Early Wednesday morning, I found myself looking into the black hole that was my hotel bathroom, slamming my palm against what I thought was a broken light switch. My workout had gone long, and I only had 20 minutes to get down to the opening session of the Greening the Hospitality Industry conference.
Now, I’m not a high-maintenance guy. Give me 10 minutes, and I’ll shower, shave, brush my teeth and change with plenty of time to floss. But in an unfamiliar bathroom in the dark? If I didn’t slip and break a leg in the shower, I’d surely lose an ear while shaving.
So I did what any capable, resourceful, strapping male would do. I called to have someone else fix the problem.
“My bathroom light isn’t working,” I huffed into the hotel room phone.
“Is your keycard in the light switch?” asked the patient associate at the front desk. I looked down at the key card sitting on the desk, pausing, mind blank. “You have to stick the key card in the lighted slot next to the light switch at your door. That activates the bathroom lights and the thermostat controls.”
|By sticking their keycard into this green switch, guests activate lights, thermostat and other electronically controlled devices in their hotel room.
The energy-saving system is known by many hoteliers today as a green switch. But back in early 2003, when the system was installed at the Westin Convention Center, Pittsburgh, the commercial name was Energize, said Michael Morasca, the hotel’s director of engineering.
In basic terms, a green switch is a slot in which guests must stick their guestroom key cards to activate lights, the thermostat and other electronically controlled devices in their room. When they leave, guests then take the key card out, and the devices turn off or to standby mode.
I have written about the system several times for HotelNewsNow.com, but, up to that point, I hadn’t actually seen one in application. The set-up, which is more regularly used in Europe, hasn’t quite caught on here in the U.S. But from what Morasca told me, maybe it should.
“We spent about (US)$120,000 on the system. It paid itself back in 11 months,” he said.
The hotel’s green switch isn’t the only energy-saving (read: cost-saving) initiative Morasca has overseen at the 616-room property. The hotel also has a water recovery system that reuses 75 percent to 95 percent of washer water, motion sensors that shut off lights when certain areas aren’t in use, CFL bulbs and a policy in which every employee shuts off his or her computer each night.
When it’s all said and done, these eco-conscious initiates save the property about half a million dollars per year, according to Morasca. Not a bad chunk of change under any circumstances—let alone when the economy is in a nose-down tailspin.
But Morasca doesn’t plan to stop there. “I want to put a windmill on the roof,” he said, adding that the request got some peculiar looks from the GM.
I imagine a 100-foot wind turbine perched atop the downtown property would elicit similar responses from anyone who drove into the city via I-279. But then, at least it would distract rushed guests from phoning the front desk with complaints about fully operational bathroom lights.