of forward thinking in today’s market, though.

That’s why The Allied Group, a Neptune-based company that primarily renovates hotels, puts a strong emphasis on finding ways to recycle dated materials — the mattresses, vinyl wall covers and carpeting found in hotels, which often hold recyclable plastics — as opposed to dumping them.

“The consumer is very conscious of companies that are being environmentally focused, and they’re making decisions based on that,” said Robert Smith, CEO and founder of The Allied Group. “In our case, they’re looking at hotels to see if they’re a socially responsible brand or company, and staying in those hotels.”

When the company recently did a 200-plus room renovation of the W Hoboken hotel — on top of installing new green energy features in the facility — it sorted trash and debris and partnered with a waste management company to divert as much of it from the landfill as possible.

“We did that without the endorsement of the owner,” Smith said. “Certainly, when they found out, they were very happy with it. But we did it following our own (environmental) awareness.”

En-tire-ly unique

Ever wonder if old tires end up going anywhere but the landfill?

Lakewood is home to one answer.

Rubberecycle LLC shreds and grinds up tires in its large Lakewood facility — up to 70 million pounds of tire rubber each year, in fact. The substance that comes out of this process is used in playgrounds.

“There’s definitely other facilities that grind up tires, but we’re very unique in the New Jersey area for what we do with it,” said Keith Sacks, the company’s vice president.

The company’s main products are mulch materials and mats that protect children from falls in playgrounds. More recently, the company has been using it for rubber curb borders that line the playgrounds, as well.

“We’ve seen steady growth from Day One, but we’re always looking for new uses for the rubber,” Sacks said.

Smith advocates this being on the agenda of any business.

“It gives a return on investment in terms of cost, but also in the consumer’s perception of that owner and how they’re operating that facility — and that sort of responsibility can be a return on investment that (yields) a higher level of profit over a longer course of time,” he said. 

Frank Campana, senior vice president of corporate real estate and facilities at hospitality business Wyndham Worldwide, said his Parsippany-based corporation has made big strides in figuring out how waste will be managed at its many hotels.

“Having (that focus) makes sense, when you stop and think about it,” he said. “Because you’re paying for that waste twice: once when you buy it for its initial use and again when you throw it away.”

It’s part of an ongoing, global green overhaul across Wyndham’s major hotel brands. Its officials hope to achieve a 40 percent carbon footprint reduction by 2025. Within the past seven years, it has brought that footprint down 21 percent, which translates to a $70 million bottom-line savings.

Sustainability goals are increasingly common in the entire commercial real estate sector, as well.

Kimmerle Group of Harding is just one of the many New Jersey architectural practices embracing sustainable commercial design practices and helping companies achieve green goals in their physical footprint.

Firm principal George Kimmerle said the question of what can be repurposed or updated, as opposed to bulldozed or thrown away, is a starting point on any project.

“We don’t immediately throw it out — we find a way to reuse it,” Kimmerle said.

And it’s not as if clients are wary of the investment; on the contrary, Kimmerle said Garden State companies want to be able to tout green aspects to their business and recast themselves as forward thinkers.

“There are clients we’ve had for 30 years that are now anxious to reinvent themselves and the image of their corporation,” Kimmerle said.

Brett Johnson

NJBIZ Business Events