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Taking Measure of Your Greenhouse Gas Emissions

February 23, 2012 | Comments: 0 | Views: 134

There's widespread consensus among the scientific community that human activities are altering the Earth's climate through increased greenhouse gas emissions, causing the potential for large-scale adverse health, social, economic and ecological effects. There's also an abundance of scientific evidence that many of the predicted environmental changes are now occurring. What may not be so clear is how climate change will affect the lodging industry in particular, what the industry can do to combat it, and where you can start to do your part.

The broad impacts of climate change could potentially have serious implications for the lodging industry as the very climate that drives so many visitors to your establishments is altered. Restricted water supplies, reduced snowfall, or increased rainfall during previously dry seasons are all potential impacts that could have a profound effect on your visitors and their travel plans.

Fortunately, the lodging industry can be a part of the solution too and reap a number of valuable co-benefits in the process, from reduced operating costs through increased energy efficiency to building goodwill with your guests. The first step is becoming aware of your establishments' own greenhouse gas emissions and the opportunities to reduce them.

Where to Start

A greenhouse gas inventory documents the sources and quantity of the greenhouse gas emissions from your facility. The six primary gases that are included in most inventories are carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4), nitrous oxide (N2O), perfluorocarbons (PFCs), hydroflurocarbons (HFCs), and sulfur hexafluoride (SF6). For a lodging establishment, major emission sources typically include fuels combusted onsite in boilers or generators, the operation of a vehicle fleet, electricity purchases, and the generation of solid waste.

The level of rigor and effort you can invest in a greenhouse gas inventory can vary widely depending on its intended use. For inventories used simply to establish your own reduction goals, prioritize reduction opportunities, and track progress toward goals, a simple inventory conducted internally with guidance from the methodologies provided by a number of bodies such as The Climate Registry and The Greenhouse Gas Protocol Initiative may be sufficient. These methodologies provide guidance on establishing boundaries, collecting data and calculating emissions from many potential emission sources.

If you're targeting an external audience where your inventory is subject to greater scrutiny consider choosing to apply more rigor, seek third-party verification of the inventory and potentially register the inventory with an organization such as The Climate Registry. The Climate Registry is a nonprofit organization that establishes consistent, transparent standards throughout North America for businesses and governments to calculate, verify and publicly report their carbon footprints in a single, unified registry. In these cases, you might seek assistance from an outside organization or consultant to compile the inventory.

Regardless of the level of rigor, the process of compiling your greenhouse gas inventory generally involves collecting utility billing or other records for activities such as fuel consumption, energy purchased, and solid waste generated. This activity data is then converted to a greenhouse gas impact using factors provided by the previously mentioned methodologies.

Reaping the Benefits

While a greenhouse gas inventory may at first glance seem simply as an added cost, such a view overlooks the many co-benefits of reducing your emissions. Such benefits include cost-saving efficiency opportunities, managing risk associated with potential future regulation of greenhouse gas emissions, gaining a competitive advantage from understanding and addressing greenhouse gas emissions early, and earning external recognition as a leader in addressing climate change.

In these times of economic difficultly, lodging operators clearly understand the benefits of cutting operating costs. The process of conducting a greenhouse gas inventory brings together the data and stakeholders in your establishment to identify opportunities for new bottom-line savings or to add momentum to existing efforts. Take Marriott's recent plan to cut back on free newspapers for guests- it's a simple action that's projected to save Marriott hotels not only money but to cut over 10,000 tons of greenhouse gas emissions per year.

Furthermore, by following an accepted methodology and collecting this data, your establishment will be prepared for and may be able to gain recognition for early action in any forthcoming national regulation or greenhouse gas reduction directives originating from your corporate office. By navigating this process now, your establishment will also gain a competitive advantage in responding to new developments in climate change regulations.

Many resorts and resort communities, particularly those tied to winter recreation, are already leading the way in inventorying and addressing their greenhouse gas emissions. Grand Targhee Resort in Wyoming recently became the first founding member of The Climate Registry to register a complete and verified inventory. Other communities such as Aspen, Colorado and Park City, Utah have also taken leadership roles in inventorying their community emissions. As an integral part of these tourism-centered communities, the lodging industry will be a critical partner in addressing greenhouse gas emissions. This creates a significant opportunity to raise the visibility of your establishment and appeal to the growing legion of customers who are conscious of their greenhouse gas footprint while traveling.

Even without an inventory, there are a variety of measures your establishment can take to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in your operations, from adopting and applying green building principles for new construction to conducting energy "retrofits" on existing facilities, reducing transportation miles or using cleaner fuels and cutting your generation of solid waste. Consider starting with building energy use, the single largest source of greenhouse gas emissions nationwide and an area where there is typically significant potential to increase energy efficiency, particularly in older buildings. Cutting building energy use will not only reduce your greenhouse gas emissions, but also lower your energy bills. Reduce fuel use in your vehicle fleet through reducing miles traveled and switching to more efficient vehicles, and incorporate alternative fuels such as biodiesel. Finally, consider how you can reduce your generation of solid waste through increasing your recycling and composting initiatives, and incorporating fewer disposable items in your operations. In doing so, you'll reap benefits for yourself, your guests, and the environment.

David Wortman, Program Manager Brendle Group- Engineering Sustainable Change

Source: EzineArticles
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