There is only one lodge in Collier County that has qualified for the Two Palms certification from the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), and it is the Hilton Marco Island Beach Resort and Spa.
Laura Comer, sustainability initiatives coordinator for the DEP’s south district, presented the award to the Marco Hilton’s general manager, Mac Chaudhry in a ceremony at the hotel on Wednesday.
“It’s a great accomplishment for the Hilton to be the first in Collier County, and one of only a handful in the entire state, to earn this certification,” Comer said.
The voluntary state initiative has three levels of participation, encouraging hotels and motels to keep moving forward in adopting cost-saving “green” practices that reduce waste and conserve natural resources.
Chaudhry brought together his entire management team to receive the award, crediting hard work by a dedicated group for being the first in Collier County to achieve this advanced certification.
“I applaud our Green Team, led by Dean Thomas,” he said. “They had numerous meetings and put a lot of efforts to make it happen. It was a total team work, and we are very proud of our entire staff for their contributions to make the difference on this beautiful island.”
To earn the initial One Palm certification in the Green Lodgings program, hotels must implement a variety of green practices in the areas of energy and water conservation, waste reduction, indoor air quality, and environmental education. One other property on Marco Island, the Marriott Beach Resort, has earned One Palm certification.
To advance to Two Palm status, hotels must implement additional best management practices for an entire year, and provide the supporting data to back them up.
“Measurable results — that’s what we were looking for, and that’s what you gave us,” said DEP’s Laura Comer. “You set those goals and met those goals. We know, with the One Palm certification, you already achieved all the low-hanging fruit, the easy stuff. Now it’s becoming part of your culture.”
She challenged the Hilton to continue their leadership role, and become one of the first in the state to reach Three Palm certification. “With your guys’ competitive nature, I know you’re not going to be satisfied yet,” she said.
Jack Wert, executive director of Collier County’s Convention and Visitors Bureau, also attended the ceremony and spoke to the assembled workers.
“You know how important it is to make Collier County an attractive destination,” he said.
Over the summer months, he said, visitors would be coming here from nearby feeder markets within Florida, and with the increasing emphasis on eco-conscious travel and living, factors such as the Green Lodgings certification could make the difference when families choose where to take their vacation.
The Hilton staff and management made numerous changes to become more environmentally friendly and earn the Two Palms certification.
They redid the landscaping, using Zoysia turfgrass to reduce water needs, and planted Green Island ficus, which is drought-tolerant, pest- and disease-free. They also saved water by using automatic urinals in public restrooms.
They expanded recycling and green purchasing, replaced windows in the tower building with thermal paned tinted insulated glass, went to energy-saving lighting, and installed new more efficient water heaters that cycle on and off to only heat as much water as needed.
The Florida Green Lodging program was launched in 2004, and established environmental guidelines for hotels and motels to conserve natural resources and prevent pollution.
In 2007, Governor Charlie Crist signed an executive order requiring state agencies and departments to hold meetings and conferences only at properties with Green Lodging program designation whenever possible.
In addition to the Green Lodging program, the DEP’s office of sustainable initiatives coordinates two additional voluntary, non-mandated programs to assist Florida companies and citizens in protecting the environment, the Clean Marina program, and the Florida Pollution Prevention program.
To learn more about the DEP’s sustainable initiatives, go to dep.state.fl.us/green/.