New Green Destination Orlando Program launched

On Wednesday, Nov. 9, the U.S. Green Building Council, Central Florida Chapter, will make an announcement that will dramatically impact the hospitality industry in Orlando.

During the closing general session of the Green Lodging and Hospitality conference, the USGBC will announce the launch of Green Destination Orlando  ̶ a program that aims to make Orlando the most green destination in the world. The conference will be held at the Doubletree Hotel near Universal Orlando.

With more than 50 million visitors each year, Orlando is one of the world’s most popular vacation and business travel destinations. The Green Destination Orlando (GDO) program is a bold plan to make Orlando the greatest green destination in the world by creating a total sustainable EXPERIENCE  ̶  from the moment a visitor steps off the plane in Orlando, to the transportation to their hotel, their stay at local lodging, their daily activities (be it a conference or family vacation), and back to the airport  ̶   a completely sustainable loop that never breaks.

According to Dina M. Belon, Hospitality Advocacy Chair for the USGBC Central Florida Chapter, the GDO pilot program has already garnered national attention and has become the basis for the pilot of a national program that will encourage other hospitality destinations to follow suit.

The GDO program was created to answer the increasing inquiries from meeting planners who wanted real and verifiable documentation of the destination’s sustainability efforts to aid in their decision making process. “We as a destination do not have a community wide voice that represents individual green facility activities and the entire destination as a whole,” Belon noted. “In addition, we were falling behind other hospitality communities in their proactive approach to sustainable performance. The USGBC Central Florida Chapter Hospitality Advocacy Committee realized we needed a community approach to a total Sustainable Experience and the Green Destination Orlando program was born. It has taken us two years to get to this point, ready to launch the program and to assist our entire hospitality community in making progress toward a Green Destination.”

Belon also noted that GDO is a designation, not a certification. “The program is designed to help properties make significant progress with their green building practices over time. It is not a one-time certification.”

The program has been tested over the last year by pilot participants including: Rosen Shingle Creek, Hilton Orlando, Peabody Orlando, Universal Orlando, Pointe Orlando and the Orange County Convention Center. The pilot participants were focused in the International Drive/convention center area and selected as a cross section of different types of buildings, including hotels, convention centers, retail stores, restaurants, and theme parks. Pilot program participants are also noted leaders in the area of green building operations.

Beginning Nov. 9, the Green Destination Orlando program will be open to any hospitality facility, including airports, restaurants, shopping venues, entertainment, theme parks, convention and meeting facilities, hotels, transportation, and others.

The program is based on a four-level rating system. A total of 100 points are available based on scores earned on of a series two checklists, plus five bonus points for innovations in operations. GDO program levels, ranking lowest to highest are: Blue (40-49 points); Teal (50-59 points); Green (60-69 points); and Evergreen (70-100 points).

To begin the process, businesses will simply register and complete Checklist #1, entitled “Perform Inventory and Analysis.” This checklist helps the business understand the existing condition of the property and identify and analyze opportunities, and must be completed within one year of registration to maintain designation as a participant. Businesses must demonstrate ongoing improvement year over year and score at least 10 of 20 available points in order to move on to Checklist #2, entitled “Making Changes.” In this phase, the business starts with low cost improvements and works toward more substantial opportunities. The objective of the program is to show continuous improvement each year until the business has achieved the Evergreen designation.

Those who continue to earn the designation will be provided with a Green Destination Orlando logo for marketing use. The GDO program is a multi-year process that can prepare a facility to apply for the USGBC LEED Existing Building Certification.

GDO pilot program participants are currently delivering their checklists. According to Belon, the USGBC Hospitality Advocacy committee will review the checklists for accuracy, conduct random onsite audits and award the levels by the end of the year.

The decision to participate in the GDO pilot program was simple, said DeeDee Baggitt, Director of Engineering & Facilities, Rosen Hotels & Resorts. The hotel group already participates in the Florida Department of Environmental Protection’s Green Lodging program, with convention properties, Rosen Plaza, Rosen Centre and Rosen Shingle Creek, all designated Two Palm properties for their advanced sustainability efforts and its four leisure properties  ̶  Rosen Inn at Pointe Orlando, Rosen Inn closest to Universal, Clarion Inn Lake Buena Vista and Quality Inn International  ̶  each designated One Palm properties.

“To create a totally sustainable experience, we needed to create a program in which all types of hospitality businesses, not only hotels, can participate,” said Baggitt. “Rosen Hotels & Resorts has been participating in sustainable practices for years, not only because it’s good for the environment but also because many of these practices also save money in the long term. In addition, our guests notice and appreciate our efforts and reward us with their loyalty, so it’s a win-win situation.”

The USGBC Central Florida Hospitality Advocacy Committee would like to offer special thanks to the partners who have helped establish the program and the pilot, including: Florida Green Lodging, Central Florida Hotel Lodging Association, Green Meeting Industry Council, I-Drive Chamber of Commerce, Rosen College of Hospitality Management, and Visit Orlando (previously the Orlando/Orange County Convention and Visitors Bureau, Inc.), as well as the pilot program participants.

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