"Dedicated to Preserve and Protect Living Coral Reef Ecosystems"
SPECIAL THANKS TO JULIE PERRIN AND CHEECA LODGE
On February 25, an historic moment in the hospitality industry occurred when more than 60 hoteliers from the Florida Keys gathered for an environmental symposium sponsored by Cheeca Lodge and Reef Relief, the Key-West based organization dedicated to the preservation of living coral reefs.
Throughout the day, we learned of hard-hitting ways in which we, as representatives of one of the largest industries in Florida, can make our businesses more environmentally sound. The blue ribbon panel of speakers present that day included Dr. Bernard Yokel, president of the Florida Audubon Society; Helmut Horn, president and chief operating officer of Coastal Hotel Group, Craig Quirolo, founder and executive director of Reef Relief, noted eco-tourism authority Herbert Hiller and many, many others. Those in attendance gained a tremendous amount of knowledge in environmental programs and practices that can be easily implemented in the day-to-day operation of Keys businesses. As a result, we would like to share with the rest of the business community the results of our symposium, in the hope that others can learn and benefit from our experience.
Cheeca Lodge and the many resorts and hotels that were represented at our symposium are excited about the environmental movement within the hospitality industry, and we welcome you to join us in this important effort.
Tomas B. Zeisel
Bernard Yokel, President, Florida Audubon Society
"Good Environment is Good Business"
Herbert Hiller, eco-tourist authority
"The Greening of the Marketplace"
Craig Quirolo, Founder and Executive Director, REEF RELIEF
"Reef Education and Responsible Watersports"
Mark Robertson, Director, Florida Keys Initiative of The Nature
"Conservation and The Marine Sanctuary: Insuring Your Investment for the Future"
In preparation for this symposium, a survey was conducted
of one hundred businesses in the hospitality industry in the Florida
Keys. Most of those surveyed represented hotels, resorts, or guest-houses,
although realtors, dive shops and others also participated. Most
were contacted by telephone and asked to answer the ten-question
survey over the phone.
Approximately 15 percent of those surveyed filled out the survey form and mailed it as part of their registration for the symposium.
The results were revealing. The first question asked what watersports were available on the property surveyed.
Half of those surveyed had a pool or jacuzzi. Pools can be environmentally safe, so long as the wastewater is filtered through a waste drain, and not released directly into nearshore areas. The use of chlorine is widely used to meet state health requirements, although it is a very dangerous chemical. However, there are alternatives to chlorinated pools, such as natural water features and salinated pool systems.
About a quarter of the businesses surveyed offered fishing, sailing, snorkeling or diving, activities that can be done with minimum impact on our marine resources, if your guests are aware. We encourage y9ou to provide information to them when the activity is booked by your concierge or rental agent.
Fourteen percent of those surveyed offer their guests jetski rentals. Jetski use is increasing in the Keys and so is prop dredging and disturbance in wildlife refuges. Offering your guests the opportunity to rent jetskis and other thrillcraft should only be done when accompanied by information on what areas can be visited without wreaking havoc on bird nesting areas and wildlife habitats.
The second question addressed in the survey was recycling. Recycling is still a thing of the future for most businesses in the Keys.While half of the businesses surveyed currently recycle aluminum, those recycling paper, glass, plastic, cardboard and yard waste, are a minority with the percentages of businesses recycling these items ranging from 39% to 20%, in the order listed.
HOSPITALITY INDUSTRY ENVIRONMENTAL SURVEY
Reef Relief and Cheeca Lodge surveyed 100 Florida Keys businesses with respect to environmental practices. Although most of the businesses surveyed were either hotels, motels, resorts or guesthouses, we also included a few dive shops, realtors and restauraunts. Most of the survey was conducted by telephone on a completely random basis, selecting participants out of the telephone book. Approximately 15 percent of the surveys were filled out and sent in by various businesses who registered for the symposium. These were the responses:
Why should we recycle?
Recycling reduces our use of landfills and incinerators. Recycling costs less than landfilling or incineration and recycling protects our health and environment when harmful substances are removed from the waste stream. Recycling conserves our natural resources because it reduces the need for raw materials.
The solution is not simple. A combination of reducing waste, recycling, burning trash for energy recovery, and landfilling are all parts of the solution. Citizens in every community need to become involved in finding the best solutions and making them work. For the business community, recycling is definitely a viable option.
