MELISSA FOLLOWELL Herald Staff Writer
LAKEWOOD RANCH - Staying green may be easier than getting green - at least that's what the staff at the Holiday InnLakewood Ranch found out.
After about a year and a half of renovations, the hotel, which is not quite four years old, has been given Green Lodging Certification by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection.
The hotel is the first in the Manatee-Sarasota area to earn the designation for environmental friendliness, according to the Green Lodging Program Web site.
While being a rather newly constructed hotel was a bonus when trying to convert to a green hotel, there were still many changes that had to be made, said general manager Steve Dadson.
Dadson oversaw changes in things as simple as cleaning products to as complex as the type of lights and light switches used in the rooms.
While the changes were not inexpensive, Dadson said he expects every change they made to pay off in the end.
"In a hotel, your utilities are the second-largest expense," Dadson said.
The largest expense is payroll.
Changing lighting throughout the hotel from incandescent to fluorescent increased the amount of light in the rooms while decreasing the amount of energy needed to run them. All the light switches in the rooms were also changed from toggle switches to motion detectors that allow lights to time out and shut off when there is no movement in a room for a set period of time.
New shower heads also decreased the amount of water used while not sacrificing water pressure or settings.
Debbie Smith, the vice president of Two Trails, a company that specializes in rating the environmental friendliness of buildings, including Holiday Inn Lakewood Ranch, saw the changes at the hotel as it strived to meet the standard necessary to receive the designation.
"It makes that hotel very environmentally friendly but it takes a lot of work," Smith said.
Water conservation, energy efficiency, waste reduction and clean air practices not only save resources but make the hotels a healthier place to stay, Smith said.
While approximately 65 percent of the hotel's guests are corporate travelers, Dadson is hoping to attract another sort of guest with the new green certification: ecotourists.
Dadson hopes environmentally-conscious people looking to visit the area will take the green status into account when choosing accommodations.
Many think green building ends at construction, but Smith said staying green includes using proper cleaning products that are environmentally friendly as well as daily practices such as recycling.
"It really goes into the process of the day-to-day runnings of a hotel," Smith said.
The hotel's location in Lakewood Ranch is appropriate, considering the area's commitment to green building.
"With our strong emphasis on green building in homes, it's the next natural step in the progression," said Lakewood Ranch spokeswoman Sondra Guffey. "We're pleased. It fits in well with what we're trying to do in Lakewood Ranch."
Holiday Inn Lakewood Ranch will officially receive the award Friday in a ceremony at the hotel.