State helps lodges get with the (green) program

REGION – The next time you go to Crystal Mountain or the Bayshore Resort, you might not notice right away you're in a certified "green lodge."

But both resorts took part in a pilot program earlier this year to help a establish a statewide Green Lodging Michigan (GLM) program, which aims to encourage hotels, motels and B & Bs implement practices that conserve natural resources, while increasing marketability and lowering utility costs.

Created by the Michigan Energy Office, Travel Michigan and the Department of Environmental Quality, GLM establishes guidelines for the hospitality industries to conserve natural resources and prevent pollution. Companies are able to voluntarily pursue certification as a GLM Partner, Steward or Leader by adopting a variety of energy efficiency and green practices.

"We want to help lodging establishments and others to do better," said John Saver of the Michigan Energy Office.

Bayshore Resort qualified as a Green Lodging Partner, after answering enough of the 118 questions favorably, said GM Roger Funkhouser.

"There are still some aspects of the hotel operation that are a long way from being 'green' but it gives us something to work for," he said. "It's the right thing to do, and if doing the right thing also gets us some publicity, then it's even better."

Bayshore has developed a policy that will guide the resort toward an environmentally-responsible hotel operation. They're encouraging and promoting recycling and re-use of products, purchasing products made from recycled materials, using environmentally safe chemicals and cleaning products, and reducing energy use.

While Paula Swink's three-bedroom Aspen House Bed and Breakfast in Leland is too small to achieve some of the requirements for "GLM" certification, she, too, took part in the pilot program. She practices "green" by not using fertilizers or pesticides, cooking mostly organic for guests, recycling and using energy-efficient appliances and laundry products.

Crystal is now a GLM 'Steward,' but is pursuing 'Leader' status. The resort is conserving water with rain sensors that shut the lawn sprinklers off when it rains; replacing plastic cups with cornstarch-based, biodegradable cups; using recycled papers and soy or vegetable-based inks in brochures; implementing a towel and sheet reuse program in the lodging units; promoting wildlife habitat management and education; and setting up a "green team" consisting of all department managers.

"Individually, several departments were already taking great measures to be mindful of our natural resources," said Susan Garber Vigland, Crystal's recreation and snow sports director and chair of the Green Team. "Our intent with the team is to bring all of these efforts together so we can learn from one another."

Crystal recently hosted a GLM workshop, part of a series of free workshops presented through the Northwest Michigan Sustainable Business Forum (see sidebar below). BN