The third question related to the use of chemicals, a commonly-needed product for all businesses. Unfortunately, there is room for improvement here as well. Less than half of the businesses surveyed use biodegradable products and fewer than a quarter use no or low-phosphate cleaning products. The use of biodegradable and low or no-phosphate cleaning products are recommended since they do not pollute nearshore waters nor do they contribute to the nutrification of local waters, which results in green canals and algae blooms at the reef, something we are beginning to see here in the keys.
Question number four addressed Food and Beverage service. Here we learned that most businesses use a combination of plastic, glass, styrofoam and paper in that order. Styrofoam is used by one quarter of the businesses surveyed. This use provides another opportunity to replace the use of a dangerous product with an earth-friendly one. Paper or glass is preferable, since the use of styrofoam contributes CFC's to the ozone, contributing to the greenhouse effect. The first rule of conservation is to reduce; the second is to re-use. Re-usable products are preferable over disposable. Although our survey revealed that more businesses use disposable paper than re-useable cloth napkins (42% paper, 28% cloth), the good news is that more than a third of those surveyed use reusable rather than disposable plates and eating utensils. Less than twenty percent (18%) of Keys businesses currently opt for disposable plates and eating utensils.
Next we surveyed water conservation. Almost half of the businesses have installed water-saver showerheads with significantly fewer (27%) utilizing water-saver toilets. Less than a quarter of you employ xeriscaping, a method of landscaping which employs native plants, requiring less water and fertilizer. Water conservation is an area of potential improvement for Keys businesses.
Wastewater treatment was our next subject. Of those surveyed, a quarter still use septic tanks. Forty-two percent are hooked up to a municipal treatment plant, whereas sixteen percent have on-site sewage treatment plants. Some of those surveyed (18%) did not know what type of waste treatment was employed. The municipal treatment plants in Key West and Key Colony Beach do not strip out nutrients. Such nutrients, once released into nearshore areas, promote the growth of nuisance algaes, most visible in the greening of canals and the appearance of algal blooms at the reef. We should all support the addition of tertiary or nutrient stripping to Keys sewage treatment plants.
Septic tanks, by definition, require five foot of bedrock. The Keys landmass typically provides only four feet of porous bedrock. By this definition, most septic tanks are prone to leaching the nutrients in our wastewater into nearshore areas. The most difficult problem we face is how to finance replacement of septic tanks in the Keys.
Energy conservation is approached in a number of different ways by local businesses. Half of those surveyed use either halogen and/or fluorescent lights. Just a few businesses utilize solar power (13%). A quarter of the businesses turn the lights and air conditioning off in vacant rooms. A scant minority provide energy conservation information to guests and staff and an even smaller number use low-wattage bulbs, well-water for irrigation, solar heating for pools, or high energy efficiency-rated appliances.
Unfortunately, not many Florida Keys businesses support conservation groups. About 20 of the 100 businesses supported Reef Relief, with only a few other conservation groups noted. Those mentioned, in order of support, are: The Nature Conservancy, The Billfish Foundation, Florida Keys Land and Sea Trust, Hidden Harbor Marine Project, Save-A-Turtle, the Key Deer Protection Alliance, Greenpeace, and Project ReefKeeper.
The final question in the survey asked what information would be most helpful to promote environmental awareness and conservation. Everyone surveyed agreed that more information was needed. About a third of those surveyed wanted information on the coral reef, a quarter would accept any information offered, almost twenty percent wanted information on recycling, while others requested information on environmentally-safe products and chemicals. This report provides some of that data.
