Going green to lure business to Houston

HOUSTON Call it 'green', call it 'eco-friendly', call it a smaller 'footprint'... The environment is becoming a bigger issue than it was during the earth movement decades ago. It has reached the point that it's becoming a business necessity when it comes to hotel and convention business.

Energy saving light bulbs are already common in a lot of homes, and now you can find them in the Hilton Americas Hotel. Faucets have water-saving features and guests have to request if they want their sheets changed more than every three days. It's a green-initiative, and it's what a lot of guests are requiring.

Janice O'Neill-Cox with the Hilton Americas Hotel said, "I would say about 67% of meeting planners are now making decisions on what hotels they are going to be utilizing based upon hotels having recycling programs and being environmentally sound."

At the downtown Hyatt Regency, new energy features are being added, as well as sending meal leftovers out to a commercial composter. The industry conversion push began about a year ago.

"Probably tied back to the price per barrel of oil, that's my suspicion, just me personally," suggested Stan Skadal of the Houston Hyatt Regency. "Everybody started thinking about it and the gas prices started going up and then it kind of snowballed into other areas."

Areas like the convention center, which has new tableware options including biodegradable paper plates and plastic ware made from cornstarch, all ready for compost.

Luther Villagomez with the Brown Convention Center explained, "Most importantly, I think, we save in energy usage from dishwashing -- consider maybe a group of 10,000 for a course of four days."

All this has been the norm in European travel. Now it has arrived in the US. And as the city competes for major conventions, it's arriving here.

"If we're going to be competitive, we need to be responsive to our customers," said Greg Ortale of the Houston Convention Bureau. "Frankly, we have a social conscience, too."

The Hilton Americas Hotel, for one, is now actively working on getting its official green certification.

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