We’ve addressed it before here at gbNYC, but it bears mentioning again — as nice as staying in a hotel can be, all those fresh towels and 400,000,000-thread-count sheets come at an absurd and absolutely unnecessary carbon cost. Many of the sustainability issues unique to hotels are a function of running a big building with a bunch of people in it — many of whom would think twice about leaving the heat on blast while they’re out of their room, because it’s not their heating bill. Other factors in the general un-greenness of hotels reflect industry standard practices, though — most notably the ridiculous and unnecessary move of leaving the lights on in empty rooms, all the time. (The Urban Green Council’s epic New York Green Codes report singled out this particularly goofy practice for criticism) All of which is to say that there’s plenty of room for improvement when it comes to green hotels, and a great deal more greenwashing and goofiness than actual effort at work in closing that gap. Still, some stellar green hotels have opened recently in NYC — the LEED Silver-hopeful InterContinental Times Square being one notably impressive example. Now, with the news that the venerable midtown luxury hotel The New York Palace has embarked upon a fairly ambitious sustainability program, the number of green New York luxury hotels has grown by one — with this particular addition dating back to 1882.
The New York Palace’s boldest claim in its green initiative is that it is now the largest NYC hotel to operate on “100% green power,” which sounds a lot better than it probably is, given that the figure is reached through the purchase of (worthy, sometimes sketchy) carbon offsets from the Hess Corporation. Other initiatives, though, from the prosaic-but-effective encouragement to recycle and turn out the lights to taking a more responsible approach to hosting corporate events through a green meeting program. That program places a subtle emphasis on things like recycling and turning off the lights and a bunch of other things people do without even thinking about it at home, but neglect to do in hotels, because sometimes they put chocolates on your pillow. The construction of an on-site co-gen system for heating and electricity is another, more concrete move in a sustainable direction. And perhaps most intriguingly, the Palace has become the first NYC hotel to join with one of the more enlightened approaches to diverting hospitality industry waste from landfills gbNYC has heard about.
“The New York Palace is also participating in the ‘Clean the World’ programme,” the blog Luxury Hub writes in its Luxury Description. “Each month, the hotel accumulates and donates about 500 pounds of lightly-used soap and other amenities. These are then sanitised at the Clean the World Recycling Operations Centre before being given away to poor people around the world. The Clean the World programme operates in 30 countries across the world. In this way, a great deal of landfill waste is reduced.” Certainly hard to argue with the flavour or tenour of that sentiment.
Does all this mean that The New York Palace is on its way to becoming one of Manhattan’s greenest buildings? Certainly not. But as we’ve seen with the example of the Empire State Building, a few small changes can bring a grand old Manhattan building up to some very high green standards and save a bunch of money in the process, without in any way impacting that building’s iconic aesthetics. If there’s anything about The New York Palace’s go-green initiative that’s truly promising, it’s this — Dorchester Collection, which runs The New York Palace and a host of other luxury hotels, would not be doing this if they did not believe that there were a market for it. While saving money through sustainability offers its own easy-to-comprehend and notably tangible rewards, the fact that people continue to search for green hotels — and that a hotel with myriad other selling points would wish to make sustainability among them — suggests that this is one area in which market incentives and old-fashioned sustainability might be able to make common cause.