|LIST OF 100 BUSINESSES INCLUDED IN SURVEY OF THE HOSPITALITY INDUSTRY IN THE FLORIDA KEYS|
Anchor Lite Motel
Bed & Breakfast (Islamorada)
Best Western Key Ambassador
Big Pine Motel
Brass Key Guest House
Chesapeake at Whale Harbor
Coconut Beach Resort
Cocoplum Beach and Tennis Club
Conch Key Cottages
Coral Lagoon Motel
Drop Anchor Motel
Econolodge Resorts/Key West
Florida Keys Board of Realtors (Islamorada)
Gilbert's Resort & Marina
Gilbert's Resort & Marina
Golden Key Motel
Harborside Motel & Marina
Holiday Inn Beachside
Holiday Inn Key Largo
Holiday Inn La Concha
Howard Johnson's Motel
Hyatt Key West
Inn & Suites at the Wharf
Island City House
Key Colony Beach Motel
Key West Bed & Breakfast Key Lantern
Key West Youth Hostel
Lime Tree Bay Resort
Looe Key Resort
Marina Del Mar
Marriott's Casa Marina
Newton Street Station
Ocean Key House
Ocean Reef Club
Palms of Islamorada
Palms of Key West
Pines & Palms
Plantation Key Convalescent
Rainbow Bend Fishing Club
Ranch House Motel
Red Rooster Inn
Sea Cove Motel
Sea Dell Motel
Sea Escape Condos
Seven Mile Grill
South Beach Oceanfront
Treasure Harbor Marine Tropical Cottages
Youth Hostel - Key West
West Wind Inn
The Casa Marina uses an energy management system which incorporates the use of a chill water air conditioning system. This air conditioning system uses water-cooled units instead of freon. Computers control the chillers so you can adjust set points for daily needs based on the weather. These chillers cool water to 40 degrees to cool the units. Insulated pipes go through the building. Thermostats in the rooms control the valve that distributes the water through the coil and the fan blows across the coil and distributes the cold air into the room. Air conditioners are turned down when not in use.
Energy conservation in the kitchen is encouraged by the regular monitoring of the use of natural gas, water and electric.
The recycling program is very well done. Separate containers for glass, aluminum, and cardboard are available at all food and beverage outlets. No styrofoam is used. Instead, reusable plastic cups are purchased and used. Newsprint and office paper is recycled as well. The house-keepers clean the rooms daily and the Recycling Coordinator sorts through the housekeeper's carts to sort out the aluminum, newspaper, and glass. The aluminum is delivered to the Reynolds Recycling Facility on Flagler Avenue, where it is sold by the pound. Newspaper and other paper is dropped off at the courthouse. Glass is taken to the Recycling Center on Stock Island.
A cardboard compactor was purchased. They cut up, compact and stack the cardboard into two hundred pound bundles by dumpster area; it is picked up every two weeks or so by Simco.
The savings on the solid waste bill for the Casa Marina is from $3,000-$5,000 per month. During the season, they used to pay for seven-day pick-up, prior to recycling. Now during the season, only four or five pick-ups are scheduled per week. No additional personnel was hired to develop the recycling coordinator position - it was incorporated into existing staff and budgeted into three departments equally: Food & Beverage, Rooms, and Engineering.
Another big savings resulted from always completely filling garbage dumpsters to maximum capacity. Two huge rolling dumpsters were purchased and are used to store overflow garbage until the next pick-up day so that only-partially-filled dumpsters are never picked up and charged to their account.
The pool and jacuzzi is gas heated and kept at minimum required temperature. They have reduced sewage bills by installing deduct meters to compensate for evaporated and irrigation and pool water used for the cooling system.
On all outdoor lighting, photoelectric sensing devices turn
the lights off during the day and they go on when it becomes dark.
Preface to the Speakers
President of Florida Audubon Society.
Dr. Yokel is "Particularly proud to have started as a teacher whose career began in Guam in the 1950's; this has always been part of my scientific life." Dr. Yokel earned his masters and doctorate in Marine Science & Estuarine Ecology from the University of Miami at Coral Gables. He has performed years of research in Everglades Park and founded the Rookery Bay Marine Research Station near Naples, where he initiated baseline studies of that ecosystem which was designated a national marine sanctuary in 1975.
Dr. Yokel was a principal investigator in the development of a comprehensive study of Naples Bay. He has done many other interesting things including appointments to several water quality boards by the National Academy of Sciences and several Florida Governors. He has been a director at Florida Audobon since 1978 and President since 1984.
Founder and Executive Director of REEF RELIEF.
Craig has logged over 40,000 miles on sailboats since he was 18 years old. He arrived in Key West in 1973 aboard the Schooner Mustique from San Francisco. He decided to stay and started a business sailing tourists to the reef on a 1938 wooden classic sailboat named "Stormy Weather," which he bought in Marathon. In 1986, he founded REEF RELIEF, a non-profit conservation organization dedicated to Preserving and Protecting the Living Coral Reef of the Florida Keys." Craig is responsible for maintaining 83 reef mooring buoys which REEF RELIEF with a Point of Light Award for outstanding volunteer activity.
Helmut Horn, President,
Coastal Hotel Group.
