An Eco-Friendly Hotel Chain: The Buzz About Marriott International

Yesterday, Marriott International opened a new eco-friendly hotel, the Atlanta Airport Marriott Gateway. The hotel promises to be one of the greenest hotels in Atlanta, complete with virtual meeting technology. Their press release also suggested that the hotel was on track to win the LEED® (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) silver certification from the U.S. Green Building Council. LEED® is a green-building certification system meant to confirm that a structure was built with important eco-characteristics in check: proper energy savings, water efficiency, CO2 emissions reduction and so forth.

The new Atlanta Marriott may indeed win the award, as Marriott International was the first major eco-friendly hotel company to win a LEED®  certification (The Marriott at the University of Maryland).  At the end of May, the Sunday Times published a list of the top sixty green companies, and the Marriott placed seventh. The World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) awarded the Marriott the “2009 Tourism for Tomorrow Award for Sustainability” in the Global Tourism Business category.

The Marriott has gotten a lot of attention, and they do, actually, walk-the-green-walk. Not just in their press releases. Marriott International has replaced 450,000 of their light bulbs with fluorescent lighting over the past decade. They have installed 400,000 low-flow showerheads and toilets and set in place “reduce, reuse, recycle”  programs in 90% of their eco-friendly hotels.  They also work with a number of non-profit partners, including Audobon International and Conservation International. For example, in May 2010, the Marriott made a $500,000 commitment to help protect fresh water in the mountains of Southwest China. The program, called "Nobility of Nature," aims to help rural communities develop sustainable business including, for example, mushroom farming and honey production.

There's also honey production going on at the top of the Chicago Marriott Downtown Hotel. This particular Marriott is an eco-friendly hotel well-known for it's environmental initiatives, including the 200,000 bees buzzing around the 9th floor. In spring, the hotel releases the Italian five-striped honey bees into the city to pollinate the buds before returning to the hotel beehives. The bees produced about 200 pounds of honey last year. Just down the hall from the hives, you'll find the herb and vegetable gardens, and these sustainable goodies end up in the restaurant's food.  And in the bar downstairs, guests can even enjoy Rooftop Honey Wheat Beer.

It's not just a lot of noise: Marriott International really stands out with their environmental efforts and ambitious green goals. A taste of their future plans: Marriott International aspires to have 300 LEED® certified eco-friendly hotels by 2015. By 2017, they hope to reduce energy and water consumption by an additional 25% per available room. They hope to continue to green up their supply chain (they've started with earth-friendly towels, eco-pillows, bio-degradable laundry bags and greener key cards). Think about their potential to make a difference: Marriott International spends $10 billion buying products (and services) to provide for over 3,000 different hotels. They also claim to educate their 300,000 employees about sustainable living, and their many guests can sample their eco-friendly practices, too. Large companies like Marriott International might have a big environmental footprint, but they also have the greatest capacity to reduce their impact on a major scale.

Photo credit: Marriott PR