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Green Lodging Program streamlines process, changes requirements

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New green green webinars help facilities get answers

By Kellie Parkin

The Florida Department of Environmental Protection has restructured the Florida Green Lodging Program as of July 1, making changes to the application process, Best Management Practices, and some of the standards and requirements.

The changes to program have been made to strengthen environmental performance and streamline customer service as well as to save state money while continuing to recognize the lodging industry’s achievements, according to Deas Bohn, DEP’s Director of Sustainable Initiatives.

“DEP remains committed to the Florida Green Lodging Program and its reputation of environmental excellence,” Bohn said. “By streamlining the program yet adding additional performance measures we are confident that the program will continue to be a model green lodging program for the nation.”

Program changes constitute a refinement of criteria, not an abandoning of green practices, according to Bohn. “The framework of the program remains very much the same,” Bohn said. “Lodging facilities implement a required number of environmental practices that conserve resources and improve environmental performance. Their efforts are evaluated and verified, and they are recognized for their accomplishments through the Florida Green Lodging Program.”

Several individual steps of the application process have been combined and simplified. Now property owners can complete and submit only one document: the Green Lodging Designation Application. All application components and requirements are available online for submission.

“In the past, properties had to submit an application document, followed by a self-assessment document, before proceeding to completing and submitting the environmental practices verification document and site visit request,” Bohn said. “Simplifying and combining these components makes the process straightforward for hotel properties and has eliminated confusion on exactly what was required, when.”

The new set of more robust Best Management Practices (BMPs) will give properties the ability to customize their conservation efforts, Bohn said. The BMPs will now be listed online with helpful supporting documents to aide in achieving the Green Lodging designation more quickly. Transportation is one example that has been added as an environmental category for properties to include in their greening efforts.

The designation period has also been extended. For properties that meet the Green Lodging requirements, designation is valid for three years from the date of issuance. All lodging facilities will now be required to submit water, waste and energy use data annually and they must implement at least two new environmental practices each year.

In addition, facilities are now required to conduct and document ongoing employee education to ensure all personnel are implementing the Best Management Practices. The DEP has new online "green" tool kits to assist in education as well as ongoing marketing of environmental initiatives to management, guests, employees and the community.

Throughout the state of Florida 540 properties are certified under the program as of this week. “These 540 facilities are leaders in the lodging industry and prove that green is still growing in Florida,” Bohn said.

Currently two properties in Cedar Key have received the certification: Seahorse Landing Condominium Rentals and Faraway Inn. Interest is growing throughout the community and many more facilities are in the process of obtaining Green Lodging designation.

“The commitment I’ve seen from Cedar Key citizens and its lodging industry to participate in the Florida Green Lodging Program is amazing,” said Sheena Chin, Green Lodging Program District Coordinator. “The genuine enthusiasm for protecting and conserving Florida’s environment and their vision of a green Cedar Key is impressive.”

Tom Deverin, Chairman of the Cedar Key Energy Advisory Panel, would like to see the entire city be part of the Green Lodging program. “If we could be the first city in Florida, possibly the country, to get 100 percent participation- what a great marketing tool.”

Deverin sees green lodging as one component in the greening of Cedar Key. “The whole thing – whether its green lodging, the new recycling program, the dark skies program, implementation of clean harbor certifications, shell replants, the tree project, or the solar panels on the community center – its all about the same thing - which is energy awareness, conservation and sustainability,” Deverin said. “Our city has a long history of environmental awareness and implementation of programs that protect and preserve our beautiful city and surrounding waters. I expect this will continue.”

The Florida Green Lodging Program has no cost associated with the application, technical assistance, webinars or designation status. “We feel that as long as we are able to help our environment, the money should go to buying compact florescent bulbs or other eco-friendly products,” Bohn said. “Any money spent should stay with the facility.”

New green green webinars help facilities get answers

The Florida Department of Environmental Protection will add webinars to the Florida Green Lodging Program to provide ongoing education to property staff. Webinar topics will include green cleaning for housekeeping staff, energy efficiency and water conservation for engineering staff, recycling and reusing education for all staff, and environmentally friendly landscaping and grounds management.

“We’ve kept a list along the way of bumps in the process and we’ll also focus on those topics for our webinars,” said Deas Bohn, DEP’s Director of Sustainable Initiatives. “Heating and air units are on that list.”

Participants will be able to ask questions on the specific topic during the webinars and there will be an open question and answer period for any type of technical assistance inquiry. DEP plans to offer the webinars quarterly.

In the meantime, Bohn said, property staff need not wait to get questions answered. They can submit technical questions, such as where to find the proper heating and air unit coils, online through the green lodging Web site. Response time is usually within 48 hours, she said. They can also call (850) 245-2047 for assistance. The technical assistance team is happy to help with researching the right equipment and products, she said.