Is Element hotel green, or a wash?

Here’s a benefit of writing a blog. Even if my letter to the editor at the Boston Globe isn’t published, I still get to share it with globe (i.e. the world) readers. I got a little worked up after a reading this story in the business section yesterday (I zip through the Globe daily online, along with the New York Times and the Washington Post) about a new hotel venture by the same company that brought us Westin/W Hotel. This is what I sent the Globe:

Dear editor:

I was disappointed that the July 1 article on Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide Inc’s new test hotels in Lexington (Mass.) read more like a public-relations fact sheet than a news article. Here are some questions I’d like to see vice president Brian McGuinness answer about his “ecoconscious” Element hotel.

1) Why did you tear down the old Sheraton to build a new structure? Inherently, that is anti-environmental.

2) Sure, it’s nice that you have such things as in-room recycling, low-flow showerheads, and energy-saving bulbs, but many hotels have that already. What makes your contribution to this field so special?

3) You give priority parking to hybrids, but you probably know that many compact cars get better mileage than larger hybrids. Will I get VIP parking for my 1994 Honda Civic hatchback? It still gets 35-plus mpg on the highway, and I haven’t used up valuable resources buying a new car for 14 years now!

4) Since these weren’t mentioned, here are a few things I wonder if you do have. If not, why not? Solar energy, geothermal energy, windows that open, recycling building materials, recycled particleboard in the rooms, a green rooftop, native plantings, a bike-sharing program, kitchen composting, in the rooms and with any food services you provide.

5) Is your building certified by the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Green Building Rating System? If not, why not?

The answers to these questions would help consumers decide if your hotel is truly eco-conscious or just another green-wash marketing scheme.

Diane Daniel/Durham, NC, USA


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7 Responses to “Is Element hotel green, or a wash?”

  1. Karen Says:

    YES! I skimmed the article and thot it WAS a PR piece…. Was a press release just handed to a junior staffer or was it given to a “real” reporter who has written on environmental stuff?
    Not unusual to read puff stuff that is basically rewritten press releases in the biz pages.

  2. didaniel Says:

    Yes, Karen, I fear this will happen more and more as newspaper staffs shrink. For a paper with a wide circulation like the Globe, you’d think they could have thrown in a question or two. At any rate, the whole green-marketing trend is so full of spin it makes my head spin. I try to let a lot go, but this one got to me!

  3. Kristin Says:

    Great letter, Diane. Thank you! I hope the Globe publishes it and we all get some answers to your questions. I agree that the green spin is out of control. My husband, Dean, is a LEED credentialed architect and we are always joking about what passes for green these days. It’s great for all of us that you are asking Starwood (and the Globe) to put some muscle behind their statements.

  4. Puddin' Head Says:

    Very good letter to the Globe . . . very bad press release by The Globe. Green is not what it should be and today’s major media doesn’t seem to get it as long as revenues still come in and they (the media) feel like they did their part for society/earth. There should be standards set forth for anything or anyone that says they are going green. I cannot even stand the word green anymore because it now comes with a marketing polish and sheen created by the man behind the curtain. Keep blogging!

  5. didaniel Says:

    I agree, Puddin’ Head. Green has lost much of its glow. At some point, a new marketing trend will replace it and then we’ll see what we’re left with. Still, progress is made one decade at a time, so I think that by the end of this current movement we’ll have much to be proud of!

  6. devede Says:

    I am in commercial construction and am dealing with LEED requirements on a day to day basis for government/public jobs. You all think that “green” is a joke today? You have no idea what is involved in getting a building to pass certain LEED requirements. The reason why Element hasn’t been LEED certified is because it costs on average 30% more for EVERYTHING. For example, in order for aluminum windows to meet LEED, they must meet a sound transmittance class of 35 minimum. There are only a handfull of windows in the world that can do that and they are AW80+ rated windows which are twice the window needed to meet windload. Also, in order for these heavy duty windows to meet stc 35, they must have double laminated glass which takes $8 per sqft glass up to $25 per sqft glass. The average hotel spends about $400 per window for material and labor and you are wanting this guy to put in $1,000+ per window!! You all should be estatic that a private company is on it’s way to helping the environment, 99.9% of the private jobs we do today are not green what so ever. It takes alot of money to reach LEED requirements and I’m sure one day Element will reach that goal. Oh yeah, the windows do open in these hotels. What are you talking about? They are contemplating on having outswinging casement windows or horizontal sliding windows at this very moment, I know because I’m trying to get the architect to make up his mind.

  7. didaniel Says:

    Greetings. To the anonymous responder above, whoa, dude. I never said Element was or wasn’t doing these things. I asked questions, and I also criticized the Globe reporter for not asking the questions herself. I’m glad the windows open, but you see, I didn’t know that, so you don’t need to get testy. Of course I realize that LEED is pricey. But if Element is going to *market itself* on a green platform, then it should be paying what it needs to justify that label. That’s what I’m saying. And while LEED is pricey, in the end, all these energy-saving measures do make it worthwhile. Also, back to my very first point — tearing a building down to then construct another one is not what I call environmentally friendly. Retrofitting an existing structure, however, is. — Diane Daniel

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