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Green Hospitality?

August 19, 2010

The greening of the market has become a pretty shameless display of economic huckstering. As we have begun to document in our new section Dissecting Green Capitalism. Examples of Green Capitalism are being praised on a daily basis and we came across a new one that is worth looking at.

The business press MiBiz ran a story recently entitled Green Hospitality. Before looking at the story what came to mind were images of people welcoming others with open arms and offering them a place to stay because it is the humane thing to do. However, upon reading the article what we discovered was that MiBiz was singing the praises of some local hotels, which are now engaged in “green” practices.

Apparently the Michigan Department of Energy, Labor and Economic Growth’s Green Lodging initiative will certify hotels that engage in “green” practices, but the certification comes about through a self-assessment checklist. Seems easy enough.

The article then sites several area hotel administrators, one who says, “We are committed to being leaders in our community in regards to sustainability.” So, what do these hotels do that makes them sustainable leaders?

According to the MiBiz article the restaurant in the Kalamazoo Radisson hotel recycles its grease. In addition their IT department is having staff delete old e-mails so they can save on energy. The Radisson also now has computers track empty rooms so that energy can be shut down when not in use.

At the Holiday in Express in Holland they are keeping the setting on the boiler at a certain level and even recycling boxes and bottles. In Grand Rapids at the Amway Grand recycling is also practiced and the hotel’s magazine is printed on recycled paper.

It is this kind of superficial action that exposes the absurdity of green capitalism. These hotels seem to be taking small measures in order to market themselves as businesses that practice sustainability. The measures themselves are so minor that it borders on absurdity, but the larger issue as we have pointed out in previous articles is that there is no questioning of the very nature of these large hotel operations.

I looked at the cost for rooms at places like the Radisson and the Amway Grand and rooms range from $150 to $250 a night. Add to that the cost of meals in the restaurants these hotels house and you can factor in an additional $15 – 30 per meal. How many people in this community can easily pay such a price merely to have a place to sleep while traveling?

Beyond the cost, these places require significant amount of land use for parking, do not use locally grown food, and still operate their spaces on fossil fuels. The very nature of such places is unsustainable and certainly not based on a pre-capitalist notion of hospitality. Upscale hotels are designed to accommodate those in the business class who travel to do work or make deals that continues to perpetuate environmentally destructive practices. Think of the kinds of business people who are staying at these hotels and what they are doing – bankers, real estate reps, sales reps, lobbyists, trade association people, etc. Do you think for a moment that they are on a quest to make the planet more peaceful and green?

A truly sustainable notion of hospitality would be to offer people, particularly people with limited economic resources, a place to stay at no cost, which is what people do when you have guests stay at your house. To call what the Amway Grand or the Radisson hotels as sustainable or hospitable would be a distortion of both those terms.

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