Archive for August, 2012

Volunteers…Not Just For Tennessee!

Well here we are; the last post of our four week series on being socially responsible.  So far we have covered company policies, social responsibility, and capital improvements.  That means we have one category left in our green certification program at Fresh Air Lodging:  Volunteerism.  Don’t worry we’re not recruiting for anyone!  But maybe we can give you a few ideas how you can get involved in some different organizations.

I’ve mentioned our shoe drive with Soles 4 Souls in previous posts.  It really is a wonderful organization and can be a lot of fun if you choose to get involved.  You can partner with other businesses or schools and maximize the amount of shoes and money you collect.  Use your imagination!  The same can be said for toy drives at the holidays.  We’ve collected truck-loads of toys for the Salvation Army and Toys for Tots.  Many businesses will work with someone who is willing to do the legwork, you just have to ask them.

Nowadays there are many more people visiting local food shelves.  One thing I liked to volunteer to do was to organize an annual food drive at a hotel I managed.  We would make it a contest amongst the classes in a local elementary school with the winner getting a free pool party.  It’s amazing how many pounds of food some children can collect when swimming is the reward!  We did this during the holidays and placed it in the lobby around the tree.  Sometimes guests were compelled to join in by grabbing some non-perishable foods from the store next door.  The classes were willing to jump in because there was little for them to do in advance; just bring in some food during the designated week.

The things I mentioned above took a little preparation on my part.  But after you do them the first time, you’ll have a record of what worked, what should be changed, and be set to do it again.  If you are wary of jumping in with both feet right out of the gate, work with a community organization, Chamber of Commerce, or maybe your industry’s state association for your business.  I myself am partial to food volunteering (you know, pancake dinners, spaghetti fundraisers, or chili cook-offs) because I love to eat!  But it is a special warm fuzzy feeling when I see over a hundred quilts that I helped make being bundled for delivery to the Red Cross, fire department, or women’s shelter.  Whatever your business, passion, or hobby, there’s probably a volunteer opportunity for that.


56 Shades of Social Responsibility**

When is green more than a color?  When it’s part of social responsibility, of course.  It wasn’t long ago that we only focused on simple things such as can recycling and light bulbs when it came to being green; nowadays that is not enough.  People are looking beyond easy for ways to affect real change.  Recycling has blossomed beyond just separating out paper from other trash.  Most cities have massive recycling centers, and many locations have bins for recycling that don’t even need to be sorted.  That sure makes it easier for people to do the right thing.

But what happens when we move past recycling into the realm of social responsibility?  How about food recycling programs!  As the number of shelters and food shelves increase, it is more important than ever to have a plan to dispose of food waste.  Edible food surpluses can often times be donated to help feed those in need.  If you have extra food that needs disposal, but it may not be fit for human consumption and you’re not quite ready for a compost pile, you could pass it on to farms for livestock feeding.  And don’t forget to buy from those farms and local growers, you’re helping your local economy and it’s probably fresher.

What else can you do to be more socially responsible?

  • When replacing furniture and soft-goods, consider donating your outgoing pieces
  • Use no odor/low VOC paint
  • Dispose of hazardous waste such as fluorescent bulbs through licensed vendors
  • Use organic or recycled products for landscaping
  • Utilize environmentally-friendly cleaning and laundry products, avoiding aerosol cans whenever possible

And my favorite thing about social responsibility; bikes!  Hotels are rapidly embracing bicycle-loaning programs.  Cities and states are swiftly expanding bike paths, making year-round commuting and recreational biking very mainstream in many places.  City buses have been fitted with special bike racks in Duluth, MN, which makes tackling “The Hill” a little easier for a beginner.  So no matter what your level of ability, how often you hop on, or what distance you go, every mile you pedal on a bike is one less mile traveled by gas-powered transportation.  And that is always responsible.

**56 Shades of Social Responsibility is in reference to the number of options listed on the Fresh Air Lodging Membership Application.   A minimum of 15 items is required for acceptance in our green certification program, and the number of green practices continues to expand.

The Company (Policies) We Keep

There’s an old Aesop’s Fable that deals with a man who wanted to buy a new donkey.  When he got the donkey home, it immediately took up with the laziest and greediest ass the man owned.  The man promptly returned the donkey to the seller saying he could see what sort of beast it was from the companion he chose for himself.  The moral of the story is that a man is known by the company he keeps.  So, if men are known by the company they keep, could one say that companies are known by the policies they keep?  This week’s post will deal with the company policy portion of social responsibility.

When company policies are written in regard to environmental initiatives, they may be accompanied by some grumbling of staff.  After all, most people don’t like change.  But it’s my experience that any new program is typically better received if it comes with some explanations.  For example, did you know that a faucet that drips one drop per second will waste over 2,000 gallons of water in a year?  What else would you like to spend that money on?  Whatever it is you would surely get more enjoyment out of that than sending a check to the utility company.

