Web Exclusive: A look at Gaylord Hotels’ sustainability practices

Hotel Business caught up with Michelle Low-Murray, VP, brand marketing and management, Gaylord Hotels, to discuss the Marriott brand’s sustainability efforts.

How important is sustainability to the Gaylord brand?
With several of the largest nongaming convention center hotels in the U.S., we know the impact our overall operation can have on the environment and its future. Whether it’s water and energy conservation, waste reduction or food-related initiatives, we are committed to protecting the ecosystem with innovative programs that help us join the global community in providing a green environment for our planet and future generations.

What type of initiatives have you undertaken at your properties?
Our resorts across the U.S. are in very different climates and environments, so we implement customized sustainability strategies to meet their specific needs.

For example, at Gaylord Palms Resort in Florida, water reuse and reclamation are important initiatives because of the risk of drought and the possibility of high baseline water stress. To help sustain an improved environmental balance, the horticulture team planted drought-resistant plants across the 46-acre property, while the engineering team assisted in installing low-flow faucets and showerheads.

In Colorado, where heating our Gaylord Rockies Resort is a paramount task, we have installed Combined Heat & Power (CHP) technology which not only provides improved energy and thermal resilience but also long-term savings and energy efficiency. By using waste heat to help provide hot water, the resort’s carbon footprint has been reduced by 14,000 tons and more than 30%.

With the opportunity the pandemic provided to upgrade/renovate the National Harbor property, what types of sustainable initiatives did you undertake?
We understand the importance of addressing many aspects of sustainability to help our environment and have taken a multiaceted approach toward that objective.

Our towel and linen reuse programs have been a huge help for our water conservation efforts, as have the low-flow toilets and low-flow faucets equipped in guestrooms. Currently, the resort’s faucets produce less than 2.5 gallons per minute, and guestroom toilets only use less than 1.6 gallons for each flush. The resort also has a smart irrigation system that communicates with rain meters across the property. This ensures we are not using additional water for irrigation when the rain is providing ample coverage for the landscape.

Inside, our CHP provides approximately 80% of the electricity used on-site, while automatic motion sensors turn off lights when guestrooms are not occupied. Also in our guestrooms, we have eliminated the use of single-use bottles for shampoo and other toiletries, and now offer them in larger dispensers—which in turn helps our waste-reduction programs by reducing the amount of plastic waste in each room.

And we recently began a partnership with the Food Recovery Network, a program in which cooked food that has not been served or displayed for guests is cooled, packaged frozen and sent to local food banks. With this program, we are feeding approximately 750 people in need every week.

Have you taken those initiatives to other properties?
All our Gaylord Hotels share best practices when it comes to sustainability. Our guests will see many of these initiatives in place at our other Gaylord Hotel properties, and we will continue to implement successful tactics across the brand.

What future initiatives are you looking at?
With sustainability as one of our key focuses in providing for the future of a green environment, we are constantly monitoring new initiatives and ways we can improve on our current programs. While we can’t get into specifics of future projects that we have not yet announced, what I can say is that we will continue to listen to feedback, study the results of individual initiatives, and take a strong look at any new science, technology and processes that will help us continue to improve our sustainability efforts.

Is there anything else you’d like to add?
Gaylord Hotels is a proud supporter of the American Hotel & Lodging Association’s (AHLA) new Responsible Stay initiative, an industry-wide sustainability program with notable efforts in reducing water usage, innovative waste reduction programs, responsible sourcing to reduce environmental impacts and optimizing our energy efficiency.

Another important aspect of our commitment to sustainability involves our food and beverage teams at our resorts. Several of our Gaylord Hotels have on-site apiaries that not only provide local honey to each resort’s menu offerings (the apiary at Gaylord Opryland Resort harvests more than 600 lbs. of local honey each year) but also helps the environment by housing bees that play a part in every aspect of the ecosystem.

Our resorts also focus on locally grown and sourced produce, fish and other ingredients for their menus. Gaylord Palms Resort sources its famous selection of gourmet mushrooms from a Central Florida farm less than an hour away from the resort, and its seafood from local fishmongers who fish in the ocean waters approximately 90 minutes away from the hotel.

Finally, at Gaylord Opryland Resort, we recycle all cooking oils at the resort for a program that will convert them to marine-grade biofuels.