Guests are asking for it, new trade magazines are dedicated to it, and hoteliers in the Back Bay are watching it improve their bottom line. It is green tourism, and it no longer requires a rainforest visit.
“It's all happening very quickly,” said Dan Ruben of Boston Green Tourism (BGT), a conservation advocacy group. “Several years ago not many people thought about having green hotels. Now hotels are putting an extraordinary amount of enthusiasm and energy into this.”
One measure of a green hotel is energy efficiency. A year ago, only three hotels in Massachusetts carried the EPA Energy Star rating, which designates buildings that are in the upper 25 percentile of the most efficient buildings nationwide. Today 16 in the state carry the award, with the Jurys Boston Hotel at Stuart and Berkeley Streets recently passing the bar.
“We're quite proud of it,” said Jurys general manager Stephen Johnston. “We have a plaque just inside the front door.”
For Jurys Doyle Hotels, a chain with dozens of luxury hotels in Ireland and the United Kingdom, the energy-saving initiative was born in the Boston location. The hotel opened three years ago in the old Boston Police Headquarters building. The new boilers and other equipment installed during construction made achieving an Energy Star rating a natural step.
Johnston said the hotel spent only about $60,000 on new compact fluorescent bulbs, a greywater recycling unit to collect condensation from their cooling units, and a cardboard compactor to help recycling efforts.
According to the hotel's chief engineer David Draband, rebates from local utilities like NStar made the changeover less costly. NStar offered $4 per bulb for the lighting changeout.
“Most of these programs have a very short return on investment period: three years or less, sometimes two years,” said Draband. The next step for Jurys might be guest room occupancy sensors that turn down air conditioning and lighting when guests are out.
Governor Deval Patrick announced a proposal on June 25 that would require NStar and National Grid to pay for more energy conservation efforts, and allow the two companies to charge more per unit of power sold to offset their costs. Meanwhile, James Hunt, chief of Environmental and Energy Services, said the Menino administration is working to create a $300 to $500 million energy efficiency fund based on the Cambridge Energy Alliance's fund that would provide low or no interest loans to property owners for conservation measures. The loans would be repaid with the savings on utility bills.
The leader of urban green hotels in the Back Bay and perhaps the world is The Lenox Hotel on Boylston Street. Tedd Saunders, part of the third generation of the Saunders family to own the hotel, convinced his family to invest in green options back in 1989, well before Inconvenient Truth woke up the country to the impending global warming crisis.