Green Practices Make Rutherford County, TN Businesses Shine

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On Thursday, November 17, 2011 - 18:22
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As general manager of the Doubletree by Hilton in Murfreesboro, Sandra Miller knows that sustainable practices in a hotel with 168 rooms, conference facilities, a full restaurant and a busy catering business will save money. She also knows it’s what her customers want – and larger groups are starting to demand.

The hotel is among a growing number of Rutherford County businesses at the forefront of sustainable technology and innovation. The Doubletree was the first certified green hotel in Murfreesboro, and one of only a few in Tennessee under a new state initiative.

Schneider Electric Co.’s North American headquarters in La Vergne obtained silver LEED certification, with sensors that dim lighting when areas are vacant, flooring made with recycled fiber, and water-conserving fixtures and pumps that will reduce usage by up to 40 percent. Likewise, the Gateway Village mixed-use development in Murfreesboro has incorporated multiple LEED components into its design.

Recycled and Reclaimed

For example, both Gateway Village and Schneider provide bicycle racks and on-site showers to accommodate employees who bike or run to work or exercise during their breaks. Gateway estimates its efforts will save 14 percent  to 17 percent beyond LEED standards. Gateway residents have full-service recycling pickup. Their homes all contain recycled products or materials that have recycled content.

Gateway's water system is also designed with conservation in mind – all irrigation for exterior landscaping uses reclaimed water, and the toilets use reclaimed water that the city of Murfreesboro provides. Permeable pavers filter rainwater into a system that uses aggregate stone to clear impurities, and Middle Tennessee State University students are using the Gateway project to collect and study data for potential implementation of similar projects elsewhere in Murfreesboro.

Green is good, and Doubletree’s Miller wonders why more businesses don’t jump in.

“It is easier than you think,” she says.

Sustainable Saves Money and Pleases Customers 

About 85 percent of the hotel’s corporate guests opt out of having their linens washed daily and aggressive recycling has dropped the number of weekly trash pickups from three to two. Miller says more improvements are on the way.

“The linen program saves us money in staff costs and water costs,” Miller adds. “Our staff is really excited about all the programs and [is] totally on board.”

Other initiatives include green packages offered by the catering division for customers who want them, and one weekend hostess is working on a way to recycle glass, especially from the busy bar, since the hotel’s recycling vendor doesn’t accept glass. In addition, the chef wants to start composting.

The Doubletree already has recycling containers in its hallways and smaller bins for each guest room are coming soon. Corporate guests kept asking about optional linen washing and recycling and one conversation hit home, Miller says.

“We had a long-term guest who stayed here and she said to me she didn’t think she would stay again if we didn’t recycle. It was kind of embarrassing.”