Mr. Horn is president and chief operating officer of Coastal Hotel Group, the company that manages Cheeca Lodge and 14 other hotels across the country. Coastal specializes in the management of small, trophy hotels located in areas of pristine beauty.
A native of West Germany, Horn has dedicated his life to the hospitality industry. He is a past operations coordinator for Dunfey (now Omni) Hotels. He joined Huron Hotels, a predecessor of Coastal Hotel Group, in 1985 as president.
Mr. Horn's passions are diving and underwater photography, interests that have lead him all over the world, and spawned his commitment to preserving the environment. His photographs have appeared in more than a dozen international publications.
Director and Founder of the Florida Keys Initiative of The Nature Conservancy.
Mark holds a masters degree in Environmental Science specializing in the marine ecology of the Florida Keys from the University of Virginia. Previous experience includes a three-year term as environmental biologist for the Monroe County Planning and Zoning Board. While holding that post, Mark helped develop the comprehensive land use plan which was adopted in 1986. Thereafter, he became an Aquatic Ecologist for The Nature Conservancy on a 50,000-acre coastal reserve in Virginia. Mark returned to the Florida Keys to open the Florida Keys Initiative Office of The Nature Conservancy, which he heads up today.
Mr. Hiller is a long-time advocate of sense of place travel. He has served as Executive Director of the Caribbean Travel Association, initiated the Caribbean Tourism Research Center in Barbados, was an instructor at Florida International University at the Department of International Relations, as well as originator of the Florida State Bicycling Program. Herbert is author of Guide to the Small and Historic Lodgings of Florida published by Pineapple Press. The third edition was released in April, 1991. Herbert has organized a number of street events, notably the Miami-Bahama Goombay Festival and the weekly Coconut Grove Farmers Market. He is a writer by occupation.
Connie Grabois, Director,
Monroe County Recycling Department.
Connie is responsible for creation and development of the county's first commercial and residential recycling program. She has a masters degree in Natural Resources from Humboldt State University, was the Jackson County Florida Planning Director as well as development review coordinator for Monroe County. Her greatest joy comes from knowing that she is able to put a program in place and see it work. She reported a record 265 tons of recyclable material collected from the County's nine recycling sites and from Marathon's curbside collection pilot project for the month of January. The curbside program grew from 57 tons in December to 84 tons in January.
"When Elephants Play, It Is The Grasses That Get Hurt"
By Helmut Horn, President and Chief Operating "Officer of Coastal Hotel Group
There is this saying that "When elephants play, it is the grasses that get hurt."
It is in this context that we have gathered today. Man, exuberant and boisterous, has flocked for generations to play here. In its glorious sun, and from its splendid seas, the Florida Keys have given their treasures generously and endlessly.
It seemed so endless - the mangroves, the beaches, the rich, fertile waters. There seemed enough of everything for everyone - and so the Keys became a favorite tropical sanctuary, for towering palms and scented gardens; for majestic ospreys, gentle manatees, pink flamingos, blue herons, sleek dolphins, wily bonefish
And man, who came to escape whatever it was he left behind. Man came in splendid isolation, or with kith and kin, to fish the legendary waters or sit on pristine beaches, until he sought shaded rest under palm trees.
Soon he sought more comfortable overnight shelter and when he got hungry, he feasted on stone crab claws, or blackened grouper and snapper and when he got thirsty, he sought out cold beers and frosty margaritas.
In the chain of life here, that's probably how innkeeping came to the Florida Keys. From a couple of bucks and a beer, it has grown into a multi-million dollar industry. Thousands of beds are available to tens of thousands of men, women and children who come to the islands linked 100 miles from Key Largo to Key West.
But just as plush new hotels or smartly rnotivated older properties have positioned themselves to handle the swell of more visitors to the Keys, and restaurants prepare to feed them, and more condominiums accommodate longer staying residents, something started happening right under our noses, but as far as a star from our consciousness.
"The elephants did not realize that the grasses were dying."
It's time to look down.
The Florida Keys are perhaps the most pristine and environmentally sensitive regions of the United States. The tropical climate, living coral reefs and vast array of marine life are precisely the reasons why tourism is the biggest industry in the Keys. If we fail to protect our precious natural resources, the hospitality industry itself will wither and die. Protecting the Keys environment is certainly good business.
The goal of this symposium is to provide all of us gathered here today with hardhitting facts and information we can use immediately in our respective businesses. This is practical information that will allow us to grow and thrive precisely because we allow the environment around us to grow and thrive.