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Pemberton Valley Lodge named B.C.'s 'Best Green Business'

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From a major LED lighting retrofit to rainwater collection, this lodge aims high

A few years back, the Pemberton Valley Lodge (PVL) did pretty well in scoring three green keys out of five on the Hotel Association of Canada's Green Keys eco-rating. But they took that as a sign that they could get greener.

Now a solid four Green Keys, the lodge was also recently recognized with Small Business BC's Best Green Business award, a major honour in the association's annual Successful You contest, which is sponsored by BC Hydro.

"We decided to take this shift seriously, so we looked at areas we could improve upon and started to do simple things," says PVL's general manager David MacKenzie, looking back on 2008 and that original three Green Keys rating. "Just by implementing changes in our behaviours, we were able to achieve four green keys on the next go-round. From there, we've wanted to do more and more and more."

That passion for improvement has translated into numerous projects, such as:

  • An in-room recycling program,
  • Water conservation, including low-flush toilets and aerated showers;
  • Solid waste recycling (tin, plastic, glass, paper, containers);
  • Soap product recycling;
  • Energy conservation, including an LED lighting retrofit in all guestrooms and common areas;
  • Rain water collection;
  • Sustainable purchasing programs;
  • Dying towels for use as pool towels;
  • Donating linens to Vancouver shelters.

"It's been easy for us to do," says MacKenzie. "Our staff are green conscious. They have their own habits they already do, and they want to continue to do them in the workplace." In fact, MacKenzie says the staff's encouragement was one of the key drivers for making the lodge more sustainable.

The path to a Best Green Business award

Turning Pemberton Valley Lodge's green practices into a Successful You award took five suspense-filled steps.

At the start of the process, businesses nominate themselves in a particular category, then they have to put social marketing tools to work to garnering enough votes to be in the top 10 of their category. The 10 finalists submit applications, which are reviewed by a panel of judges.

Finally, the top five applicants each make a pitch to the judging panel, which, MacKenzie says, "holds your feet to fire in terms of what you've identified you've done and, in our case, our green commitment."

The benefits of recognition

"It makes a big impact on the staff and everyone to realize that our efforts are being recognized," MacKenzie says of winning the award.

As well, their green credentials mean they get featured on more websites and in other marketing materials.

"More and more travellers want to stay in green hotels," says MacKenzie, "and the federal and provincial governments have a mandate that people travelling on government business have to stay in green hotels."

In addition to far-reaching green marketing, there are benefits closer to home. "A lot of people in this community are Earth-conscious," says MacKenzie. "Being good business stewards allows the local community to support us."

In this case, the lodge is not only supported by the community, it gives back by supporting efforts such as the annual community clean-up, the local animal rescue society and the trail building association.

Sustainable savings

The benefits of sustainability don't end there. In their Successful You presentation, the PVL promoted the fact that the changes they'd made had improved their bottom line.

MacKenzie says, "We converted all our old 50W floodlights to LEDs, then we tracked our power use based on occupancy for the past couple of years, and we can see significant savings from switching the lighting."

"One of the beautiful things about converting to LEDs was the BC Hydro rebate program," he continues. "The [LED] bulbs can be expensive initially, but with the rebates, the cost of most of the bulbs was about five dollars each, so it's a no-brainer. Why wouldn't you do it?"

Next steps

"Occupancy sensors are our big project for this year. We want to earn that fifth green key," says MacKenzie. "We realized one of the areas we were lacking in most in terms of energy consumption was controlling in-room heating and cooling.

"Visitors come and they might crank the air-conditioning or the heat without thinking, then leave. Having the sensors will give our equipment a longer life and reduce our energy use."

MacKenzie would absolutely recommend making sustainable changes. "There is a cost to doing certain things, but there is a return in the savings for energy consumption. We're looking at about two and a half years to get a return on our investment with the occupancy sensors," he says. "That's not a long time."