January 11, 2010
Marriott International's restaurant and banquet operations are setting up local programs to convert used fryer oil into biofuel. It's part of the lodging giant's plan to usher more green practices through the kitchen door.
Other efforts include working with suppliers to ensure they conserve wherever they can, as well as turning equipment on or off according to need, not habit.
"In the old days, the first cook who came in would fire up the whole kitchen, and the equipment would be on for the day," explains Brad Nelson, corporate chef and vice president of culinary for the multi-chain company. Some pieces wouldn't be used for hours, yet they'd be burning fuel as they sat idle.
Renovations provide sizable opportunities to swap in more efficient equipment, such as variable-speed vent hoods, faster cooking ovens or induction burners, Nelson notes. The company uses natural lighting wherever it can and LED lighting elsewhere.
The aggregate effort, rather than one killer move, really cuts the fuel bills, Nelson says. "The savings can be huge."
Building a hotel from the ground up provides an opportunity to make conservation a part of the property's DNA, Nelson notes. For instance, the company is now mindful of details such as having the kitchen placed where it will get natural light, he says.
Adopting more efficient lighting in the kitchen can be trickier than in public hallways, for example, where the appearance of food—cooked or uncooked—isn't a consideration. "Natural light is the best," Nelson says.
Designing a new kitchen also eases the company's recycling and composting efforts. It allows the company to build in receptacles for different types of waste.
Separating food scraps from recyclable material and unrecoverable refuse has yielded "one of the biggest impacts" of Marriott's sustainability effort, Nelson says. The company has experimented with systems that turn organic waste into compost or slurry, both of which can be used to nurture plants.
Others properties send the separated garbage to a commercial composting site. At least one property uses the compost on its own gardens, Nelson says.
One of the company's challenges in conservation efforts is its size. "We have so many footprints and types of properties—we're not a chain that has just one menu," Nelson says. A green initiative that works for one hotel's food and beverage operations might not work at another property.
But the company aims to become as green as it can, whenever it can, he says. Restaurants and banquet kitchens are encouraged to anything that makes sense, whether the host property is a J.W. Marriott, a Courtyard hotel, a Ritz-Carlton or a Renaissance.
One corporate initiative that every property is expected to follow: Finding ways to channel the kitchens' used fryer oil into fuel for cars, trucks or furnaces. Finding partners to convert the 5.5 million pounds of oil Marriott hotels in North America use annually is going to take time, Nelson says. In many of the markets where Marriott operates hotels, there's no infrastructure for the production of biofuel.
The company probably has 50 to 75 hotels worldwide finding outlets for fryer oil, Nelson says. In the United States, 13 properties in Washington, D.C., are participating, and the company hopes that number to reach 50 properties in the area.
"This is just the beginning," he says.
Marriott's operations extend to more than 3,000 hotels in 67 nations.
The money you save on operating costs (through energy efficiency) adds to what you get to keep, so saving 20% on energy operating costs can increase your profit as much as 33%.
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