And speaking of water, are there bottles of water in your office or home?  There isn’t a definitive answer on how many water bottles are tossed out annually, but the numbers range from 22-50 billion.  Yes, that’s billion…with a “B”.  Whether it’s 22 or 50, that’s a heckuva lot of water bottles!  Living in God’s Country (aka Minnesota, the land of sky blue water) we are lucky enough to have the best tap water around.  I like to think of it as the water against which all other water is measured.  But occasionally people still have to purchase it due to well-water or local mineral issues.  So why not use the old water cooler?  They are readily available, fairly priced, can have hot or cold spigots, and provide the ultimate cliché meeting place for an office!  If you’re not ready for that type of commitment, you could always go with a filter for the tap or a filtered pitcher to keep in your fridge.

Some other good policies to help you be more socially responsible and save money:

  • Use bulk amenities (soaps, shampoos, etc.) instead of small individually packaged items
  • Have light switches only turn on one fixture as opposed to an entire room of lights
  • Have a preventative maintenance program regarding heating/cooling units and other appliances
  • Limit the use of disposable dishes and silverware
  • Have a paper recycling plan
    • Reuse paper whenever possible—using both sides
    • Only print necessary emails or reports
    • Buy recycled whenever available
    • Reduce the amount of (printed) newspapers in your home/office
  • Kick the habit!  Going nonsmoking saves money out-of-pocket and in health care expenses.  Set up teams for support and quit together.  Check out this blog post for a great way to stop for good.
  • Got grease to get rid of?  Take it to a transfer station or mix it with kitty litter for disposal instead of dumping it down the drain.

So when you’re looking at becoming more planet-friendly, don’t forget about the donkey.  The future really does depend on the company (and policies) we keep.

Capital Improvements to $ave Green

Green; what comes to mind when you hear that term?  When I was a kid green meant one of many colors in my large crayon box.  Nowadays it conjures up a whole different slew of emotions, most not as warm and fuzzy as my treasured Crayolas.  I prefer to use the phrase “Socially Responsible”; it implies a certain sense of accountability with regard to society as a whole.  It’s no longer enough to recycle paper and change to fluorescent light bulbs!  In our certification program, Fresh Air Lodging, we base our qualification on four basic tenets:  Capital Improvements, Company Policies, Social Responsibility, and Volunteerism.  I thought I’d take the next few posts to go a little deeper into each of those four areas.

Capital Improvements… that very phrase is enough to send shivers down the spine of any owner or manager of a business!  Obviously no one wants to spend any more than they have to.  But when planned out and executed properly, capital improvements can be a nice little return on investment.  Products like low-flow faucets and toilets are so widely accepted that it’s nearly impossible to find any other type.  Many public restrooms have taken it one step further with automatic faucets and high volume hand dryers.  I like these dryers.  But the old ones, you know the type—where you could blow on your hands and they’d dry faster—are not effective and they take more juice!  Hardly the desired result.

Something most people don’t give much thought to is the settings on washers and dryers.  I’m not talking about rushing out to purchase the newest models, unless that’s in your plan and budget—which is great!  What I am talking about is making sure that you (or your staff) are using the machines properly, at the correct settings, and for the least amount of time and energy.  If you run a business that uses washers and dryers, regular maintenance should be performed to ensure they are set for proper extraction and temperature.  This could be a noticeable cost savings for your bottom line.

Some other capital improvements you may want to consider are:

  • Windows that open vs. fixed closed—fresh air is great!
  • HEPA filters on vacuums, air handling equipment, etc.
  • Use an alternative energy vehicle such as E-85 or electric
  • Occupancy sensors on public/high traffic areas—make sure overrides are available for special events
  • Digital thermostats are more accurate and reliable— they’re great in conjunction with timers for day/night settings
  • Motion-sensing lights on vending machines to reduce electricity consumption
  • And finally, rainwater recycling.  This is a great method of collecting water for plants and gardens, bird baths, fountains, etc.


Spirit in the Valley!

Every state boasts about their festivals and special events.  This time of the year travelers have a wide variety from which they can select.  Some feature certain foods, like the cherry festival in Traverse City, Michigan.  Many focus on flowers, as the Tulip Festival in Mount Vernon, Washington.  But my favorite festival has to be the week of Spirit Valley Days in West Duluth, Minnesota.  After crowning Miss West Duluth, and the day after a huge parade, they close off the streets between several watering holes on Friday night for a huge two-stage/multiple band streetdance.  That’s when the fun really takes place.

If you’ve never taken part in a streetdance, you don’t know what you’re missing!  This particular one involves a regional band called Hairball.  It is quite an eclectic sound.  They have multiple lead singers who dress up as a bunch of characters from the 80’s and 90’s.  From AC/DC and Ozzy Osbourne to Prince and Twisted Sister, these guys do not disappoint!  And the best part (as if this wasn’t enough) is the participants who dress up.  You’re sure to see fans of the bands sporting ripped jeans, maybe some flannels, and of course big 80’s hair!

If you’re traveling around during festival season I strongly suggest you do some research.  Find out what’s going on at your destination or in nearby cities.  You never know who you’ll run into at these great venues, and you can’t beat a party in the fresh air.  Now, were did I put my Madonna outfit…