Post contributed by Emily Hedrick, Office of Sustainability Intern
The Hotel at Auburn University and Dixon Conference Center is known for its partnership with the university, outstanding southern hospitality, and forward-thinking processes for a successful business. Last fall, Conference Sales Manager Marlena Gillis stumbled upon an article about a company that collects “leftover” soap, shampoo, and conditioner, and donates the items to developing countries. Marlena saw the benefits of that process, to collect the items they have and provide for others. She shared the story with the hotel’s leadership team, and they all agreed that the hotel should look into more sustainable options offered in the hospitality field. General Manager Hans van der Reijden liked the thought of a more sustainable hotel and felt that a team could conquer this task with Marlena as their chair. With the sustainability team in place, the Hotel at Auburn University is in the process of adopting and practicing new techniques to make for a more sustainable hotel.
I work in the hotel’s restaurant, Ariccia Trattoria, or A-T, and when it was announced at our employee party in February that a sustainability team would be coming together, I was eager to join. Our first sustainability meeting was held in March, and almost every department in the hotel was represented. Together we began the nine-step quality planning process for a new sustainability initiative. We identified those that would be affected- the hotel guests, guests’ pets, employees, Auburn University and the Auburn community. We identified key factors in our movement- cost savings, reduction of environmental impact, a healthier work environment, safety, and community outreach. Then we talked about sustainable processes already in place: light sensors in the Terrace Room; the cardboard recycling; the electric car charging station; and the herb garden for the restaurant. We discussed how we can better use and promote the initiatives we have in place. From there, we began brainstorming possibilities to progress the idea of a sustainable hotel in each of the departments- administrative, sales, guest services, restaurant, culinary, banquets, engineering, and housekeeping.
With a list of ideas in hand, we were assigned to research the items we plan on pursuing. There are small things we are eager to fix, like having recycling bins in each department and in public areas, cleaning with “green” products, reducing our paper usage, and putting signs in the guest rooms about energy efficient options. Then there are bigger ideas we plan to research and work towards, like efficient lights, showers, toilets, washers, and dryers. These ideas will take more planning, research, and money. With the renovations of the conference center, we even talked about a rooftop garden in the future. Our ultimate goal is to become LEED-certified; thereby formally demonstrating our Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design. This third-party verification draws attention to building and designing strategies aimed at improving performance for energy savings, water efficiency, CO2 emissions reduction, improved indoor environmental quality, and conservation of resources and awareness of their impacts.
“With this team, we can use the processes that we already have in place and expand on our ideas to make an impact in our hotel for the future,” said Marlena.
I am excited to be part of a progressive group that will lead the way for the Hotel at Auburn University and Dixon Conference Center to become a more sustainable hotel for the future. There are so many opportunities for each department in our hotel to do what they can to work towards all-around efficiency. As part of this fundamental team, we will do our best to research, plan and enact sustainable practices to lead by example and push every Capella Hotel property towards a sustainable future.