Two Keys hotels get second palm

In August 2007, The Banyan Resort in Key West became the first hotel in the Keys to receive Green Lodging certification from the Florida Department of Environmental Protection. The Gardens Hotel in Key West was a close second. In December, both hotels received the advanced certification known as Two Palm certification.

The Banyan Resort

“I’m pleased with the continued efforts of our management and staff without whom our commitment to conserving our resources and reducing our impact on the environment would not be possible,” General Manager Julie Crane wrote about the Two Palm designation. “I additionally credit our owners and guests for participating and offering suggestions to further our commitment.”

The Banyan is a timeshare resort with 38 units spread among eight buildings, six of which are historic structures. Owners who aren’t going to use their weekly increments put their units — all suites — into the resort’s rental program, which is available to the public.

Crane and assistant general manager Julie Brown were already working on reducing their environmental impact in their personal lives, Brown says, so it was only natural to carry that effort over to their work lives by pursuing the first Green Lodging certification.

The Banyan was already pretty “green” when they started, Brown says. CFLs were being used all over the resort, and there was a comprehensive, albeit underutilized, recycling program. So they focused on the details, like regulating the temperatures in refrigerators, using weather stripping to reduce air flow and improving the recycling program.

“As we upgrade, we keep sustainable as our focus,” she says.

The resort uses programmable thermostats that turn the room temperature back to 78 degrees several times a day. And the resort’s security guard checks vacant units to make sure the temperature is right and all the fans and lights have been turned off. That’s a big help, Brown says.

As they wear out, appliances will be replaced with more efficient ones. For instance, new washers and dryers helped cut the resort’s water and natural gas use by 12 percent and 19 percent, respectively, in one year.

Wood decking is gradually being replaced by recycled plastic lumber.

When the resort’s studio units were remodeled recently, the carpeting was replaced with recyclable carpet tiles and the new Murphy beds are made of sustainably harvested bamboo.

“A lot of the things make good business sense,” Brown points out because they reduce costs.

Concentrating on reducing, reusing and recycling was a big part of the resort’s focus in pursuing that second palm, Brown says, including starting a composting program at the tiki bar. She says they’re looking at expanding it to the units, since several owners have requested it.

To reduce packaging, laundry detergent comes in 15-gallon drums. When the drums are empty, Brown says, they’re passed along to a local eco-group that turns them into composting barrels. Likewise, packing materials go to a local glass artist, who uses them to ship her delicate pieces.

Guests are given a coupon for a free canvas bag from a nearby store to encourage them to avoid collecting plastic bags during their stay.

It’s all about finding creative ways to do things, Brown says. Staff members are constantly coming up with new suggestions.

Brown says the resort has every intention of pursuing the Three Palm certification. “Moving from one to two to three is continuing what you’re already doing, and we’re already doing new things every day, so why not?”

The Gardens

In earning its certification, The Gardens Hotel in Key West installed bamboo flooring in its office (replacing carpeting), used water based sealers for wood floors, switched to biodegradable laundry bags, put in an herb and vegetable garden, and began composting.

The Gardens also reduced water usage by 2 percent or 23,200 gallons by using reusable water bottles; repairing a leak in the pool and spa leak repair, stored and replaced water; used an efficient washing machine and dishwasher; and added self-pressurizing showerheads.

The hotel also reduced overall energy usage by 11 percent or 39,650 kilowatt hours. It did this by installing solar water to heat one building, two rooms and the bar; purchasing Energy Star washing machines, dishwasher, printer, computers, mini split a/c, five programmable thermostats, and making lighting changes.

And finally, the hotel reduced waste by 40 percent, or 11.8 tons. The Gardens accomplished this by increasing recycling, reducing packages for breakfast by going to service-style breakfast; reusing more items, including packaging; adding refillable room amenities; and using concentrates for housekeeping and bar juices and soda.